Friday, September 19, 2014

A million bottles of water on the wall...

Craig and Pam Bartschi moved from a small town in eastern Idaho to Boise in 1998 to start a bottled water business. Sixteen years and more than 1,000,000 bottles of water later, Idaho Springs Water has been extremely pleased with their relationship with Norland International.

Norland: Tell us about your business.

Craig: “I am originally from a small town in eastern Idaho.  We moved to Boise in 1998 to start our business. We are very much a family business with all of our children growing up in the business and taking their turn in working at various jobs in the company. My wife Pam is the office manager who took that position after our daughter Dana graduated from college and moved on with her career as a nurse several years ago and after all the kids were in school. Sons, Jason route manager, Jared route driver, Brandon route driver and Cameron as the warehouse manager/bottler who does all the bottling with the help of a friend. We have one other Driver Ben who came to work for us as a friend of one of our boys. We also have one son Jordan who is currently serving a religious mission in Mexico who also worked in the business before he left. Our daughters in law Christina, Tianna, and Megan have also filled in when needed. I come from a retail background (20 years previous experience) and worked for a fortune 500 company in the grocery business in several management positions. In 1998 I was 38 and looking for an opportunity to get into a business of my own. I wasn’t specifically looking to get into the water business at the time but this was the opportunity that presented itself. We started to pursue it and it all fell into place so to speak.”

Norland: How did you choose Norland in the beginning?

Craig: “Norland International was recommended to me as a source for turn-key start up equipment to begin our bottling operation. The decision was pretty simple based on the budget we had and the proposal made by Daren Waters at Norland which provided us with everything we needed to get started.”

Norland: How has the water business changed since 1998?

Craig: “I think it was pretty simple in the beginning. The biggest change has been in product diversification. You used to be competitive with just delivering water and now in my market you can’t be. We added break room coffee service several years ago and a variety of water products, i.e. spring water, purified drinking water, and more recently an alkalized anti-oxidant water product all in an effort to appeal to a broader customer base. We also branched out into POU water treatment and condition systems. This provides us with the opportunity to cross merchandise our products to more customers.”

Norland: How have we helped you keep up with those changes?

Craig: “Norland has been on the leading edge of product development in the equipment line they offer. As we now look at updating our bottling plant, it seems Norland has the next step in our progression covered. They have designed their systems to meet and/or exceed the new regulations our industry must conform too as well as meeting the needs of our growing company.”

Norland: We pride ourselves on after-the-sale customer service. How has the Norland staff helped you over the years?

Craig: “Daren has been very helpful. He was the first one I met from Norland and he has become a good friend over the years. I can say all the employees I have dealt with at Norland have always treated me well. I feel that I have been treated fairly and promptly with any issue that we have had. And I must say there haven’t been many. The equipment we started with we still use daily and have had very few problems. We have bottled well over 1 million 3 and 5 gallon bottles in the last 16 years without any significant downtime in our bottling plant due to mechanical failure. When we have had a problem the parts and technical support team at Norland have always responded promptly to our needs to get us up and going. When you’re a small business you can’t afford downtime!”

Norland: What are the secrets to longevity in the bottled water business?

Craig: “Our company started with an outsourced bottler and was warehoused in a garage. We now operate out of a 10,000 square foot building we own with three full time route delivery trucks, a route sales manager and a service technician. We have six fulltime employees and four part-time employees. We have grown our business from a few hundred bottles per month to several thousand and is now one of the largest independent home and office water distributors in Idaho. I attribute our success to hard work, a focused customer service ethic, a quality product, and timely reliable service. We aren’t the biggest ‘yet’ but we are the best at what we do! Secrets to success in the bottled water business? I would have to say it takes determination, a never ending focus on controlling costs and maximizing route efficiency. Don’t be afraid to change things up. Doing things the same way just because, ‘that’s the way you have always done it,’ doesn’t always work. I think being flexible and making adjustments to your business are a constant in the bottled water business.”

Norland: What are some important lessons you’ve learned over the years?

Craig: “There are many things I have learned along the way. I had a good background in retail but no experience in the bottled water industry so I started this venture cold turkey so to speak. In the beginning, I gleaned as much information as I could from trade journals and talking to others in the industry, including Norland. They are a good resource and have a global perspective with a pretty good handle on the bottled water industry. We were fortunate to make the decision to aggressively go after the business in our market in the beginning which allowed us to get ahead of our competitors and make a name for ourselves. We have endured a tough economy but I now see signs we are moving forward accomplishing significant growth in our company once again.”

Norland: Any final thoughts?

Craig: “The bottled water business has been good to our family. The experience has been a very positive one for us. It has given us the opportunity to teach our children the value of hard work, accountability, and to be responsible. They have had the opportunity to see some of the rewards that come to those who value these attributes.”