Water-Right is a thriving family business that grew from the garage of a one-bedroom home into a company that holds numerous patents for innovative solutions to water treatment problems and serves customers worldwide. The founding father and three sons create an inquisitive and inventive work environment where “visionary thinking and bold action happen daily.”
“We work hard and we play hard,” said eldest son Kurt Gruett, President of Water-Right, Vice President of its subsidiary, Mineral-Right and company spokesman. “We’re always looking for new and better ways to treat water. It’s built into the culture of the company. It’s in our DNA, if you will. And it’s not only family; there have been great ideas from employees. We’re all a bunch of MacGyvers. We like to play with things. There is always a better or a new way to do something. That leads to some pretty cool innovations and makes it fun.”
Glenn Gruett started building water softeners in Appleton, WI in 1961 and in 1963, officially founded Water-Right with the introduction of its first proprietary, automatic control valve for use in problem water. He began selling to wholesalers four years later. As the company progressed, so did its products, size and innovations. Early on, Glenn recalls, “the first big expenditure I ever made was a 310 Cessna. I made the whole circuit to five distributors in a week, which would have taken me three weeks to do without the airplane. The call letters were Whiskey Romeo, for Water-Right.”
“Growing up, we were never given an allowance. We were given the opportunity to work,” Kurt said. “We saw the passion in my father, which inspired us to take up the torch and carry that passion along.” As a result, Water-Right is one of the larger family-owned, independent original equipment manufacturers in the nation. Kurt’s brother Guy is Vice President at both Water-Right and Mineral-Right. Greg is a Vice President of Water-Right and also a Vice President of Mineral-Right. Water-Right Group’s products and brands focus on residential, commercial and industrial water softening, filtration and drinking water systems. “We cover all of the United States and distribute into Canada, Central America and Europe,” Kurt said.
“Over the years, I’ve done just about everything within Water-Right,” Kurt said. “I started off in the assembly division in high school, making units. Following that, I went into sales. I’ve experienced all different areas of the company. Back then, there really wasn’t a place to learn the water business. We learned from my father and built upon his experiences.
Innovation and integrity
The company’s mission is “to passionately provide and create innovative water treatment solutions with a splash of inspiration.” Its vision is “to deliver innovative water solutions honestly, ethically and enthusiastically through education, teamwork and engaging customer support.”
Glenn, now CEO of the Water-Right Group, said: “All my life I wanted to find good people in the industry. If you have good people to work with, you’ll build a successful company.” Kurt added, “As our company grows, we value the importance of finding and holding onto great employees, as well as giving them the resources they need to succeed at Water-Right. Water Right is not just about the immediate family. We have a great management team in place throughout all the companies that has allowed the exponential growth the Water Right Group has experienced.
“A challenge for our industry has always been education. It is our responsibility to educate consumers regarding water quality and provide solutions for them. Water-Right recognized that challenge early on and adopted a philosophy of educating versus selling. If you take an education approach, sales will come naturally.
“We do a lot of schooling for our dealers. We provide educational opportunities through Water-Right Water School, offering professional training and education for dealers, well drillers and plumbers. We bring in 60 to 70 at a time to Appleton, sit them down for three days and teach about water and water treatment. Dad always does the first three or four hours. That’s what he loves to do. We get all different kinds of water people; some are experienced and others are newbies. We mix them all together. Water is so different regionally, and so is the way it can be treated. There are so many different issues with so many different customers and that makes it interesting. That’s why our schools are a lot of fun. Everybody learns from everybody. We learn just as much from our dealers as our dealers do from us.”
In 1985, Water-Right formed its first subsidiary, Mineral-Right, by purchasing a zeolite manufacturing facility once owned by Culligan and relocating to Philipsburg, KS. “This is the only company in the world that manufactures engineered Crystal-Right zeolite for the water treatment industry. In one pass, Crystal-Right removes hardness, iron and manganese, while raising the pH levels of acidic water and reducing ammonia,” Kurt said. “It does a very good job on well waters.” That same year, the company established Clean Water Testing, a state-certified independent laboratory for water and soil testing. “We can detect the presence of various contaminants, including all metals, bacteria and volatile organic chemicals. By the late 1990s, we began to experiment with chlorine generation, which led to the development of the Sanitizer Controller. This and the development of the Chlorine Generator combined with the zeolite really gave us something different to offer the industry.
“In 2008, we introduced our Evolve line, allowing us to enter the professional dealer market. Until that point, the company’s focus was on wholesale and plumbing trades. Evolve offers zeolite water conditioners, water softeners, whole-home water filtration, drinking water systems and specialty products. In 2010, we had the opportunity to purchase WaterCare, moving it to our corporate headquarters in Appleton. We then combined our Evolve and WaterCare dealer groups into a larger dealer network where we could provide more programs and resources. In 2013, we acquired and transitioned CustomCare Water Technologies, allowing us to add a commercial and industrial manufactured line to the Water-Right Group. CustomCare is specified by professional engineers and is sold through water treatment dealers, manufacturers/representatives and mechanical contractors throughout the United States.
“In 2016, we released the newly designed Water-Right ONE Cartridge Filter Tank for our residential customers. We also released three new features for our dealers: the Ozone Generator Kit, Salt Monitor and Remote Flow Meter. The Ozone Generator Kit uses ozone technology, one of the most powerful sterilants in the world, to clean filters without the use of chemicals or harmful byproducts. Its ‘plug-and-play’ simplicity makes for a simple, clean installation. Our Salt Monitor features a patented product design that works by taking a conductivity reading of the brine during the water softener’s regeneration cycle. If the reading is low, an audible and visual alarm is triggered, notifying the homeowner that additional salt is required. The Water-Right Remote Flow Meter gives the user the ability to record and monitor a second stream of water. It’s ideal for tracking irrigation water usage, reclaimed water, gray water or any other application where the user may want to record a second fluid usage.
“Water treatment has been a very good family business, very good to the Gruett family and our employees. Keeping water clean and safe is an increasingly difficult challenge. We continue to look for better and more efficient ways to treat water. Water is such a precious resource. It’s important to us as a company to not only create the right water for the lives of our customers, but to improve the conservation of water for a better world and future.”