Tell me, readers, what’s the secret to your success?

Don’t worry. There’s no wrong answer here. This month, I asked the folks at Acker Drill Company, a 100-plus-year-old manufacturer (page 12). Their answer? Relationships and quality.

That’s a pretty good answer. They cultivate good relationships with customers, distributors and suppliers. When they pick up the phone, they ask about the wife and kids. It’s not just customer No. 11473 that has a question about their new rig. It’s Bill. As a business person, remembering details like first names and birthdays can make the difference between making the deal or not.

Quality means different things to different people. To me, quality is a Golden Rule standard: Are you doing the same job for your customer that you’d expect from a contractor working at your own home? Now, to be sure, you have to tweak that standard a bit depending on whether you’re serving a homeowner with a water well, or a high-end engineering firm that contracted you to build a bridge foundation. I do think it’s broadly transferable, though. If you build rigs, are you testing the hell out of your components in QA? If you take soil samples, are you doing everything you can to make sure those deliverables are as useful as they can be to the engineers or scientists who need to make decisions based on them?

There are as many different answers to the “secret to your success” question as there are businesses. Maybe instead of relationships and quality, your answer is reputation. You’ve drilled water wells in a tri-county area for 20 years. Your father drilled for 35 years before that, and your grandfather before him. That surname has become synonymous with water well work in your region, so you’ll be darned if you’re going to do anything that tarnishes it.

Maybe your secret is slow and steady growth. Many businesses make the mistake of growing too fast and in the process take out too much debt. When lean times come around, those bank notes can kill a company. But not yours. You made a solid first investment in a quality rig. You paid it off as fast as you could and socked some of your profit away each month to weather those rainy days.

Maybe your secret is a quality team. You put a lot of thought into hiring. You get the best people, from the drill foreman down to the office helper. You train people well and reward them when they help the business succeed.

Your secret might be materials — only the best. Competing contractors cut corners, but you run a premium outfit. A common business misconception is that price is the only consideration for a product or service. It’s not. The price of a product or service determines who buys it, not necessarily how much of it gets sold. A business that positions itself as a premium business (for example, selling high-end geothermal system installations), will sell to a customer base willing to pay more. They won’t, necessarily, sell fewer high-end geothermal systems. So, you’re known as the premium geothermal contractor, and word quickly gets around to developers looking for a premium solution (the cost of which they pass on eventually to the home buyers, anyway).

These are just a few examples. Like I said, there are as many answers as there are businesses out there. Many of these answers, in fact, hold true whether a business installs monitoring wells or plans kids’ birthday parties. Business is business.

So, what’s your secret? Let me know. Send an email to

Stay safe out there, drillers.