Kelly Rozansky, 49, and Ken Shadek, 48, first met on a camping trip about 30 years ago, and they’ve been friends ever since. Little did they realize back then that they would later become business partners. More importantly, they ’re having a blast working together.
In the back of his mind, Rozansky always knew that, ultimately, he wanted to be an entrepreneur. He attended Rutgers University—the state university of New Jersey—where he started out as an engineering student and ended up as an economics major.
After graduation, and still trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life, Rozansky thought that he would like to be a restaurateur. So he moved to Florida and got a job in a restaurant. “When you work in a restaurant, you learn real quick that you don’t want to work in a restaurant,” he chuckled.
He moved back to New Jersey and, with his brother, opened a printing company. The business was growing nicely; however, it wasn’t long before they began to see the writing on the wall. The printing business was becoming more and more competitive, and the Internet was being used to a greater extent. They decided that they’d better get out while business was still good. They found a buyer and moved on.
At this time, Rozansky got his real estate license, and for the next three years tried selling houses and ‘flipping’ them. But his timing was not very good. It was 2006, and the housing market was getting ready to implode. So he was off again on his search for another business.
Meanwhile, Ken Shadek, the other half of this duo, had graduated from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he received his de- gree in computer science. Upon graduation, he moved back to New Jersey and took a job with United Metering, a division of United Water. When towns and cities decide to install water meters, they would put it out to bid. If United Metering was awarded the contract, it installed water meters in all the homes in that town.
It turns out that Shadek had begun to think of becoming an entrepreneur, and he and Rozansky decided to team up. They got a business broker to help them find a business. “I wanted to buy a business that we could improve,” said Rozansky. The broker had a listing for an irrigation company that was for sale.
The broker knew that they didn’t want to look at it. “It didn’t sound right for us,” said Shadek. “We pictured people driving around in pickup trucks with a bunch of tools in the back. It didn’t seem like it was very professional.”
The broker took the pair to see the facility, a 4,000-square-foot space, located in an office condo. The previous owner had been running the business for 30 years, since 1979. “The place was immaculate; the trucks were immaculate, and the parts department was unbelievable,” said Rozansky. “The guy was an airplane mechanic, so before the season started, he would disassemble the trenchers, label all the parts, and put them on the floor. He took them all apart, all the way down to the engine, and rebuilt them, just as an airplane mechanic would. And it blew me away how organized this guy was.”
“We looked over the books and decided that since we were both mechanically inclined, this could be what we were looking for. In early 2009, we bought the company, All Wet Lawn Sprinklers. At that time, the company’s volume was approximately $800,000 annually,” said Rozansky.
“We had two weeks and then the seller was gone,” said Shadek. “So now we’re in the irrigation contracting business, and also doing a little landscape lighting. But we had our crews, and they were terrific. Ken and I sat down and planned how we intended to grow this business.”
“So how do you grow a company? It’s being creative and working at it,” said Shadek. “We believe our clients hire us because we do a good job. All our guys are in uniform, all our guys have background checks, and all of them are drug-tested. All our trucks are wrapped, not just painted. We are professionals.”
“It was obvious that we were doing quality work; now we needed the marketing to go with it,” said Rozansky. “It’s all about advertising. It’s marketing, marketing, marketing. One of the challenges of the Internet is that it’s huge. Getting ranked on page one is where we want to be. We’re hoping that we’re one of the first three organic results. We just keep working on branding our company.”
Seeing good potential in landscape lighting, the partners changed the name of the company to All Wet Irrigation & Lighting. They see good growth in irrigation as well as landscape lighting.
Over the past few years, they started a program where they began upgrading their customers’ old controllers, ones that didn’t have any features. “We have a lot of water restrictions,” said Rozansky. “With these new controllers that have remote ports, we can now operate remotely. In addition, over the past number of years, we have put more emphasis on selling landscape lighting.”
The partners have also split up their workload, where each has their area of responsibility. Shadek oversees the installations by the crews, and also handles the financial end of the business, as well as the purchasing. Rozansky’s main focus is on marketing. He also works with the office staff and does the hiring of personnel.
“Working with our people, training them and developing new techniques on how to drive sales, staying ahead of the curve, these are the things that we concentrate on,” said Rozansky. “Of course, making sure our customers are serviced properly is our main priority.”
In the seven years since they bought the business, by paying attention to the details, Kelly Rozansky and Ken Shadek have been able to nearly triple their volume. And they’re still having a blast doing it.