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Staying Busy Last Winter

by Dennis DiPaolo

Our largest competitor closes almost every store during the winter.  They are owned by a Leverage Buyout Group, and run by MBAs.  They are smarter – pool and patio stores lose a huge amount of money all winter if they try to keep their employees employed.

I don’t have an MBA, I like my coworkers, and I like having the expertise that comes with having the same team members for 34 years (Tod), 22 years (Joe), 17 years (Pat), 12 years (Anne-Marie and Jim), and lots of people five to ten years.  I can’t imagine having to help customers with coworkers who are brand-new every year.  How could you teach them?

So what do we do?  In early fall, everyone contributes to a job list of winter projects.  This year, they came up with 185 jobs.  Then they got busy!

We repainted all of the offices, the lunch room, and all four bathrooms.  We installed new carpeting and baseboard in the administrative offices, and we stripped and waxed all of the tile floors.  That means we removed everything:  the walls around the spa department, the shelving units, the play area, the hot tubs – everything!  There are some pictures on our Facebook page.  The floor project was our fault, too.  We didn’t know enough about floor care, and we waxed them constantly to keep the shine, until we ruined them.  A lesson learned.

We fixed the entrance door and installed new doorbells – twice (yes we seem to do that every winter).  This time, we gave up on the electricians, Mia found and installed a wireless system, and we moved the sensor inside – so it only rings when you come in but not when you go out.

Once again, $8,000 in new computers so we can improve our data security, and $4,000 in all-new Water Lab hardware.  This was a big upgrade, and Mia had been testing it for two years before she would approve it.  The equipment will cost us more per test, but it is more accurate and it will save about two minutes per test.

And, seriously, we finished at least 100 more smaller jobs.  We do our own construction and maintenance in order to save money on contractors, and keep our team members employed.  And, Jeanne and I don’t live in an expensive house, drive expensive cars, or pay interest to banks and investors.