Dennis Maurade
Dennis Maurade

It definitely is a weird time to be running a pool/spa business. The historical demand brought on by COVID is over, and this fact has affected different companies in different ways. Some are seeing a reduction in leads for a number of reasons. But for many it’s not as bad as some feared. Still, it can be a little disorienting. Will the bubble burst?

For Arvidson Pools and Spas, working though this somewhat uncertain time has involved developing the right mindset for staff and management, as well as finding ways to match the work with the team.

In the present

Trying to figure out when we’ve completely left the COVID era and are starting the New Normal can be tough. So Dennis Marunde is focused on putting one foot in front of the other, rather than fixating too much on figuring out the context right now.

“It still is a weird time, but I’m trying not to be too focused on it,” says the president of the Crystal Lake, Ill.-based company. “Part of my makeup is to be reflective and try to put things into this big-picture, or historical context. Usually that works for me, but sometimes it’s not the best thing. For now, I’m just in this head-down, keep-going, don’t-try-to-figure-it-all-out-yet mode.”

Of course he’s monitoring the company’s performance as closely as ever. But he’s not so worried about determining now whether things will get back to the way they were, or if they’re as normal as they’ll get. He’s staying in the present instead of trying to figure out context for now.

“I’m just thinking, ‘Okay I’ve got to keep my perspective,’ which in a lot of ways is just keep doing what we do well, don’t worry too much, know that things may never go back to exactly where they were. We’re all about adapting.”

Back on track

In addition to the extraordinary circumstances that have affected everybody the past couple years, Arvidson had to work without Marunde for several months.

At about the time the pandemic started, coincidentally, he stepped out of the day-to-day operations to serve as interim CEO for an educational institution during a transition.

His staff did a great job managing all the bumps in the road. When he returned, though, Marunde realized that the team had become a little siloed. As staffers had to quickly make decisions and solve problems to keep up with the extraordinary workload, they sometimes didn’t check in with each other like they normally would.

“We had made exceptions to our normal mode of operating, which was the right thing to do at the time,” Marunde says. “But now those changes were starting to look kind of roguish in pockets.”

He needed the team back on the same page.

The staff spent six Tuesdays in a row in an all-company retreat to discuss these issues and delineate acceptable procedures, practices and goals, as well as everybody’s place in the team. They also looked at ways to improve.

“We’ve identified things like what is a perfect delivery, a perfect water test, a perfect service call, a perfect new pool-owner orientation?” Marunde says. “So we’re targeting what a perfect experience is.”

And to make sure staffers communicate clearly and thoroughly with each other and with customers, everybody is being switched over to one CRM system.

Narrowed focus

The company also instituted a new change to make the construction workload more manageable. It pinpointed the price range of pool that it looks to build. While the company still works in the high end, it is not seeking work in the ultra high end.

“Those high-end projects are great for your image, but our experience is that ... for every $400,000 or $500,000 pool that you build, those folks want you available 24/7,” Marunde says. “It puts a significant strain on our service division to be able to accommodate all their needs.”

For their operation, they’ve found that contracts of approximately $200,000 prove most profitable and the best fit.