Best Foot Forward

President Paul Jacuzzi discusses his turnaround of Waterite Technologies

Considering Paul Jacuzzi’s name, it’s not exactly surprising that he has become a top player in Canada’s water industry. As a member of the family behind the famed hot tub and whirlpool-bath company, he literally grew up around aquatic expertise: his grandfather was one of the original Jacuzzi brothers who founded the company in 1915, and his father founded Jacuzzi Canada in 1955. But even though his family sold the business in 1979, that didn’t prevent Jacuzzi from making a name for himself in the industry with his own company, Waterite Technologies Inc., an engineering, manufacturing, and distribution business specializing in products for the water-treatment and water-bottling industries. He acquired and began rebuilding it in 1999, and the company now supplies residential, industrial, and municipal markets throughout Canada, the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. Advantage had the opportunity to speak with president Jacuzzi about how his company manages and sustains growth.

Advantage: How did you get started in the water industry?
Paul Jacuzzi: Jacuzzi is a family name, and I’ve always been very proud of our history in the water-filtration business. After 20 years working in the water industry, I was ready to become an entrepreneur and purchased Waterite Technologies Inc. When I opened the door on my first day, I had to kick boxes out of the way to get in. I realized that I had a big job on my hands and immediately started focusing on developing a culture of growth rather than a culture of survival. At that time, we had five staff members. Today we have 60.

Paul Jacuzzi’s
Career Milestones

1970s
Is introduced to the water industry

1981
Receives his MBA from the DeGroote School of Business at McMaster University

1986
Becomes vice president of a major company within the water industry

1991
Attains his first general management position

1999
Purchases his first business, Waterite Technologies Inc.

2014
Waterite Technologies is the leading water-equipment supplier in Canada, 10 times the size it was at its founding

How has Waterite Technologies grown over the past several years?
We’ve been in acquisition mode since I purchased the business in 1999. As a small company, it’s dangerous to challenge a large, well-financed competitor in its areas of strength. So as we grew, we located branches in underserved regions and developed products that our competitors didn’t have. It has worked really well; there is no single competitor that can now threaten our company due to our product and geographic diversity. Our head office is in Winnipeg, and we have warehouses and sales teams in Langley, British Columbia; Barrie, Ontario; and Montréal. We’re also opening another branch in Florida, which is the third-largest filtration and water-supply sector in the US.

Do you have a strategy for managing growth?
One of the hardest things for an entrepreneur to do is manage growth while making critical day-to-day decisions. They key is to pace your growth, manage your financial resources carefully, and delegate. Product and business development is time-consuming stuff, so I delegate a lot of responsibility and decision-making. Allow your staff to make errors and learn from them. This isn’t always the easiest process for entrepreneurs, but it’s one that makes a difference between standing still and growing.

How do you maintain that momentum?
We have a lot of eyes and ears out in the field looking for new products and for new business and acquisition opportunities. I really like Jim Collins’s book Good to Great, which has helped me to manage my business so that it’s always moving forward with momentum behind it. Creating this flywheel effect has really helped move us forward. Since I bought Waterite, I’ve never felt this was work. Some days are arduous, but I have a lot of fun, too. I’ve worked hard to create an environment that is intense and focused but never intimidating or threatening.

What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs?
Get as much experience as you can before you start your own business. If I knew how much fun running a business is, I’d have done it 10 years earlier. But I gained invaluable experience in the corporate world and acquired management, accounting, marketing, and sales skills in my MBA program, which were critical to the success of Waterite. I’d also advise new entrepreneurs to go out of their way to build strong relationships with all partners—from vendors to financial partners—who will really help you to build and develop your business.

What’s next for you and Waterite Technologies?
Over the next 10 years, I plan to continue to seek out new opportunities, including growing into the US marketplace. At Waterite, we employ the “30-second rule”: once we have the necessary information and inputs on a project or initiative, we make a decision in 30 seconds. The trick is to make sure you have all the necessary information to make a sound decision, so as not to be reckless. But once you do—no dithering, we get on with it. This is a huge tactical advantage over our competition, especially the big corporate guys that may have to clear three levels of management and two committees to get anything done. We are already on to the next project!