A Nozzle Approach

In today’s business world, social media networking is at the forefront of branding and selling. The Internet has brought manufacturers and suppliers closer to customers than ever before, with purchases in many cases being made off a website instead of a showroom floor.

However, there are companies out there who are succeeding without having the website catalog as their primary sales tool. They are interested in carving out a personal relationship with customers, taking to the road to sell their products rather than e-mailing information, linking them to a website, relying mainly their distributor network, where products several companies are sold.

The pipe cleaning market has never been as popular as it has been during the last few years. Internet stores to purchase nozzles, cutters and other cleaning accessories are easily found. But NozzTeq Inc., based in Clearwater, Fla., is one company that prefers a handshake to an e-mail confirming a purchase.

NozzTeq is a North American OEM and manufacturer of nozzles and cutters used in the pipe cleaning market. A throwback to a time before the Worldwide Web, NozzTeq owner and president Scott Paquet is passionate about selling directly to his customers, with himself logging thousands of miles each year as he meets with existing and new clients around the country. Sometimes the trips are in his company pickup, longer ones are in an airplane, but he says making the trip to talk to the customer one-on-one has made a huge difference in the success of his company.

“This philosophy has built much better relationships and complaints are few and far between,” Paquet says, noting he uses his website to complement his direct sales.

While the company’s distributor network is still important, it’s the direct sales that Paquet sees as the true reason his company has continued to grow each year. And with the increased awareness on our aging infrastructure during these tight economic times, he believes that expanding his direct sales network will only further drive his company to sustained success.

Company History

According to Paquet, NozzTeq was created to take the nozzles and service to the next level in terms of sales and customer service. NozzTeq as a company came into being in 2006 but the technology that it sells was created 25 years ago by Bo Larson, now retired owner of the Swedish company AquaTeq. Larson developed and filed the patent for what is considered the first advanced sewer cleaning nozzle: Jaws.

AquaTeq is quite a pioneer in sewer cleaning in Sweden, most notably with Larson’s nozzle design. AquaTeq was founded in the mid-1960s as a consulting firm in the water and sewer industry. Its customers were small municipalities in the southern Swedish countryside. The municipalities did not have enough expertise of their own and employed AquaTeq to design, build and maintain their water and sewer systems — this resulted in AquaTeq purchasing one of Sweden’s first jetting vehicles. Today, the company manufactures nozzles, cutters, dewatering systems and jetting systems.

Paquet has been in the sewer industry since 1997, starting out as a laborer and climbing directly into the sewers via the manhole to clean them. Fascinated by the industry, he continued to move up the chain to the point where he now owns his own company and has become a well-known force in the pipe cleaning industry — an industry he is truly passionate about.

“I think the greatest thing about the pipe cleaning industry is that every day is always different,” Paquet says. “Each day involves a new customer to talk to or new project.”

Paquet forged a relationship with AquaTeq while employed at another company. In 2006, Paquet decided to partner with AquaTeq, now run by Larson’s daughter Anna Lantz, and AP Hydrotechnik of Germany to bring their nozzle and cutter products to a broader customer base in North America. Alfred Paikert of AP Hydrotechnik had developed the Paikert cutter nearly 30 years prior.

“We started off running in October 2006 with the Jaws nozzle, Paikert Hydro-Torque Impact Cutter, Lumberjack high-speed, low-torque chain cutter, Hammerhead nozzle, C-Ray Bottom Cleaner and the Penetrating Icebears,” Paquet says.

NozzTeq has a full line of nozzles and cutters, including its most recent product — the BL Swiper sewer nozzle, which is made to optimize the cleaning effect by using both the water flow from the high pressure pump together with the jet streams and uses air channels built into the nozzle.

Today, NozzTeq is the sole OEM of the AquaTeq nozzles and owner of the trademark names. The company, which has remained small in numbers at its Clearwater, Fla., warehouse, has a North American distributor network of 21 different distributors located all across the United States. Paquet also does sales in South America and Southeast Asia.

“We started off with just me and some part-time help for the first six to eight months, using our distributor network to keep things flowing,” Paquet says.

NozzTeq vice president of sales Tony DeCarlo came aboard in 2007, starting off as a sales representative working on straight commission. The company made its first tradeshow appearance at the 2007 Pumper and Cleaner Expo, introducing itself to the sewer cleaning community. As the company grew, DeCarlo earned more of a management role, ascending to his current position.

Early on, NozzTeq relied on its distributor network to introduce and sell its lineup of nozzles and cutters to potential contractors and municipalities. This strategy worked initially, but Paquet decided to move things to a more personal level to expand its sales and brand.

“When we first started, we used our distributor network. We gave them the promotional material and let them distribute the product direct to the customer,” Paquet says. “But the distributors weren’t just selling our product. They were selling other nozzles as well. That’s when we realized that going out in a pickup and visiting the customers face to face would produce better results.”

And that’s what Paquet and DeCarlo did — headed out on the road, bringing the NozzTeq product to the customer’s door. Along the way, they figured out that, while it brought sales results, it also strengthened the confidence that the customer had in the company. And they also found out that they really enjoyed it. NozzTeq also added another full-time sales person, Josh Ballum.

“We hit the road with one service truck making sales and service calls, logging more than 70,000 miles per year in 2008 and 2009, visiting customers,” Paquet says. “With Josh [Ballum] aboard, in 2010 we were doing well over 120,000 miles between the three of us.”

The distributor network remains a vital asset of NozzTeq’s business but incorporating a more hands-on sales approach gave the company a stronger edge on its competition, Paquet says, describing the move as solidifying relationships with contractors and cities as they can put a face with the product and know they can reach out to a person.

“We are very passionate about that,” Paquet says. “We have seen a lot of Internet stores opening and businesses that sell on the phone. To me, there’s no excitement in that. We look forward to jumping in our truck and going to see the customer and shaking their hand, showing them our product, demoing our products and letting them use our products. That is building relationships. Many businesses have lost that as social networking sites have come into play as a way to communicate. I know I’m not the only ‘maverick’ that is going in this direction. We offer more than just a product online. We also offer customer service.”

Being in-tune with his customers allows Paquet and his staff to listen to customer concerns and needs, which are discussed with AquaTeq to incorporate their perspective into new nozzle and cutter products and technology, Paquet says.

While Paquet attributes the company’s success to the hard work of his employees and their strong relationships with customers, he says that it is the company’s commitment to customer service that has elevated his company in pipe cleaning circles.

“Our technology was one of the first of its kind and we are very proud of the type of products we put out,” he says. “Our service is extremely important as most of our customers expect us to ship within 24 to 48 hours. We always do our best to go the extra mile with all of our customers from giving them onsite assistance to shipping products on a Saturday to be delivered on a Monday.”

Paquet says they also listen to their customers, even when the product isn’t doing so well. “Several years ago, our C-Ray nozzle was flipping over too much and we got several complaints,” he says. “We did our research and re-designed the back of the nozzle, making a few adjustments along with better nozzle calculations and a new swivel. We slowly started selling them again and in 2011, it was our best year. We don’t ever stop caring about our products and customers because when you do, then sometimes it’s best to move on.

The Market

Since NozzTeq entered the market, the economic climate in the world has drastically changed. The 2008 market downturn forced companies to reinvent themselves or adapt to the “new” economy in North America and around the world. In the midst of all this, there remained a growing concern over aging underground infrastructure, which in most cities is well beyond service life expectations. Municipalities needed to prioritize how they would address their needs and how they would pay for it.

Municipalities are trying to do more with less these days so instead of buying, for example, an expensive larger piece of equipment or truck, they are investing in technology that will help them maintain their assets. Paquet has seen his customer base in recent years trend more toward municipalities, looking to invest in products they can use themselves instead of contracting some work out.

“Several years ago, it was the contractors who made up the bulk of our customer base. Today, the majority of our customers are the municipalities. They are doing their own work, which is not necessarily good news for contractors,” Paquet says. “Now there is better technology out there that [municipalities] can afford. They are more apt to spend $10,000 on nozzles that they can use to clean their entire city’s sewer system whereas that $10,000 may only get them a few sections of pipe with an outside contractor.”

The current economic conditions have resulted in everyone — sellers and buyers —re-thinking how they do their business. “You can buy a good nozzle for $3,000 and a new truck for $300,000. With the state of the market today, people are looking for more technology at the end of the hose to work harder for them,” Paquet says. “That’s how the nozzle industry has evolved — where people are looking to work smarter and faster.”

Education Need

With the increased interest in underground infrastructure maintenance, as well as growing plethora of products available to customers, education of said customers has never been more critical, Paquet says.
“One of the biggest areas of concern for me is having the operator understand that there is science behind cleaning a sewer,” he says. “It’s not as simple as just sticking a nozzle in a pipe and shooting it up the pipe and pulling it back. There is much more to know… How many feet of hose do you have, how many gallons per minute do you have to run your truck, what volume of truck can clean the pipe?… That type of information takes a lot of education because it gets pretty complex.”

Paquet is passionate about educating operators and owners on nozzle and cutter technology and keeping that information in an objective and non-biased format. He travels to various national and regional trade shows, such as the Pumper and Cleaner Expo, giving presentations on what operators need to know to operate the tools of the trade.

He believes educating cities and operators is more critical than ever, as municipalities ease up on purchasing equipment due to the economy and look for better and more creative ways to clean the sewers themselves.

“[In any economy] I believe education on how to properly clean is imperative and that it is greatly lacking [today]. The challenge is finding a happy medium on how to best educate operators,” Paquet says. “NASSCO does a good job of being non-biased and presenting research to municipalities and cities.”
Paquet sees a bright future for the pipe cleaning market and his company, as cities continue to address their infrastructure. “I believe the future for NozzTeq is endless as there are still thousands of customers who are still unaware of what we have to offer,” he says. “We plan on growing each year and eventually adding more direct sales reps and working closely with our distributors.”

Sharon M. Bueno is managing editor of Trenchless Technology.
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