101 business tips

Tom Dunlap

Here from the beginning
This article is written about water treatment business's, the advice certainly can be applied to a tree company.

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Copyright 2005 watertechonline.com
101 tips for running a water treatment dealership
Marketing ideas, treatment techniques and more.

From the March 1998 edition of Water Technology magazine. For a free introductory subscription, click here.

1. Use your camcorder to make your own training tapes. Tape one of your employees performing a job just the way you want it done, and you can use it for instructing new hires or for periodic refresher training. Just because it may be an "amateur" production doesn't mean it won't be an effective training tool.

2. Carry business cards with you all times because you never know when you'll meet someone who would make a good sales employee.

3. Back support belts for bottled water delivery personnel help reduce injuries by providing comfortable yet firm support to the lower lumbar region of the back.

4. If you are scouting out a new location to rent for your dealership, talk to former tenants to find out why they moved.

5. A newsletter is one of the most effective marketing tools you can use. It's a professional, non-threatening way to say "hello" to your prospects and "I'm still around" to your long-time clients.

6. Ion exchange resins should be disposed of in the trash in their exhausted, salt form. This may require rinsing the bed with several bed volumes of 5 to 15 percent soldium chloride solution.

7. Ask customers to fill out a consumer response card after making a purchase. You can use this information to put together a customer profile for your dealership.

8. If you design your own sales brochure, use the cover for a sales message that tells at a glance what the brochure is about. Graphs, photos, charts, tables, diagrams and other visuals also get your message across.

9. Before installing an ultraviolet (UV) unit, disinfect the entire downstream system with chlorine or other disinfectant approved by the system manufacturer.

10. Designate one key employee to be in charge of locating work hazards. Have that employee perform periodic checks of your dealership to eliminate unsafe conditions.

11. When using a voltmeter or ammeter, a home's power supply must be on. When using an ohmmeter, the power must be turned off.

12. A new salesperson should be worked five hours a day during the training period. The training should be broken up so that information is given in small doses.

13. Purchase a special drill kit for installing undersink units on enamel or porcelain sinks.

14. Business gifts like free water test kits may be tax deductible. Ask your accountant.

15. Develop a direct mail piece explaining the effects of lead poisoning and contract with a certified lab to test samples for lead at a reasonable price.

16. Using a rack loading/unloading distributing system for delivering bottled water instead of handling crates can increase product delivery by as much as 15 percent.

17. Rusted-in screws that refuse to budge can often be removed by first applying the point of a hot soldering iron to the head for a few minutes. Remove the screw with a screwdriver while it is still hot.

18. Give customers the ability to call you at no cost by offering them a toll-free "800" or "888" number. This can also save you money by having employees call your dealership on the toll-free number instead using a telephone credit card or calling collect.

19. Before starting your sales pitch, determine if the customer is an engineer, an accountant, an expert in your field or simply shopping, and be ready to tailor your demonstration accordingly.

20. Do not use the terms "pure," "purifier" or "purified" in an ad for your products unless you can prove to US Environmental Protection Ageny (EPA) standards that the devices can eliminate all contaminants.

21. Have a pair of safety goggles available for employees mixing hazardous substances.

22. Set up a specific time each week just to work on marketing, such as Tuesday between 2 and 6 p.m.

23. Update your employee manual at least annually.

24. A good way to stretch your radio advertising dollars is to stack 10 or more commercials in one day. That way, listeners are likely to hear your ad three or four times.

25. Having your employees wear a name badge presents a professional atmosphere and adds to customer service.

26. When designing a reverse osmosis (RO) system, perform a 15-minute Silt Density Index (SDI) test on-site to determine the potential for colloidal silt fouling.

27. Set up an "Employee of the Month" program. Reward winners with a plaque or gift certificate to a local business to show your appreciation, and design a way to make them stand out.

28. Installing lockers for service technicians and delivery personnel will create a secure place to store personal effects. Dealers can also use the lockers as a place to distribute messages and paychecks.

29. The opinions and suggestions of employees should be actively sought by managers. Keeping workers, as well as customers, happy helps create a smooth and successful operation.

30. Reduce wasted mailings by targeting specific prospect groups such as new home buyers or homeowners who have owned their residences for more than 10 years, who may need their existing units replaced.

31. In shaded areas where persistent ice buildup challenges pedestrian or vehicle traffic, try pre-heated sand instead of a deicer. The hot sand will impregnate itself in the ice and form a rough, non-skid surface.

32. To limit your financial liability, make sure an expiration date appears on all coupons. (That does not prevent you from accepting coupons beyond their expiration date.)

33. Make sure your receptionists and office personnel are prepared to handle customer complaints and concerns while salespeople and service technicians are on the road. Empower them to make decisions up to a specifically defined level. Train them to move bigger problems along quickly.

34. Be honest with potential employees from the start about what it takes to make large commissions. Salespeople who expect high profits immediately will be less inclined to waste your time.

35. Make sure the water line you tap into during an installation is clean. It may be a source of contamination if it has not been in constant use.

36. Keep a journal of the things that work and don't work for you. Your dealership will become more efficient when you take advantage of good ideas and avoid making the same mistakes over again.

37. Hire a lawyer to draft a non-compete contract for salespeople to sign, preventing them from taking customer lists with them if they leave your dealership to work for a competitor.

38. Let customers hang up the telephone before you do. Prospects may have last-minute questions to ask and they're unlikely to call back for an answer.

39. Hand-held radios can help managers communicate with personnel on the road and enable them to reposition employees to areas in need of assistance during busy times.

40. Keep relationships professional in a family-owned business. Don't show favoritism to family members who are employees over other employees.

41. Guarantees show consumers that you believe in your product and service. They take the risk out of buying from you. Post signs that say "Satisfaction guaranteed or your money refunded."

42. Investigate rent-to-own laws before attempting to start any type of rental program. The federal government is considering toughening requirements.

43. Don't bad-mouth your competitors to potential customers. You should ask if the other dealer offered the same types of warranties, service, water analyses and reputation that you do.

44. Make one person in your company responsible for collections and check your receivables aging weekly.

45. Cross-promotions between your dealership and another local business may boost your sales. A local radio station is among the best places to begin such a program.

46. When creating signs, spacing between letters should be 20 to 40 percent of letter height, or approximately half the width of the letter "O." This will increase the readability of the same height letter by 25 percent.

47. Never let your employees use chemicals from an unlabeled container of any sort. It is unsafe and could also be illegal.

48. Invite customers to a once-a-year social event and listen to their informal assessments of you and your business. You might want to hold it in May during Water Awareness Week and make the event educational as well.

49. When analyzing a sample for chlorine content, make sure you do not expose it to sunlight and agitation, which deplete residuals.

50. Always interview people before discussing salary. They need to see what you do, and you need to get a feel for what kind of employee they'd make.

51. Provide ways for employees to give feedback openly and anonymously. Staff meetings, questionnaires or a comment box are effective options.

52. When talking to people from other countries or cultures, be sure to know how they interpret gestures. An innocent gesture could be interpreted as an insult in another language or culture.

53. When writing to a local legislator to voice your opinion about pending legislation, use personal or local examples whenever possible - they emphasize you know what you're talking about and make your letter different from others.

54. The most effective method to clean a fouled resin bed is a warm brine squeezing, for which you will need a portable brine tank, a clean 5-gallon bucket, 10 pounds of solar salt and one pound of citric acid.

55. Virtually all problems associated with RO membrane failure are related to fouling, scaling or bioscale and are often attributed to improper pretreatment of feedwater.

56. Send personalized collection letters to customers immediately after their account becomes past due.

57. When designing an effective direct mail package, use teaser copy on the outside of the envelope to encourage your customers to open and read your package.

58. When communicating with your customers by mail, always include your signature. If it's an obvious form letter, sign with a different color ink. If the piece isn't important enough for you to sign, your customer won't think it's important either.

59. The most important part of the employment application is the work history section. Recent jobs are usually good predictors of future performance.

60. Make your dealership as easy to locate and identify as you can. Give people an intersection, a landmark or a symbol to remember, like "the dealership on the circle" or "the dealership with the flags."

61. Be wary of checks numbered under 500, which indicates a new account.

62. When sizing commercial and industrial softening systems, it's a good idea to anticipate company growth and the increased demand for soft water it can create.

63. Church bulletins can be very effective, inexpensive advertising media.

64. Carefully examine the signature strip on a credit card. A criminal may cover the real card owner's signature with white correction fluid and sign over it.

65. Economically disinfect wells for customers by using a chlorine and water mixture. Dry granulated chlorine can be dangerous to use. A safer, more convenient source is laundry bleach, which should be diluted first - one gallon of bleach to 100 gallons of water.

66. Consider taking competitive bids on significant goods and services you use such as printing, cleaning and maintenance and insurance.

67. The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers free individual state consultation programs to help business owners recognize and correct safety and health hazards before they become a problem. Contact OSHA to locate the nearest consultant office in your state.

68. Lubricants used on O-rings and seals should be non-toxic and specifically designated for water treatment equipment use.

69. Base rental rates on equipment costs. Eighteen months to get a return on your investment is a good target.

70. To promote your business, offer free in-store samples or sales on premium items such as salt on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon. Get the message out with banners, bag stuffers and signs.

71. Offer point-of-use (POU) water cooler customers a preventive maintenance contract that includes disinfecting the cooler chassis, draining and flushing the hot water assembly, replacing the pre-filter and thoroughly inspecting the unit.

72. When installing a chemical feed system, mount the controller on a flat, non-vibrating surface. If located outside, protect it from direct sunlight, which can cause intense heat buildup and electronic component failure.

73. Telemarketers need to be checked on periodically to discuss questions or clear up confusion, and must feel free to ask, "Am I doing this right?"

74. Protect the outside of any fiberglass water pressure vessel, such as in brine tanks, from hammer blows or other types of impact. The vessels should not be rolled on the side or dropped. An impact can be seen as a white bruise on the exterior.

75. When designing a Web site for your dealership, each page should have an easy link back to your homepage or to a table of contents to prevent customers from getting lost.

76. Grow a green thumb. A few hundred bucks worth of flowers planted in front of your location will make you look like a million bucks.

77. A joint study by the American Research Foundation and the American Business Press suggests that increased ad frequency and the use of color have a major impact on sales.

78. If a customer's softener is not working properly, check the hot and cold water. If the hot water is partially soft, it is possible the softener is running out of capacity.

79. Don't let telemarketers work from home. This rarely is successful.

80. Sponsor an ad on a local police car if your community offers the program. It's more community involvement than a true advertising plan, but it does portray your business positively.

81. UV units should be installed as close as possible to the delivery point to minimize standing water.

82. If you are thinking about selling your dealership, invest in audited statements. They allow you to close faster, make fewer guarantees and demand more cash at the closing.

83. Get to know customer service employees at your equipment manufacturers. They can be of invaluable service when you need an order in a hurry. They are also an excellent source of technical information concerning their products.

84. Keep your customers' softeners clean and in good repair. Routine cleaning gives you the perfect opportunity to introduce the customer to any of your other services.

85. The best time to buy water coolers is when you usually don't need them. In November and December, manufacturers generally offer the best incentives and financing terms. If you wait until spring, you'll pay a higher price.

86. Caution should be exercised before referring to consequences a consumer will suffer if payment isn't made. The law prohibits threatening any action that isn't intended to be taken or is unlawful.

87. Award certificates when employees complete a section of your training program. The certificates can then be hung on the walls of your dealership to show customers that employees have completed the educational training.

88. Record model and serial numbers of your equipment for future reference. When it comes time to replace parts, worn and dirty equipment may make labels difficult to read.

89. Post letters from satisfied customers on a bulletin board in your lobby to convey a positive message about your dealership to other customers.

90. Change your telemarketers' scripts frequently so they and potential customers, who may be called repeatedly, won't get bored.

91. Keep accurate employee records including all information relevant to work performance. This can include documentation of poor work habits and letters of praise and recognition.

92. Fax or mail orders for water treatment components. Telephone orders can be lost, misplaced or forgotten.

93. When approaching small community water systems or noncommunity systems, such as schools, have a plan in hand to show them how your maintenance program will save them time and prolong their water treatment equipment service life. If possible, attach dollar figures to these improvements.

94. It is generally recommended that you install an icemaker within 6 feet of the RO system to prevent pressure changes that could affect water delivery.

95. You'll want to get your money's worth out of expensive signage, so think twice about the information you plan to post for a long time. For example, make sure any signs with prices can be easily changed.

96. Thinking about opening a water store? Consider locating it in an existing business such as a grocery store, liquor store or gas station.

97. Use a software package that integrates purchasing, sales and inventory. The package should be able to accept data input from a bar code reader and should also offer history collection features and good audit reports.

98. Be careful about playing local radio stations over your phone system during your on-hold messages. For one thing, you will owe a license fee to the musicians whose songs the radio stations play, and if your competitors know what station you play, they just might place their ads there.

99. Take a travel kit of work-related items when you're out on sales calls so you can take advantage of down-time if a prospect is late. Include items such as a pocketer recorder with blank tapes, your call list, a calculator and index cards.

100. The maximum number of words people can comfortably remember in a slogan is seven.

101. Resolve complaints quickly by given more than one person authority to deal with irate customers. Never leave a customer hanging because you or the particular salesperson who handled the sale are not available.

From the March 1998 edition of Water Technology magazine. For a free introductory subscription, click here.

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Well-Known Member
I'm definitely going to start rinsing the bed with several bed volumes of 5 to 15 percent soldium chloride solution.

thanks, Tom!