You could say Nick Day got where he is by becoming a jack of all trades. But that never happens overnight.

He originally began with the company as a part-timer in the retail division, stocking shelves and working with customers. In quick order, he figured he wanted to stick with the firm for a while.

“I really liked working for [company president] Matt Gohlke,” says the general manager of Gohlke Pools in Denton, Texas. “I thought he was just an excellent mentor. He’s challenged me along the way. I definitely enjoy learning new things, and I think the pool industry provides that — there’s always something new to learn, a different project to tackle.”

He eventually became retail store manager, a position he held for several years before moving to purchasing and inventory control. Then the economy became tenuous, and many companies saw the important role that pool/spa service plays in a company’s sustainability through economic fluctuations. Gohlke Pools was no different, so it put more focus on service and handed the service department to Day. When the department grew to a certain point, it split into separate divisions for weekly maintenance, repair and special projects — all of which reported to Day.

“We just needed some more levels of management,” he says. “Then we wanted to isolate how profitable each section was.”

In his 13 years managing service, Day grew the department from 100 to almost 1,000 weekly service accounts, and from five to about 35 employees. Earlier this year, he ascended another big step to general manager of the company.

To achieve this, Day has made sure to continually learn — especially now that so much education is available online. “I try to focus on things that I don’t know to go out and learn more about,” he says. “Some things are interesting, some are not. But it gives me an opportunity to see what else is out there in the world.”

But he credits most of his achievements to an ability to hire well. “If it weren’t for the rest of our department managers being so successful in operating their departments, I would have to spend a whole lot more time in the day-to-day operations to help keep them afloat,” he says.

Day’s Words of Advice

The key to growing staff: We identified that culture was important before it became a buzzword, so we really strive to make this an enjoyable place to work. We’re constantly trying to find ways to do that, since it seems to be a moving target.

At first, we had the staff that we had, so we encouraged them to be better in order to improve the culture and attract better applicants. It all kind of grew together: As the existing culture got better, the quality of applicants got better, which made the existing culture better. And it just kept growing and growing.

When a candidate is interviewing for a job, we want to at least be in their top three choices. If they have friends who work here, hopefully they are talking about what a great place it is to work. I believe if we can be at or above market rate as far as pay goes, and provide all the things people want — training, opportunities to learn more and to grow within the company, good benefits, a staff that interacts well together ... then hopefully word spreads.

On hiring for growth and company culture: We try to hire well. We look for communicators. We couldn’t care less about pool industry experience. So we focus on training really well. That helps people get started quickly and hopefully have the knowledge that they need.

Then there’s always somebody here who knows enough about a particular topic, so anyone can always find help. Even if it’s someone’s first month on the job, there’s a method for them to find the answer to a question or problem.

We try to create a really positive atmosphere. You can try to hire really well but you’re going to miss on a few of them. If anybody’s being negative, we pull them aside and address it immediately.