Select Reputable Contractor
Basement waterproofing contractors like AquaGuard Waterproofing Corporation make all sorts of claims. Sometimes they tout how long they’ve been in business. You buy out a company, ruin it, but lay claim to the name and number of years that brand has been around. It’s a sad, recurring theme in the business world. Sometimes the new owners may shamelessly make claims to be a family owned or operated business when that connection has long since been lost due to buyouts or other reasons. In the case of AquaGuard, nothing captures the way they play fast and loose with the truth better than the comments the General Manager made under oath:
Q. …on your website, I note it says it’s family owned foundation contractor. What other family members are owners?
A. None for me.
Q. I’m sorry?
A. None of my family.
Q. Well, who were you referring to when you say AquaGuard is a local family owned?
A. I don’t believe I wrote that.
Q. Okay. Let me just show you… …I just pulled it off your website today.
A. Well, the owners are families, I guess.
Q. Well, how many owners are there?
Get that? Four different owners, apparently unrelated. The self-styled “Trusted Name In Waterproofing” seems to have issues with providing simple answers to simple questions.
So who cares?
When the AquaGuard disaster hit my home I thought this must be a simple, although incredible stupid, mistake. When AquaGuard initially denied there was a problem, indeed they tried to convince me they had done me a favor, I figured I was dealing with employees simply trying to cover up their mistakes. At that point I knew I needed to reach the family ownership. Surely they would be shocked and move quickly. When I reached the General Manager, who is also listed as “Owner”, I was confident the problems would be addressed. Instead I experienced more delays and when they finally acted it made matters worst. This was not remotely like any other experience I’ve had with a true family owned business. I couldn’t believe this was deception on their part so what was going on?
I love dealing with family businesses and have had great experiences with them. More recently I had my driveway resurfaced by a true local company with family roots. When the owner (not some slick-talking, so-called “senior inspector” who was really a commission-only salesman) showed up to inspect to property and give me an estimate, he brought his son along. When the job was complete and there was a minor problem, he and his wife and family showed up on a Sunday to look over the job and addressed the issues in detail. This was a real family business with pride in what they do and a determination to get the job done right. No dancing, denials, and delays like I got from AquaGuard Waterproofing Corporation. Just straight talk and fair, honest dealings. AquaGuard’s ownership could learn a lot from such people.
As stated in that previous posting, there are many intangibles above that are hard to capture, but let me try. The plumbers I hired are a true family business, at least as I understand the term. The owners and workers are directly related, value their good name and reputation consequently standing by their work and acting with integrity and honesty. Of course being a family owned and/or run business guarantees none of that. Nor are they cheap but I for one am willing to pay their price. I’ve had several such experiences and similar results. Not so with AquaGuard Waterproofing Corporation. Then again, are they really a family owned business? Why did I think AquaGuard was a family-owned business? Let’s explore these questions and others.
First, why would anyone think AquaGuard is a family owned business? Because that is exactly what AquaGuard says they are on their slick web site. It is also what their “Aw shucks” senior inspector (more on what it means to be a “Senior Inspector” at AquaGuard in a following post) told us when he visited our home and induced us to sign a contract. What is the truth? I have the sworn comments of AquaGuard’s General Manager as given at his deposition. See General Manager Deposition on the linked page. The above exchange comes from direct quotes from his sworn deposition.
The questioning went on to establish the names of the other owners. The General Manager had a 5% ownership, i.e., not a majority ownership. Are the other three owners related? Nothing in their biographies that I’ve found online suggests they are. Even their titles, responsibilities, etc of the other owners are difficult to keep straight, at least for me. For example, on various sites one can find the names of AquaGuard’s “President” and “Vice President” associated with two other individuals in another Limited Liability Corporation but there’s nothing to suggest they are related or that this other partnership is a family owned business. The truth may be simpler than any possible family relationships between the four owners, but I leave it to others to discover the truth. I can say that AquaGuard didn’t act like any family owned business I’ve every had the pleasure of dealing with.
Second, what does it mean to be a family owned business? One can get various opinions from searching the web. A couple of examples were provided in my previous posting on family businesses. See Family Run Businesses: There you will find the following:
1). US Legal: The link takes you to the US Legal home page. You’ll have to search for “family owned business”. While interesting, this information should be taken as informational only.
2). The Small Business Advancement National Center has a number of documents on Family Businesses. The site itself was designed and implemented at the University of Central Arkansas. They have graciously given me permission to provide the following link to “What Constitutes a Family Business?” The existence of such a paper in itself, and the apparent lengthy research that it purports to have done shows how difficult it is to come to anything like a firm “definition”.
As noted in a previous posting, you should form your own opinions regarding the truth of these matters. What is clear is that the General Manager and part owner seemed to have trouble regarding statements on the website of the company he manages. This is not unlike the problems he has with a sales force that seems to have trouble telling the truth. A mentality of “I didn’t do that” or “Nothing I can do about that” seems like a lousy way to run a reputable business.