“Some like the shallow end, but not us” – How Great Plains Supply/Pool & Spa Products is harnessing the power of relationships to find success in a challenging environment

October 20, 2020

Multi-generational small businesses are the backbone of America, and Great Plains Supply/Pool & Spa Products is an excellent example of how successful family-owned small businesses can still thrive today. Owner Susan Ahn says it’s all about the relationships, and you can hear her passion for her business and her clients when you talk with her.  

“Once the chlorine gets in your blood, you can’t get it out,” Susan laughs. Susan’s father, Steve Reiff, started the business in 1984, and Susan joined the team after college. In 1992, Great Plains Supply joined forces with Jay Patterson at Pool & Spa Products in Houston, and the two businesses have been operating in tandem in Lenexa and Houston since then. Now it’s on to the next generation with Susan and business partner, Blake Patterson (Jay’s son), at the helm.  

Great Plains Supply is a supply house to the swimming pool and spa trade, and Susan has worked in every aspect of the business, learning how each facet works from top to bottom. She says knowing the diversity of the business, along with the relationships she’s created is what makes it fun. They still have clients today from when her father started the business, which shows just how important quality relationships are to Susan. 

It’s about finding the right lifeguard 

For over 35 years, Great Plains Supply has grown and evolved to suit the needs of the industry by staying on top of the latest trends and technology and in addition, being proactive as online sales have increased. COVID-19 has been one of the major challenges they’ve faced as it’s been difficult to secure product, keep people healthy, and keep the business going. But part of weathering the current storms is having an accountant you can trust at your side.  

“Working with Goering & Granatino has made all the difference in my business,” Susan says. “I sleep better at night knowing they are looking out for us.” Susan values knowing their books are clean and accurate so she can make timely decisions, which is critical in the current environment. Thanks to GGCPA, Great Plains Supply and Pool & Spa Products were able to secure a Paycheck Protection Program loan worth over $250,000 to cover payroll during the uncertain times the pandemic has created.  

Susan also greatly values the advisory opportunities“Amber’s team has helped us better understand both what’s happening within our business and within our business environment,” she said. For example: Athe business has grown and tax landscapes have changed, GGCPA was able to identify an opportunity for Great Plains Supply and Pool & Spa Products to save $30,000 annually on taxes by switching to a different entity structure.   

Additionally, Susan has found that delegation has been a game-changer for her as a business owner, and delegating the significant task of bookkeeping to GGCPA has taken a lot off her plate. She finds great comfort in knowing her financials are in good hands so she can focus on the big picture. Susan and GGCPA meet monthly to discuss ongoing metrics, targets and how to best optimize cash flow. 

“We truly believe our accounting team at GGCPA cares about us as clients and people. I like to say the smartest thing I did was to become a client.” 

Relationships are worth the deep dive 

Susan emphasizes that Great Plains Supply’s company culture is based on a philosophy of collaboration both internally and externally. “We work hard, and we get along. Everything we do is for the betterment of the company and our customers.” 

The most important thing Susan has learned, she says, is that focusing on the people, the relationships, and taking care of each other – that’s good business. “Our job is to solve someone else’s problems by having the right product on the shelf, sharing new ideas and products, or sharing business tips. We believe in having a partnership with our customers, so we are all growing together and supporting our industry.”   

Working with GGCPA has allowed Susan to focus on strategies that make Great Plains Supply better each day, setting them up for long-term success and potentially transitioning to the next generation. As Susan says, “I hope to have a business that someday my son will be interested in taking over.” 

Just for Fun 

What makes you happy? – Chocolate and nice people! 

Favorite Band – Cake 

Favorite Movie – The Sound of Music 

How do you stay organized? – I have two things I do consistently: one is to clean up my office space weekly and make sure it’s picture perfect. I don’t want to be embarrassed to send a photo of my office to a friend. The other is to keep my calendar on all my devices so I can always see what the next thing is.  

Susan and her husband, a professional cellist, have been married for 20 years. They have two sons and live in a suburb of Kansas City.