Pool & Spa Superstore
How this small-town retailer survived decades of competition from big business
Ideal road trip stop
The Pool & Spa Superstore has been an anchor in the Mobile community for decades. Thirteen years ago, Jonathan Golden took his very first job with the business while in high school. It’s the place where he’s still proud to work today, as CFO, standing as a living symbol of the loyalty and determination that defines the small business as a mainstay of the Mobile community.
The team at Pool & Spa Superstore is wholly devoted to their service — the average employee tenure is nothing short of ten years. As Jonathan describes the highly seasonal industry, he says the reason the business has continued to flourish despite continual encroachment by larger, corporate competitors is because the team understands that, “For six months out of the year, business will be nuts. We’ll have to put others before ourselves, knowing that we need to do whatever it takes to get things done and get people taken care of the right way. What we do accomplish, what with the amount of guys here,” (there are five employees, currently) “is really nothing short of amazing.”
The people here have each other’s backs.
Having each other’s backs
Jonathan says this deep sense of loyalty can all be traced back to a feeling of camaraderie and mutual respect that the team has stayed dedicated to over the years: “The people here have each other’s backs.” In their time together, they’ve dealt with deaths in the family, personal health issues, growing families — and everyone has stepped up to meet each other’s needs. It’s also founded on the shared value placed on hard work. “During the summer months, we work crazy hours during the day. And we take that into consideration during the slower times, too,” Jonathan says. “We don’t track how long someone took for lunch or the exact days people take for vacation. People work hard knowing that the company will take care of them if they take care of the company.”
The closer the team has gotten, the more advantageous it’s been for keeping the business fluid and adaptive. “Having the ability to work with individuals so closely,” Jonathan tells us, “You know everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. You can see when someone is getting close to burnout. You can pick up on someone's nuances, recognize their day-to-day attitudes and personalities. When you make the effort to get to know someone on a personal level, you can be proactive when you see there's a need for more support, more empathy or understanding, more patience.”
The competitive advantage of community
The team is the same way with customers, who’ve also become increasingly loyal over the years. Jonathan describes their loyalty as “one of our greatest competitive advantages to our greatest challenge over the years.” Despite the threat posed by larger corporations attempting to buy out the business and how prolific online shopping has become, it’s amazing how well the company has been able to retain and grow its customer base. “What we’ve learned is that they will still, and hopefully always, support our business because they can see that we contribute to their own community.”
So how has Pool & Spa Superstore managed to garner such strong support from their community? Aside from going above and beyond to involve their customers and keep their needs top of mind, the company makes it a point to involve themselves with local organizations that are unique to Mobile, Alabama. A parallel might be drawn between the way a local retailer must continually withstand their larger competitions’ attempts to shuffle them off the playing field, and the programs they choose to support. To them, it’s fundamental that they support Mobile-specific charities that are often “overshadowed by bigger organizations with national names,” Jonathan says. Two causes they align closely with include the Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes, an orphanage and foster home for young children, and Team Focus, an athletic program that mentors adolescent boys who are missing a father figure or male role model in their lives.
They will still support our business because they can see that we contribute to their own community.
And before the bottom line, the business genuinely cares about people. “We always make time, even during the busiest months and the hottest days; we make sure to have fun. We’ll cook out here during the workweek. We invite our customers to come in for annual fish fries — it’s just one of many signs of appreciation.” However large their customer base gets, the team still writes customers’ birthdays and anniversaries into their calendars. “We reach out and make sure to celebrate these people outside of work. I think that’s one of the main reasons people enjoy doing business with us, and have continued to over the years – we’ve done more than what was asked of us to show them we authentically care. And that just makes work more enjoyable for us, as well.”
For Pool & Spa Superstore, it’s the classic story of the mom-and-pops, the small businesses that give communities authentic roots. “Any time the good guys can win, the small guys can win — those people who are working hard and doing right by customers — it’s going to better their industries in the long run.”
Persistence as a mantra
There’s a quote from Calvin Coolidge posted in the office: “Nothing in the world will take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
The words are powerful. Jonathan adds his own take on what they mean: “If you do the right thing by your customers and by your employees, you will never regret it. It may not always be the easiest thing. Rarely is. But my advice to others is to stop trying to look at short-term goals.” Jonathan always tries to consider what the business looks like beyond the present week, to see what it look might look like in ten years. “If you're so short-sighted with every dollar and cent, and if you let that be the only metric by which you're measuring things,” he says, “You’re going to burn out.”
If you do the right thing by your customers and by your employees, you will never regret it.
Jonathan explains how the Pool & Spa Superstore has spent decades resisting surrender to big business: “We fully believe that nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. That's the only thing that will solve the problems we face as a human race. If you show up, every day, doing the right thing, you may still go home some days and feel like you've lost — but that's been the difference between us and any other company that's come along. Nobody can match our persistence,” Jonathan tells me. “We're not going to give up.”