August 1, 2014
By Jason Cramp
Since acquiring Central Spa & Pool Supply, a spa and pool parts and accessories business located in Midland, Ont., last year, Rob Pagliaro, 43, is not only determined to uphold the company’s trusted service reputation—which was established by the original founders Peter and Lynda Wolfhard—but also to look for new opportunities to continue the company’s growth.
As part of this transition, Pagliaro redesigned the company’s octopus logo, which its customers have come to know, by adding some colour and a few more tentacles to reflect the company’s commitment to the industry. Another new initiative was the recent launch of Central Spa & Pool Supply’s new website, which enables dealers to log in to its 24-7 online store to order products.
“We realize many of our customers work past 7 p.m., so this will allow them to order and receive their products in a timely fashion so they can take care of their customers,” explains Pagliaro. “We want to help dealers keep a smile on their customers’ faces and we aim to do this with our warehouse team, along with our online commitment to them and the industry.”
The Wolfhards started the business as a part-time venture in 1991. At the time, they owned Westmount Pool & Spa, a service company offering pool and hot tub repairs. Many of their calls came from other dealers in southern Ontario looking for spa parts and service tips. Prior to this, Peter, who was a regular contributor to Pool & Spa Marketing, was a sales representative for Adapt Leisure Ltd., a wholesale pool distributor, where he developed strong relationships with southwestern Ontario dealers. During this period spa parts were not readily available, which is what sparked the need for a company like Central Spa & Pool Supply.
“I sourced out suppliers of parts for my own service needs and started supplying other dealers who were looking for these parts as well,” says Wolfhard. “In 1997, we moved to Midland, Ont., incorporated the company as Central Ontario Spa and Leisure Ltd., and made it our full-time business.”
After the move, the company’s sales continued to grow exponentially as the hot tub parts and accessories aftermarket industry grew.
“Lynda and I were the only two employees at the time,” says Peter. “I would help dealers troubleshoot spa service issues and fill orders, while Lynda would handle product shipment and invoicing.”
As the company continued to grow, more employees were hired. Most new hires started in the shipping department and then joined other areas of the company. The company’s first new hire, Kelly Robillard, was bilingual as an increasing number of inquiries started coming from customers in Quebec. Robillard, a recent contributor to Pool & Spa Marketing and Piscines & Spas, is still with the company today.
“Out of necessity, we also compiled our own cross-reference guides to substitute our part numbers to the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs),” explains Peter. “This was a time when spa manufacturers were changing, creating the need for the older parts.”
Later, the company continued to diversify itself by offering training workshops to service professionals across Canada, which helped to further establish its customer base and reputation.
“Thanks to these initiatives the sustainable growth of the company continued, we hired more staff, acquired more warehouse space and added specialty pool parts and products,” says Peter. “The company’s name changed a couple of times as well—from Central Spa Supply Ltd., to Central Spa & Pool Supply Ltd.—to promote our pool accessories, but our main focus was always on service.”
Before joining Central Spa & Pool Supply, Pagliaro—who has worked in the aquatics industry for 25 years—started his career at Betz Pools Ltd., a swimming pool and landscaping design/build firm in Stouffville, Ont. He worked in the company’s service department for three years before his career path took him into the water treatment industry where he worked for three different chemical companies, including Mursatt Chemicals Ltd., BioLab Inc., and Natural Chemistry.
“While I was at Betz Pools I had a job lined up in the banking industry—I was a manager in training—until Bob Moorhead from Mursatt Chemicals called Betz and asked if they had anyone interested in a sales position. My name was referred and that is how it all started,” says Pagliaro. “In essence, I really didn’t pick the industry, it picked me. I am grateful to all the managers I have had throughout my career who coached and mentored me.”
In 2011, before Pagliaro became the owner of Central Spa & Pool Supply, he was hired as the general manager. At this time, he and his wife, Nicole, and their four children moved to a small hobby farm in the Midland area to be closer to work. The farm has 60,702 m2 (15 acres) of hay, which he cuts twice per year and a garden, close to 4000 m2 (one acre), which feeds his family throughout the winter.
“I’ve known Peter for more than 20 years as a sales representative and industry friend,” adds Pagliaro. “Over a span of 12 months, we had discussed ideas of me either working for the company as general manager and/or coming in as an owner. We came to an agreement that worked for both of us and the rest is history.”
When it comes to his responsibilities as owner of Central Spa & Pool Supply, Pagliaro is in the office between 7 and 7:30 a.m. every morning to look over the numbers from the previous day and to review any current orders.
“We have 9 a.m. meetings every day with our managers to review the previous day. These meetings also provide the opportunity for staff to make suggestions and bring their ideas to the table,” he explains. “Otherwise, the phones start to ring as soon as we start the day and they continue well past 5 p.m. For this reason, our staff generally works between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. or 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. to ensure we can take care of our customers.”
The core of Central Spa & Pool Supply’s business has always been spa parts; however, the addition of pool parts and accessories over the last eight years was a natural progression based on dealer demand.
In fact, the company works with more than 1600 pool and spa companies across Canada, some are builders; however, the majority is in service and retail operations. Due to the competitive nature of the pool and spa industry in Canada, Central Spa & Pool Supply only supports professional companies and does not sell direct to consumers through their warehouse or online store. Purchases can only be made by legitimate businesses with staff that are trained annually to service the products the company sells.
The Wolfhards, and now Pagliaro, will attest that many of the clients they have done business with over the years have become more than just customers, they are considered friends.
“We are proud to have nine customer service representatives, including five that are bilingual to assist our French-speaking customers. We also have three full-time technical support experts on staff to help dealers,” says Pagliaro. “Customers purchase products from people they like and trust; therefore, we try each and every day to earn their business by treating customers how we would like to be treated.
“For instance, with our delivery program, we can provide next-day shipping to most destinations in Ontario and Quebec as long as the orders are in by noon. Another feature which has really helped our dealers is our free shipping offer on orders over $200.”
Although spa parts and pool accessories make up a good portion of Central Spa & Pool Supply’s business, Pagliaro has not been shy when welcoming new business ventures to the fold. This year, for instance, the company has introduced more than 300 new parts and accessories and is continuing its search to add more in the future. Further, with the company’s partnership with Fox Pools, it is now selling onground swimming pools as well as a full line of Fox Spas and Sunrise Spas.
“We are always looking for opportunities, but not at the expense of our customers,” says Pagliaro. “They come first and always will.
“Our goal is to help keep the end-user smiling. If we can offer technical support and products to fix the problem in a timely fashion, then we have done our job.”
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