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Pressing On

A Colorado spa dealer strives to keep employees working and maintain balance amidst difficult decisions

Colorado was one of the earliest known states to be hit by the coronavirus with the first two confirmed cases announced March 5 and a state of emergency declared March 10.

March 13, Stan Goodreau told his team at Colorado Custom Spas, with two showroom locations in the Denver area, that if any of them showed symptoms similar to those of COVID-19, to stay home, call their doctors and report back to work only with a doctor release. Five of his 17 employees complied that week. None of them were able to get tested that early in the outbreak, but were presumed positive and stayed home until receiving a doctor’s note to return to work.

New Normal

That was only the beginning. On March 23, Denver was the second municipality in the state to issue a shelter-in-place order. While spa dealers are among the businesses deemed essential by the state mandate, Goodreau closed the Colorado Custom Spas showrooms to customers within the week, both out of precaution and due to a significant decrease in foot traffic. Since then, only four employees (himself included) have been coming into the office to process orders and service requests.

“We lock our doors during the day and a bright sign on the door asks customers who are in need of chemicals to call our store phone, tell us what they need, then we box it up and put it in their trunks,” Goodreau says. “For phone orders, we simply ship supplies to their doors like before. The few staff who remain in the store stay 10 feet away from customers. We have all become extremely OCD about wiping surfaces — seriously — and we Lysol bomb the whole place a few times a day.”

The rest of Goodreau’s employees, including sales and customer service staff, are working from home. Service techs are headquartering at their homes, keeping trucks with them in order to do service routes each day. Customers are asked to stay inside while a technician is there. Parts can be ordered to ship directly to the customer’s house, the technician’s house or can be put outside the warehouse for pickup so that techs never have to enter the Colorado Custom Spas building.

All staff, regardless of in-store or on-site, wear masks for work.

Daily communication among staff is the norm to make sure everyone is faring well, Goodreau says. Text threads are active for each department to check in, and also for the entire team when a short message needs to be conveyed. Email is utilized for longer messages the team needs to be aware of, and phone communication is reserved for urgent matters.

“If someone has a concern about their personal situation, then we try to rearrange for their remote work,” Goodreau says. For instance, the company’s delivery manager takes care of his elderly mother with health complications and his wife is high risk. So he was moved to one of the company’s warehouses that sits empty so he can still get his work done and minimize his exposure.

Purchased spas can still be delivered in accordance with the guidelines in Denver, but Goodreau says there aren’t that many to deliver under the circumstances. “One of our suppliers was shut down for two weeks and it’s just now starting up again, so hopefully they can catch up with their backlog,” he adds.

When it comes to informing customers of changes, Goodreau says the company is fortunate to have a massive database of thousands of happy customers who can be emailed with updates. “I think the economy is going to be particularly hard on new dealers, but for the ones who have been around with large customer bases, they should be emailing more often these days,” he says. “Offers, promotions, service reminders and especially requests for referrals.”

Industry Impact

While there are customers who need a hot tub for ailments, most in the market are not usually in such dire need that the purchase can’t wait a few months, Goodreua says. He recommends dealers remind those on their email list of all the benefits of a hot tub to encourage the sale now, including stress relief, better sleep and relaxation.

Goodreau recommends dealers consider using non-OEM parts in times of shortage for servicing spas if they have experienced techs who can figure it out. To expand sales, he recommends bringing on products other than spas, like barbecues and patio furniture.

Overall, he sees the pandemic reshaping the industry. Up to this point, most brick and mortar dealers have resisted internet sales, but now “it’s a race to see who can get online,” he says.

Additionally, Goodreau thinks the industry has a bumpy ride ahead. “If you survived the last recession,” he says, “you undoubtedly learned a ton about strategy, right-sizing and calculated decision making for market share gains versus critical preservation of deep cash reserves — because you’re sure going to need it. Those companies will certainly have an advantage because they’ve been here before.”

The Toll it’s Taking

Despite a positive attitude, Goodreau admits that every day this pandemic continues chips away at his motivation. For starters, he has polar opposite opinions on his staff — everything from someone not working because he can’t wrap his head around the possibility of exposure to another employee who doesn’t think to sanitize. He’s trying to help them all find an appropriate balance, while making sure the company as a whole has that balance too.

“We’re always checking ourselves,” Goodreau says. “Are we doing enough as a company? It’s exhausting to constantly challenge my choices and to think of all the unforeseen risks and new challenges that might pop up tomorrow, next week or next month. I’m honestly getting burnt out, but I can’t stop — I have a business to run, employees to think about.”

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