Five Years of WaterSOLV from a Sales Representative's Perspective
Mark Hensley Interview
"I started out in the golf industry on golf courses. I spent 10 years at Raven and at Sabino Springs in Tucson just working on the crew and then worked up into being a spray tech and then became an assistant superintendent and thereafter I went to a course in Green Valley called San Ignacio Yaqui, Tucson, AZ, that was owned by the same company.
I was a superintendent there for two years and then I’ve been in sales for the last 17 almost 18 years; 10 years with Helena and 7 years with Wilbur-Ellis. I focus on golf, landscape, I do municipalities including University of Arizona and Arizona State University and just a vast variety of different aspects in the turf business in Arizona including Tucson, Sierra Vista, Yuma, and Green Valley. I’ve also have clients in Texas and in New Mexico.
I’ve been working with the WaterSOLV™ program for over 5 years now. Our company had been using it in nurseries and we thought it had a fit in the turf industry. I reached out to Todd, the owner of HCT, creator of the Water Program, and we had some conversations about how we could apply it in the turf industry. We tested out different ways of applying the chemistry for around four months and had great results so we teamed up to bring WaterSOLV™ to the turf industry. And the rest, as they say, is history.
I consider myself to be very open minded. It made sense to me from the standpoint that we were dealing with sodium, the beautiful soils and the beautiful waters (full sarcasm intended) that we have here in the state of Arizona so I thought anything that could alleviate some of those challenges was certainly worth looking at.
We started out at The Wigwam with Jason Snyder who was more than gracious enough to give us the opportunity to show what the product could do. Jasons objective w there had to be something, so he investigated a lot of products over the years past. And then I did some topical applications for Pima County at the Keno Sports Complex and got some amazing results. Then we went to Quail Creek and did the same thing.
Everywhere we went was successful. It worked, and not just based on aesthetics. We established definitive success with before and after soil samples. So that’s how I became convinced to take it on and move it into the market.
The first thing we really wanted to address was cementation of the soils. We really wanted to increase infiltration, fix soils, promote vegetation vitality and uniformity, and make the water more effective as well as efficient. I had the same frustrations as many superintendents where you put fertilizer down and it just doesn’t seem to work. And so it was interesting to watch the WaterSOLV™ work hand in hand with the fertilizer to release that stuff and make it more available to the plant. So those were the two biggest catalysts for bringing the product to our customers.
Our customers are amazed. When we first started out, some of them were a little price sensitive but after they saw the results, that went secondary because they realized you could do some different things to cover those costs, because of the dynamic of the product and what it was doing for them, such as: you could take out some of the fertilizations, reduce aerification frequency and top dressing, and the sod budget alone pretty much diminished.
You didn’t have to fertilize as often because you were getting more bang for your buck out of the applications you’re making.
And then also the thing we kind of stumbled upon as well, and I’ve certainly never promoted the product based on this but we do know factually that it happens, the water conservation. Let's be real candid here, in the desert, that’s an issue, so we can go into these places and save 10-15% on their water, and that’s quite an accomplishment. And it helps tie into having another need to say ‘look, when you use this product you’re going to save 15% on water so therefore, you shouldn’t need to worry about the cost of the material.’
Some customers break even, some even have a little surplus, but the point is that we are delivering a superior product to the customer by using WaterSOLV™. I think it has helped without question increase the play of these courses and the ancillary revenues.
Not just the effectiveness but the increased safety factor involved with switching to WaterSOLV™ was something that was very attractive to me and the customers from the get go. Having worked on the golf side I have dealt with sulfuric acid, n-pHuric acid, and even back in the old days in the food business where I dealt with different acids for cleaning things, I understand the dangers of that so anytime we can bring something to the table that is going to be safer for employees to deal with, I think is a win for those folks.
I feel like it also makes us better stewards of the environment by getting that stuff out of there. it’s nice to have an alternative to those acids that we can replace it with and get a better result and not have to continually increase the rate every year.
Typically we deliver a tote of the WaterSOLV™ Curative acid, a tote of liquid fertilizer and drum of the WaterSOLV™ BC, because that’s how the operation works for us out here in he arid desert. And then the superintendent just disconnects his totes or drum and puts it into the new container and they just start pumping away. It’s a lot safer handling, it’s just an easier setup in all honesty, no bulk delivery needed. The chemical volume was stunning, about 90% reduction in the volume of the 93% sulfuric acid, and twice that where they were using N-pHuric.
We have had to gain credibility with folks on the product, which you do with every single product that you sell, but I think most want to start out looking at the investment standpoint. So most would start out with topical trials, then drums and once they figured out the impact and improvements in their turf and playability, then the savings, also by going into the tote quantities then it made sense to them because they were already convinced that the product was beneficial for them.
Its a crawl before you run mentality. I’ve been blessed to be acquainted with some very quality superintendents out there in the industry and I find that to be the biggest value. People who know me know my driving point is helping them improve their operations; let’s get them products in their hands that could make their facilities much improved and even be a better steward of the environment by putting less harsh chemistry in the ground. But I normally start them out on a five gallon if they’re skeptical or I will just say ‘hey, reach out to these three or four guys (who have been very open to giving a personal recommendation to potential customers) you’re more than welcome to call.’
I have played with my own orange tree in my own backyard, I have a semi dwarf orange tree, and I have found out that simply doing a drench once a month with just three or four ounces in a watering can and just do a nice drench and water it in. I have found that I don’t need to cover that orange tree anymore in the winter. It doesn’t seem to be susceptible to frost anymore and the only way I can quantify that is I have a grapefruit tree right next to it that I don't treat, and I have to constantly cover that one.
And then I have used it in situations where one of my customers had taken 4 smaller mesquite trees from their property and wanted to transfer those to their father-in-law’s property, which he had done. One looked great and the other three, not so much. So we took the WaterSOLV™ pHix and applied 4-5 ounces in a watering can, and we applied it every other day for about two weeks and it was pretty shocking to see all three trees bounce back significantly and they are still doing great!
We are always playing around with it to see if we can find a different use for it and see how it affects different vegetation. I’m not much of a tree guy, more of a turf guy, but it’s been interesting seeing even with JR down at Quail Creek. We heard his testimonial on the difference it made on his trees because they had been in the ground for a long time and once they started injecting onto the turf, those trees all of a sudden took off. It’s been pretty interesting. It wasn’t a disease affecting them, they were just stuck. He wasn't getting any growth out of them at all over 15 years.
One thing that is impressive, and I don’t mind saying it because Dave Russell is a close personal friend of mine, he is at Mission Royale in Casa Grande and it has been an interesting situation that has gone through multiple ownerships. We had a good direction to go in the last 16 months. When I first went up there and he wasn't injecting there were a lot of bare areas where they couldn't get the water to infiltrate so you weren't getting moisture down to the root zone of the plant. You had massive areas where grass would just not grow, I mean you had nothing.
Now I go back there and what I've noticed is that those spots have filled in probably 75-80% in the last year. And the other thing I noticed is he would have some big swampy quagmires where you could just smell the bacteria, just a really disgusting smell and those have gone away. So that’s another thing that stands out, but it works very well under any kind of water situation from effluent to well water, whatever water source they have, WaterSOLV™ works and it works extremely well.
I’ve been going to Mission Royale for 15 years and there were always a variety of issues there and now since Dave was gracious enough to give us the opportunity to present what WaterSOLV™ can do there, we are seeing it first hand and it’s pretty impressive. I serve about 45 courses with the product and program.
Their play is probably up double to what it used to be and he’s only using the WaterSOLV™ Curative product.
I think the WaterSOLV™ BC product is a little bit different, more for bacterial type problems in my opinion even though you’re going to reap some of those same benefits from the Curative product it’s above and beyond what Curative will do with a little twist so to speak. We are working with Jeff Mitchell right now out of Mesa Del Sol in Yuma, just talked to him yesterday, and he’s doing a topical application to get more product to the problem areas which are in locations on the greens. So they are treating the water and adding chemistry topically to address black layer issues.
I really base my decisions on what I saw in the field and based on soil samples. I’m always working to quantify what we are doing because anybody can say anything. That’s why I really don’t like the connotations of competitors, because it can often be negative ones, so I always try to quantify through test results.
My customers are technically adept but they do appreciate the K.I.S.S. method (keep it simple silly). Just give me the goods on it. And that’s how I’ve always sold. Anything I sell is based on my viewpoints, what I have seen personally, not relying necessarily on someone else’s opinion. I just have guys that believe in me. They knew I wasn’t going to lead them on a wild goose chase or try to sell them snake oil. I think that’s why we have gotten the opportunities that we have.
We have received quite a bit of referrals. It’s made a massive difference in revenue, not just for me personally but also for Wilbur-Ellis and the clients. I think we’ve been out in front of it a little bit, put in a little more time maybe than our competition, but it’s made a huge impact. I can tell you it’s been a significant impact for our company and for me personally. It’s been an interesting journey, I really feel like we are doing something good for the customer which is always my goal. As sales guys we have to perform and we have numbers we need to hit but it’s certainly much easier when you have a product you believe in and have strong conviction and get very good results from it. And then the customer feedback is crucial. That’s what it's all about. That's why I do this.
We’re all doing it to make money and support our families as well but the biggest reason that I do what I do, selling anything, is to help that customer solve a problem. That’s my job.
I think that WaterSOLV™ really fits into a number of categories to help us go after a lot of those problems. And that’s what it’s all about for me."
Mark Hensley Interview
While water and vegetation issues are universal their causes are complex and specific. That's why we created our own soil and water testing matrix to create custom prescriptions for our customers that are aimed at solving the source of problems, and reducing the need not only for wetting agents, sulfuric acid, gypsum and manual aerification, but reducing the need for our chemistry as well. Most of our long term users are on maintenance programs using just 1-6 ppm of a custom percentage of each product injected directly into their irrigation system.
HCT's purpose and privilege is providing sustainable and cost effective solutions to the chronic problems that plague soil health in the world of water and agronomy. We consistently reduce water demand 15% and increase crop yields 18% and more. When you treat water ‘well’ with WaterSOLV™ you increase efficiency, decrease costs, increase yield, improve pore space and add oxygen chemically. We can show you how to restore soil infiltration and soil operability just by treating your water and for substantially less than you're spending now.