Category Archives: Revenue & Expenses

Day Camps

Traditionally, day camps have chosen to visit waterparks or aquatic facilities for their field trips.  The additional lifeguard supervision and stress that result from day camp visits are not typically worth the revenue generated.  Building your own day camp program, hosted at your facility, is a different story.  After the initial work of creating the programs, procedures and initial marketing push, maintaining the day camp is well worth the extra revenue and positive community image it generates.

Use Your Unique Layout

Each facility has its own layout that can provide opportunities for unique activities and camp themes.  1Waterpark layouts can allow the campers to participate in fun activities in catch pools or rivers before the park opens to the public, provide lunch for the participants, and formulate the activities around the facility mascot.  Traditional aquatics programs have the opportunity to center the camp around water safety and swim lessons and typically have more access to inside classroom space (if it is attached to a community center). To begin, examine the eagle’s eye layout of your facility and find the perfect camp headquarters location for your program.

 

Find Your Niche

Day camp opportunities are abundant.  Parents need somewhere to send their children while they work during the summer.  Safety, convenience, and the child’s opinion are the biggest factors in selecting a day camp.  Spend some time researching the competition in your area and make note of the types of camps they are providing, the price, and what areas they are targeting.  Next, using your facilities unique attributes, develop a program that will set you apart from your competition.

While you may not be able to undercut them on price, demonstrating that your 2have a lower counselor to camper supervision ratio, offer flexible pickup times, or have a changing theme each week can help parents justify spending more of their hard earned dollars on your program.  Once you identify your niche, be sure to communicate your benefits in marketing materials and staff communication when describing your day camp program.

 

 

 

Make it Fun!

Aquatics facilities are fun on their own, but spending every single day of the summer in the same location can make the children antsy and bored. Centering the camp around a fun weekly theme keeps the campers engaged and excited to return each week.  When selecting themes, research what the children are excited about, which can be a result of a recent movie or television show.  Timeless themes such as pirates, dinosaurs, science exploration are always popular options.  Many parents select the weeks they register their children from camp based on the theme, so choose wisely!  Though it requires quite a bit of pre-planning, all activities, crafts and games should support the weekly theme.  Towards the end of the week, begin to drop hints about some of the next week’s activities, which will encourage the campers to ask their parents to register them for another week!

Make it Safe

Taking charge of children all day requires patience and a great deal of training.  Create policies and procedures that will protect the children and your staff from unsafe situations.  Start by identifying potential hazards at your facility, restroom and changing policies, and discipline procedures.  Clearly outline these policies for the parents in a handbook so they understand and agree to the policies before registering for the camp.  Look for ways to minimize risk, such as scheduling the swim lesson portion at the beginning of the day so the children come dressed for swimming are only changing in or out of their suits once during the day instead of twice.  Train your camp counselors to always follow pickup procedures, how to respond to basic medical emergencies (food allergies, bee stings, vomit), how to correct behavior, and how to facilitate activities.  The way your staff interact with the children is something the campers will always remember and what they share with their parents at the end of the day.

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Increase Your Bottom Line

You will generate additional revenue through camp registrations, but the largest increase to your bottom line will be through add-on options for day camps.  Since convenience is one of the biggest selling point for parents, offering weekly lunch options, early drop-off/late pick-up, and other programming add-ons assist the parent in making your camp the easy choice.  Select add-on options that will require a low cost or staff commitment, but is valuable to the parent. For example, if your facility has a concessions area, offering daily lunch just means making a few extra hamburgers or chicken nuggets.  To ultimately increase your bottom line, your goal should be to offer a safe, fun program that children will beg their parents to register them for at a competitive price.

 

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Birthday Parties

Hosting parties at your facility is an excellent way to bring in additional revenue with very little extra expense.  Developing a party program specific to your customers’ needs and the amenities of your facility is easier than you think.

Evaluate Your Amenities and Options

The type of facility you operate has an impact on the type of party options you can offer.  For example, if you operate a community pool, offering an hourly rate based upon the number of guests is both easy for staff and acceptable to the guest. The rate can be increased if the facility is being used solely by the party or reduced if the party is during public swim hours or shared with another party.  If you operate a waterpark, a more complex party offering is appropriate. Facilities with amenities such as concessions, shade rentals, locker rentals, and tube rentals have unlimited possibilities for developing party packages.

There are also opportunities to increase in-park spending during parties.  Offering an upgrade from cupcakes to ice cream or larger shade rentals give some flexibility to the customer.  Offering creative “party only” options such as an appetizer basket, front-of-the-line passes, designated party game host, or cabana server also enhances the party experience.  Offering a few add-on options for your party guests can easily increase the amount of revenue generated per party.

Determine How to Structure Your Packages

For facilities with more complex party package offerings, there are a few different schools of thought for execution and marketing.

Total Package Included-   For this option, the marketing approach is to “make it easy” on the guest by offering all-inclusive packages based on the number of guests.  For example, there may be a 15 guest package for $300 that includes a large cabana rental for the day, 15 guest admissions, tube rentals, locker rentals, pizza and soda, and cupcakes.  While this may initially seem like the easier option for the guest, how often do party guests forget to RSVP or decide not to attend at the last minute?  If your facility chooses to offer the packages this way, it is important to discuss how those types of situations will be handled.  Is there an additional per person rate or do they automatically move up to the next package level?  If not as many guests show up as expected, are they permitted to move down a package level?  This can create additional stress for the guest on the day of the event, which is what they were trying to avoid in the first place.

Build-it-Yourself-   The Build-it-Yourself option places a majority of the planning on the guest organizing the party.  In this option, the guest is asked a series of questions such as:

do it yourself

The question list can continue on to allow the guest to completely customize their experience.  This marketing approach allows the guest to completely control every detail of their event and have it their way.  While some guests may find this level of customization exciting, many will find it unnecessary.  Coordinating all the details regarding food can be problematic for staff when there are multiple parties happening concurrently.

Per Person Package– This option is a blend between the Total Package Included option and the Build-it-Yourself option.  You can offer different levels of party packages with a per person price for each level.  For example:

per person package

Because shade rental size is determined by the number of guests, it is recommended that space rental is an add-on fee.  The marketing approach for this type of package is that it does not matter how many people arrive (though it is easiest when you obtain somewhat of a headcount beforehand to ensure food availability and shade rental), because the price is based on a per person rate.  This is also easier on the staff since everyone is eating the same type of food.

While you may find that one particular option works better for your guests or type of facility, the Per Person Package option seems to be the most popular since it provides flexibility for pricing for the guest, but ease of execution for the staff.

Set Yourself Apart

Pool parties are commonplace during the summer season.  Research the offerings in your area and find ways to set yourself apart from the competition.  Offering a complimentary party host to assist with fun games is memorable for the guests and not too hard on the budget as long as you schedule one party host to rotate between several parties.  Providing a cabana server allows you to keep an eye on the party and ensure it is going smoothly as well as increase in-park spending by recommending an additional pizza or drink refills.  While celebrating your special occasion is fun at a pool or waterpark, making the experience memorable and unique to your facility will encourage them to tell others about their experience and return each year for their end of the season team party or birthday extravaganza!

 

 

 

 

You’re Not Alone! Facing and Fixing Today’s Aquatic Challenges

As the president of the North Texas Aquatics Association, I recently surveyed our membership of aquatics’ professionals in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, as well as some of my colleagues on the World Waterpark Association’s Public Sector Committee, in order to find out what challenges and obstacles they currently face.  As the results came in, I quickly realized that the majority of the challenges mentioned fell into one of three categories: Personnel, Financial and Facility.  And while none of the answers surprised me, it was interesting to see the challenges they face and how it affects them and their organization.

Staffing issues top the list of challenges, mainly because of the nature of the positionsCapture and hours offered to prospective employees.  Operators need staff from 5am to 10pm Monday through Friday, and most the day on the weekends too.  Not only that, sometimes staff is only needed for a few hours at a time (programming, noon lap swim, etc.) and it’s difficult to find dedicated and engaged employees who want to work a staggered schedule.  Because of this, employee turnover and competition from other less stringent jobs stood out as primary challenges posed to the group I surveyed.  Throw in the lack of buy-in from younger employees, and the complexities with recruiting, training and motivating staff, and aquatic professionals have a difficult task ahead of them, and we haven’t even gotten past the first category!

On the financial side, challenges included the rising costs of equipment, supplies and labor, something I noticed over the course of my days as a public sector operator.  From 2007 to 2014, the cost of my calcium hypochlorite went from $166.00 for 100 pounds to $193.00, that’s a 14% increase during times of shrinking budgets. Couple rising costs with aquatics’ staff being given unrealistic cost recovery goals for their facility and the decrease of annual operational budgets, they quickly become frustrated because they must generate more revenue, with less resources to do so.

On the facility side, operators struggle with maintaining aging facilities at an acceptable level, while not having the financial means to make it happen.  Aging pools built in the 1970s and 1980s face physical (aging infrastructure) and functional (lack of features) obsolescence.    These facilities have low attendance because which puts revenue generation at an all-time low, yet their costs keep rising.  Add in changing codes and legislation and now operators are being asked to patch their 40 year old pool to get it into compliance, when it needs a complete renovation.

Now, that we have a list of chalI Thinklenges that hinder aquatics’ professionals, let’s develop a framework to start tackling these one by one.  Anytime I look at overcoming a challenge, I asked myself four questions in regards to that specific challenge.

1)      What difficulties does this challenge pose?

2)      How does it affect my organization and operation?

3)      What are the benefits of overcoming this challenge?

4)      How do I overcome it?

Answering the above questions will make the path to conquering your challenges much easier and will provide you with clear direction and purpose.  Let’s take training and motivating staff as an example and then I’ll send you on your way to tackle the rest.

1)      What difficulties does this challenge pose?

Aquatic operators lack the time and resources to fully train their staff, primarily because they have so many other responsibilities.  Recruiting, hiring, programming, payroll and maintenance all take time and which leaves little time for training. Lack of funding also impacts training and motivation because training funds typically go first when budgets get slashed.

2)      How does it affect my organization and operation?

The lack of training and motivation means that operators receive poor employee behaviors which can put your guests at risk, as well as providing them poor service.  Without training, employees are less likely to buy in to the vision and culture of your organization, which means they leave sooner and operators have a high employee turnover rate.  That puts you back at square one which means less time to train and motivate because must spend time recruiting and hiring.

3)      What are the benefits of overcoming this challenge?

The benefits of training and motivating staff far outweigh the time and resources it takes because once you start training then you can become more efficient in your time management.  You can delegate some of your responsibilities to your more proficient staff and the good behaviors starts to flow from your team. You now have a safer facility with employees who provide better overall service.  They start buying in to your philosophy and vision and now they stay longer, which reduces your turnover and gives you more time to focus on improving your operation, instead of just getting by.

4)      How do I overcome it?

This is probably the toughest question to answer when looking at overcoming the challenge of training and motivating staff, but it’s also the most important.  Operators should create a training calendar that covers all of the topics that need addressing on a daily, weekly or monthly basis with each of their levels of employees.  Once complete, you must show the importance of training in order to achieve your organization’s vision (don’t forget to make attendance mandatory!).  Also, make sure you hire hiring individuals who have shared values with your philosophy, a positive attitude, internal motivation and great communication skills.  These are the ones that are easy to train!  I might take a little more work upfront during the hiring process, but you’ll be glad you did.  Training is merely an extension of the hiring process so it’s important to show organizational purpose and vision in the interview, as well as every day on the job.  Lay out your expectations on the front-end of employment, communicating to them what to do, how to do it and why it matters.  Buy-in, loyalty, staff retention and employee engagement await around the corner!

Overcoming challenges and obstacles can prove to be a difficult process, but a worthwhile one.  Improving your operation just a little at a time will have big rewards for the future and set your organization up for success for many years to come.

You want more competitive swimmers? Make swim meets shorter!!

Competitors swim during the women's 200m freestyle heats at the London 2012 Olympic Games“If I had only one day left to live I would spend it at a swim meet because they last forever.” I’ve seen this on swimmers’ t-shirts at swim meets across the country, and I couldn’t agree more.

I was recently visiting with USA Swimming in Colorado Springs when we began discussing how to get more competitive swimmers into the sport. Several approaches were discussed, all with merit. USA Swimming is beginning a great new campaign called “Swim Today” to convert swim lesson kids to swim team kids.  However, there was one approach that I felt needed to be addressed: shorter swim meets would draw and retain younger kids (and parents) to the sport.

With three age-group swimmers between the ages of 8 and 11, and having swum competitively myself, I understand the current age-group swim meet agenda: spend five to six hours on a pool deck either early on a weekend morning or late into the evening on a weekday. This is costing the sport future competitive swimmers not because the kids do not want to compete in swim meets but because the parents, who may not have been competitive swimmers, do not want this big of a commitment.

Over the last couple of years, I have been able to recruit some of my kids’ friends to the swim team through conversations with their parents.  I have appealed to the benefits of gaining confidence in the water, to a healthy lifestyle, to fun with friends.  What I tend to leave out is the lengthy time commitment required for swim meets.  I would say that I have only had about a 10% retention rate after the parents’ experience a long swim meet.  Now usually they stick it out for a short period of time, but the reason I get for their kids quitting is the swim meet time commitment.

We have all heard the phrases “practice makes perfect” and “practice like you play,”  but this to me is one of the largest disconnects in the sport of swimming.  Swim practices can last one to two hours with interval training and very, very limited breaks.  Rarely does a swimmer get out of the pool during practice.  Yet at a swim meet there may be an hour between events.Start Backstroke

During high profile meets like the Olympics or FINA World Championships, the media always make a big deal out of a condensed time frame between races for athletes like Missy Franklin and Michael Phelps.  I understand this for high-caliber meets but age group kids (and parents) do not need a long break to rest.  A typical swim meet may include three to five races for each of my kids over the five to six-hour time frame.

Here is a typical meet……kids arrive at 6 a.m. to warm up for 20 minutes.  Meet starts at 7 a.m.  My son swims a race and then is back on the grass field playing baseball or football.  I don’t know an age group kid out there that can be contained to “rest” for the next race when it’s an hour away and all of their friends are ready to play.  But hey, there is good news for the parents…..you get to stand behind a starting block for two hours, time the other kids, and see your kid swim for maybe two minutes.

Something has to change.

Think about this, most other sports like soccer, baseball, and football all have the same practice requirements as swimming (one to two hours) but the games are typically equal to the length of practice and most often are shorter.  I would enjoy a maximum of 2.5-hour swim meet where coaches have to select events (and entries) that fit within that time frame.  PS:  my 10-year old doesn’t need to swim the 200 Fly. Or we could have more swim meets that have condensed time frames – baseball and basketball games are commonly held frequently throughout the week. In fact, I recently saw an article on ESPN.com where a Major League Baseball executive suggested a 7-inning MLB baseball game to appeal to more people.  The same type of thinking needs to take place in the sport of swimming!

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