This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue as "Teacher Meets Dealer"
Editor's Note: Do you know a water treatment dealer who deserves recognition for leadership in the industry, innovative ideas or successful business practices? Nominate them to be featured as a WQP Dealer of the Month here. Self-nominations are accepted.
Jon and Gayla have assembled a small but dedicated team of water professionals.
Husband-and-wife duo Jon and Gayla Vance of Fresh KC Water in Shawnee, Kan., have never stopped learning—or teaching, for that matter. After 20 years as educators, the couple sought a career change, and water treatment was their ticket. Now, their education and curriculum look a lot different.
New to the Game
While the ins and outs of water treatment may seem overwhelming to an individual outside the industry, Jon, owner and president of the company, had the experience and resources to excel. In earning his master’s degree in administration, Jon had learned how to manage people, a major aspect of any water treatment dealer’s job.
“Running a school is a lot like running a business,” Jon said.
To bolster his education, Jon attended Water-Right Corp.’s “water school” in Wisconsin. Three intensive days in the classroom taught him everything he needed to know about water. He continued to work toward Water Quality Assn. certification, eventually becoming a Master Water Specialist.
“It’s an amazing school. I loved going up there, and I send all my guys up there to go to water school, as well,” Jon said. “I just really fell in love with [water treatment]. It was new for me, and I really kind of needed it and it really hit home for me.”
What’s more, Jon had teachers outside the classroom integral to his success in the industry. Two people helped him transition to his new role as a water treatment dealer and continue to give advice when needed. Al Lozier, the previous owner of Fresh KC Water, is Jon’s most influential mentor.
Lozier began selling residential filtration systems in 1988, eventually starting his own company. In 2015, he sold the dealership to Jon and Gayla, but remained involved with the business as it transitioned to new ownership. Early on, Jon shadowed Lozier on sales calls and installations to learn the ropes—experience he could not have replicated in the classroom. Through hands-on experience, he learned many lessons, such as how much product to keep in stock and how to communicate with customers.
In addition, Rory Sherman of United Distributors Inc. speaks with Jon on a regular basis, offering ideas, discussing equipment and answering other general questions. Lozier introduced Jon to Sherman, who then invited Jon to spend a day shadowing his business, which allowed him to observe sales, installation and customer service activities.
Technicians at Water-Right and Wood Brothers Industries also are available to lend Jon a helping hand when technical questions arise.
“They probably get sick of me calling, but I love calling those guys and picking their brains on what the equipment can and cannot do, or what can we do for this problem or find this solution or what not,” Jon said. “They’ve been awesome.”
Now well versed in the water treatment industry, Jon caters to the needs of the Kansas City metropolitan area. With only six employees, Fresh KC Water may be a small company, but it has a wide reach in the community. Its service area covers approximately 75 miles; some routes extend out of town to residents’ vacation homes. Fresh KC Water primarily works in residential water treatment, but its commercial water treatment services are slowly growing, which has a lot to do with the number of restaurants in Kansas City.
The entire Kansas City metropolitan area deals with hard water. As a result, Fresh KC Water sells many softeners and reverse osmosis (RO) products.
“People want to be covered and say, ‘I have good water to drink.’ And RO is such an easy and inexpensive way to give people good water,” Jon said. “Water touches everyone.”
Onward & Upward
Fresh KC Water is no stranger to change. When Jon and Gayla bought the company, they increased its advertising efforts. Gayla focuses primarily on advertising and marketing, trying to increase exposure for the brand. She has helped emphasize the “fresh” in Fresh KC Water by updating the company logo to better reflect the future she and Jon envision for the dealership.
Moving forward, Jon will focus on building upon the values he and Gayla instill in the company. For example, he emphasizes his availability as a water treatment dealer. Customers can call anytime to speak directly with him, adding a personal touch. He also ensures equipment is meeting new standards, and that products always are offered for a fair price. Finally, Jon remains true to a promise to being honest in business.
“We try to keep high ethical standards of being honest with the customer and telling them exactly: This is what you need and what we recommend to take care of the problem,” he said.
Jon and Gayla hope their children eventually will join the business, potentially initiating new change for Fresh KC Water.
“It’s been an amazing adventure so far,” Jon said. “[Water treatment] is a great place to be right now; it’s a great business. I can’t even say enough about the choice that my wife and I made to get into this business and learn it.”