UP-CLOSE and PERSONAL
An Interview with Daniel Harrison, CEO and President of Poolandspa.com Inc.
By: Todd Selese ::: Business Online Weekly
Daniel Harrison, 47, is the President and CEO of Poolandspa.com, an online retailer of pool and spa supplies. He has been in business for 27 years and was a pioneer on the internet for the pool and spa industry and for e-commerce in general. Dan was the first person to have a pool and spa web site way back in 1994 and was one of the first to offer e-commerce, in any form...even before amazon.com.
Dan Harrison with some pool toys !
Dan has been owner, officer or management in Paramount Pools, Long Island Hot Tubs, Unique Contracting, Patriot Pool and Spa Service, Virtual Pool and Spa Store, Las Vegas Hot Tubs and finally Poolandspa.com. His companies have won almost every industry award available and have been included in countless magazine articles, books and TV shows about e-commerce, web marketing and SEO (search engine optimization) strategies. He is one of the few in his industry who have ever been inducted into the Aqua "Hall of Fame" (like the Baseball "Hall of Fame", only for the pool & spa biz).
A graduate of Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, Dan grew up on Long Island and lived there until he was 43. He now resides in Las Vegas where he runs his newly reorganized and polished online enterprise, Poolandspa.com.
Poolandspa.com, an industry leader in the sale of pool and spa supplies through the internet and print catalogs, has completed a year long reorganization project which included a move of their corporate operations to Las Vegas, Nevada.
The reorganization involved shutting down many of their other divisions including their service companies Long Island Hot Tubs and Paramount Pools on Long Island, New York and as well as their walk-in stores Las Vegas Hot Tubs and the Poolandspa.com Store in Henderson, Nevada.
||"The companies got
too big, too fast and as a result, were becoming a management nightmare"
says Poolandspa.com's CEO and President Daniel Harrison. "A
great deal of
our income was coming from our online sales and advertising revenue from
our web site, but most of the operating expenses were going towards our
other four divisions. It just did not make financial sense to
continue with brick-and-mortar type businesses at this juncture" he
"These reorganization moves will allow us to focus on what we do best, which is to provide pool and spa supplies to consumers through mail order channels. We will be able to focus more on providing up to date information on our web site as well as increase our advertising revenues" he added.
Poolandspa.com will continue to provide some of the product fulfillment through its' New York warehouse located in Yaphank but will house their call center operation and executive offices in Las Vegas. By year end of 2007, all of their operations should be moved to Vegas.
Harrison says that "hopefully this will complete our 3 year business plan started in 2004 that called for a higher degree of emphasis on the ever increasing online sales business and a de-emphasis of the 'old school' business model that we had followed for over 25 years".
||I sat down with Dan
at his office in Las Vegas, to
find out more about him - and his businesses. His dog Sammy,
forever at his side, is the self proclaimed "National Hot Tub Dog".
Strange, but true. Dan is a very friendly type of guy, but some
say he is
kind of intimidating (although I am not sure why people say that).
I found him to very accommodating and he made me feel quite comfortable. I had
interviewed him a few years ago for another magazine, but it was over
It is always interesting for me to finally visit a businessman who I have read so much about and who has lived and breathed the internet since its' inception. I was only 12 years old when Dan was just starting his web site and I was not even born when he started his first business! He is a pioneer in his industry, having been the first person to sell pool & spa supplies over the internet. He helped develop a lot of the formats and web site designs that have been used in the pool and spa industry over the years.
Todd Selese - I had interviewed you a few years ago for another publication about your Spa Buyer's Guide on Poolandspa.com. How is that working out for you guys ?
Dan Harrison - Yes, I remember that. I think we still may have your article up on our web site somewhere. Our Spa Buyer's Guide and our new Pool Buyer's Guide continue to be two most visited areas of our web site. People really like them.
TS - How many people come to your web site each day ?
DH - Well, that varies considerably depending on the time of the season, but I would say approximately 6000-8000 a day in the slow season and about 25,000 - 35,000 in May-June and then again in September-October.
TS - That is absolutely out-of-control amazing !
DH - I am always surprised by the amount of traffic that we generate. But the site has been around for over 14 years, so I guess we get a lot of return visitors.
TS - Do you know what your busiest day ever was ?
DH - As a matter of fact I can tell you that it was Memorial Day of 2006. I think the number was 38,000 and something. We had so many visitors that it really overloaded our servers and a lot of people were getting blank pages when they visited the site. We had to upgrade our internet connection right after that. It was kind of a problem at the time, but we ended up with a much faster connection and we don't have those problems any more.
TS - Was it hard for you to close down your other companies last year ?
DH - Emotionally it was hard at first - I mean to actually make the decision to close all the other divisions and just focus on Poolandspa.com's online business. I liked various aspects of each of my other companies. But the bottom line in business has to be profitability, and the overhead costs associated with running bricks-and-mortar type businesses are just astronomical compared to online businesses. In the end, what we did was a purely financial decision, and I had to put my emotions - my 'love' for my other businesses - aside. You have to move forward in business and looking back is rarely beneficial.
TS - So I guess you lost a lot of money ?
DH - Let's just say those business models were not moving in positive, sustainable directions.
TS - OK. Enough about the business. Describe yourself in three words.
DH - Work-aholic, funny, fair.
TS - Name something about yourself that would surprise people.
DH - I used to be the lead singer in a rock band and I am interested in Area 51 and Aliens.
TS - OK....well, I would not have guessed either one of those things ! What are you most passionate about other than your business ?
DH - (laughs) Well...I am a work-aholic, so , I guess, nothing (laughs more). I don't know. I am a funny person. I like to see the humor in most situations. It helps keep the stress level low.
|TS - What's your most treasured
DH - Sammy (the dog). Then, I guess, my Hummer. I really like cars. I had a 1979 Porsche 911 that I restored, but I sold it last year. I have a 1987 Trans Am that I am restoring.....but of course it now needs an engine!
TS - What is your greatest strength and your greatest weakness ?
DH - My greatest strength, I suppose, is never giving up. I am very persistent and will normally keep working at something until I get it. And I think that is most probably also my greatest weakness. I can be very stubborn.
TS - So I've heard ! What is one thing you would change about yourself if you could ?
DH - I'd love to be able to 'turn off" quicker and have some real relaxing down-time. I am told that regular people have something called "leisure time". I would like some of that !
TS - Who would you like to trade places with for 24 hours ?
DH - Donald Trump.
TS - Why ?
DH - I'd like to know what that level of responsibility feels like for just one day. Then I think I would appreciate my situation a little better.
TS - What accomplishments are you most proud of ?
DH - Well, I started out as a contractor and a pool guy. I love to build things. I love to build businesses too. So I think the businesses that I have built over the years are good accomplishments. I am never satisfied though. I like having big challenges and trying to find big solutions for them. Moving our businesses to Nevada from New York has been one of the biggest challenges I have faced recently.
TS - Name three people who have had the most profound influence on your life.
DH - That's easy...my mom and dad and of course God. Sounds typical and corny, but it is true.
TS - Now name three people who have had the most profound influence on your business life.
DH - Well Jesus.....because he was like the greatest salesman ever. Then I would say Donald Trump, because he has had his up's and down's but still he never gives up. And then I guess the guy who actually started me out in the pool business named Bob May. He was the first one who showed me the in's and out's of this industry.
TS - What makes you angry ?
DH - Incompetent people.
TS - Do you watch TV ? What shows do you like ?
DH - I watch some TV at night, C-Span and Family Guy mostly. Oh...South Park too. I like to watch some religious programming.
TS - Really......what religious programming do you like ?
DH - I like Joel Osteen, Charles Stanley, Joyce Meyer.
|TS - What do you do to relax ?
DH - I like to go in my pool and spa. I go down to the Strip (in Las Vegas) and walk around amongst the tourists sometimes. I like to play slots and I play poker with my friends.
TS - What do you like most about moving to Vegas and like the least ?
DH - I really like the weather, although this past winter was very cold. I like the dining choices. I really like the mountains and the scenery. I don't like the grid-lock traffic they have here. I was not prepared for that. I do miss the Atlantic Ocean and the beaches we had on Long Island (New York), but there is a lot more to do here in Vegas than on Long Island !
TS - What's your favorite book ?
DH - The Bible.
TS - What are your favorite movies ?
DH - Vegas Vacation, Poseidon Adventure, Apocalypse Now, Donnie Darko, Elephant
TS - What are your favorite bands ?
DH - Metallica, Staind, Queensrych and I like some Gangsta Rap.
TS - O...K.....well, what is your greatest regret ?
DH - I was engaged to be married for 5 years and that did not work out. But I don't know if I 'regret' that. I do want to get married and have children....but my life is not over yet....so I don't 'regret' that either. Hmmmm......I guess I regret not winning the lotto yet ??? I don't know...is that a regret ? (laughs) I really don't 'regret' anything. I have had some business ventures that did not work out well financially, but I wouldn't say I 'regretted' that. Oh......I know......I ran over a squirrel once. That was bad I guess.
TS - I regret not winning the lotto too ! But my life's not over yet either.....Anyway, do you have any unfulfilled dreams ?
DH - Aside from not winning the lotto, no. You know Todd, this is not a death-bed interview (laughs), I plan on living for a good long time more...so come back and ask me these kinds of questions in another 30 years !
TS - OK...who makes you laugh ?
DH - As I said before, I can find humor in most situations.
TS - No, I mean comedians.
DH - Oh, Wanda Sykes, Margaret Cho, Dave Atell, Lewis Black, Jerry Seinfeld. But I have to say that Lewis Black is the funniest comedian out there right now. He says things that I think in my head, but I would never have the balls to say.
TS - Do you have any hobbies ?
DH - I like photography. I like to putter around the yard and do home improvement projects. I like to tinker with cars. I go shooting sometimes. I like to play poker and gamble a little. I like Area 51 and Alien stuff. I have been to Area 51 a few times. I live not too far from there. I am a member of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON). There are only about 5000 MUFON members worldwide.
TS - So, are there Aliens at Area 51 ?
DH - No.
TS - What one thing do you wish for ?
DH - Man, this is an odd business interview ! Ahhhh......well aside from world peace.....and true love....I guess I wish to win the Mega Millions. That would be nice. Then with that money I could buy a whole bunch more wishes.
TS - That's a good answer. What is the best advice you've ever received or a philosophy you live your life by ?
DH - Well, the best advice I ever got was to "Make the decision each day to be happy". You have to really make an effort not to let things get to you. And if you make a conscious decision each morning to be happy that day....I find that helps. As far as the philosophy I live my life by....that would be "Never give up. Defeat is always only momentary".
TS - What lesson would you like to learn ?
DH - To learn how to say "No". That is hard for me, but I am working on it. You can't do everything, and no matter what you do, especially in business, you will end up pissing someone off. Sometimes you just have to cut to the chase and say "No" right away. Although initially uncomfortable, sometimes it is the right move for everyone involved.
TS - And finally, what advice would you give to someone just starting in business ?
DH - I would say "It is hard". If you don't enjoy it, don't do it. Running businesses is not for everyone. It is much easier just to work for someone else. But if you feel in your heart that you are driven to get involved in some dream or business venture, don't let anyone try to talk you out of following your dream. There are always going to be people lined up to say you are wrong, or you are crazy or your idea wont work. You have to control your thinking and be very focused on your goals and dreams. And just remember, most people, including me, failed many, many times before succeeding in business. It isn't the ten times that you failed that will ultimately matter to anyone. It is the times you succeed that will count. You can adjust your plans as you go,....that is good....but don't give up...ever! Quitters never, ever win.
TS - Thank you very much Dan. It has been a fun interview.
DH - Thank you Todd. Kind of odd questions you got....but, come back any time!
|Sammy, The Hot Tub Dog, resting after his photo shoot.|
Wow, that ended up being a rather fun afternoon for me. It seems like Dan is the kind of businessman to always find some degree of fun, no matter what obstacles he is confronted with. And since pools and spas are supposed to be fun as well, I think he has found a very comfortable niche business for himself...and he seems to do it well.
The only thing constant in business is change, and it looks like Poolandspa.com and Dan Harrison are changing with the times to provide top quality service to their thousands of online customers nationwide.
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