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Tips for pool and hot tub dealerships to compete against Internet and big-box retailers

By Dennis Gray

By applying the ‘David Strategy,’ pool and hot tub dealerships can transform the success of their businesses.
By applying the ‘David Strategy,’ pool and hot tub dealers can transform the success of their businesses.

Over the last few years, this author has been fortunate to meet hundreds of pool and hot tub dealership owners and their teams from across North America and has seen ‘islands of excellence and opportunity,’ everywhere. Every dealership has things they do well, from practices and processes to creating new ideas. If a blueprint for success were to be created using these core strengths, and shared with other pool and hot tub professionals, it would be of great benefit to the industry.

There are ominous signs across the industry

Almost every backyard leisure business owner expresses sheer frustration, utter disappointment, and downright anger at the changes affecting their businesses and livelihood. Many are tired of the battles they face, day in and day out, competing with big-box stores and Internet discount vendors who are aggressively poaching their long-standing customers, and the resulting declining sales, margins, and profitability that comes along with it. Most pool and hot tub entrepreneurs express worry about the future prospects of their businesses when it comes to facing these overwhelming challenges successfully. However, these things are not going to stop. In fact, the pace of this pillaging will only continue to increase rapidly. That is, unless the industry collectively decides to take a stand and reverse this business challenge.

These problems cannot be overcome with the same level of thinking that created them. Einstein put it succinctly, “to continue to do what you have always done and expect a better result is the true definition of insanity.” This is, however, precisely what most of the backyard leisure professional dealer community has been using as its strategy for the past decade in the face of dramatic challenges from big-box retailers, the Internet, and the new ‘compare and switch’ consumer. The typical dealership’s outdated strategy is weakening workplaces, destroying hard-won net worth, and exposing others to more of the same.

Consider a better way forward

This leads to what this author calls the ‘David Strategy.’ An epic, but poorly understood battle, and the ways that learning can transform business by ‘changing the rules of the game’ to the advantage of backyard leisure professionals.

Everyone knows the story of David and Goliath—the massive-bully warrior and the man-child shepherd underdog with a stone and a sling. This story has a divine, miraculous ending, where the good person wins. However, this is not what really happened. In learning what the real ‘David Strategy’ was, and how it can be applied, dealers can use it to transform the success of their business.

David’s victory over Goliath, and the resulting triumph of the Israelites over the Philistines, is a great bedtime story. However, it was not about a miracle. It was about an underdog using an unconventional strategy to make the opponent’s strengths their weaknesses, and refusing to play a game stacked in an adversary’s favour.

A common phrase in the pool and hot tub dealer community is “One cannot compete against Wal-Mart, or Amazon for that matter.” When considering the scale and reach of these types of vendors versus the typical professional pool and hot tub dealer, this seems like sage advice. Just like Goliath, these retailers are seemingly unbeatable, but this does not mean pool and hot tub dealers do not have the smarts or ability to compete against these types of retailers. As the story goes, David knew he could not win against Goliath if he played by his rules, so he chose to make his own and employ a strategy that turned Goliath’s strengths into his weaknesses. The following are examples of how pool and hot tub dealers can apply similar strategies from this story to the challenges they face today.

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