My First Job: Lessons learned as a lifeguard help this entrepreneur stay afloat | Crain's Boston

My First Job: Lessons learned as a lifeguard help this entrepreneur stay afloat

Megan Smyth co-founded FitReserve to help customers juggle their various gym memberships and boutique fitness classes. The exercise membership plan just launched in Washington, D.C., expanding from New York and Boston.

My first paying job was as a lifeguard at the Troy Country Club in Upstate New York. You think of lifeguarding as a leisurely job, but there was a lot more to it—everything from training to management and operations. And it taught me a lot about client relations.

We were responsible for closing and opening the pool, testing chlorine, cleaning the pool, cleaning the locker rooms, and we had to discipline the kids when they weren't behaving by the pool rules. But at the same time you had to make sure to keep the parents and members happy, which is always a delicate balance. I worked on a team with five other lifeguards and we had to work together to make sure everything was running smoothly, coordinate shifts and train new staff members. I also taught swimming lessons to little kids, which taught me a lot about patience and how to explain things at this simplest level.

Luckily there weren't any major incidents, but I did make one save when a little boy who didn't yet know how to swim slipped into the pool when his mom wasn't looking. That taught me to stay vigilant because you never know what will happen.

I was motivated. I got certified and did hours of CPR training. I really enjoyed it, and I stuck with it for three years. It was a fun job but it was the first time I really had a boss to report to and was kind of given the authority to discipline other people, as well as that responsibility of watching over other people.

I did learn a lot from it about managing people and working under different people. I learned it's important to give feedback in a positive way so you foster a relationship. So when there were kids who were acting up, running around the pool, we'd have to talk to the kids but also to the parents. That carries on in my job today when you have a client or team member with whom you have to have difficult conversations.

These are long-term relationships, so you have to know what tone to take. These are people that we were seeing every day so you have to make sure that you leave everything on a positive note. At the end of the day we were working for all of the members of the club, so customer satisfaction was extremely important. It's the same today at FitReserve: customer service and keeping people is something you need to focus on for all your career. 

May 16, 2017 - 5:48pm