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Cameron Manners of Internal Pipe Technologies: “Sometimes, it’s hard to be friends in the business”

One of the things that I’ve realized through the following technologies so closely over the years is the importance of water treatment. COVID-19 fell into this, the water treatment and viral issues inside water and inside the building piping systems. The pandemic has brought this topic to the forefront and is something we’ve been chasing […]

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One of the things that I’ve realized through the following technologies so closely over the years is the importance of water treatment. COVID-19 fell into this, the water treatment and viral issues inside water and inside the building piping systems. The pandemic has brought this topic to the forefront and is something we’ve been chasing for a while. We’re looking at acquisitions as we believe this will be the next big thing.


As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cameron Manners.

Cameron was born and raised in Southern Ontario, Canada, before relocating to San Diego, California, and has spent 25 years in the water and wastewater industry. His focus was providing solutions for aging pipe infrastructure in buildings.

As an Entrepreneur, recognizing the need for small diameter rehabilitation in 2000, he started Nu Flow Technologies, a company that manufactured and distributed cutting-edge small diameter patented CIPP products. As a leading pioneer in the industry, he recognized the lack of a “truly inside the building application” and founded Nu Flow’s installation division in 2005. By 2008 the Nu Flow installation division was the world’s largest small diameter lining company with a global presence with licensees all across the globe and offices in six locations in the US. In 2015, Cameron founded Aquam Corporation with a water platform and began acquiring technologies and companies that complemented the Nu Flow technology and expanded Aquam’s footprint to include operations throughout the UK.

Cameron has completed multiple acquisitions varying in size. He has developed and patented many inventions in various technology platforms, and many are in his name. After departing from Nu Flow, Cameron rocked the industry again by founding Internal Pipe Technologies, and an infrastructure rehabilitation company focused on technology.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I’m a sheet metal worker by industry. I worked in the trades for years and eventually got involved in the plumbing and tv inspection industry. While there, I started playing around with different materials and realized an undisrupted market for fixing small-diameter pipes. Out of my garage, I developed a system for rehabbing small diameter pipes. Since I was working in a sub-industry, I recognized pretty quickly that I had something valuable here. I took it to my then bosses, and they weren’t interested. At this time, no one was doing any small diameter pipe rehab or even heard of it. But I knew I had something, so I left the company and founded Nu Flow Technologies.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Since starting my first company, I was the “disruptor” in the industry, based on the fact that no one thought about lining small diameter pipes, and I was the first to bring it into the market. I changed the game of how plumbing is done. Think of it as angioplasty for piping. We are talking about one of the oldest trades into in the world. I brought a new concept, putting a new pipe inside the old pipe, instead of digging it up or ripping it out. It took time to get the plumbing world to understand what I was doing.

Back then, it was difficult for plumbers to want to get out of the backhoe and put the shovels down. I had to spread the word that we can do things in a new way, with more profits and less destruction.

It was a hard lift, but contractors really started to get it, and then the industry expanded, and more people started marketing pipe lining material and supplying it. But no one was really reinventing the wheel anymore. Since selling out of Nu Flow, the industry almost stopped. There really weren’t any new data or technologies from my perspective since I left. Being off for a few years and focusing on different aspects, I really looked back at amazement that the industry hasn’t changed since I left it. So I saw another opportunity to leverage what I did, and bring new technology to market.

I started talking to vendors, visiting tradeshow booths, and some of my old licensees. They were always asking me to, “Get back in there. Nothing is new; nothing is changing.” Listening to people and the market, it made sense for me to get back into it.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The biggest mistake you make is that you think everyone thinks the same way you do and that they see the same opportunities that you see. I used to get frustrated when people didn’t understand. But you know, people are wired differently. People will take things a different way. Talking to an engineer about how a compressor on a regulator works, you assume they understand, but sometimes they can’t process it. I didn’t understand that in the beginning when training people, it is something that I knew, and once I did, it made business much easier.

A second lesson learned would be, investors are there for one reason and one reason only. I was lucky to have early investors who came in, but I had to learn. There is a need for investments, but just understand that you may have a great relationship with your investors but remember the reason why they are there and to always look out for your biggest asset, your family.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have has been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

For me, I was in an industry by myself. I’ve had good partners along the way that fit stages in the company as we grew. Every one of the partners, I looked up to as a mentor at some point in time. The hardest part is when you grow past them. All of the partners I had were really important, but there comes a certain particular time when the company and yourself grow past your mentors. It’s hard to mentally grasp mentally. You can see it when you’re in business, and you struggle with it because it doesn’t feel right. That’s one of the most challenging things, but you have to keep growing to be successful.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always it always disrupting good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I sometimes think, and the world is full of this, I can reflect back on the market I’m in. When you’re changing things, it usually changes for the good because you want to grow the industry and bring in new technology. On that side of things, it’s great. But it can hurt when you are changing things to too fast. Often, entrepreneurs want to keep driving forward and constantly continuously change. One of the biggest most significant issues is when you’re not listening to your market. For example, MySpace was a little ahead of its time, but then Facebook starts up, and people were ready.

Don’t go to the market when the industry isn’t ready. I now see things I was trying to do in the past, but the market just wasn’t ready prepared, and it didn’t stick. But now certain things are being launched, and people are all over it. We started the coating of pipe in 2004;, we brought the product out, but people weren’t ready; they thought we were crazy. People didn’t want it. They thought it was too high tech. A decade later, one of the biggest disruptors in our industry is the spincasting drain pipe. We were too also ahead of our time. We were trying to jam technology down the markets market’s throat. People weren’t ready, so we parked It and left it alone. We missed the boat, we should have listened to the market and got them comfortable, but we moved too quickly.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

I had a mentor coach at one time, as I was frustrated with some employees. I always wanted the best for them. I wanted them to succeed and bring them along with me as I elevated the company. I wanted everyone to be successful. My mentor said, “that’s easy for you to say, but it sounds like that’s what you want for them and not what they want for themselves.” That advice helped me get past that. I didn’t realize that some people didn’t want the responsibility. That was an essential piece of my journey.

“Sometimes, it’s hard to be friends in the business.” That was another excellent piece of advice that my mentor coach taught me. When you get too close to people, it becomes difficult to make business decisions. It isn’t easy to separate business and friendships. Maybe not for me directly, but for others. I could shut it on and off. I could have people over for a Sunday BBQ and football game and then back to business Monday morning.

“They only know what you tell them.” These were words of encouragement from an investor. I knew the business so well that the numbers came along with it. If you start from a garage as I did, you tend to take a backseat and think the CFO should know more about financials than you, but that’s not the case. You need to trust yourself and the wealth of knowledge you have.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

One of the things that I’ve realized through the following technologies so closely over the years is the importance of water treatment. COVID-19 fell into this, the water treatment and viral issues inside water and inside the building piping systems. The pandemic has brought this topic to the forefront and is something we’ve been chasing for a while. We’re looking at acquisitions as we believe this will be the next big thing.

As it turns out, plumbing that isn’t being used or is being used again but not at the same rate will have negative implications. Whether municipal or private, it is not operating the way it is engineered to be used and starts to break down and opens the doors for Legionella and viral issues. Using proven technology to address these issues will be a significant driver in what we do next. In the past, I was a drain company and tried to bring out technology that wasn’t drain draining related, and it didn’t work. With Internal Pipe Technologies, we are shaking things up by bringing infrastructure and technology together. There is so much cutting-edge technology out there that is not being taken advantage of, and we need to bring it to market through Internal Pipe Technologies and Flow Infrastructure.

Some of this technology has been around for 30 years. Some of it was ahead of its time, and it’s needed in the industry. The bacteria, viruses, and overall education weren’t at the forefront, but now people realize the impact of not moving water. There is an awareness circling it now. The awareness is what has changed and opening opportunity.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep profound impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

A recent audible book I listed was, “The Art of the Deal.” There were a few things that struck home when he said, “Don’t settle. Just keep going.” No matter how low things get, you have to stay positive and drive forward. He mentioned going to dinner and said, “that homeless guy has 9 million dollars more than I have because I’m 9 million dollars in debt.” It’s all about perspective, positivity, and optimism.

People will feed off of passion. If you have passion, they will believe what you’re telling them or selling. If you’re negative, they’ll feed off of that too. Suppose you have a passion, stick with it and do it. If somebody screws you over, don’t settle and walk away. They say revenge is a great driver, if you use it well. A positive driver will propel you forward.

I spent my whole life having people tell me I couldn’t do things. When someone says, I can’t do something, that makes me want to do it that much harder. Typically, when someone said, “you’re crazy, you can’t do that. You can’t line pipe.” That’s what kept me going. I’ve used that many times throughout my life;, it helps.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have always said to people, “History is a very intriguing thing, you have to learn from it to move forward, but you also have to forget about it to move forward.” It’s a difficult thing in society when you look at history in the business. You have to remember it, so you don’t make the same mistakes twice, but you also have to forget it to move ahead. People get hung up on the past, and they hold onto that and don’t learn to go forward. You have to do it both ways, and you’re always learning lessons from the past. There are times when you do the same thing and wonder why, because it didn’t work the last time. You watch new people come in and try it again, so then you can teach them. It’s unique. You can’t go forward without the past. It’s an enigma, and people struggle with it in business and personal life.

A mistake is not a mistake if you learn from it. If you don’t learn from it, then it’s a mistake because you’re bound to make it again.

You are a person of great significant influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think for me and for what I see in our world today, I see so much impatience. If I could get people to understand one thing, it would be that good things take time. Nowadays, everyone wants everything right now. Socialized medicine in the US, we want it now. They want everything to work right now. They want to create a business this week and be rich in two weeks. If there is one thing I could say to influence others, it would be to know things take time and to work through it. There is an intolerance to making mistakes. Everyone needs to relax, take a step back. Make proper decisions. When I started my business, I thought it would be easy. It’s never easy. I have to be patient. My family has to be patient. My employees have to be patient. That’s what creates a lot of animosity on both sides, intolerance of patience.

How can our readers follow you online?

www.internalpipetech.com

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/cameron-manners-ceo-flow-infrastructure-90154b5a/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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