By Denise M. Roberts
McBride’s Water Advantage, LLC was established in 2004 by Bill McBride. Centrally located in New Hampshire, the company serves the entire state, with plans to expand service to southern Maine and northern Massachusetts from its current location within the next few years. In addition to serving residential and commercial clients, the company is also a licensed public water systems operator.
McBride came to the water treatment industry in a roundabout way, having worked his way up through retail management in the Northeast. He and his young family decided to move to Florida, where he started his first business, a lawn and landscape company. “Before long I was working seven days a week, daylight to dark. Within five years, though, back surgery forced me to sell my business and look for another career. I became interested in the water purification business in 2002 in Florida, when a friend of mine suggested that I try selling water systems for a company that employed him. I took a look at it, rode with him on a few sales calls and from that day on, never looked back. Within a few months, I was selling in the top 10 nationally. Later on, my friend moved to the Midwest and I helped him start up his dealership. That’s when and where I learned the other side of the business: installation and service. Wanting to move back to the Northeast, I did some demographic research and decided that New Hampshire was the place for our family and my business to be. Hague Quality Water granted me a dealership of my own in 2004 and we’ve had a great relationship ever since.
”While there are many water issues in New Hampshire, the main water treatment problems include low pH, iron, manganese, hardness, arsenic, radon, uranium, sodium, chloride and bacterial issues. “The three primary whole-house water purification units we use are tried and true,” McBride said. “Acid neutralizers, manganese greensand, iron filters and water softeners. These units clean up the water before we can remove the arsenic and mitigate the radon. We utilize POU RO for kitchen sinks and refrigerators; UV systems for bacterial issues; RE Prescot’s Bubble-Up for radon in water; chlorine injection for an assortment of different reasons and an assortment of specialized media. We also offer whole-house and commercial RO systems for sodium and chloride, uranium and arsenic problems as well.
“Water purification is not always as simple as it looks from the outside looking in. I realize there are companies and regions in the US that can utilize a water softener to treat most of that region’s water issues and excel as a sales company. But generally speaking, there’s more to it than that. As much as it’s a business where you never stop learning, you also never stop teaching your associates and your clients. Water quality varies widely from well to well and even more so from region to region, which requires different treatment approaches. Even in our small state of New Hampshire, very few wells are identical and water quality varies greatly.
“It’s most rewarding that our name has become synonymous with high-quality service to our nearly 2,500 clients when water issues arise. I suppose there’s an element of legacy and I enjoy building the business as well. We get to meet and gain the trust of hundreds of new clients every year. When attrition of established clients (while generally minimal) costs the company sales, the experience makes us take stock and refine our model, helping us grow into a better, more well-rounded, business. The bulk of the work we do is residential systems, but I really enjoy designing, selling and installing the larger, more complex commercial water systems.”
McBride credits his dedicated family and staff for their continued good fortune. “My daughters have worked for me at different times, both in the office and in the field, though neither of them are looking for a career in water purification.My associates all play vital roles in our success. Melanie Young takes care of the financial and general office management. She and Michelle Collins share all of the day-to-day responsibilities, such as taking calls, scheduling sales, service and installation appointments, ordering inventory and institution of new operational tools like GPS tracking for company vehicles and scheduling software. Soon they will be instituting inventory control.
“Our two service/installation technicians, Bobby Arena and Nathan Hastings, are well trained for the servicing of most of the valves on the market and proper installation of whole-house and light commercial water purification equipment. While we train corporately, including in-house for the equipment we sell, as well as state/local training classes, we have recently become WQA members and plan on starting the WQA training programs within the next few months. Additional service offerings(which include well pump installation, radon measurement and mitigation and public water systems operations) all require certification and licensing. Continuing education for these programs are required annually or biennially.”
Noting the complexity of water treatment in general, McBride doesn’t say his venture has been an easy ride. He remained in the water filtration business, keeping his doors open during the hard times, because failure was never an option. The worst situation he has had to deal with, hands down, is the recession, which began only 18 months after the company purchased a highly visible office building. “As a relatively young company, our phones all but stopped ringing in December of 2008 for three months, recovering minimally the rest of the year,” McBride said. “We have grown in the double digits every year since. Refusing to fail made us work harder, go after more service customers and broaden our revenue streams from only water purification to well pump installation, air measurement and radon mitigation, all of which fit nicely into our portfolio of services. Happily, it worked well for our business.
“Now, we are in a major growth cycle, paying down debt and gaining on the larger, regional water companies. We are currently (at least for now), only offering service in New Hampshire. Our five-year plan, however, includes plans to grow all four of our revenue streams. Our main focus will be residential and commercial water purification. We are getting big enough now to institute internal systems that will serve to streamline our operation now and into the future. I am currently looking to hire an individual with the combination of field experience and technical knowledge who can share my responsibilities of sales, application and management, allowing me to focus on training and growing our business. We project we will add one service truck and tech a year over the next few years and continue to build our company into a self-sustaining, well-oiled machine.”
McBride has come a very long way since launching his company. He anticipates many more years of activity in the water treatment indus-try and offered his expectations for the future. “Our clients are becoming more and more aware that they need reliable laboratory water testing to find out what’s in the water they are drinking. As younger generations buy homes and have children, they are becoming more educated about drinking water and the hid-den health concerns that well water may contain. As the emphasis on consistent and reliable access to safe drinking water becomes ever more important, I believe that testing will become far more commonplace and water purification technology will continue to get better and more complex. We have some very complex issues here in New Hampshire and I know that our clients rely on us to help them with theirs.
“So what’s on the horizon for the water industry? Better educated water professionals will be needed to help a better educated public reach their goals of providing clean, safe water to their families. You can’t underestimate the value of a well-educated and well-trained professional. Many years ago, William R. Hague told me to become a student of the business. I did and I’m still learning. And I hope the industry will take that credo seriously to make water treatment better for everyone.”