Case Studies

Culligan by WaterCo.

Continuing the tradition of water treatment in the Midwest

Since the late 1930s, Culligan has been a household name for water treatment solutions. Culligan by WaterCo., a franchisee of Culligan International is headquartered in Lombard, Illinois, and serves the residential and commercial markets across 24 locations in 12 States.

When Chicago was faced with issues of hard and iron-ridden water, Emmett Culligan and his partners formulated a water-softening technique which solved the problem and launched Culligan Water Treatment. With a high demand, Emmett and his associates experienced success selling water softeners door to door.

Culligan has thrived over the years with its ability to diversify. When the company began, the predominant products and services that were in demand were filtration and treatment for hard water. When the quality of drinking water became a greater concern in the 80s, Culligan branched out into the bottled-water market and would become a top bottled water provider in the nation.

As Culligan grew, the company’s popularity soared as the franchise reached more than 100 stores and became recognizable in the media for the famous slogan: “Hey Culligan man!”

It was this slogan that caught the ear of Don Fuller, CEO of Culligan. A recent college graduate, Fuller was in search of work and decided to inquire into the company. “I heard that tag line everyday on the radio,” recalls Fuller. “The company became very well-known so I decided that I would see if I could get hired there.”

Culligan by WaterCo.

Seizing an opportunity

After more than 30 years of working for Culligan, Fuller and fellow employee John Capone were presented with an opportunity. Culligan corporate elected to re-franchise and sell off 120 company-owned stores. “John and myself, along with some equity partners, bought 11 of the stores that were being sold,” says Fuller. “Over the next two years we would grow by 50 percent through acquisitions.” Within a few years, the pair had gone from working in a corporate environment to running their own multimillion-dollar company.

With years of experience managing Culligan stores, Fuller and Capone possessed a familiarity with the industry and personnel. “We able to retain 100 percent of the company’s previous employees,” says Fuller. “It wasn’t a typical startup business because the stores we were running had been around for more than 40 years.”

For the past four years Culligan by WaterCo. has been focused on increasing its market share through acquisitions and organic growth. The company has grown 15 percent per year since Fuller and Capone ventured into ownership. “We originally bought 11 stores and now have 24 locations,” says Fuller. “Acquiring new stores is the single biggest thing that we’re doing to grow the business.”

With each acquisition made by Culligan by WaterCo., a balance is found between what aspects will change and what will remain constant. “We always seek to retain the current workforce of any store we acquire,” says Fuller. “We modify such things as marketing strategies, pricing and infrastructure. We look to acquire at least one company per quarter.”

Growing services

Growth has also taken place within the company regarding services and target markets. While Culligan’s primary market has always been residential, the commercial facet of the business has grown between 10 to 15 percent per year as well. “The mainstay is still residential water treatment, sales and service,” says Fuller. “We’re glad that the commercial aspect is growing but it also started out very small. An area of particular interest is in the home builder market, many new home buyers today are expecting options for improving their water as part of the package and Culligan is well positioned to work with builders to provide this service and expertise.”

With 280 employees skilled in all aspects of water treatment, Culligan does not require the service of subcontractors. “All of our work is done by our own employees,” says Fuller. “We have 150 company vehicles which allow us to do all sales and installations in homes with company personnel.”

Providing the best water for customers has always been, and continues to be the primary focus of Culligan. With a complete line of water softeners, filtration systems, commercial and industrial water treatment solutions, drinking water systems, whole-house filtration systems and bottle-water delivery, Culligan has set the standard in the water treatment industry for the past, present and future.

Customers have and will continue to rely on Culligan for in-house water services which include; testing for chlorine, sulfur, hard water, iron and other contaminates. When purchasing a new home, customers can turn to Culligan with special concerns regarding non-municipal supplies such as well water in which the company will also test for contaminates. Delivery services include bottled water, salt, portable exchange tank delivery and removal, water conditioning rentals, sales and maintenance and system sanitization.

As clients call on the Culligan man, Culligan by WaterCo. will continue to progress and grow through acquisitions and a loyalty customer following.

Published on: July 24, 2015

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