When Bill Wilson first encountered R&S Soft Water Services, he was an employee for Boeing, working on the Apollo program. Wilson and his wife were looking for water softening equipment for their new home, and after a salesperson spoke with his wife earlier one day, Wilson came home from work and heard what he had to say. After checking with other companies, he bought equipment from R&S, but the relationship did not stop there.
“I bought a unit from R&S, and I liked it so much, I bought the company,” he said.
Since Wilson became owner in 1971, R&S Soft Water Services has evolved from a small business to a staple of the community. With services that include water treatment, additions, as well as home improvements, R&S is a company that strives everyday to provide clients with the best water treatment tools and services around.
“The important thing is you can’t stay dormant. You have to keep moving forward.” – Bill Wilson
Location, Location, Location
When asked about the keys to R&S’ success over the years, Wilson pointed to the location and it playing a big factor in marketing opportunities for the business. Wilson felt R&S, originally located in Cocoa, would be better off located in the emerging city of Palm Bay. In 1974, Wilson bought the corner of Palm Bay Road and Babcock Street, hoping the busy intersection would allow for more traffic for his store.
“That was the busiest intersection in Brevard County,” Wilson said. “It didn’t even have a traffic light there, but I bought that building and grew the business there.”
From there, Wilson used the land to help grow and fund his business. Ten years later, Wilson sold the back of the corner to Scotty’s, and in 1999, he sold the land to Eckerd’s, which eventually became CVS. R&S then moved a quarter-mile north to its location on 4520 Babcock Street, a 15,000-sq.-ft. building. The move allowed the company to increase its business, trucks and services, providing the space to grow into one of the top independent water softener dealers in the state of Florida.
Customer Service Success
The growth and success of the company can be attributed to its dedication to both its customers and employees. After moving south, Wilson understood that in order for the business to scale, he would need to bring on staff to assist him.
“When I moved to Palm Bay, the first thing I became aware of, with my wife and I being the only employees, was that I needed to hire more people to help,” Wilson said. “I hired my first employee, and that person is still with me today.”
Soon after that, R&S started subletting irrigation and well drilling. With the help of labor workers, the company installed its first irrigation system. The small company that came down to Palm Bay as a water conditioning service provider was well on its way to evolving into something more. The company continued to increase its reach, purchasing Pennington Well Drilling, followed by Eagle Drilling Company. Wilson later went on to form a separate company, Water Queen of Florida, which provided wholesale and retail water treatment needs.
Keeping It in the Family
Today, Robert Wilson, Bill’s son, is the operations coordinator for R&S, taking over the daily tasks that his father once tackled. Robert worked his way up the ladder, from cleaning and organizing the store, to detailing trucks, to his role coordinating operations.
The company has been able to establish a reputation for premier customer service, something Robert feels has been instrumental in its success. Going beyond simply providing a service for customers, R&S prides itself on getting to know its clients. The work has led to a strong presence through word-of-mouth and reoccurring business. From families having multiple houses worked on by R&S over several decades, to the company working on houses of the kids of those families, the importance of making each customer feel special is not lost on those in the company.
“When we treat customers well and make them feel like we’ve done something special for them, I think they have a tendency to really go out of their way and let neighbors, friends and people in the community know,” Robert said.
Going beyond simply providing a service for customers, R&S prides itself on getting to know its clients.
Established in the Community
During R&S’ time in Palm Bay, the company has enjoyed much success, including winning the Greater South Brevard Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year award in 1988. Wilson has also seen the area grow from 18,560 citizens in 1980 to 110,104 in 2016, something he is proud to be a part of. Involved in the community, Wilson has been chairman of the Palm Bay Chamber of Commerce twice, founded a Kiwanis Club and Breakfast Rotary Club of Palm Bay, and served on the athletic advisory board for Florida Tech. R&S has also supported Little League and youth soccer.
For Robert, the thing he enjoys the most about the profession is having his family in the community. Being able to grow up and work in Palm Bay, Robert has been able to maintain old, established relationships, as well as create new ones. Ironically, the company has grown along with the city, and both have had a positive impact on residents of Brevard County.
For Bill, it was the goal of a company whose start involved hardly having any inventory, a truck that barely ran and a location that was originally downtown. Since those early days, R&S has evolved into one of the top companies in the state, showcasing versatility, while also putting customers first and making them feel special.
As R&S continues to display a quality line of services throughout Brevard County, the importance of evolving and adapting to the market remains its focus.
“The important thing is you can’t stay dormant,” said Wilson. “You have to keep moving forward.”