Would-be Wall Street-types running your snack bar? Seniors on your lifeguard stands? Operators must be willing to consider some seemingly strange changes to survive in this new economy, according to Jeff Ellis, CEO of Jeff Ellis & Associates in Ocoee, Fla.

In terms of staffing, operators hiring for summer 2009 may indeed find a number of atypical candidates for lifeguarding positions. "There seems to be a significant number of older people registering for our classes. This is an indication that people out of work are considering lifeguarding to make ends meet," Ellis notes. "It's too early to say if this is a trend, but it appears that's what happening."

A large pool of older lifeguards would likely bring a new level of maturity to the profession, but it also means fewer opportunities for students Ellis says. And with fewer young rookies, when the older guards move back into full-time positions or retirement, the industry could face a shortage of qualified candidates.

Ultimately, Ellis says the key is flexibility. With funding from tax revenues shrinking, he suggests operators work to secure a Plan B, and strategize to develop new sources of funding.

"Many people may take for granted that business will always be there," he says. "Decision-makers in aquatics need to revise strategies to take into account surprises and realize how the seemingly abstract global financial markets can trickle down and affect the day-to-day."