Getting Up To Speed

Aq 605 36pg 0001

Terry Mannos made the transition from the medical insurance industry to the pool business with the help of AQUA's education programs. And the conference offerings keep her coming back.

"AQUA has provided most of the ideas for designing our store — how people come in, how they walk around, how to gauge where to put things," she says. "I've also learned a lot about lighting — we use track lighting to highlight various products on the walls so they show up really well — the use of color and signage, and the importance of making your store unique. A lot of pool stores have metal fixtures, but I use threetiered tables that are white with oak trim, and my slat wall is all trimmed in oak, which gives the store a different look. We'll be moving in a few months to a new, bigger building, and we will definitely incorporate the ideas about store design, traffic flow and display that we've learned at AQUA."


"One of the important retailing strategies we learned is 'the power of one' — selling the customer one more thing before he gets out the door. One month it might be stain erasers and the next month it might be a new pool toy or something else we suggest to them. We have fairly large cashwraps, which they have to go through the whole store to get to, and we keep a lot of different products on the counter for them to look at as they're checking out. We're constantly moving that stuff around and adding new things to get them to say, 'I'll have this, too,' or 'Throw this in.' We've also put the swimming fish and other battery-operated toys in a wading pool, and it's surprising how many more we sell just by having them in the water."


"I always find new products at the AQUA Show, like the swimsuits with flotation devices, which have been fabulous sellers. I got into patio furniture when I started seeing it there, and that is a big part of our business now. Last year I started bringing in some higher-end furniture that has done great for us. I do a good part of my buying at AQUA, including all of my furniture and toys."


"We've learned a lot of customer service techniques, which have really allowed me to help my route guys know how to present themselves and how to deal with customers. In terms of problem solving, when you ask a customer what it's going to take to make him happy, it's always a lot less than what you were willing to do in the first place. Sometimes it's as simple as acknowledging that a mistake was made. But we also attended a session that taught us there are some customers that you have to fire, because no matter what you do, you're not going to make them happy. You have to know when to say, 'We choose not to do business with you.'"


"Another idea we picked up at AQUA is the customer appreciation day that we do every year. We put on a big barbecue with chicken and ribs and all the trimmings. We get the local radio station out here to broadcast live, and everything in the store is on sale. We have really great, loyal customers and it's an opportunity to give back to them. But it's also a phenomenal weekend for sales. It's unbelievable the amount of money we make on that one promotion."


"We do fliers and newspaper advertising, but we also do a lot of radio, and I get a tremendous amount of feedback from that. I have the radio station out here a couple of times a year to broadcast, which costs me around $5,000 for three hours and also includes 60 one-minute and another 60 15-second spots promoting the fact that they'll be out at John's Pool Service. It's amazing to me how much of that cost is covered by co-op money — probably about two-thirds — and co-op is definitely something we learned to use at AQUA. That money is there, but for the first few years I didn't use it at all. It was like, 'What in the heck is co-op and what do I do with that.' Now I get a lot of mileage out of it."

Store Stats

While her husband Bill had 25 years' experience in the pool business when they bought John's Pool Service in 1996, Terry Mannos's background was in medical-insurance billing. Having to learn quickly, she immediately began attending the AQUA Show. Employing eight people and specializing in pool cleaning, repairs, installation of automatic pool covers, and sales of chemicals, accessories, parts, and supplies, John's has grown steadily along with the central California town of Tracy, located 90 miles inland from San Francisco. The pool-cleaning route has gone from 40 customers to 240, and business increased to $1 million in 2004. The Mannoses have purchased a 5,000-plussquare-foot building on the west side of town, where most of the growth is occurring, and will move in this summer. "We're very fortunate," says Mannos, "our customers have been willing to drive across town to us."

Aq 605 36pg 0002
Buyer's Guide
Find manufacturers and suppliers in the most extensive searchable database in the industry.
Learn More
Buyer's Guide
Content Library
Dig through our best stories from the magazine, all sorted by category for easy surfing.
Read More
Content Library