"When we started out, I had a lot of the necessary mechanical and construction ability, but AQUA has really given us a feel for the industry and helped us develop our business skills," says Dan Hyatt, owner of Northwest Hot Spring Spas in Washington state. Like a lot of people in our position, we moved from doing everything ourselves to slowly adding service technicians, salesmen and other employees. Among the hardest things are learning how to be a good business owner and manager and how to engage your employees correctly — from hiring the right people to how much to compensate them. Those are just some of the areas in which AQUA has helped us evolve. We take a lot of different classes, from management and marketing to technical subjects like energy efficiency, because we have to have a good working knowledge of all of those things in order to make the decisions in the day-to-day operation of the business."

EMPOWERING EMPLOYEES

"We take pride in ongoing training of our staff, who are by far the most experienced in northwest Washington. We brought five people to AQUA with us last year, including our new marketing person, who took a full docket of marketing and merchandising classes that gave her a good awareness of what's going on in the industry. Our service manager was there specifically to take some of the technical and service management courses, make contacts, and talk to the manufacturers of products we use every day in our service department. One of my salesmen took a sales seminar from Ray Leone the year before and liked it so well that we sent him down last year to take the day-long seminar. It's important for them professionally to take the classes, and it is definitely a morale boost. I feel I'm easily going to get the return on my investment in what they can deliver back to my store in improved sales."

SHOWROOM SHOWMANSHIP

"Three years ago, we decided to expand, and after attending the storedesign seminars with Brian Dyches at AQUA, we realized that it was well worth the money to have him come up and consult with us on the project. He really knows his stuff. We were able to do most of the work ourselves, but he gives very specific advice about what to do and how to do it, including layout, traffic .ow, placement of spas and other products, colors, lighting and signage. One of the things we've done is incorporate a koi pond with a cascading waterfall that looks and sounds awesome, and makes people feel great as soon as they walk in the door. Our store has gotten a lot of rave reviews for its design, and it has definitely had an impact on the image we re.ect and on our sales."

INCREASING EXPOSURE

"We used to have a fiberglass pool installed in the ground in front of the store, but people driving along the freeway couldn't really see it. As a result of one of the seminars quite a few years back, we cemented steel posts into the ground and turned two fiberglass pools on their sides. We light them at night, and they're so vivid you can see them from a quarter of a mile in each direction on the freeway. They've become the most impactful signage we've ever had to tell people we sell pools. We've improved the placement and design of all of our signs, and we're also going to build a lighted and covered kiosk outside so that when the store is closed people can pull up and take brochures. It's another great idea we picked up."

ADDING PROFIT CENTERS

"AQUA is the place to see the new technology and discover items that may not seem that important now, but could have a huge impact on your sales a year from now. Take salt chlorine generators. They weren't that popular here in the U.S. a few years ago, but now they're big. If you're going to sell spa and pool chemicals, you'd better have a salt system to offer your customers. AQUA has helped us take on and market other new lines over the years, including grills, saunas, swim spas, even small things like candles and torches. It has allowed us to bring new things into our store to have more of a mix for our regular customers when they come in to buy supplies for their spas and pools. Product development is moving forward so quickly that there is no doubt in my mind that if we didn't attend these shows we would be totally left behind. It's very important for us to stay on the cutting edge of what's available to our clients."

Store Stats

After a bad experience with a spa dealer more than 20 years ago, Dan Hyatt decided he could do better. The then-24-year-old machinist and construction worker opened his own spa store in partnership with his wife, Corrine, and sister Pam Lloyd. Today, they own the building housing their store in Burlington, which they doubled in size and remodeled three years ago, and lease a second store in Bellingham, employing a total of 12 people. With a location 75 miles north of Seattle, Hyatt says, "In order to have a business our size in a market this small, you need to be multi-faceted and an expert in a lot of different fields. Where do you go to get that information. We have to go to AQUA."