“Anybody who has ever been in the pool or spa business, once it’s in your blood you are done,” says Brian Bater, co-owner of Deep Blue Pool & Spa. “If it is something that you enjoy doing, you keep getting sucked back into it.”
Bater got his start in the industry in high school and continued through college. After college he got a job at Kodak, but simultaneously started a pool service company with his father. It grew and well, you know the rest. This December, Deep Blue Pool & Spa opened a second location in Henrietta, N.Y., outside Rochester.
“Things have been going very well for us, so we are fortunate,” says Ed Wilkosz, operations manager. Wilkosz got his start in the industry at the same pool store that Bater did. “The recession hasn’t really been something that we’ve seen impact us. We’d been looking to expand to the Rochester market at some point, and a great location popped up with a lease that was too good to pass up.”
The company already did service work in the area, so it had a presence on which to build. The store is starting to pick up steam, and they say right now the toughest thing is getting it staffed properly.
“Obviously it doubled our workforce, so it spread core members kind of thin,” Wilkosz says. For the time being, they are “cherry picking” the jobs they are doing. “We are not just taking anything and everything now; it’s the more qualified jobs, the ones that really make us money.”
Hiring has become difficult because there are so many people looking for a job, and as Wilkosz has realized, many of them are overqualified.
“I’m sitting here right now with a pile of applications and resumés in front of me trying to do a second round of hiring so that we can get some more people,” Wilkosz says. “We recently brought on someone to head up sales and marketing.
With two stores now, the marketing became that much more crucial. It was unbelievable the response we got. People who were 20- and 30-year vets in the marketing industry all trying to take a job that essentially we were trying to fill with someone fresh out of college. It is almost harder to interview people like that because they are more experienced than I am.” Fortunately, they found a person who was a good fit.
When they looking are at a potential new employee, Wilkosz says what’s important to them is finding someone who has the right people skills — not necessarily pool and spa skills. “I’d rather have you not be the most knowledgeable pool person but have the ability to make good friends, because customers will see you through that,” he says. “They’ll let you stumble and stutter over trying to find the right chemical for them as long as they trust what you are ultimately going to give them. We’ve been fortunate to be able to have those kinds of people working for us, and it has got us through this far.”
Bater agrees, “I’ve got a fantastic core group of people, and without good people you are done.”
Recently the store has collaborated with a local radio station to do a promotion. “We are giving [the radio station] a Dream Maker tub to give away,” Wilkosz says. “They are making it into a three-week-long promotional giveaway.” The winner of the contest will get the tub and Deep Blue Pool & Spa will be plugged as much as possible. “We are going to try that out and see where that takes us. It is relatively inexpensive in comparison to traditional advertising.”