There is business growth, and then there is the growth experienced by Puragain Water in its quest to bring clean drinking water to the masses.
The company based in Southern California provides filtration systems and services, including whole-house drinking-water systems that include five-stage reverse osmosis and six-stage alkaline systems.
In 2020, the business made $3.6 million in revenue.
By 2021, that number was just short of $7 million.
In 2022, it was nearly $20 million.
In 2023, it expects to be just short of $40 million.
That’s an increase of 1,011% in just three years – and it came while Puragain was expanding to three new states and markets in Las Vegas, Houston and Phoenix, all while its California reach grew from San Diego north to Santa Barbara.
Clearly, purity brings profit.
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“Every store we’ve opened, we’ve been profitable in 30 days, which is unheard of when opening a new business in a new territory,” said Chris Nelson, Puragain’s national sales manager.
Quality has much to do with that growth, of course. Puragain has achieved five-star ratings in four states. Its next step is to open in Florida, with the long-term goal of $100 million annually.
“We have an incredible product, and a service that backs it,” Nelson said.
But the growth has not meant a divergence from the core culture of the business. Owner and CEO Lonnie Larson’s emphasis has always been to maintain Puragain as a mom-and-pop operation.
“Lonnie has established the company from the beginning to the end to be a full, well-rounded business, with that old-school mentality where a handshake means something,” Nelson said. “We sell you a system, we're going to be there for you.”
Nelson attended Chaminade University in Honolulu on a basketball scholarship (raise your hand if you’re old enough to remember Chaminade slaying mighty Virginia and Ralph Sampson). Influenced by a junior college coach who was a probation officer, Nelson majored in criminal justice. But when he got back to California after graduating, he encountered a recession and job cutbacks.
He was hired by Knights Automotive in San Diego and found a niche, spending 14 years as general manager and operations manager. When COVID hit in the spring of ’20, he decided he wanted a new challenge. His best friend’s father-in-law was an installer for Puragain, a business he was familiar with because as an athlete he’d been drinking alkaline water for years.
He was hired initially to be a sales rep, but when an opportunity to move into management arose, Nelson eagerly said yes.
“Ever since then, I've proved that I understand that mom-and-pop mentality,” he said. “It's a little bit different than the corporate mindset. You're a little bit more involved. You wear many hats.
“But I saw the opportunity and I saw the passion of Lonnie and his wife. The first quarterly meeting I went to, there were seven employees. We're up to 100 now, and this in a very short period of time.”
But as Puragain grew, Nelson knew it had outgrown its software.
“We got to the point where we were seeing things fall through the cracks on the service side,” he said. “We were seeing a lot of things on the sales side with follow-ups and having reps staying organized and not keeping up on the spreadsheets.
“That's how we knew that if we were going to go to that next level and springboard to that next level, we needed a proper CRM to do it.”
Nelson studied ServiceTitan, the all-in-one cloud-based software for the trades. Possibility and potential drew him -- and he was unfazed that ServiceTitan was not in common use in the water-treatment market.
“The adaptability of ServiceTitan to work for our needs was absolutely incredible,” Nelson said.
Puragain integrated ServiceTItan through trial and error, leveraging what was best for the business and its scalability.
“We wanted to build the program to the simplest aspect for our reps,” he said. “We wanted it to be a simple process so when they sold the job, regardless if it was a loan or a cash deal, it was simple, fast, taking photos, and then it's handed on to that next department, the install department.”
Once refined, that process was streamlined to a 10-minute process. Once the sale is complete, alerts pass information on to managers and appropriate departments.
“I can't tell you how much it's streamlined (operations),” Nelson said.
The process on follow-ups also has been simplified because ServiceTitan alerts notify reps the follow-up is needed. Training of new hires also has become much more focused and streamlined.
Ease of use even in different locations was another major benefit.
“It's really made it to the point where it's easy for us to go to that next level and open up these new stores, keeping things organized from how they're able to do the different business units for each state, but all still be integrated into one,” Nelson said.
Finally, ServiceTitan has made the work of installers easier -- by a lot.
“We all know our installers are laborers, right?” Nelson said. “They're not going to be the salesmen, the book jockeys. They're going to go out there and be the laborers and do the hard work.
“To simplify a product for them, to see the photos that the rep takes, to know what's being installed. Then to certain things and different forms we've built in for legal reasons and to make it easy on (installers).
“That all was probably the biggest success story I can say from ServiceTitan.”
Nelson said he believes he’s found Puragain’s last software, one that can carry the business further. To Nelson, ServiceTitan allows Puragain to keep the mom-and-pop feel while facilitating the growth it has seen and expects to see.
“The more time I spend with ServiceTitan, the more features I uncover,” he said. “It’s really, really helped us go to that next level. And I think, as we continue to go to that next level, ServiceTitan will definitely be a key.”