Mainely Tubs is one of only two stores to receive the Locksin Thompson award from Hot Spring Spas more than once. Over the years, it has also won a multitude of dealer and territory awards. But for all its accolades, it isn’t in a top market. Dealers with comparable sales usually come from larger metropolitan areas, but doing business in the modest Portland, Maine — population 520,000 — the company increased 24 percent over last year, owner Jim Van Fleet says.
Van Fleet, who came to the hot tub industry in 1993 says two factors stick out when he reflects on his store’s success. Van Fleet, an MBA in finance, is a student of the company’s financials, and he’s made culture and values part of the Mainely Tubs fabric.
“I don’t think I’m in the sales business,” Van Fleet says. “I think you earn sales by being better than anybody else in the quality of the product and service you deliver to people after the sale.”
Van Fleet has also worked hard to develop teamwork and camaraderie among his employees. He’s done away with the typical commission structure and stresses reaching goals as a team — with the promise of bonuses when they reach them.
“I think team cohesiveness is a critical path,” Van Fleet says, adding that it’s the leaders’ job to ensure chemistry and encourage everyone toward common goals.
A goal for Van Fleet? Move out of the store’s original location, which it had greatly outgrown. He had his eye on a building nearby, but was assured the furniture store that occupied it would be there forever. But when an employee spotted a going-out-of-business sign, Van Fleet jumped before the property was even on the market.
“Within a day, I had a contract drawn up and put on the desk of a realtor who was away on vacation — and didn’t even know he was to get the listing for this building,” Van Fleet says. “I moved really fast without even getting the bank commitment. That’s sometimes how business is done. You must move at a feverish pace.”
It was a big investment, but the company was doing about $7.5 million annually, and Van Fleet was confident they could absorb more overhead, and operate and maintain more space.
“We’re probably too conservative in our planning,” Van Fleet says. Growth has come quicker than expected in the new location and he wonders if they could have moved somewhere with even more space.
“To be up those kinds of numbers puts us in a pretty good league in our industry,” Van Fleet says. “We’re not selling a lot of big ticket items either. So to get to $9 million in revenue means you’re moving a lot of volume. To do that with hot tubs you need a lot of space.”