With more than one billion people world wide without access to clean drinking water, thinking about the future of our world-water supply has never been more important. Jamin Arvig, founder and CEO of US Water Filters, knows this. After finishing his degree, he wanted to start an business in e-commerce that would make a difference.
He started by selling water filters on a website from his house, and over the next 10 years, he made WaterFilters.net into a USD37.4 million company and the leading direct-to-end user distribution company for water filters and air filters, with revenue nearly doubling each year for 10 years straight.
Since then his company has received various awards including Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Businesses (2007-2009), Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Business (Top 1,000 for 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013), Best Place to Work (2010-2013), BBB Integrity Award Finalist (2012) and 2014 Progress Minnesota Award, among others.
“We are fortunate to be part of an industry that impacts the one thing that people need more than anything else — water! Unfortunately, more than one billion people do not have access to pure drinking water,” he says. “We are committed to providing pure water, filters, and monetary donations as we improve water and the world.”
Arvig, a member of Young Presidents’ Organization since 2013, is passionate about constantly learning and applying new knowledge each day to help his organization and each person in it grow. He has also implemented a culture of 360 degree service, which he talks about below, along with his commitment to making a difference for those in need of clean water.
1. What was your first job or business?
Selling my artwork when I was 5 years old. This was the first of many fun little ventures. My parents didn’t know what to do with me.
2. What is one must-read book for business leaders?
“Traction: Get a Grip On Your Business,” by Gino Wickman. It teaches the entrepreneurial operating system. It helped me run our business much more effectively. It helped us have a clearer mission, clearer accountabilities, better meetings, better interaction on the team and much more. We hired a consultant to help us implement the concepts, and it made a huge difference for us.
3. Complete the sentence: If I wasn’t a business leader, I would be a…
Architect or song writer because I enjoy getting immersed in the creative process and building something out of nothing.
4. What is the most difficult leadership lesson you’ve learned?
Always delegate more. Make myself irrelevant. This is a never ending process. I need to empower others to do more than I was doing in each particular role. I should only retain the responsibilities that I am great at, enjoy doing and others cannot do.
5. How do you balance the business aspect of US Water Filters and the charitable work that needs to be done to provide people with access to clean drinking water?
The business needs to exist in order for the charity to be possible. So, I need to ensure the business is always on strong footing, and then we do all that we can on the charity side. Eventually, I would love to do much more on the charity side. Perhaps that can be my full time role eventually!
6. Who is/are your business role model(s)?
I have built a board with role models from relevant specialties. They tend to be brilliant, connected, experienced humble, passionate, kind, and very helpful.
7. You have received many awards. What is your favorite achievement or award?
The Inc. 500 awards were the first awards, and that told us that we had built a legitimate business. That was exciting. However, the Best Place to Work awards were the most rewarding because I realized that we could make a difference in many lives.
8. What is 360 Degree Service? Where did this idea come from, and how do you implement it?
It is comprised of four parts: servant leadership, service to partners, service to customers and service to the world.
We need to have service in all we do and with all of those with whom we work. We are a very transparent organization and have 360 reviews and 360 meetings. So the “360” concept fit nicely with service. Everyone in the organization is very familiar with service. It is our number one core value.
I really loved what I learned about servant leadership years ago, and that is what led to this concept.
9. What led you to this line of work and what keeps you there?
I wanted to create (1) an e-commerce company, (2) in a growing industry, and (3) in an area where we could have a positive impact on the world.
Through YPO’s Social Engagement Network, it is inspiring to hear of other leaders and businesses who want to and do make a difference in the world. Social entrepreneurship is an incredible movement that will continue to transform the world quickly in a wonderful way.
10. How has being in YPO positively affected your business or leadership?
I have learned how great people think. It is said that you become the average of your five closest friends. In YPO, I have found many great people that love to help each other grow together.
11. What are 3 insights you would like to share?
- Favorite management technique: The “Calling Target.” We have quarterly 360 reviews to understand what everyone in the company is passionate about and what they are great at. We call this their calling. Imagine that someone’s calling is at the center of a target. Surrounding that is a great career, then a job, then a necessary evil. If we can get people in their calling, they can love life, and they can build a great business together.
- Favorite YPO experience: Israel. It was a life changing trip.
- Favorite opportunities today: I prefer to advise on or invest in businesses where I can add value based on my experiences. I like the “healthy living” space, direct marketing, industries that need vertical integration, and of course … water.