Dealer of the Month: Water Unlimited

Jan. 25, 2018
This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue as "Superior Service in Sparks"

About the author: Michael Meyer is associate editor for WQP. Meyer can be reached at [email protected] or 847.954.7940.

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.

The western Nevada city of Sparks is located just east of Reno and approximately 40 miles northeast of Lake Tahoe. As those recreation destinations have grown in popularity in recent decades, so too has Sparks; now, the city is home to approximately 100,000 people. Since 1996, Water Unlimited has delivered high-quality water to the residents of Sparks and surrounding areas, and the dealership’s commitment to providing high-quality products and attentive service has made it a valued member of the community.

Out of the Bottle

In 1990, Chris Bruch, a veteran of the bottled water industry, became co-owner of Crystal Springs Water in Reno. The dealership offered bottled water as well as water treatment, but in 1996, Sparkletts bought out its bottled water business. Bruch took over the water treatment business and rebranded it Water Unlimited, and it has been a fixture in the area ever since.

The municipal water provided to Sparks residents is of relatively high quality, but well water in the semi-arid northern Nevada environment can be a different story, and that is where Bruch and Water Unlimited provide much of their service.

“Our city water in this area averages about five grains hard [and] about 120 [total dissolved solids], so it’s not terrible water,” Bruch said. “But we have a lot of well water that has the common stuff—iron and manganese—and arsenic is a real hot button around here, so we do a lot of arsenic treatment as well.”

The market for water treatment in Sparks has been up and down in the two decades that Water Unlimited has been in business. The recession that began in the late 2000s affected it a great deal, and since the economic downturn ended, the company has worked to remain effective in its marketing efforts.

“A couple years ago, when things started getting rolling again, I noticed that the ways of advertising have changed—the old ways just don’t work like they used to,” Bruch said. “Home shows used to be just golden for us, and now home shows are pretty ho-hum, in terms of generating a bunch of new business. The main source for lead generation is through the internet. That’s the biggest change I’ve seen.”

Water Unlimited has been a fixture of the Sparks, Nev., area since 1996.

Service Is Standard

Because Water Unlimited is committed to providing a high level of service to its customers, it works to certify its long-term employees to Water Quality Assn. (WQA) standards.

“When people are ready, once they’ve been here for a period of time, and when I feel like they’re going to be a solid employee, then I don’t mind spending the time and money to get them certified,” Bruch said. “It’s a process. When I began my certification process, I thought it was going to be a slam dunk, where you just go take the test and you get the certification and you pay the money and they send you a badge. But it’s a difficult process … it’s not an easy test, and that’s why I put credence in the system and in the test, because I’ve taken them and I know how hard they are.”

Bruch considers his company’s association with WQA to be a mark of quality—not only in terms of service, but also for the product knowledge the association provides. While Water Unlimited mostly offers Kinetico products, it is an independent dealership and is willing to consider a variety of products, provided they meet the association’s standards.

“I tell people, ‘I would not install anything in your house that I wouldn’t put in my own house or my grandma’s house,’” Bruch said. “If I’m convinced that it’s proven technology that’s going to work, then at that point I’ll sell it, but a lot of the stuff is unproven technology and not certified by WQA and not certified by NSF, and I won’t sell it. I use the WQA as a crutch, if you will, to back up what we do and what we sell, and to add some credibility.”

These factors play into Bruch’s philosophy for achieving success in the water treatment industry.

“To me, it’s always been the win-win-win—you supply an excellent product for the customer, you give the customer a good value for money paid, and you pay the employees a fair wage,” Bruch said. “When all those three things happen, then everything’s good and business is good. When one of those gets out of kilter—if the customer’s not getting good service, if they’re not getting a good product, if they’re not getting good value, if the employee’s not being paid what they’re worth—then the pyramid falls down. For me, that’s what business in general is about.”

A Point of Pride

Bruch has been part of the water industry for more than 40 years, and he retains a genuine enthusiasm for it that is reflected in Water Unlimited’s dedication to providing quality products and services.

“I love what I do,” Bruch said. “I enjoy making people’s water better, and I think our industry should be proud of itself, because we supply a good service for people. I feel really good about what we do as an industry.”

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