Profile of Success: Keeping His Head Above Water
This month we spoke with John Doheny, CEO of Doheny’s Water Warehouse, the catalog/multichannel pool supplies business his parents started 42 years ago.
Catalog Success: How did you get started in the catalog/multichannel business?
John Doheny: The company started as a wholesale distributor of pool supplies in the Midwest market. In 1979, my dad came across a list of swimming pool homeowners, and the idea of delivering pool supplies directly to homeowners’ doors via a catalog was hatched. My parents gambled everything they had and mailed out our first catalog in 1980. I purchased the business from them 12 years ago. At that time, we did just under $10 million a year in sales.
CS: What’s the best thing about working for Doheny’s Water Warehouse?
JD: In today’s environment, having a debt-free business with a strong balance sheet and good profit margins allows us great flexibility. We’ve always run the business with a very strong spirit of growth along with financial discipline. I have good friends that took advantage of the credit markets and leveraged their businesses up with acquisitions and expansions. Today, that model doesn’t seem to be working, regardless of size. The cost of leverage is high and, in many cases, threatening the survival of some very good companies. Bigger isn’t always better. That seems to be the important lesson learned from the current crisis.
CS: Where do you see yourself and your company in three to five years?
JD: In the past, our goals have been to double our business every three to five years. However, the economic uncertainty has affected our customers and supply channels like we’ve never seen before. Overall, we’re well-positioned to weather this storm and have the opportunity to grab market share, though the size of our industry pie could change. The bottom line is, we need to continue to stay focused on the basics, be sharper than ever before and do everything possible to keep our heads above water.