> > >Water Conditioning & Purification; October 1987 >by Gene Shaparenko - Aqua Technology Water Stores

Author's current comment on this article: Although this article was written some nearly 15 years ago, its message is still timely. On one hand and at this date, the national organizations responsible for developing, organizing and promoting professional water activities: the National Water Quality Association(WQA) and the International Bottled Water Association(IBWA) have yet to put forth any public efforts to assist new water store owners in the issues listed in this article.

On the other hand, efforts to coordinate a "grass roots", national organization of independent(or franchised) water stores still seems to be falling on deaf ears.

As noted in another article on this website(Water Store Article #3), the only interest in such activities by the WQA and their spokespersons appears to concentrate only on those who have the political muscle and bankrole to promote franchised water store operations. I think the appropriate descriptor is: "follow the $$".

And, as we noted in the preface to that other article, this business of franchising water stores is clearly a short-sighted and self-serving outlook. There are far better ways to produce highly profitable water store operations.

In our opinion, the independent water store owner---the one who is by far the most successful and financially profitable in this business---will still have to go it alone for now, without organizational support.

Help from these national water organizations does not seem to be forthcoming, because it is not clearly politically incorrect to spend general membership dues supporting the efforts of individually operated enterprises.

Only those privileged few who sport nationally recognized brands---the companies more equipped to pay large membership dues and wield greater financial muscle in the marketplace have seemed to garner attention and assistance in the past---and perhaps into the future as well

Now...the article.(p.s. if you feel you have benefited from this article and/or the commentary, we would enjoy receiving your comments). By the way, we build water stores---for individual investors---no franchising or other nonsense here. You can contact us at <purewater@earthlink.net> for additional information.

>WATER STORE OWNERS! >IT'S TIME TO ORGANIZE >Water Conditioning & Purification; October 1987 >by Gene Shaparenko - Aqua Technology Water Stores

This should be the battle cry of this new and growing segment of the water business.

And, this should be a good question and answer time for you new and established water store owners.

Q: When is the last time you desperately needed technical assistance on something in your water store and were unable to get advice from anyone-including the family dog?

Q:When is the last time you received a nice 1etter from the Water Quality Association (WQA) or the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) inviting you to a special meeting for water store owners?

Q: When is the last time the State Health Department came out with new laws and regulations that affected your business area-and you and your staff weren't surprised by this new legislation?

Q: When was the last time the local store owners in your area got together for a cookout at a local store owner's home? Or when was the last time you got together withother storeowners to kick around new product ideas, store merchandising concepts, technical problems, etc.?

If the answer to any of the above questions was "never" or " 1 can't remember the last time" you as a water store owner are probably headed for serious trouble.

Ever since Superstill Technology's vapor compression distiller and Martinstill's high volume multiple effect distiller opened the doors for dozens of water stores nationwide, there has been a growing need to legitimize this business beyond that small green state water store vending license which hangs on your office wall.

Being a "legitimate" water business, in this case a water store, means being aware of potential problems (pending legislation, etc.) before they happen. If you are reacting to the situation rather than planning for the impact of pending activities, you are in trouble.

Being a legitimate water store business means sponsoring or participating in promotional activities such as "generic" radio or TV commercials (I like the milk industry one, for example) which promotes the concept of "choice" that a water store offers; or which promotes a viable alternative to the slavery of bottled water delivery, and so forth.

Being a legitimate water store business means having an active hand (with your manufacturers, suppliers and other support organizations) in the certification and licensing of products, workmanship and labor related to product installation.

Perhaps you are one of those store owners who distributes products from manufacturers who are not interested(or perhaps they don't even know about certification) in working to obtain certification for your water purification and conditioning equipment.

Sorry, pardner-your state health department will probably soon be banning your products from the marketplace. Where does that put your business?

Perhaps your water store is growing by leaps and bounds and you, as a business, are gaining a larger and larger profile in the community-grabbing a larger and larger segment of the water "pie", and as a result attracting more and more pot-shots and other unethical activities from competitive water equipment distributors, water bottlers, etc. How do you deal with these types of problems?

Finally, perhaps you are a neophyte in the business and want to find out how to make your business grow. Are there those around you who are willing to help? How about just some good old moral support when you have a series of bad sales days?

Companies and individuals don't organize simply for the sake of organizing. Those with common business goals get together to solve problems common to each and every one of their operations.

It takes work, it takes a financial committment on the part of each participant, and it takes another very special ingredient that somehow seems to be lacking in this water store business-a committment to a common cause, mutual growth and protection.

Earlier this year (January, 1987 Water Conditioning & Purification) we wrote about an "underground" water association in Northern Califomia. Unfortunately for those who needed it the most, it failed miserably because of the lack of professionalism in its operation and direction, the distinct lack of communal information interchange.

It also failed due to the lack of honest, forthright discussions and due to a "segregationist" policy concerning participation of outsiders who didn't happen to share like views or sell specific brands of equipment promoted by certain association members.

Sadly, many of those present in those "underground" meetings are today cooling their heels or looking to unload their water stores. It doesn't have to be that way. Just because of a few "bad apples", a growing group need not hit the rocks.

There is a better way.

I would like to see the national WQA (or regional branches) establish a special committee of water store owners. Currently, the WQA offers nothing in the "problem solving" area to those in the water store business. Similarly, the IBWA offers nothing programatic to those with water stores who are diversifying (or considering diversifying) into the water delivery market segment.

WQA and IBWA members who we talk with are curious as to why more water store owners don't support their organizations. The answers are here on this page, staring both the storeowners and the WQA/IBWA directly in the face.

Since most water stores promote a broad spectrum of POU (and some POE) equipment, it is quite surprising why these two groups haven't gotten together to address common goals.

For the storeowners, common goals can be attained through the strength of numbers in the arenas of political and health department issues; for the WQA, water store associations add a new merchandising and image making outreach into the community through legitimate retail stores.

This is a valuable commodity the IBWA and WQA both sorely lack in their quest to do as Don Mahlstedt (Culligan International),former WQA President, so aptly said in January 1987 WC&P (pg. 16)..

"..to encourage our members to become more promotional and advertising minded so that people have a greater awareness of what we offer as an industry.".

It is probably safe to say that less than 10% of all WQA and IBWA members are involved in true, retail store operations. Yes, there are sales training rooms, boiler phone rooms and the like for salespeople, but there are few if any legitimate facilities for walk-in traffic, attracted by the "promotional and adverdsing activities" Mahlstedt says the industry needs-and which characterizes water stores to a "t".

Multiply the typical annual advertising budget of a strong water store (say $50,000) by a couple dozen stores nationwide and the outreach becomes significant in solving what Mahlstedt indicates it will take, in his words:

"..to demonstrate that we (as industry members) can sell and service quality, reliable products..and overcome the "snake oil salesman image that constantly surrounds our image at the consumer".

Well stated, Mr. Mahlstedt.

So we conclude that perhaps the WQA and IBWA can benefit in some small way from the participation and support of both large and small water stores. But the correlary in this "chicken and egg thesis" is that water stores concurrently must become organized as a group to command a modicum of attention and authority in return.

Who is willing to take the first step? How about we take it together?

Owner and operator of Aqua Technology of San Jose, CA, Gene Shaparenko built his first full-service retail water store in San Jose in 1983 and the second one in Sunnyvale, CA. in 1985. Since then, he has consulted for investors and assisted in the construction of dozens of other independently owned stores nationwide.

Shaparenko is a graduate of the University of North Dakota (BSEE), Purdue University (MSEE) with post-doctoral work in satellite communication at Stanford University. Shaparenko wrote a series of articles on water store operations for WC&P in 1985 and 1986 which became the springboard for the water store industry.