|Ask Scott Long most anything about the pool and hot tub industry and you’ll get a straight answer. Long is the owner of Long’s Wet and Wild Spas & Pools in New Philadelphia, Ohio. As a 2nd generation pool and hot tub retailer, Long has extensive knowledge and training in the industry.
Starting out in 1974 as an excavating company, Scott’s parents, Bob and Linda Long, were asked to build pools. Seeing the opportunity in that line of work, they grew the company into a thriving pool and hot tub business. “We do some in-ground pool work now, but mostly it’s above-ground pools and hot tubs,” states Long. Long’s Wet and Wild Spas employs 6 full-time year-round staff and doubles to 12 during the busy summer pool season.
Long knows that his business is built on great relationships with customers. “We give all our customers great customer service which turns into long-term relationships, even friendships,” says Long. “Our people are knowledgeable, helpful and a great resource of information for our customers.” He accomplishes this through training and personally working with his Sales Team. “I’m in the store everyday,” states Long.
Having been in business for 42 years, Long’s Wet and Wild Spas has forged on through challenges and changes. In 1995, Bob Long passed away unexpectedly and Scott took over the management of the company. He had to learn things quickly even though he had essentially grown up working in the business. Long’s determination and resiliency helped him push through to build an even stronger business.
What Long currently finds most challenging is hot tub competition from the internet. “Customers look at the low-ball prices on the internet and expect us to match it. We do what we can to inform them what they are getting for that low price,” says Long. “We constantly review our prices so we’re competitive.” He goes on to say, “We don’t just sell Nordic Hot Tubs, we sell Nordic as a company. We tell our customers how easy Nordic is to work with and how they support their products.” He finds once he can inform the customer of how reliable the manufacturer is, the customer purchases with confidence.
Looking back on 2016, Long states, “Hot tub sales were good this year.” His plan is to continue the pace well into 2017. “Because hot tub sales have been good and are more year round, we are going to try to stay more focused on that, even during our busy pool season,” states Long. He has plans to rework his current website to help channel traffic through to his store. “Yeah, we’re going to work on that soon!” he says with a grin.
Long has carried Nordic Hot Tubs since Nordic began. What keeps him selling the Nordic brand? “The people!” says Long quickly. “Nordic is our favorite vendor to work with. They have great service and the product is reliable.” He knows that when he sells a Nordic hot tub, it will be years before he will make a service call for that customer.
“It [the pool and spa industry] can be a tough business!” states Long. But he gives this advice to other dealers, “The biggest thing is to give great attention to your good customers. Don’t get distracted by the ones that just want information. Give your attention to your loyal customers. They are important!”
Long and the Long's Wet N Wild Sales Team can be contacted through the website!
|Stationed in the Pacific Northwest as a member of the Coast Guard during the 1970’s, Rick Liskow realized he needed to set a plan for his future. He began selling waterbeds during his off-duty hours, eventually opening a storefront.
Upon his discharge in 1979, he moved back to his hometown of Rochester, Minnesota, establishing his waterbed and mattress business there. Liskow gradually added auxiliary product lines to his store, maturing the business into a specialty sleep store with traditional mattresses, furniture and other sleep accessories.
Around 1985, Liskow spotted an industry trend of adding hot tubs to the sleep store product mix. He brought in his first hot tub to see if it would work in the Rochester market. Hot tubs quickly became an entire department of his mattress store and eventually needed expanded floor space. Adding more store locations in Mankato, Lakeville and his brand new Superstore in Woodbury/Lake Elmo has allowed him to differentiate the locations between mattresses, hot tubs and even specific manufacturers.
The new Woodbury/Lake Elmo site is a ‘test’ store with 2 distinct stores within one business. Based on how this location performs, he will consider incorporating this approach into his other stores. Spa Retailer, a hot tub industry magazine, recently showcased the new store in their October, 2016 issue. Click here to read the article.
Currently Minnesota Hot Tubs has 6 locations, 4 of which sell hot tubs. Liskow feels his business stands out from the competition due to being in the industry for almost 40 years. Over the years he has seen many competitors come and go but Minnesota Hot Tubs weathered the economic cycles and is known as a stable and reliable business within the greater Rochester area.
Liskow enjoys what he does. He relates that while some of the most challenging times have been weathering harsh economic climates he finds personnel management more puzzling. “I can figure out the business stuff but I’m still learning to manage chaos and drama within the regiments,” he quips. Liskow manages the chaos with an entrepreneurial vision, quiet demeanor and a wicked sense of humor.
“2017 is going to be an interesting year,” states Liskow. “I think we’re heading back to the type of growth we experienced in 2006.” He bases this statement on the sales trends and solid growth he has observed within the last few years.
Liskow is very excited to have Nordic Hot Tubs in the showroom again. “It’s a great marriage of quality Nordic products and Minnesota Hot Tubs’ longevity in the industry,” he states. He knows Nordic Hot Tubs has the consistency of quality, durability and long product life that he demands from his vendors. “And, we love your truck drivers! Those guys are great!” Liskow adds with a laugh.
When asked if he has advice for other dealers, Liskow quips, “Set your dealerships up in a warmer climate! This morning was cold…12 below when I came to work!” He quickly adds, “Seriously, though, if you are going to grow, the hardest thing to do is get your people to give customers the appreciation and respect you did when you were a smaller business. Growth is good, but if you get too big your business can become less flexible. Stay flexible!”
Contact Liskow and the Minnesota Hot Tubs Sales Team through the website or find them on Facebook!
|In 1978 James McFarland, from Lansing, Michigan was pursuing an interest in building Japanese soaking tubs and personal spas. “We would purchase a 6-person spa shell, plumb it and trench all the way back to the house to connect it to a pool pack, usually located in the customer’s basement,” states McFarland.
Building hot tubs back then was a long and arduous process. He wanted to develop a more portable style of hot tub but couldn’t find anything suitable for what he had in mind. Until one day, he happened to see a hot tub on a trailer going past him on the highway. “I whipped my truck around and chased him down,” laughs McFarland. Little did he know that the person pulling the hot tub was trying to find him! From those beginnings, Hotwater Works has built a solid reputation as a hot tub retailer in the mid-Michigan area.
Currently, Hotwater Works employs around 8 full-time employees and specializes in hot tubs, water chemistry and service. “We take great care of our customers AND their water chemistry,” states McFarland. One of the critical issues McFarland feels the hot tub industry needs to better address is water chemistry and conservation. “The industry recommends that customers drain their tubs at least twice to 4 times a year,” he states. “Think about it! That’s at least 2,000 gallons of water…OR MORE…per customer each year that is wasted…needlessly!” He is frustrated that customers are given too much conflicting information regarding how to maintain the water chemistry of their hot tub. To clarify this issue, McFarland has personally developed a water chemistry and care program, which is scheduled to be published.
As an entrepreneur and business owner, McFarland needs new challenges to keep life interesting. “The biggest obstacle I face is boredom,” he exclaims. “I like challenges. I need to do new things and grow…develop new ideas!” To that end, he has plans to take Hotwater Works and his water chemistry program into the national arena within the next year.
Hotwater Works became a Nordic Dealer Partner around 20 years ago, very soon after Nordic Hot Tubs began. McFarland is happy with the relationship he and Nordic share. “Nordic has consistent quality but it’s in the Service that they really excel. I love the people we work with,” he states. “[Nordic] is just a rock solid tub in the industry.”
Specializing in hot tubs for almost 40 years, McFarland has had a couple of things that haven’t worked as well as he had planned. He offers this advice to other dealers, “Don’t be afraid to quit something that isn’t working. Let it go.” When asked if he has any other advice, he quips, “Besides buy my water chemistry program? Take care of your customers! They are your bread and butter…actually they are your gold mine! It’s cheaper to take care of them in the long run!”
McFarland and the Hotwater Works Sales Team can be contacted through the website or find them on Facebook!
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