Growing The Family Business

1005 AquashowsolutionsFor Jesse and Marcy Roberts, the pool and spa business and the AQUA Show are a family affair. Six of their eight children work in their thriving four-year-old store and several accompany them to the conference and expo. Heading into their third AQUA Show, the couple are seeking out information that will assist them in their aggressive expansion plan.

All In The Family

"When we attended AQUA the first time, we brought along our daughter Mary, who is our store manager, and our son Dave, the sales manager, "says Jesse Roberts. "We all attended different seminars and averaged about eight apiece. We were very impressed with the amount of information we were able to take back and put to use right away. Mary has picked up a lot of store layout and display techniques that she has implemented to service our customers better and move more product. Dave found Ray Leone's sales seminars to be so successful for him and so useful in training other sales personnel that he repeated that program again last year. His wife works closely with him on advertising, customer follow-up, and referrals, so she attended those sessions with him. She finds it very motivating, and it also helps her understand what he's doing and why."

Superior Service Training

"Our daughter Missy was the service manager for a mechanical contractor in town, and we hired her to come in and manage our service department. Last year was her first AQUA Show, so she and I focused on the service and technical sessions to help her get up and going. And Mary and I took the CPO course and got certified. The rest of our managers will get certified this year. We recommend it to anyone, including our competition, because people who are out there doing things the wrong way give the whole industry a bad name."

Picking The Right People

"We gained huge insight from the sessions on hiring and training practices, and have had very good success implementing some of the things we picked up, including a three-step interview process, so you don't have just one person making the hiring decision. If someone is interviewing for a sales position, the sales manager will meet with them first and decide if he wants to bring them before the four-person hiring committee. We all sit down and interview the candidate using the 10 questions outlined in the seminar, and then meet to discuss whether the person is a good fit for us. If we decide to bring them aboard, they come back for a third meeting and are offered the position. Previously, we rushed into a lot of judgments and went through a lot of folks, but we learned that if you take your time on the front end and ask those important questions, it works out much better. After 30 days on the job, we do a follow-up interview to make sure everything is what they and we expected. We've hired two fantastic new employees using that process. They have the confidence of knowing what's expected of them, and we have confidence that we have the right person representing us on the sales floor or out in the field."

Stepping Up To Technology

"Right now we're in the process of using some of the things we learned last year about new technology, and we're looking forward to going back this year to really step up to that. We have revamped our phone system to accommodate our customers better and to relay information when they're holding. We're expanding our current store by moving the warehouse off-site, and also plan to open additional stores. The new warehouse will be a central hub that all deliveries will come out of, so we're getting our network and server and everything in place to track inventory and handle all of that."

Testing The Waters

"We have a pretty aggressive goal of having five stores open within five years. Another thing we learned at the conference was how to do some test marketing in the areas we've chosen. We've gone out to some other stores, looking at maybe putting some of our spas or other wares into their locations. We're also going to do off-site tent sales and some other things to see what kind of response we get out of those areas. This year we want to go to some of the sessions and meet with some of the people who are dealing with multiple stores. We want to be prepared for what to expect and try to head off some of the problems so we can open the door and hit the ground running."

Store Stats

1005 AquashowsolutionsblueboxWith a background in installing underground storage tanks, soil remediation, and the like, a crossover into pool construction in 1997 was a natural for Jesse Roberts. In 2001, he and his wife, Marcy, leased an 1,800-square-foot space to open a spa and pool retail store. They've already expanded into an 11,600-square-foot store they purchased on a main thoroughfare in Omaha, and have plans for four more locations. Dealing in both residential and commercial spas and pools, they also offer access to a water-testing lab, a full range of chemicals and equipment, and a wide variety of outdoor living products. Named to the AQUA 100 two years in a row, the store has also been honored by the Better Business Bureau and Omaha Chamber of Commerce. "When we opened four years ago, we were all new to the pool and spa industry," says Roberts, "and the things we've learned at AQUA have been a huge part of our success."

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