What’s Your Backup Plan?

Enter 2023 with a plan. Consider the situations that can cost you money, slow down your work flow, or even worse… those scenarios that can shut down your pool. Now consider the simple preventative actions you can take to make sure you’re prepared.

Worst-case-scenarios have nothing on a great backup plan.

The Scenario – The Busy Day No Show

It happens to the best of us. An essential player on your team can’t find their way into work. Maybe it’s the lifeguard during a heatwave, or the swim lesson instructor on a busy night. Whoever it is, and whatever the situation, life just got really difficult.

The Backup Plan – Prepare for this inevitable situation now. When you’re in charge of a big team, there are going to be times when you’re left shorthanded. Aquatic veterans are ready with pre-loaded text and email chains. Firing off a request for immediate assistance takes just a few minutes. If you’ve got a well-developed sub list, pass it off to the front desk or your admin team and task them with making the phone calls.

If you’re prepping for a busy summer now, why not cross train the non-aquatic staff in aquatic roles? Run camp counselors through lifeguard training or have your personal trainers take a swim lesson instructor course. Increasing your field of available assistants decreases the likelihood that you’ll be spending the afternoon in the guard chair, and that’s a really good thing.

When All Else Fails – Close sections of the pool, close rides and slides, combine programs into one larger group. Whatever you do, don’t sacrifice the safety of your patrons and staff by running an area or program shorthanded.

The Scenario – The Summer Staff Exodus Comes Early

This problem plagues first year operators. And who can blame them?  By the time they saw the summer staff whittling down it was way too late. Replacement staff are few and far between. Qualified candidates are non-existent, and even if someone was looking for a job it’s just too late to hire them.

The Backup Plan – Here’s the good news, it’s still spring. Hire a schedule-diverse staff for the summer of 2023. That means complimenting your veteran college guards with high schoolers, stay at home parents, retirees and incoming freshman at your local college. They’re the ones with the availability that can stretch your summer season into the early fall.

When All Else Fails – Run your pool on limited hours, or decrease programming options. Just be sure to make this decision early and spread the word to your membership base in a thoughtful manner.

The Scenario – The Untimely Death of Essential Equipment
Check your state code. It’s well-defined. There are a few mechanical systems in your pump room that you can’t operate without. Your chlorinator is a good example of an essential piece of equipment. If it shuts down today, so does your pool. Get the drift?

The Backup Plan – There are a few ways you can prepare for this scenario. First, audit all of the equipment in your pump room so you know what’s essential to your operation. This equipment requires special care and attention and a well-developed PM schedule. Its also smart to have replacement parts ready to go. For simplistic equipment a rebuild kit or stocked parts may be appropriate. For more technical components (like your pump and motor) it’s prudent to have a like-for-like replacement on hand ready to go. This may be a large capital expense, but it pales in comparison to the cost associated with a day (or multiple days) of shutdown time.

If you’re fortunate enough to be building a new pool, or renovating an old one, give consideration to over-specifying equipment. Need two peristaltic pumps to operate? Why not spec three and have them each work at a lower capacity?

When All Else Fails – Your best resource is the person who sold you the piece of equipment. They’re likely know how to fix it, or they know someone who can. Dig up the business cards of your equipment reps and tape them to the mechanical units that they service. You’ll never be left scrambling for a phone number in an equipment crisis.

The Scenario – Your Built It… But Nobody Came

The swim team kids are aging out, your swim lessons are plagued by competition and the can’t-miss paddle board yoga class tipped over and sank.

The Backup Plan – Programs are like stocks and bonds, you’ve got to diversify. Last seasons top performer is never immune to participants aging out, competition moving in and waning shifts in interest. Your best bet is a safety net of new programs. Search the web for facilities similar to yours and research their offerings. Make a plan to try a new program each session. Run with what works and cut the underperformers cyclically. Great programming is an ongoing process.

When All Else Fails – Delay and discount. If a program doesn’t have enough participants to run, push back the start date. Utilize the participants who have already signed up – they can be great advertisers. Offer a discount to them if they find a friend who wants to join in.

Image result for rainy poolThe Scenario – Washouts, Snowstorms and Heatwaves

And with your luck… they’ve all happened in the same week. If you could run programs only on sunny days you probably would. Unfortunately, everywhere we go we end up battling the weather. That’s just the nature of our business (see what we did there?).

The Backup Plan – Try your best to play the weather-odds, but when your luck runs out, it’s a smart move to be ready with a substitute location and / or rain (or heat, snow, tsunami…) date. For all of your big, one-off events, this has to be part of the earliest planning and marketing.

You should also develop and publish a firm makeup policy for all of your daily and weekly programs. Set aside future dates for inventible makeups now. You can use them for your weather make-ups, and allow your patrons to use them for their sick days, late starts and the scheduling conflicts.

When All Else Fails– No event is worth running in risky weather conditions. Call it quits with a well written PR statement (see below).

The Scenario – You Made the News (But Not in a Good Way)

The Backup Plan – Don’t wait until the news vans pull up to develop a PR strategy. Now is the time to meet with your leadership team to develop your press protocol. Who’s the spokesperson? What do they say? In what channels will they communicate with our patrons and the media? Not sure where to start? Check out this sage advice from Forbes.

When All Else Fails – Keep quiet. Say nothing. Plead the fifth. No comment. You get the idea… Saying nothing is always better than an unplanned response.