Mike Varozza | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Mike Varozza


Austin-based  Waterloo Swimming offers full service swim programs – from learn to swim classes for all ages, fitness and competitive swim team. Waterloo's Swim Team is ranked as one of the top in Central Texas. 

The Mistake:

We were not listening closely enough to our customers.

When we opened in 2010, one of the programs we had was called kid fitness. We also had a teen version. Both were held four days a week.  The program was initially set up as a summer league practice for kids who couldn’t make other practices. Our thought behind that was that we were priced competitively below one of our competitors for another four-day program. Also, we thought the program gave customers the flexibility to come whatever four days they wanted as opposed to “forcing” them to come only on Mondays and Wednesdays or Tuesdays and Thursdays.

When we moved from our summer-only program to an indoor year-round facility, we had minimal response for the program.  Enrollment was just low. Parents told us that with their busy schedules, they didn’t feel like having a four-day option was necessarily valuable and that they would prefer a two-day program. But initially, we thought if we changed the format, we’d lose money and wouldn’t be providing as flexible of a schedule for our customers.

After continuing to have minimal response, though, we decided to actually sit down with a group of customers last summer and walk them through the idea of changing the program from four days a week to two. We also measured the number of times they were actually attending, and realized 50 percent were only coming twice a week anyway. The other 50 percent were coming less than that.

It was at this point that we realized we needed to make a change.

We learned the valuable lesson of always listening to your customers because they’ll give you ways to enhance your business.

The Lesson:

Last September, we introduced one-day or two-day program options and reduced the price by about 30 percent less than the cost of the four-day programs. We finally heard the parents. They liked having more structure. As a result, we tripled the number of customers in our program.

This business decision was based purely on actually listening to our customers and seeing the actual business metrics of who were in attendance of the old program. We also re-branded the name of the class to SwimFit. We were basically offering the same number of classes as they were attending at a better price for them, and at a set schedule – which they preferred. We, in turn, got more customers. And there were more kids involved in swimming and fitness than the year prior.

We learned the valuable lesson of always listening to your customers because they’ll give you ways to enhance your business. In the future, if something is not working quite right, we’ll be sure to ask our customers again. It’s not rocket science. But as a business owner, sometimes you think, “I know, I know.” But it’s really the customers that have the best answers.


Follow Waterloo Swimming on Twitter at @WaterlooSwimmin.

Pictured is Mike Varozza | Photo courtesy of Waterloo Swimming.

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