For the past 40 years, All-Rite Water (ARW) has been serving the water purification needs of Indian River, St. Lucie and Brevard County residents. The current team, including owner Todd VanHouten, has been in place since 2010. After the economic collapse, many local water businesses found themselves struggling as the builder business halted. Simultaneously, VanHouten was looking for a new career in a service-based business where people really were its greatest asset.
“We believed that even though there were severe economic headwinds, some principles still applied,” VanHouten said. "We saw opportunity in the water treatment industry through technology, education, and focusing on employee satisfaction. The logic is: If your staff is happy, feels connected, has technology on their side, and receives top notch education, customer satisfaction follows.”
Originally from the suburbs of Detroit Michigan, VanHouten moved, after college, to the Washington DC area in 1987 after being recruited by a large Ford dealer conglomerate for their executive management program. After realizing they were a “typical” car dealer, he found a new opportunity as a General Manager at Tischer Autopark. VanHouten started in sales, quickly rose to management and, eventually became the youngest GM in the country for Porsche, Audi, BMW and Subaru. Along the way, he worked closely with the owner and developed an operating philosophy of ‘Employee Satisfaction’ as the main focus.
When a promise to be given equity never came to fruition, VanHouten resigned in 2003 and went to work for his father-in-law’s custom paint manufacturing business in Indian River County. When business dropped by 70% in 2008, as a result of the financial crisis, VanHouten resigned and started an advertising agency. A year later, VanHouten acquired ARW.
VanHouten explained why investing in a service-based water filtration business made so much sense at the time. “Research indicated a need for fresh thinking relative to water filtration and purification,” he said. “Although good people, most local water companies were doing the same thing they were doing 30 years ago with the same technology and critical thinking. As a result, many folks lived with poor quality well and municipal water. Our area of Florida had some potentially serious water concerns. A one-size-fits-all approach can be problematic.”
VanHouten continued, “Each application needs to be analyzed and the water thoroughly tested to determine what level of contaminants are present, along with how much and how fast the water will be used. The next step is to engineer the proper size and application. In some cases, it is rather simple. In many, it is quite complicated to achieve consistent long-term success. We have the most advanced testing protocols and equipment available.”
The ARW journey continued by expanding their technologically advanced products from EcoWater, the premier water treatment manufacture in the world and also a Berkshire-Hathaway company, to include new products for extreme water problems. Simultaneously, they joined the Water Quality Association (wqa.org) which features the only 3rd party certification program in the world. Today, ARW has staff that are certified in all forms of water treatment and proper installation techniques. Many have achieved "Master Water Specialist" status, the highest level of education in the industry.
Despite being available to all, ARW is the only company on the Treasure or Space Coast to achieve this certified status through the WQA. All costs associated with becoming individually certified are born by ARW. As VanHouten shared, this decision is tied closely to his philosophy of employee satisfaction and empowerment.
"The staff brings their desire to read two-inch thick text books on their own time and take 3 hour proctored examinations in order to become certified," he said. "ARW's work environment realizes everyone has hopes, dreams and wants to go home to their families feeling valued and respected. We care about each other and realize our customers are the driver for all that we aspire. ARW offers 401k and profit sharing programs that plan for the long run and provide incentives to take care of clients. ARW employs skilled professionals that yearn for a stable career with wages they can raise a family on. Servicing our valued customers is a duty and honor we do not take lightly. Our families depend on it!"
In 2012, ARW acquired Automatic Water and Clark Water, both well established and well respected companies. Two years later, they acquired B&M Pumps and Chuck's Irrigation. In 2017, they acquired Ft. Pierce based A&A Water Systems. With an additional acquisition planned for 2019, ARW has transformed itself into a one-stop-shop for anything related to irrigation, pumps, well drilling and, of course, water filtration.
"We want to provide your family, office or commercial facility with the water quality you desire," VanHouten said. "We have the education, technology, and heart to make it happen, which results in long-term relationships based on value, trust, and respect. We are nine years into our vision of education and employee satisfaction, delivering nearly 100% customer satisfaction. How do we know? We call each customer every month to ask them. We are not 100% the first time around but we will make things right 100% of time! No excuses or delay. Losing a customer is a very bad day. If you do business with us, it will be the last water company you ever call- we guarantee it."
Looking ahead, VanHouten is focused on continuing to maximize employee satisfaction with an emphasis on organic growth in addition to identifying future acquisitions.
What advice does VanHouten have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "It's important to remember that we are not the only ones with hopes and dreams," he said referring to his employees. "Make others happiness your focus and good things will happen for them and you. Also, remember that productivity is the real driver. Follow up and follow through are essential qualities of a leader. Managing people can and will challenge you. Make sure you're up to the task. Always remember, it's even harder to stay successful than it is to become successful."