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Successful business partnerships are just like marriage: How open communication helps West Country Pump and Filtration Ltd. meet demand and grow their business

Looking at the size and scope of West Country Pump and Filtration Ltd., it’s hard to believe it was once a little family business run out of a tent near Rimbey, Alberta.

While the tent was replaced by a proper shop in a manner of weeks – thanks to a windstorm that blew it away – it illustrates how far brothers Sonny and Rob Christensen have come since starting their business in 2015.

Over the years, the brothers have navigated family dynamics versus business functions, overcome the trials and errors of manufacturing their own filtration systems, and filled the company’s skill gap by bringing in a third business partner, Nick Sztym, as chief finance officer.

Manufacturing custom solutions to solve water quality problems

Today, the Alberta-based business and its 16 employees service Alberta and southern B.C. from their Calgary and Red Deer locations. They continue to invest in research and development as evidenced by their pending patent and eight proprietary water treatment systems.

“We don't like the one-filter-fits-all mindset because it doesn't work,” said Sonny, president of West Country Pump and Filtration. “We manufacture our own systems, so we have higher quality parts and a lot better end product.”

Applications for their systems range from rural to urban and include households, commercial schools, food and agricultural operations, municipalities, and everything in between. They even provide real estate inspections for potential buyers.

Whatever the water problem, solving it begins with onsite water quality testing and educating the customer about their water situation. Once the customer understands what they need to ensure a healthy water supply and signs off, the company designs and manufactures a custom system. Employees then install and test the system, ensuring the customer knows how it works.

Consistent procedures are the backbone of success

 West Country Pump and Filtration prides itself on consistency and professionalism in everything it does, which is likely why the business has a perfect score on its Google reviews.

For Nick, implementing consistent business procedures is the key to growth, especially in terms of staff training and financials.

As chief finance officer, he brought in FBC to help with this new venture after using them on his farm, which he still runs today.

Three years later, FBC Local Tax Consultant Surinder Grewal still helps with both businesses, helping Nick build a long-term tax strategy for each.

All three partners praise Surinder’s deep tax knowledge and skills and his flexibility and willingness to meet them whenever or wherever.

“It’s just having that personal relationship – you almost become friends and you feel you can just call if you have questions,” said Sonny, adding they also use FBC for legal matters.

Nick credits Surinder and FBC with helping him implement new financial procedures that have provided greater visibility and trust in their numbers. As a result, they can make informed decisions about how to sustain growth and keep staff employed.

A family-first culture attracts top talent

When it comes to their staff, Rob says they choose to pay at the high end of the scale to secure professional, reliable employees.

Beyond paying well, the company fosters a culture of “family first” by giving staff the flexibility to meet family obligations.

“We provide just about 50 people with a life through our employees and their family and their kids,” said Rob. “We try to do a lot of good things for them, I believe, and in turn, they do a lot of great stuff for us. I'm super proud of what we've done.”

Open communication, including battle calls, make the company stronger

However, the real success of the company can be attributed to open communication.

“It sounds crazy, but partnerships are like a marriage,” explained Rob, “and the biggest thing is being honest with each other and having a lot of meetings and a lot of communication, so you don’t lose sight of everything you’re working for.”

However, just like in marriage, there are times in business when you have it out. Rob admits to having “battle calls” with Nick and Sonny, but he believes that is healthy too.

“When you come out on the other side, you've learned so much from each other and that's not a bad thing either,” he said. “You learn how to heal, how to deal with it and move on.”

According to Sonny, you also need to be honest with yourself, especially if you have a personal history with one of your business partners.

For example, when they started their business, the brothers had vastly different levels of experience: Sonny, the younger brother, had worked with their dad on and off in the water industry since he was six; Rob, the older brother, pursued a successful career in federal corrections.

When Rob retired at 45 with a full pension and decided to work with Sonny in water, he didn’t know a thing about the industry. This was quite the role reversal from when they grew up with Rob being the more experienced one.

Sonny admits he initially had a “Now, I’m the boss,” mentality that he had to get over to make the business work.

“We grew up together. I knew how to trigger him in two seconds and make him throw wrenches,” admitted Sonny. “But it's learning as you grow so you can swerve around the triggers and help support them rather than make them learn the hard way.”

The future looks bright

Today, the company shows no signs of slowing down. Plans include sweeping the real estate inspection market and potentially expanding into Alberta Health Services.

More than anything, they remain committed to making Alberta’s water healthier, one customer at a time.

To learn more about West Country Pump and Filtration, follow them on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, or Pinterest.

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