By Donna Kreutz
Joel J. Brow started working at his parents’ RainSoft water purification dealership at age 12 with the incentive of earning a car. “I was there to just do whatever you needed—dig a ditch, get a tool or sweep the warehouse. After two years of training, at the age of 14, we had two jobs in one morning. My brother Marty left me the parts, tools and equipment and said ‘you can do the first one yourself now and I’ll pick you up before lunch once I finish mine.’ I started installing units independently from that point forward. At 12, my dad said he’d buy me any car I wanted if I worked for a dollar an hour until I was 16. I learned you have to set a goal, have a plan and a great attitude toward achieving your goals. My parents showed me these principles and they are part of our company’s founding principles.”
When Brow’s parents founded RainSoft Water of Pompano Beach in 1966, they became the first RainSoft dealer in south Florida. Today he owns Broward Water Consultants Inc. and runs the company with his two daughters. “I purchased the business from my father in 1983 after working as an installer, delivery person, service representative, sales person, sales manager, general manager and telemarketing manager.” He also is a WQA Master Water Specialist and Certified Installer.
Brow never actually intended to be in the family business. He went to the University of Southern California and received a Bachelor’s Degree in biology. “After getting accepted to the school of pharmacy, my father asked me to take a small break to help him manage his water business. That’s when I got hooked.” Brow never went on to pharmacy school.
“What do I like about the water business? I love being part of something that really improves people’s lives and health. In medicine you say ‘take these pills and let’s do some blood tests next week; we’ll check if they are helping or causing more problems. But pure water is preventive medicine. It makes a healthier life for you and your family—and it’s good for the environment.”
Trajectory to $20 million a year
This summer, Broward Water Consultants Inc. celebrated 50 years in the water industry. Yet Brow is still going full steam ahead. “Now that my daughters have entered the picture, I’m working harder and having more fun. We grew 200 percent last year and we’ll do twice that this year. We’re going to reach $20 million by 2019—that’s our goal. We have two offices now and will have four in the next two years. With my daughters in the business, I don’t have to be there for the day-to-day work as much. I can work on the business instead of in it. This makes a big difference since now I can focus more on customer care, creating new connections and nurturing the ones we already have. I now have a team of 10 managers and 75 full- and part-time employees to do the in-business work. We serve the southeast Florida area for residential and commercial service and travel the southeastern US for commercial installations and service. Some of our customers we have served for 50 years. They do love us. We are looking to create great raving fans of our business. Out of the total amount of business we’ll do this year, a little over 20 percent will be in referral sales.”
Brow is a man on a mission and with a strong mission statement. “One of the essential things that I think made a difference in our growth is everybody is on the same plan that I have. Their mission is my mission and my mission is their mission.” In fact, the company’s 191-word mission statement is read at the start of every sales meeting. In part it says: “Through the formula of recruiting, training and motivating, success and growth will endure… The leaders of our company have been commissioned to provide and promote a positive, progressive atmosphere that stimulates confidence, pride, value and service to both our associates and customers…Trained, motivated, dedicated individuals will carry the opportunity of satisfying every customer, every time…”
“Our staff consistently follows up with customers to ensure they are happy with the company’s products and service. Did we provide what we were striving for?” Their commitment to customer service is worn with pride. The company uniforms carry this message: “Did we earn a perfect 10?” Case in point: “We do lot of business with our major partner, Home Depot. We had 116,000 leads from only 16 stores in just the first nine months of 2016. We have a 9.8 Voice of Customer score with Home Depot—one of the highest in their home service industry.”
Brow often meets with employees over one-on-one lunches to discuss their field of work, company development and growth, and to get to know the people who work for him better. “I try to give a lot each and every day. I just spent time with a sales rep who is an unbelievably talented and smart man. He just started with our company and I’m looking forward to working with him. He wants to open up branches in India. Nothing would give me more joy than to help him reach this goal.”
‘No better feeling than making a sale’
Brow is a born salesman, like his father before him, who started the business selling water conditioning units from the trunk of his Cadillac. “There’s no better feeling than making a sale,” Brow said. “It’s artwork. We’re educating consumers, letting them know they can have crystal-clear water right from the tap—without the plastic bottle. In doing so, it saves them thousands of dollars over their lifetime using RainSoft water, while protecting the environment. No more bottled water, no more trash bottles, no more waste. We’re dream merchants.”
Brow has seemingly endless energy. “If you’re happy, you have more energy.” In addition, he is an avid reader. At the moment he’s reading John C. Maxwell’s three-in-one special edition, The Winning Attitude / Developing the Leaders Around You / Becoming a Person of Influence. He draws inspiration from Don Miller, who was the number-one dealer in the nation for 15 years, and the Randolph RainSoft organization in Altamonte Springs, FL, the current number-one RainSoft dealer in the world.
“At a seminar Miller once said, ‘we don’t only need to teach people how to do their jobs. We also need to help them with their lives so they can do their jobs better.’ It is important to help each other out, whether it is a friend, colleague, business partner or family member. We have to be more compassionate towards one another. We have a strong united team inside the business, as well as outside the business. We stand by each other. RainSoft dealers are really close. We call each other, help each other. It’s like an extended family. I love being a part of the RainSoft family. It has given me so many friends all around the country and the world.”
Steady industry growth ahead
Brow said the water industry will always have room to grow and evolve. He sees changes, particularly with the increased use of desalinization. “Most coastal communities are putting in RO plants. In certain areas, water hardness has gone down to a considerably small amount (three grains per gallon) so the water softening business is affected. We at RainSoft have already solved that particular problem. We have a detergent-less laundry solution, an air solution, RO and carbon filtration. Hardness is only one factor. People are very conscious about their water today. I never thought we’d be as diverse as we are with water treatment and creating environmental solutions for the home. You may have to look at different options. Think about bottled water. That hasn’t done anything but help our industry.”
Brow’s own family is all about water. In addition to his parents, two of his brothers worked for the family business and in the industry. His oldest brother David was recruited as soon as their dad realized that the water units he was selling had to be installed. He thought the purchasers did that themselves. David eventually established his own RainSoft dealership, then worked in the RainSoft factory and finally in the corporate office for over 35 years. His brother Marty currently runs the water treatment plant for Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC. His sister Kathy also was involved in the company’s early growth.
Looking forward to the business being a third-generation RainSoft distributorship, Brow’s oldest daughter Stephanie is his VP of finance and younger daughter Danielle is Sales Administrator. Just like their father, both started in the business as kids. “They used to work in office filing and I had them do surveys for the sales department. They’d tell me, ‘I never want to do this. I never want to be in this business.’ Now they say, ‘we love this place. We want to be a part of it and see it grow. Let’s do it.’ ”