Supplement Feature - February 2013
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Programming for Profit

A Strong Business Model Plus Creative Programming Can Keep Your Aquatics in the Black

By Rick Dandes

Analyze Costs and Demographics

Being in the black begins with looking at how your facility is used the entire day, hour by hour, Barr said. "You have primary users of the facility, and you have to engage those folks with your core services. You want to be in the black when it comes to providing those services. But you also want to find out how you can expand those core services," he said.

Understand what your true costs are. You have a basic staffing cost, but are you factoring in your instructional costs?

"You also need to be cognizant of the market that you are in," Barr said. "Not every pool is able to run in the black because of the market in which it is situated. I'm not saying that you shouldn't strive to be in the black, but take a look at the people you are serving, and set a reasonable operational goal, in terms of expenditures and expected revenues. You need to have these discussions early on. More and more agencies that run pool facilities are realizing they need to be as cost-efficient as possible, based upon the facility they have and the market they serve. So it might not be a realistic goal to be in the black; maybe breaking even is what you can strive for."

Look for outside partnerships to help defray costs. Why not lease out a little space to outside groups such as scuba shops, scout groups or hospital rehab groups that might not have a nearby facility of their own? Try to develop partnerships to expand programming. Partner up with businesses to operate fitness programs, or schools to run programs—all that can broaden your base of patrons. Building loyalty among those who do use your facility for programs through the use of social media can also be effective in getting the word out. If you have a program that is popular, let people know about it by "tweeting," or spotlighting it on your Facebook page.