Dealing in Details

Nov. 29, 2016
WQP recognizes the Top Dealers class of 2016

About the author: Bob Crossen is associate editor for WQP. Kate Ferguson is editor-in-chief of WQP. Email [email protected] for more information.


Dwayne Kincaid
General Manager
Benjamin Franklin Plumbing Inc.
Wilmington, N.C.
Age: 40

Dwayne Kincaid is a former military man turned water treatment professional. Just as he dedicated himself to his country, he has dedicated himself to his business. Professional and compassionate care for customers has earned him a strong reputation. He has won several awards for his work, including Best Plumber in Wilmington. 

Education: Studied business at Mount Olive College

Previous life: Served in the U.S. Army, 56th Chemical Response Detachment, 5th Special Forces Group
Professional accomplishments:

  • Voted Best Plumber Wilmington
  • 2014 Crown Champion Club - Success Academy
  • 2013 President’s Award from Clockwork Home Services
  • Four-time Direct Energy Net Promoter Score Award winner
  • Creating “a great culture” at the dealership

Best project ever: Kincaid’s most memorable moment comes from the plumbing side of his business. It started when a client dropped her wedding ring down the drain. Kincaid was quickly able to find her ring, as well as a man’s wedding ring. “What we didn’t know was her husband recently passed and he too had misplaced his ring,” he said. “Her reaction will always be memorable.”

Industry passion: Providing superior customer service. “Providing a product and service at the highest level of professionalism should not be a goal, it should be standard practice. Earning a ‘10’ from our clients is must.”

Industry gripe: “More plumbers need to offer water treatment. We are already in the home and see the results of poor water quality daily. Why not resolve the true cause of a plumbing problem?”

Outside the office: Kincaid is a member of the Plumbing Advisory Committee at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington.

Giving back: Benjamin Franklin Plumbing sponsors local soccer teams and cheerleading squads, and hosts a yearly yard sale benefiting the Children’s Miracle Network.

Personal life:

  • Enjoys fishing, hunting and being outdoors
  • Has a marathon PR of 3:29
  • Volunteers with the Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry, an organization that helps local low-income homeowners complete urgent repairs and accessibility upgrades
  • Attended high school at Fishburne Military School in Virginia, with a graduating class of 20 students

Best advice: “Never select your products based on price alone. Take time and research what could possibly make or break you. Quality and support will deliver.”

Rob Frey
Guthrie & Frey Water Conditioning LLC
Wales, Wis.
Age: 46

Rob Frey likes to focus on the small things to make the bigger picture better. He studied biology in college and worked in the medical and industrial microscopy field before his father passed the business on to him. His self-admitted “mild case of OCD” gives him the attention for detail to better both personal and professional relationships through conversation.

Education: Studied biology at the University of Wisconsin - LaCrosse

Previous life: Worked in medical and industrial microscopy

Greatest personal accomplishment: “Maintaining a fantastic relationship with my wife and business partner”

Greatest professional accomplishment: “Sticking to our core business model while simultaneously recognizing ways to improve and diversify”

Best project ever: Frey’s most memorable installation was a 150-gal-per-minute arsenic treatment system. It was “our first major project related to both primary contaminants and government oversight,” he said.

Outside the office: Frey is a member of the Water Quality Assn. and Metropolitan Builders Assn.

Personal life:

  • Enjoys exercising and spending as much time as possible outdoors
  • Hobbies include downhill skiing, hiking, boating and travel
  • Has a talent for conversation—such as knowing when to talk and when to listen, or when to provide details versus an overview
  • Has a secret formula: “A mild case of OCD combined with a little ADD can be a good thing.”

Best memory: “Anytime the subject of training and experience comes up, I can’t help but think of the day my son went from crawling to walking in about 15 minutes. He just got up and walked away.”

Biggest influence: For Frey, there is isn’t just one—he seeks advice and improvement in all aspects of life. “I’m always on the lookout for advice and ideas from people I respect and/or admire,” he said. “This can occur in a business or personal setting and as a service provider, or in my role as someone else’s client.”

Best advice: “Attendance matters. Be persistent.”

Teal Porter
Vice President & CFO
American Aqua Systems Inc.
Narragansett, R.I.
Age: 34

Teal Porter’s interests professionally and personally are specialized and niche. On his farm, he grows and cans vegetables, raises chickens and keeps bees. In his free time he volunteers at a bird rescue and goes bird watching. And in the office, he designs water treatment systems for laboratories and medical facilities that require “extensive record keeping and documentation.” His acute interests also have served him well at trivia nights.

Education: Earned a bachelor’s degree in business from Bryant University

Previous life: Porter held jobs at a restaurant and golf course while also working part-time at American Aqua because “he wasn’t quite sure yet” what he wanted to do for a career. “It didn’t take long for me to realize the opportunity I had before me at American Aqua Systems Inc.,” he said.

Greatest accomplishments: “Maintaining steady company growth and expansion into new market sectors” and starting up a commercial point-of-use drinking water division in the company that is the sole source for one of Rhode Island’s largest healthcare providers

Best project ever: Porter worked to design and implement a Current Good Manufacturing Practices-validated water system for use in pharmaceutical manufacturing. According to Porter, the project required “extensive record keeping and documentation” and specific components and materials. “There was definitely a sense of accomplishment knowing we could add this type of credential to our company resume,” he said.

Industry passion: “Honesty and hard work”

Industry gripe: Porter would like to see more water treatment education opportunities at the university level. “We often encounter professionals in [the engineering and science] fields who are very accomplished, but when it comes to water specifications for, say, a laboratory or medical application, they lack basic understanding,” he said.

Personal life: 

  • Hobbies include playing golf and spending time with friends and family
  • Has a knack for trivia, which “proves helpful during Jeopardy! or when playing bar trivia”
  • Fears spiders

Personal passion: Porter is an animal lover who enjoys “time spent with my own pets and learning about those in nature, especially birds.” In his spare time, he enjoys bird watching and has his own farm, where he raises chickens, keeps bees, and grows and cans vegetables.

Giving back: Porter volunteers at a local bird rescue organization.

Biggest influence: Porter looks up to his parents, both of whom are entrepreneurs. His father was able to mentor him specifically in the water treatment industry. He “taught me everything I know about not only the water business [but also] the lessons he learned teaching it to himself.”

Best advice: “Find a niche and stick with it. Companies that try and do everything in the water business will find it hard to specialize in any one area.”

Todd M. VanHouten
President & General Manager
All-Rite Water Purification
Vero Beach, Fla.
Age: 53

Todd VanHouten credits his staff for the success he has witnessed in the water industry. After leaving an executive position at a high-end car dealership, VanHouten researched his next business foray before landing in water treatment. His compassion for his employees extends to the greater community, where he sponsors local students and athletes so they, too, can become leaders and role models.

Education: Earned a bachelor’s degree in management and marketing

Previous life: Worked as executive general manager for a BMW/Porsche/Audi/Subaru dealer

Greatest personal accomplishment: “Lifelong friends and 26 years of marriage to my beautiful bride”

Greatest professional accomplishment: Being elected chairman of the advertising group by his fellow BMW dealer general managers

Best project ever: A hospital surgical decontamination water plant

Industry gripe: “Eliminate the misleading direct mail that sets up the hard sell”

Outside the office: VanHouten is chairman of the EcoWater Dealer Assn. marketing committee. 

Giving back: The dealership supports local schools by sponsoring students and athletes.

Personal life:

  • Hobbies include running, golfing and boating
  • Describes himself as “reasonably athletic”
  • Greatest fear is failure

Personal passion: “Being a good leader and role model”

Memorable family moment: “That rare Thanksgiving when all are in attendance”

Biggest influence: VanHouten named two: His father, who taught him “hard work, kindness and finances,” and Professor Phillips, who taught him “that knowledge is only as powerful as your ability to communicate it to different folks at different economic levels.”

Best advice: “Take care of your staff and they will take care of your clients. Focus on continuing education and recurring revenue.”

Rich Havens
Havens Well Drilling
Troy, Pa.
Age: 33

Rich Havens carries a six-decades-old torch lit by his grandfather and inspiration, Don Havens, who was among the first professionals certified by the National Ground Water Assn. Havens believes relationships—with associations and colleagues—lay the foundation for success, and he is proud his foundation includes a project with his father and grandfather drilling monitoring wells at a Pennsylvania landfill.

Greatest personal accomplishment: “Being married to my wife Stephanie for 10 years and having our 1-year-old son, Clayton”

Greatest professional accomplishment: “Becoming a partner in our family business [and] being respected as a water professional”

Best project ever: Havens’ most memorable project involved “drilling monitoring wells and building piezometers at a Pennsylvania landfill built on old strip mines.” Although the long hours and large amounts of mud were challenging, he fondly remembers the team he worked with, which included his father and grandfather. “This project was early in my career and I learned a lot from it,” he said.

Personal life:

  • Enjoys hunting, golf and hiking
  • Has a secret talent for carpentry
  • Passionate about family, work and sports

Giving back: Havens volunteers with the Troy Lions Club.

Best memory: The birth of his son

Biggest influence: Havens looks up to his grandfather, Don Havens, who started the family business six decades ago. Don has been a pioneer and leader in the industry, becoming one of the first professionals certified by the National Ground Water Assn. and serving as president
of the Pennsylvania Ground Water Assn. According to Havens, his grandfather is just as passionate as ever
about the water industry, continuing to attend seminars
at age 87.

Best advice: “Enter [the water industry] with an open mind. Join your water associations and attend as many seminars as you can. You’ll meet a lot of smart and interesting people [who] can help you along the way. Enjoy the reward of what you do, because at the end of the day, you’re supplying people with clean water.”

Jose Grullon
Purified Solutions LLC
Melville, N.Y.
Age: 45

Jose Grullon stepped away from his information technology gig to pursue water treatment when he saw the results of water tests in his home. After years of seeing shady selling tactics—saying anything to make a sale—Grullon opened his own business with a focus on transparency about products. 

Education: Studied material science engineering

Previous life: Worked in information technology consulting

Greatest personal accomplishment: “Achieving a stable living status [through] hard work and planning”

Greatest professional accomplishment: “Welcoming recognition from individuals, groups and organizations”

Best project ever: Grullon’s most memorable project involved “installing a point-of-entry system where pipe fittings were constantly leaking without obvious reasons,” he said. Upon review, he discovered that the sealant he had used was not appropriate for that project, and was thus able to resolve the problem.

Industry gripe: Grullon’s greatest concern is internet retailers. “Water products sold on the internet should be banned due to misconceptions on what the customer actually gets at the end. Most people don’t even test their product water after a system is installed,” he said. “My customers brag about our products and services because we show them the difference before and after.” Grullon also is an advocate of final barrier water treatment. 

Outside the office: Purified Solutions participates in local health-focused expositions and events, and is a member of the Chamber of Commerce.

Personal life:

  • Enjoys anything that puts a “twist [in] my daily routine,” from dancing to Latin music to singing karaoke to flying drones
  • Hobbies include electronics and martial arts
  • Collects “interesting books—but never makes time to
  • read them”

Personal passion: “Helping people and living creatures thrive.” To him that means more than just helping customers achieve clean, healthy water—it also means being there for his friends. He aims to help them out by “listening to accomplishments and complaints … and advising on options that benefit their self esteem and progress.”

Greatest influence: Alex Lubarsky of Health Media Group. “He and his team have triggered endless possibilities to better serve our customers,” Grullon said.

Best advice: “Work with other established companies in the same industry for at least one year. This will clear out many questions regarding sales, installation and servicing … including current building codes, licensing and insurance.” 

Rick Miller
Owner & President
All-American Water Conditioning
Jacksonville, Fla.

Rick Miller has scarcely known life without the water treatment industry around. His father started All-American Water Conditioning in his family home, where it remained throughout most of his adult life. Just as Miller grew up and matured, so did the business. It moved to its own place, established a stable income with equipment rentals instead of sales and found use for new technology.

Miller’s business is virtually paperless today. Employees carry tablets on site, which eliminates duplicated or lost paperwork or invoices, and allows customers to pay as soon as work is completed. With hard numbers so readily available, Miller also can gauge the business’ performance at a moment’s notice. 

“I can wake up in the morning, take a look at my tablet and see what’s going on as far as how my business is doing,” Miller said. “I don’t feel like I’m so tied down to the office. Things are more mobile these days.”

The mobility and convenience of the internet has also freed up his time. He can spend time with his children—like his father did with him—but they are not surrounded by the office work environment like he was.

Mike Gelberg
Air & Water Quality Inc.
Freeport, Maine

To say Mike Gelberg, president of Air & Water Quality, is overqualified for the water treatment industry is an understatement. Before setting foot in water treatment, Gelberg attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for aeronautics and astronautics education; studied fluid, thermal and aerospace sciences at Case Western Reserve University; helped pioneer a computer company and worked on the Apollo and Skylab space programs. 

After meeting a high school science teacher, Jeff Twitchell, the two founded Air & Water Quality Inc. in Maine. Sustained by their penchant for knowledge and learning—neither Gelberg nor Twitchell earned a salary in their first two years of business—the business partners recognized a need to pretreat water containing minerals known to foul radon reduction systems. With a focus off profit for the first two years, they built an educated community, which now extends to approximately 16,000 clients.

Gelberg attributes dedication to education as a cornerstone for business success, as it translates to better customer relations.

“It sounds like a simple idea, but the implementation involves a significant effort and focus,” Gelberg said. “Our dedication to creating satisfied customers is not just a bunch of words—it’s what we do.”

Matt Raley
General Manager
Matilija Pure Water Systems
Santa Barbara, Calif.

Before it was Matilija Pure Water Systems, the company had an identity crisis. For 50 years it was a Culligan franchise, and from 2003 to 2013, it included a bottled water business. Even after leaving the bottled water industry and re-branding the company, business continued to flourish.

“We re-branded our logo, we re-branded our company, and it’s been all good things from there,” said General Manager Matt Raley, noting the 2013 transition was a big turning point for the business’ future and success. Water treatment became a full-time focus due to the demand. The historic drought in California has led to declines in water quality, especially in hardness, which has reached levels as great as 40 grains per gal.

As members of the Water Quality Assn. and Pacific Water Quality Assn., Raley and his employees see the declining water quality as an on-going mission. Matilija Pure Water Systems technicians encourage face-to-face meetings with clients in their homes so they can calculate water usage and determine best options for the family.

Because the company is independent, those options are varied. Raley uses conventions and expositions to network new products into its sales line, which lets the company be mobile in the marketplace while serving clients with the best options.

Larry Cunning
Owner & President
CVB Water Doctor
St. Joseph, Mo.

When Ivan Cunning was shorted $100 while working in Kansas City as a water treatment salesman, he confronted his boss, who asked “What are you going to do, start your own company?” Well, he did, and in 2016 CVB Water Doctor celebrated 50 years of business and it continues to prosper with his son, Larry Cunning, at the helm. Larry remembers the business operating out of his home and his father’s station wagon being used for service calls. Now, the company occupies several buildings on a 3-acre lot in

St. Joseph, Mo., approximately 55 miles north of Kansas City. 

While the business may have grown up, it has remained a family affair. Larry employs six people, all of whom are related by law or blood, and he still seeks excellence from all of them. He is in his fourth term as president of Missouri Water Quality Assn., a position his father also held, and values certification. He even incentivizes his employees to complete certification—three of them are Master Water Specialists—with weekly bonuses paid at the end of the year. 

“When you add that up at the end of the year at around Christmastime, that’s a healthy little check,” Larry said. “Plus, it gives them confidence knowing they passed these tests and know what they’re talking about.” 

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