Guest Column | October 17, 2016

WWEMA Window: Don't Lose Sight Of The Past As You Look To The Future

By Ron Culp, Hartwell Environmental Corporation

As a board liaison and an associate member of the Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA), I am pleased to have an opportunity to provide some comments and observations from a rep’s perspective.  Upon returning recently from New Orleans, I was startled to realize I had just attended my 43rd Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition and Conference (WEFTEC).  As a manufacturers’ representative, I have had the experience of observing the changes in our industry, not only within WWEMA, but also with others outside of our association.

I see the changes in organizations, some good and some bad, but still come away with the thought that our industry provides such a unique opportunity to make a contribution to our world.  We see the ups and downs of Silicon Valley, oil and gas, etc., but at the end of the day everyone drinks water.  Along with our successes, we are faced with the challenges of bringing in new faces to work in our industry.

Some concerns I see are that manufacturers make organizational changes and discharge the “brains” that brought them success, or perhaps create a new working environment that is untenable for employees and hence they depart.  We have some great new technologies to offer but should never forget the “tried and true” ones as well.  The latter is my major concern.  These technologies have provided us the successes we have had and have been the fuel for the steady growth in our industry.  We can’t lose sight of this.

So from my viewpoint, what do I recommend?  Here are some thoughts from the bleachers:

  • Recognizing there may be a need to make organizational changes, be careful to protect qualified and experienced personnel. Those “gray hairs” offer a lot!
  • Focus on bringing in new faces to our industry, but give them the opportunity of having experienced mentors. They don’t need to re-invent the wheel.
  • Don’t throw away your brand name recognition. We all see the new creative corporate names and logos. Then they place the well-known name under it in a font so small you can’t read it.
  • Do not forget the service after the sale, and be flexible on warranty expirations when it is reasonable. The last thing an owner, design engineer, or operator remembers is the way the project was completed. We can do a super job 99 percent of the time and mess up the last 1 percent and that is what all remember.

At WWEMA meetings, so many of these topics are discussed.  WWEMA is an organization that offers tremendous resources to its members, and all manufacturers should consider joining and using them as an asset that helps offer direction in your business plans.

The only thing constant is change, and we need to be ready.

Ron Culp is president of Hartwell Environmental Corporation, located in Tomball, TX.  He is currently a Water and Wastewater Equipment Manufacturers Association (WWEMA) board liaison and serves as the chairman of the WWEMA Manufacturers Representatives Committee.  For more information on WWEMA, go to