THE PARTNER Started in 1959, Aqua Systems is an Avon, Indiana-based water treatment company. They assemble, sell, lease and service water softeners, filters and purification equipment for residential users. Aqua also bottles, sells, delivers and offers a drive-through service of purified bottled water for home and office markets. The company operates 12 locations in Indiana, Ohio and Missouri. They also distribute their products through a nationwide network of dealers. The company sells and services water treatment equipment to commercial and industrial users throughout the Midwest.  Aqua has 150 employees with 104 IT users. THE PROBLEM Aqua Systems had been working with another IT services company and experienced a change of account manager. Their previous account manager had taken care of everything, and Aqua Systems felt that they had lost their point of contact. Their new account manager was not meeting their needs, and maintaining IT became a burden. Ultimately, this was a painful experience that needed to end. It became clear that Aqua Systems was looking for a partnership that just wasn’t there.  And so, they began the search for a new partner. They interviewed a few alternative IT services companies but just never experienced that “warm and fuzzy feeling” of a real partnership they could trust. In the meantime, IT continued to suffer, and employees continued to deal with problematic systems.   THE SOLUTION Eventually, a friend referred Aqua Systems to AIS as an IT services company in good standing, made up of good people. Based on that referral, Aqua Systems took a meeting with AIS. They immediately experienced that “warm and fuzzy feeling” of a true partnership. AIS’s selling mirrored the way that Aqua Systems sells: AIS’s focus in the meeting was listening to the customer and addressing their concerns. They listened to Aqua Systems’ concerns before offering solutions. It was clear that AIS was trying to help solve problems, not just sell services. Aqua Systems felt that AIS was confident, understanding, honest, trustworthy and hardworking. Because of this, they felt comfortable building a partnership with AIS. Before that could begin, however, they had to overcome a major hesitation — onboarding. It was a huge deal for Aqua Systems to make the change from a partner of more than eight years. Because of this, they had been reluctant to partner with a new IT services company. Aqua had a serious fear of onboarding.   Tom O’Leary, Aqua Systems CFO, expressed this fear to Lamont Hatcher, CIO of AIS: “How are we going to make this switch? Right now, internal change seems like a black hole. How do I hand the keys over to someone and feel certain that everything will turn out well?” Lamont immediately reassured Tom, saying, “Don’t worry I got it. Here is what we are going to do…” He then laid out a specific plan and followed through with it. According to Tom, “AIS went way above and beyond for us. They gave us their undivided attention and took on all the stress of onboarding. The process was incredibly quick and painless, and we felt — for the first time in terms of IT — that somebody had our back.” After that, Aqua Systems invited AIS out to meet the team. It was the start of a personal friendship and a true partnership. MOVING FORWARD Moving forward, the partnership between Aqua Systems and AIS continues to grow. Tom says, “It’s better than I expected. Lamont is truly our CIO. We could have brought IT in-house, but we are not an IT company; we are a water company. AIS works for us, and it is all about us.” Aqua Systems was especially impressed with Lamont’s role as vCIO. Lamont proactively manages Aqua Systems on a daily basis, remotely. Once a month he comes out in person to review Aqua Systems direction and goals. Because of their trusted partnership, Lamont (as vCIO) sits at the leadership table at Aqua Systems. He shares in confidential information and weighs in on big decisions about growth. He consistently offers solutions to help the company run smoothly and efficiently. Lamont puts Aqua Systems interests first, even if it means reducing his own revenue. He is truly part of the team. Ultimately, Aqua Systems says that they cannot imagine a better relationship. They only wish they had acted sooner. They outsourced IT to a company who wasn’t meeting their needs, became complacent and dealt with the pain of a poor IT infrastructure for far too long. Once Aqua Systems overcame their anxiety about onboarding and began the partnership with AIS, they experienced a world of difference. Aqua Systems’ past problems and anxieties are not unique. In fact, we feel they are representative of the problems and anxieties of many other companies. Too often when it comes to IT, companies are not being kept on the front end of technology, and as business grows, the IT strategies and updates cannot keep up. Many outsourced and in-house IT vendors fail to communicate effectively with their clients. The longer the relationship with these vendors, the harder it becomes to address sensitive and complex issues—and even harder to disconnect from them. Poor IT infrastructures, whether developed by an in-house department or an outside vendor, affect the entire culture of a company, stemming productivity and growth. In every partnership, AIS strives to combat these common problems by creating an environment of open communication going both ways. We value relationships built on trust and confidence.  Every time AIS engages with new prospects or clients, we use the same approach: to listen intently to the clients needs and to ensure that we address their stated business problems as we craft our solution. We want to assure clients that we understand their problems and that we will create a value based solution to meet their specific needs. AIS is not here to sell clients services that they don’t need and that will become outdated and problematic in a few years. We are committed to building partnerships based on joint ownership and a commitment to long-term success. We want to grow together, as a team. If you want to build a true partnership and implement proactive, strategic IT solutions, it can all start today with a conversation.
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