Empowering Employees

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Celebrating their 20th year in business serving greater Rhode Island, Ken and Annette Stockley have found the AQUA Show Conference and Expo to be an important part of their business plan. Named to the AQUA 100 five years in a row, and members of the AQUA 100 Hall of Fame, Ken explains why the show's expansive educational program is so valuable to Pool & Patio's team of professionals.


"Years ago, when we first started going to the AQUA Show, we would only go to the seminars sporadically. But once we made a concentrated effort to attend the seminars, our sales tripled within six years. Granted, a lot of different things contributed to that, but the education we gained at AQUA was a big part of it."


"One of the greatest benefits of AQUA has been the professionalism we now show. I spent 13 years with a mass-merchant company running large retail stores, and I had a tendency to run my business like a mass merchant: overstocking the store, piling it high, shoving stuff anywhere. But Annette has brought the finesse and finishing touches to the business, and the seminars have benefited her greatly in merchandising, display and store layout. They have also toned me down and opened my eyes. We remodeled our entire store this year to open up the aisles and make it more free-flowing. We do an extremely high volume out of this 5,000-square-foot store — more than most people could even imagine."


"We've taken the financial courses with Steve Abercrombie and sales courses with Greg Welsh. We're not great closers, we have a very soft sell, and he really helped us learn how to close using our own personalities rather than high pressure or someone else's style. It was like he was speaking right to us."


"In the beginning, we just thought it was important that we attend the seminars, but when we began taking our staff, a wonderful thing happened. On the plane ride home, they would be so motivated and so excited and come up with all of these great ideas just from having attended the AQUA seminars. Since we started taking our staff to AQUA, it has made a huge difference in our company, in our sales, and in the confidence our salespeople have gained. We usually like to travel in a group of six, and everybody takes different courses. It makes them feel more part of the team, and it also shows them how much value we place on our business. They know that it's an expense to take them to Las Vegas from Rhode Island, put them up in hotels, and pay for their meals, so it gives them a sense of value, that we're willing to invest in them. They're learning new things and returning that investment, which has worked extremely well for us."


"One of the AQUA sessions taught us how to price out the cost efficiency of each of our vehicles. The instructor explained how to evaluate everything from depreciation to fuel, and come up with a figure of what it costs each day for that vehicle just to leave the building. Now we can take that number and work it into the jobs we're doing. If it costs $100 for that vehicle to leave the store, then obviously it's not worth sending it out to do a $50 job. We're also lining jobs up and making sure they're near each other, so we're not wasting money on gas, time and payroll. We've gotten things more organized and coordinated so that each vehicle leaves here with the potential to make money."


"The AQUA trade show is getting bigger and better every year, with more and more manufacturers exhibiting. It's rivaling any other show that's out there now. We actually picked up our spa line at AQUA. Originally, we were strictly an above-ground pool dealer. We added spas about six years ago, and it has been a phenomenal advancement in our store. We've gone from doing nothing in spas to being one of the top dealers in Rhode Island."


"A lot of times members of our buying group will tell us, 'We didn't have a good year, so we're not going to go to the conference and trade show. Our reaction is, 'Oh my gosh, those are the times you have to go.' The last thing you want to do is not go to the AQUA seminars when you're not having a good year!"

Store Stats

LAUNCHED 20 YEARS AGO in the small town of Coventry (population: 33,668), Pool & Patio Center now does a huge volume of business in above-ground pools, spas, chemicals and accessories across the state of Rhode Island. Employing a staff of 30 to 34 in season, and utilizing a small fleet of vehicles, the company also performs all types of service work, including openings and closings; above-ground pool installation; in-ground and above-ground liner replacement; and filter, pump and heater repairs. The store prides itself on creating a fun and exciting atmosphere with frequent promotions and theme weekends, as well as a highly experienced, knowledgeable and well-trained staff. Boasting a host of special services, including a staff member devoted entirely to going out to customers' homes to teach them how to care for their new pools or spas, Pool & Patio Center more than lives up to its motto of "Outstanding, Outrageous & Unexpected Customer Service Since 1986."

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