As we have seen in our previous blog, the Watkins brothers approached the hot tub business a little bit differently from many of their competitors. The brother’s tradition of challenging themselves to produce a truly world-class product resulted in such revolutionary ideas as producing a shell that didn’t contain fibreglass, which due to its brittle nature, might crack or even delaminate. The brothers also made the world’s first hot tub cover, and unlike other tubs at the time, placed all the components within the cabinet, which made it like a giant thermos bottle, and which not only gave the tubs true portability, but made them easily the most efficient on the market. Over the years, they added other cutting-edge features, such as customizable massage jets, and 24-hour silent filtration. Perhaps most important of all, at every step they built the company and brand awareness through a series of remarkable interpersonal relationships.
A passion for music…
Jeff Watkins belonged to a barbershop quartet, where he sang alongside Tom Neal. After some time spent sharing a passion for music, Jeff learned that Tom was an account executive for one of the largest advertising agencies in New York, and was then working in the same capacity with one of the world’s largest manufacturers of store fixtures.
Jeff invited Tom over to the brother’s workshop, which was then literally nothing more than a two-man operation. Tom saw an immediate and obvious potential. When he agreed to join the duo, Tom added a vital sales ingredient to the Watkins mix. Indeed, so passionate was Tom about HotSpring, he and his wife set out on a six month cross country tour of America with a HotSpring sample tub attached to the back of their motor home!
Tom had every reason to feel passionate about the product. Every HotSpring tub he sold was rigorously tested, including water testing and air pressure testing: vital procedures that remain in place to this day. As sales increased and the company grew, the Watkins brothers and Tom realised that although they exemplified the entrepreneurial spirit, they lacked operational and administrative skills required. They took on Don Brockley, a work colleague and friend of Tom’s, to run the operation, which now included an assembly line to alleviate the physical demands of pulling and pushing tubs around their plant.
The family ethos
A remarkable caring, family ethos remained with the Watkins brothers as the company expanded. Throughout his career, for example, John Watkins worked side-by-side with everyone else in the plant. Dressed casually in corduroy trousers, a tee shirt and tennis shoes, he avoided business suits and plush offices filled with designer furniture, was very much a leader by example. This philosophy extended to every aspect of the company: even when their turnover was millions of dollars, John and Jeff still knew every employee’s name. They encouraged these employees to take real pride in their work, and everyone took personal responsibility for maintaining the highest standards of quality control.
This outstanding level of personal and professional care, hallmarks of the Watkins Corporation, continue to this day. Jon and Jeff’s spirit lives on: and 35 years after the remarkable brothers began their business venture, we are delighted to report that HotSpring remains the most successful hot tub company on the planet.