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Matthew Gray and Rob Burns
Matthew Gray and Rob Burns

Putting People First

Highlighting Heroes

Rob Burns, Jacuzzi Ontario

Happy people make happy customers, says Rob Burns, director of retail operations of Jacuzzi Ontario, one of Jacuzzi Group’s largest Canadian spa dealers with seven showrooms in the region. Since the pandemic hit, Jacuzzi Ontario has made significant changes to all its employee processes in order to accommodate an ever-evolving industry and world.

For starters, pre-pandemic, Jacuzzi Ontario was open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. “That worked before, but last year we had a substantial increase in revenue, and you just can’t run a business this big with those store hours,” Burns says. “It became apparent very quickly that there was a huge psychological strain on everyone from the pandemic, and if you’re working all these hours and not making time for your family or your mental health, then that’s the road to ruin.”

By mid-2020, store hours were changed to 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, and an 11 a.m. opening on weekends. Burns says that this change gave workaholic employees more time in the mornings to do some work from home that would otherwise keep them in work-mode late into the evening. “A lot of them will work extra hours anyway, so why force them to be in the showroom during that time,” he says, adding that the store hours change also provided most with more family and personal time.

For Gohlke Pools, a Sundance® Spas retailer in Denton, Texas, putting people first during the pandemic meant making sure its customers knew the mental health benefits of hot tubbing, and that they felt safe interacting with the company.

“Amidst the pandemic, we certainly pivoted to lean into how Sundance® Spas are sunique, especially when it comes to wellness and self-care,” says Matthew Gray, the retail/hot tub sales manager for the company. “We offered site inspections via FaceTime and Zoom to allow customers to feel safe and also connect with the salesperson, which only increased the number of sales we were closing.”

Matthew Gray, Gohlke Pools

While everyone had to learn how to conduct business virtually over the last 18 months, Burns says it was a turning point for interaction and growth of the company. Maintaining company virtual connections that started last year, Jacuzzi Ontario has a weekly virtual huddle with all branches at the same time, celebrating successes, discussing challenges and examining what’s working for top salespeople.

“That’s been hugely impactful,” he says. “We have stores that are 300 to 400 kilometers apart, so we’re disconnected. But what’s working in our southernmost store could also work in another, so these meetings allow us to share that information.”

Of course, with COVID travel restrictions lasting months on end, Burns lost the opportunity to visit showrooms in person, too. While he’s able to travel some now, he’s still mostly doing virtual one-on-one meetings with staff because he can do seven Zoom sessions in a day versus spending hours on the road. He has weekly 30-minute virtual coaching calls with each store leader, and once a month he has one-on-one Zoom chats with at least 50% of his entire team, giving feedback, answering questions and providing virtual role plays to “keep them sharp.”

In addition to doing virtual appointments with customers, Gohlke Pools put together its own videos to help people learn about them and Sundance® Spas from the comfort of their screens.

“We began creating video assets for our customers or potential customers and began sharing them via social media,” Gray says. “We created the series ‘What’s unique about Sundance® Spas?’ where we have done over 25 short video episodes explaining the wonderful and unique benefits of our spas. These easy-access videos have been a great success for our customers to reference prior to purchasing a spa or learning more about their spa well after their purchase.”

Jacuzzi Ontario’s employee base has grown by at least 50% since COVID hit, so the company’s entire onboarding process has been moved to a web platform to keep things streamlined. Burns is also proud of the fact that so much of its employees are now women. Before COVID, Jacuzzi Ontario had two women in the whole organization; Burns says that now 75% of the team is women and, “they do a freaking awesome job.”

Before COVID, the company also had one person helping to field leads, but that’s now been bumped to six people and Burns says it’s another thing that’s helped his sales team succeed. “It takes a lot of pressure off the salesperson in the store,” he says. “People coming in the showroom, deliveries to be made and leads continuing to come in — balancing that is stressful. I hired a lead champion team that handles the incoming leads and they take a cut of the deal. The sales team doesn’t have to question if they can manage; appointments are booked for them and follow-ups are taken care of.”

Looking at other ways to motivate and encourage employees, Jacuzzi Ontario implemented spectacular incentive programs. The company’s Peak Performance program rewards the first individual to hit $2-million in delivered revenue each year with the choice of a Mercedes or a $50-thousand bonus. Everyone who hits $1-million in delivered revenue gets to go on a tropical company vacation — if they hit $1.5-million, their spouse gets to come along.

Gray says Gohlke Pools has also worked hard in the last year to make sure its team knows they are valued.

“We’ve made sure our internal teams stay motivated, whether it be by offering multiple incentives across the board or offering them breakfast or lunch as a token of appreciation,” he says.  

Jacuzzi Ontario has heavily invested in customer service surveys over the last two years as well, and Burns says the fruits of these changes are obvious on the customer service metrics. “I took over this role nearly two years ago and, I’ll be honest, we didn’t have the best team,” Burns admits. “When I look around at the team we have now, it’s like I’ve won the Super Bowl two years in a row. I see the customer experience and what we’ve achieved and I’m really proud. When you have a confident, happy salesperson, that is going to show through in the customer experience every time.”