Without the people who work there, is any business much more than a building and a bank account?

You won’t have to wait long to hear people talking about how important their employees are to their business, how valued and special their staff are. But what can we do to put real meaning behind that and not just pay lip service to the idea?

There aren’t many one-man-bands in the wet leisure industry these days. In fact, according to last year’s Wet Leisure Survey, the number of businesses with between 5 and 10 employees has doubled since 2011.

That surely means that a lot of business owners are going to spend more time managing their staff than they are plumbing in a new pool pump or installing a sauna. But I wonder which activity most of them feel more comfortable doing and qualified to do?

The knowledge and skills that are essential to the practical side of our industry are far removed from those that you need to manage and motivate employees but it is probably the quality of your staff that makes the biggest difference to the success of your business.

Is simply paying them more the best way to invest in your staff or do we all need to be looking at other options?

Worth their weight in gold.

Looking at the Wet Leisure Survey results once again, many businesses said that recruiting and keeping top-quality staff was the biggest challenge that they expected to face this year. It’s worth noting that the businesses saying that were often amongst those reporting a successful 2014 and having the best expectations for this year.

Having the best possible staff is clearly a key asset to your pool, spa or sauna business.

Not only do they have the technical and product knowledge but they also develop relationships with your customers that keep those customers loyal. Good employees know your customer’s likes and dislikes and they are often the public ‘face’ of your business.

We all put a lot of effort into marketing, whether that is having an attractive and effective website or whether it’s having a distinctive logo on a fleet of well-cleaned vans, but it’s the person who gets out of that van or answers that email enquiry that the customer will see as representing your business.

You need to have faith in them. And they need to have faith in you.

Everyone plays ‘Follow-my-leader’.

People want to be led, and that isn’t the same as being told what to do.

They want to know where a business is going and how it’s going to get there. If there is a dream for the future of the business, they want to share it. If there is a plan to survive tough times, well, they want to know about that too.

Research often shows that being part of a well led team with a clear vision of the future scores more highly with employees than their pay cheque.

So, if you have a well-led team of valued employees working together for a clear goal is that enough?

I think that’s where it begins to get more complicated in our industry. If employees are vital to growing a business, they need to feel that they are growing as well. They need to feel that they are gaining more skills and being given more responsibilities and that often means training.

Is there an NVQ in that?

We do a lot of training at Golden Coast and that pays dividends.

When we take on a new employee they get a full and in depth induction to our business. They also receive the comprehensive training they need to do their job. But what does that actually entail?

For many of the skills that our business needs there are nationally recognised qualifications and training available to achieve those skills. Driving a forklift truck or using accounts software is no different in a wet leisure business than in any other.

For our customers in their pool, spa and sauna businesses, many of the skills that they are looking for come into the areas of plumbing, electrical work and general building and, once again, there are training courses and qualifications available.

But where do you look for specialist knowledge? As pool equipment and many spas become more technically sophisticated, installing, servicing and repairing them becomes more and more challenging.

From our perspective at Golden Coast, we need to be able to answer all the technical questions that our customers might put to us.

Fortunately, the manufacturers realise that it is in their best interests for the industry to have a clear understanding of their products. They almost all offer training courses. We send our staff to be trained; they pass on that knowledge to our customers.

I think that training your staff is the keystone to building a great business. It brings necessary skills into the business, it shows your employees that you value them and it both rewards and motivates them.

That’s putting real meaning behind knowing how important your employees are.

“Adam’s idea of good customer service is whatever you need it to be.”

I wanted to write about the importance of staff in the wet leisure industry because I really do believe that they are our greatest assets.

For the last couple of years we have been running advertising that features our staff. The headline above went with a picture of Adam Clark, our Sales Manager. We have run advertisements that feature our delivery drivers, warehouse staff and many more besides.

Golden Coast has a YouTube channel that has had 190,000 views. The star of almost all of the 60 videos that are on show there is Andy, our technical guru.

Whether you see the wet leisure industry as providing health and relaxation or supplying pumps and filters, at the end of the day, it’s the people in our industry that matter. We need to value them, and invest in them. After all, it’s good for business.