In 1985, when I took over General Pool & Spa Supply,
the distribution business was fragmented. At the time, there were
no major national companies.
The first big change occurred in 1988 when BioLab created BLN
and became a challenge to independent distributors. As a result, I
helped form a distributor buying group in 1989.
Then came SCP. It was buying up companies such as Superior and
Fort Wayne Pools, and lots of regional distributors. This created a
big problem and we needed to differentiate
SCP was spending lots of money on marketing, advertising and
private labeling, and bringing in a lot of technological advances.
It had the capital to put more dots on the map. We were able to
hold our market share, but we could see the writing on the
At that time, General Pool & Spa Supply had operational
problems. Our antiquated system just wasn’t any good. I knew
I had a big choice to make: Should I invest more money in the
business or sell it?
I decided to invest.
The first thing we needed to do was to get sharper about how we
handled inventory. Our competitor could carry more products in more
places, so we had to become as efficient as possible. We had to use
technology to do it.
I went on a great search to find software to help our business.
We had the slipper, but we needed our personal Cinderella. After
attending a distributor software convention in Chicago, we thought
we had found the right fit.
However, technology is not cheap, and our bank was about to
pull the plug on us. We signed a contract with the software company
and the bank got cold feet about giving us the loan at the last
minute. Had I made the right choice? There were a lot of sleepless
nights during this period.
I found another banking partner and purchased the software.
Cinderella’s slipper was a perfect fit, and between 2001 and
2006, our company grew 100 percent.
Our success lay in the details. I learned that sweating the
small stuff is important in everything you do. We looked at our
fulfilling process, which was not working. Using the new software,
we altered our system and now our inventory is total allocation:
first in and first out.
With this concept, we improved our warehouse management as
well. Now a customer can come online, look at the inventory and
know they’ll have what they want when they want it. The
orders are time-stamped and reserved for the specific customer who
made the purchase.
The big lesson for me was that you can’t stand still.
Today, we are always bringing in more features and upgrading. With
such a big investment — $1 million — I learned that
these changes can’t just be good for the company. It has to
be good for the customers and suppliers, too.
My experience with the bank taught me about loyalty. It made me
determined not to abandon my customers, who were faithful
throughout our redesign.
It’s about risks and rewards. You can’t reap any
rewards without taking risks. It’s a philosophy that still
guides me in my business dealings today.
General Pool & Spa Supply
Rancho Cordova, Calif.
- If you have a
vision, believe in it. Stick with it and follow through.
- Your focus must
intensify dramatically, and you must pay attention to the finite
details to be successful. Make sure you sweat the small
- Be loyal, and repay
those who are loyal to you.