Facing the Challenges of Managing Multiple Aquatic Facilities

By: George Deines and Adam Blackmore

Published in World Waterpark magazine July/August 2015 issue

Training

Trying to keep consistency in guest services, brand messaging, operating procedures and safety protocols in only expounded when trying to do so across a wide array of aquatic facilities. It is imperative that as the manager over the entire operation that you create core areas of “no flexibility” expectations or standards and ensure that all training revolves around this preferably short, yet encompassing, list.  It’s important to remember that each facility you oversee will have its own set of managers with their own training strengths and areas for growth and they should be allowed some individuality when it comes to managing their teams. However, by setting a direction, and reinforcing through quarterly or semi-annual trainings led by you or your direct supervisors, with clear expectations it will make your confidence in your overall team’s preparedness that much stronger. Examples may include; lifeguard vigilance, risk prevention methodology, cash handling, or specific guest service expectations. If you are able to have flexibility, or in some cases courage, to allow your managers to message your core expectations and build their facility training programs around them then you will save yourself a lot of stress and worry that comes across with trying be too involved in too many places.

Clientele

When managing multiple aquatic facilities, generally spread throughout your city or state, it’s only natural that the services you’re providing will in-turn create a vast array of demographics utilizing your services. The users at your waterpark are going to be different than those in the competitive natatorium where the core offerings center on training and those will be different than those using the local neighborhood pool for somewhere to recreate for the day. Having an adaptable personality and the ability to relate to all types of guests will be a key to success. On any given day you may encounter an ecstatic 8 year-old who just went down the “big slide” for the first time, an angry affluent 35 year-old lap swimmer who thinks the water is too warm and wants to know what his taxes are paying for if not for comfortable swimming conditions, a concerned 80 year-old water walker living on a fixed income who can’t afford the monthly swimming membership, a disgruntled 17 year-old lifeguard who needs more hours to pay for gas and a stressed out parent of 4 trying to get signed up for swim lessons at the local municipal pool. As the leader of your facilities you are expected to be able to handle all of these situations with empathy, compassion, patience and creativity. Leading and participating in train the trainer exercises with your staff is a great way to keep your adaptability and ability to think on the fly at a high level.

Preventative Maintenance

Each facility is going to pose its own risks and worries from a maintenance perspective.  Since you can’t be in multiple places at once it is going to be critical that you form and maintain a strong and trusting relationship with your maintenance staff. You should have regular meetings to discuss current and future maintenance projects, daily risk prevention procedures and ensure resources are available for unforeseen circumstances. It’s also important that your on-site operations management team is well-versed in facility inspection procedures and that a clear line of communication is open from them to you, you to maintenance or the administration, and the administration to the public. During management meetings and trainings you should ensure safety and risk prevention are standing agenda items and that you are doing regular walk-throughs of the facilities to ensure checklists are still current or sufficient, equipment is in appropriate condition, documentation is available and you are in-tune with any upcoming needs. Having an efficient and transparent work-order process is also helpful as it will allow for instant communication of needs and the ability to follow-up on project status’ without having to physically inspect each maintenance concern that may arise.