When you work at Maximum Comfort Pool & Spa, you deal with a different kind of clientele. The Vail, Colo., hot tub store not only serves the full-time residents of the area but many absentee owners: wealthy people who have second homes in the area. That means the company must be available to care for and service these hot tubs 24/7, with some of its busiest times being holidays and weekends.
“That’s why we’ve had such a flourishing service department,” says Michael Charles, owner of Maximum Comfort. “A lot of people don’t live here full-time, and they need somebody to take care of their pool, spa or water feature. Our company might have more access keys and codes to more properties than any other single entity.”
Working with the owner or property manager, Maximum Comfort provides regular maintenance and care as well as on-call emergency service; during the holidays, that might mean three or four calls a night.
“We have in the vicinity of 2,000 maintenance service contract accounts,” Charles says. “We allow our customers to go on and off the service as they need; some are seasonal. Our employees treat these properties as though they were their own. It’s not uncommon to find broken, frozen lines — nothing to do with our responsibility — but in many cases we’ve been the first on sight.”
This mobile customer base means that traditional advertising isn’t very effective. “What we’ve found is the most valuable [advertising] is community participation,” Charles says. The company sponsors sporting events and fundraisers throughout the valley, but even if it isn’t financially supporting a function, Charles; his wife, Sara; and their employees try to attend and be involved whenever possible. It’s not a requirement for employees, but especially salesmen find they are more successful when they do.
“This is a vacation resort environment, and people come here to recreate,” Charles says. “We sell those recreation products; we build relationships. We suggest that you get involved; if you do, you’ll be successful.”
The Vail clientele is transient, and the area’s seasonal culture means employees can be, too. Charles himself didn’t intend to stay in the area long term, either: He moved to Vail in 1976 to — you guessed it — become a ski bum. He did odd jobs to support the habit, including construction, and looking after vacation homes that included pools and hot tubs. He saw an opportunity and started his own business. But with the high cost of living in the area, many who come to Vail to ski can’t afford to stay.
“Michael has been very fortunate that he’s created a culture here where people want to stay,” says Sara Charles, co-owner of the business and Michael’s wife. “He has employees who have been with him 25 or more years. Michael is dedicated to his employees; He pays them well. His benefits are good. He’s very fair.”
“My employees have been incredibly dedicated in all the different facets of work that we do,” Charles says. “When we are trying to meet a pool-building deadline, [employees] may work seven days a week, 12 to 14 hours a day. Our service department may work seven days a week, and right through holidays.” Charles says his service manager, Dan Bailey, deserves recognition for helping manage the 24-hour department. “He’s kind of on call seven days a week,” Charles says.