Supplement Feature - February 2015
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Beyond Treading Water

Finding Profitability in Aquatic Operations

By Dawn Klingensmith

Profitable Programming

There are other profitable programming options besides lessons, but aquatics managers should focus on fully developing proven money-making programs before adding on. "If it's lessons, get to 100 percent on that before adding," said William Miller, owner of Miller Aquatic Professionals in McHenry, Ill.

Reaching out to area schools is one way to maximize the capacity and money-making potential of learn-to-swim programs, he suggests. Seattle partners not only with public schools but also with a local hospital to help promote its program. "Where our missions overlap—healthy families and safe children—the hospital pays for marketing reminding families to swim where there's a lifeguard," Whitman said. The hospital also supplies scholarship funding.

"Once you've grown your base, then you can start specialty programs like special needs and adult triathlon training," Williams said.

Adaptive and therapeutic aquatics in particular can make money, especially through partnerships with health organizations, Clayton said.

Adopting certain features and business practices associated with private clubs, including an annual membership model, may help boost the bottom line, Rowland said. But it can be a challenge, he added: "Trying to sell memberships to adults going to use my facility as a gym that at certain times of day will be inundated with kids? It's not a peaceful environment vs. a private health club."

Offering in-pool personal training is another idea borrowed from private clubs. "People don't think twice about paying a dollar a minute for one-on-one fitness training," Nelson pointed out. "If this were pushed, it could be 55 percent of a pool's income."

To truly determine a community's wants and needs, conduct program interest surveys every year or so, and ask about desired class or program times as well, Clayton advised.