Mike Covey, VP of business development for Plas-Tanks Industries, sat down with Water Online Radio for this live interview from the show floor at WEFTEC 2011 in Los Angeles. Covey reveals how his company delivers value in a climate of decreasing funding and increasing regulations. Listen or read on to learn more.
Todd Schnick: And we are back, broadcasting live from the Los Angeles Convention Center and the tradeshow floor of WEFTEC. I'm Todd Schnick, joined by my colleague Todd Youngblood. Todd, I am heartbroken, but this is our final interview at WEFTEC 2011.
Todd Youngblood: I am heartbroken too. The only good news is that our next guest agreed to the two-hour version of the interview, so I'm really excited about that.
Todd Schnick: No, the real best news is that all the receptions are starting in just a minute. So that's the best news.
Todd Youngblood: Oh, and I heard about a couple of real good ones. Guinness and oysters, did you hear that one?
Todd Schnick: I did hear that; it's going to be a lot of fun. Well, let's get to our grand finale. He is the VP of business development at Plas-Tanks Industries. Mike Covey, welcome to Water Online Radio.
Mike Covey: Oh, thank you very much. Glad to be here.
Todd Schnick: Well, it's great to have you. Before we get into a conversation, Mike, why don't you take a few minutes and just walk us through who you are, your background, and tell us about Plas-Tanks.
Mike Covey: Okay. As you said, I am Mike Covey, vice president of business development. I have an equity stake in the business with a few partners. I've done a lot at the business. I was the plant manager for a while, worked in different areas, and now I'm doing what I'm doing – a lot of marketing and business development.
The company has been around for 35 years. We are a custom fabricator of Reinforced Thermostat Plastic – fiberglass reinforced – corrosion-resistant storage tanks, process vessels, ductwork, piping, scrubbers, and related equipment.
We are just north of Cincinnati, OH. We ship our products all over the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, South America, Europe, and the Middle East.
Todd Schnick: Well, you answered all my questions. What do you see as the emerging trends and the issues in the water and wastewater industry going into 2012?
Mike Covey: Well, currently and in the immediate future on the municipal side, there is a lack of funding in a lot of cases. There are government regulations that are hurting the industry right now. I guess those two things in particular.
On the industrial side, money’s cheap right now. So as far as capital expenditures, a lot of the industrial companies are spending the money in this down economy, while money is cheap, and doing their upgrades.
Todd Youngblood: Mike, back to the municipal side, what kinds of things are you guys doing to help out with the economic issues and the regulatory issues?
Mike Covey: Well, I guess the biggest thing that we think we can do is to add value. We do that by…we have recently extended our warranty. We now have the longest warranty that I know of in our industry, a three-year warranty.
We sell lifetime cost. We sell responsiveness, quality product. We're continually adding benefits and expanding our service – doing some installations and things like that. So we think – even if the price stays the same, but we're adding value – that we'll end up ahead.
Todd Youngblood: Well, you said the key words: “adding value.” So do me a favor and help the thousands of professionals in the Water Online community better understand how you're delivering that value, if you don't mind, by sharing a story about a significant win or victory you achieved on behalf of one of your customers?
Mike Covey: Well, I can come up with a few examples, but I mentioned responsiveness. We have won several bids recently just for that. If a bid is due at a certain time and we get it to them ahead of time or on time, and other people are asking for extensions, we win the bid by extending the warranty. People know we're behind our product. If our competition is offering a one-year warranty and we’re offering a three-(year warranty) at virtually the same price, we're going to win that bid.
Todd Youngblood: Yeah, and I would think the speed part – when you said “responsiveness,” that's the word that popped into my head. And these days that's really critical.
Mike Covey: Speed kills the competition.
Todd Youngblood: You got it. You got it. Mike, I got a different question. Earlier you mentioned…you kind of rattled off several different jobs and roles and responsibilities you had inside the company. With that kind of a background, how the heck did you wind up in business development, number one? And number two, why is that good for your customers?
Mike Covey: First of all, it’s something I really enjoy. I like getting out and meeting customers. We have a pretty extensive independent rep network. I like meeting with them, I like going to these shows, and it has helped me in working in different aspects of the business – to know what it takes to develop a new product, have a new service, to service people better – because I've done all these things. But I think, mostly, it's when you like doing something, you tend to be good at it.
Todd Schnick: Plas-Tanks is exhibiting here at WEFTEC, correct?
Mike Covey: Correct.
Todd Youngblood: What is your principal objective of attending an event such as this?
Mike Covey: It’s several things. I guess the principal thing is to drum up new business, new customers. But, secondarily, we have a great number of existing customers who are here.
We have a lot of our reps who are here that we meet with, and we go around to the booths of our existing customers and just do a networking thing, I guess. Primarily, though, to drum up new business.
Todd Youngblood: Mike, if I take nothing else away from this show it's just that there's an enormous volume and variety of things you need to know in order to compete successfully as one of the vendors here or to deliver services if you're managing a water/wastewater plant, for example. How on Earth do you keep up with all that knowledge?
Mike Covey: It's very tough. It takes a company full of people. Everybody has their own expertise in different areas. I didn't mention before, but another thing that we do at this show is we have a lot of our vendors here.
Somebody exhibiting in the booth next to us is not a current vendor, but supplies something that we buy fairly regularly. So we can price them against our current vendor, and it takes getting out to things like this to stay in the game. Keep your knowledge current.
Todd Youngblood: Sounds like collaboration one more time, Todd?
Todd Schnick: Yeah, that's been the common theme in virtually every interview. What's the next three to five years look like for Plas-Tanks?
Mike Covey: Looks real good. We're doing very well right now. We are extremely busy through the end of the year and into the first quarter. So we're booking things for second, third, fourth quarter next year, which is fairly unusual in our industry of late. So it looks real strong for us.
Todd Schnick: Oh, that's great to hear. That's great to hear.
Todd Youngblood: It is.
Todd Schnick: Mike, I hate to say it, but we are out of time. Before we let you go, share with the audience how they can learn more about the work that Plas-Tanks is doing?
Mike Covey: Okay, if you'd like to see us at the show, our booth number is 5525 in the West Hall. Our website address is plastanks.com (that’s p-l-a-s-t-a-n-k-s.com). And if you would like to contact us directly, the e-mail is email@example.com.
Todd Schnick: Mike Covey, it was a real pleasure having you. Thank you for joining us.
Mike Covey: Thanks for having me.
Todd Schnick: Thanks, Mike. Okay, Youngblood, that's a wrap.
Todd Youngblood: Do we have to? Do we have to stop?
Todd Schnick: That’s a wrap on Water Online Radio. I’ve got to tell you, I have had a great time. It’s been a hoot doing this with you. I have learned a lot of good stuff; we have met some fascinating people.
Todd Youngblood: I don't know which I like better, just the thrill of having learned as much as I have, or just the cool folks that are here.
Todd Schnick: It’s hanging out with the cool folks.
Todd Youngblood: The new friendships…yeah.
Todd Schnick: Hanging out with the cool folks is what it's all about. Our hat’s off to Water Online for letting us tag along with them and having a great time. We look forward to sharing more with this audience down the road. Todd, it's been a pleasure working with you.
Todd Youngblood: Ditto, Todd, ditto. Todd, the Water Online guys…I do gotta give a shout out to them. I mean, what they did for us, and setting this show up, and coordinating things is really above and beyond what we are used to.
Todd Schnick: Well, they did all the hard work setting up all the interviews. We had the fun part of actually talking to these guys.
Todd Youngblood: Yeah, so thank you to Water Online one more time.
Todd Schnick: That wraps Water Online Radio for Los Angeles, CA. I'm Todd Schnick, on behalf of Todd Youngblood, we will see you next year.