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Webinar Recap: Proven Paths to Scaling Your Pool Service Business

June 11, 2024

Skimmer recently hosted a panel discussion aimed at helping pool pros get to the next level of growth. For this discussion, we brought together three experts, each with a proven track record of scaling businesses and successfully servicing hundreds of pools: 

  • Thomas Diaz, Founder of 365 Pools, serving Brevard County, Florida
  • Chantel Dooley, COO of Dazzle Pools, serving the Fountain Hills area, Arizona
  • Kyle Peter, Owner of Nevergreen Pools, serving the Sacramento area, California

During the webinar, our panelists shared their experiences in scaling beyond a single pole operation, covering:

  • Strategies for attracting, hiring, and retaining top talent
  • Innovative methods for customer acquisition and expanding your client base
  • Insights into crucial metrics and processes for sustaining and boosting profitability
  • Utilizing technology to enhance communication and operational efficiency
  • Finding direction and regaining momentum after setbacks

We’ve captured a few of the tips shared in the webinar in this article, so take a read for some snippets of advice from our panelists. We highly recommend watching the full webinar recording– our guests are awesome and have so many great tips to share, and it’s well worth your while to watch the whole session.

22 business growth tips for pool pros

1. Interview in person

Tommy Diaz spoke at length about the importance of an in-person interview to assess whether someone will be a good fit for a role. He says that in-person interviews require a different level of effort than Zoom or even telephone conferences. 

“ I can tell you that it takes a lot more investment on my part. But just having that face-to-face conversation has really helped me to select the folks that are gonna be a right fit for the organization,” says Tommy Diaz.

2. Run a trial period

Chantel Dooley of Dazzle Pools says that they run a short trial period for new staff. It’s a low-pressure ride-along to make sure new staff understand the job and that it’s a good fit.

“This job's not for everybody, and while it's not a hard job, it is very physical. It's very different from anything that's out there in the industry,” she says.

3. Grab a beer!

Okay, not really, but one thing that our panelists repeatedly mentioned was the importance of positivity and attitude in new hires. 

“The other thing my dad always told me is, if you wouldn't wanna sit down and have a beer with them, they're probably not gonna be a good fit for you the way that you run your company. Not saying that they have to be your best friend, but just you have to be able to get along with them. You have to feel comfortable enough to coach them when things need to be improved, and they have to be receptive to taking constructive feedback and coaching.” Chantel Dooley

4. Hold onto great techs by creating growth opportunities

Kyle Peter of Nevergreen Pools says that he loves scaling in this business because it lets him create job opportunities for great techs to grow into—whether in repairs, management, or other areas. 

“I hired someone overqualified 3 years ago. I knew I needed a general manager at some point. At that point, [the job] was just a service manager, but I built different tiers into this gentleman's offer letter. You hit these certain goals by this date, you make this much more money, and so on and so forth. And he's now our general manager and and running our business to allow me to focus on developing and growing the business. And you can do that with the pool cleaner. Just set up these tiers that they want to hit," says Kyle.

5. Create a fun, performance-driven company culture

Pool care is a tough industry, and one of the best ways to keep employees happy is to create a fun and supportive internal company culture. 

Kyle Peter says Nevergreen treats their Monday morning meetings like pep rallies to start the week off right. He also says that incentivizing A-players to perform is way more effective than yelling at C-players for underperforming. So they always look to promote good workers for solid performance. 

6. Grow your team while maintaining profitability

Kyle Peter ran our panel attendees through his approach to maintaining profitability and cash flow. He started by saying that solely relying on your P&L statements can be misleading and make your numbers look better than they actually are. Instead of just relying on spreadsheets, Kyle says he has 5 different bank accounts, one of which is an income account. All money goes in there, and once every two weeks, they divvy up that money into a profit account, reinvest account, operating expense account, or tax account

“That really gives me visibility into where my cash is, and that reinvestment account is the extra money to buy trucks and bring on staff early.”

7. Hit the pavement! 

The old-fashioned techniques are classics for a reason. Find a new subdivision that’s putting in pools and walk around with door hangers to get your company name and contact information out there.

8. Build your brand

Wrap your truck, get postcards, magnets and other swag with your logo and phone number. Get your logo and number out there and visible in the community.

9. Get on message boards

Social media like Nextdoor and Facebook have really active neighbourhood groups where people post questions and ask about services. If your customers are recommending you in these groups, make sure to thank them– ideally with some form of discounted service. 

10. Invest in Google

Kyle says Google is a beast but one well worth investing in. The catch, he says, is that you need to commit.

“You can't just put your big toe in the water because Google Ads work like auctions. And if you are not willing to be the highest bidder, which all happens behind the scenes, you're gonna just be wasting money and making the people who are willing to win pay more. And the only one that wins there is Google.”

He says that one way to avoid some of the complexity of working with Google Ads is to hire an agency to ensure that you’re spending your budget appropriately.

11. Get on Google Local Service Ads

Google’s Local Service Ads are the listings that show up with a green checkmark when you search “pool care near me.” These companies are vetted by Google, so authorization does require a bit of a lift, but it’s well worth it for the top placement on Google. 

12. Set up a chatbot on your site

Increasingly, customers are looking for alternative ways to reach out to businesses. Not everyone wants to pick up the phone or even email, so having live chat available on your site is a great way to capture folks who might not be interested in calling. 

Kyle says they’ve got a chatbot set up on their site that they’re looking into expanding with some AI functionality to quickly answer frequently asked questions so his team doesn’t need to spend time answering the same questions again and again.

13. Don’t base your price on what someone else is charging

Tommy Diaz pointed out that Florida (where his company is located) has the lowest price points for pool service in the US due to the competitive market. While 365 Pools isn’t doing a plus-chem pricing model yet, they’re moving in that direction to help mitigate some of the impact of the current economy and increase their profitability. They are currently one of the highest price points in their area, but Tommy doesn’t shy away from this. 

“You never want to base your price point on what somebody else is charging. What you need to do is base your price point on the value that you bring.”

He says one of the things that gives him confidence in his higher prices is the customer-centricity of how 365 Pools does business. Things like good communication and responsiveness make them feel like a big company and justify the higher prices in the customer’s eyes.

14. Use the 80/20 rule

Tommy references the 80/20 rule, which basically means that he aims to convert 80% of the business that comes to him. If he’s closer to 100%, he knows his prices are too low, so his advice is to keep raising prices until people don’t want to pay. This requires confidence in your value (and a strong ability to articulate that value in your sales process!). 

“Join groups and learn this industry like it's a trade. If you're just showing up– your truck isn't wrapped, you don't have a magnet, you’ve got no shirt, no shoes, and a straw hat– and you want them to believe that you're this upper price point, that's not gonna work. So you really need to learn about perceived value and what that means.”

15. Measure profitability accurately

All three of our guests talked about the importance of truly understanding profitability when you’re looking to scale.

A big part of this is understanding your average cost of labor per stop. Kyle cautions that your cost of labor per stop is more than just what your employee makes– it needs to cover things like washing the truck, mistakes, trips back to the shop, etc. You can add this to Skimmer along with your readings and dosages and use Skimmer’s profitability reports to see where your business is at.

“If you're not a nerd, that's plenty for you. But if you want to go to the next level, you can export that information and really do a deep dive on your true costs, and essentially understand your gross profit margin per pool per by customer or by service tech,” says Kyle.

He goes on to say that if you’re falling below your gross profit plan (what’s left over after you pay labor, chemicals and materials), you need to change your model by either reducing costs or increasing prices. 

Here’s Nevergreen’s breakdown of what happens to revenue every month:

  • 50% of revenue goes towards labor and chems.
  • 30-40% for overhead (truck maintenance, office admin etc).
  • This leaves you with 10-20% profit.
    • Of this profit, approximately half gets reinvested into the company, leaving ~5% taxable profit.
    • Set aside ~2% for taxes, which leaves ~2% to go into your pocket. 

16. Find your cost-per-job baseline

Related to the previous point, it’s important to understand your true cost-per-job. Chantel had an easy tip for those who are just beginning to understand profitability: 

Total up anything that costs you money that’s not reflected on your customer invoice– subscriptions to software like Skimmer, gas, etc– and divide it by the total number of pools you have. 

That's your average cost to get the job done. It’s not going to be accurate to the penny, but it’s a simple baseline to help you understand your true profit margin.

Chantel cautions that many pros assume their profit margin is higher than it is and forget to account for things like credit card fees and taxes, which can really cut into profits. 

“You have to be conscientious of where you wanna be. If you're just doing this job because you need something to do to get you out of the house, you like being in the sun, you're not trying to make money– you do you. But if you trying to get beyond a single pole, then you've got to take the time, watch some YouTube videos and actually put a pencil to paper and figure out where you wanna be and how you are going to get there…This is a career field. This is a trade. And if we don't treat it like one, then we're never going to be compensated as one.” -Chantel Dooley

17. Use repair techs for additional quality control

One way to ensure your folks in the field are performing up to your standards (especially if they’re new) is to get more experienced repair techs to do quality control in between jobs. Chantel says they do exactly this using Skimmer work orders.

If a repair tech finishes a job earlier than expected, they can check on new techs on their routes to ensure their chemical readings and dosages were correct and the pools were clean, with nothing left on the bottom or in the basket.

“The customers love it because they know that we care. We're building our reputation, and we're building that level of trust with our customers,” she says.

18. Use work orders so nothing falls through the cracks

Systems like Skimmer are great because they let you build templates so you’re not repeating work all the time. In our panel discussion, Kyle Peter mentioned how Nevergreen uses Skimmer work orders to create SOPs for the different kinds of work they do: 

“We have tons of work orders. Our service quote work order has a template of all the things we need to check for and build pricing for. We have heater install work orders which list all of the inches of water column needed for the 3 brands of heaters we install.”

19. Build “custom” maintenance plans using checklists

Skimmer also lets customers build checklists for route stops, which Nevergreen has started using as custom maintenance plans for customers. These checklists list any unique features of the pool (for example, a waterfall that’s prone to algae) as well as service notes for everything so that even if there’s a substitute tech one week, they know exactly what to do.

20. Set business hours for yourself

Our panelists spoke at length about the challenge of running a business and still having a life. Tommy Diaz says that setting up a website and an email is so important when you’re a small company looking to scale because it a) gives the impression of professionalism and b) helps you operate like a larger company. A website, monitored email, and some kind of voice over IP system will help you set business hours for yourself so you’re not responding to calls and texts at all hours, and can maintain a work-life balance.

21. Use technology to make your life easier

Our panelists mentioned a number of tools and services that they’re using across their businesses to organize, automate and scale. Check out the list below.

Apple Business Manager: Apple Business Manager is a web-based portal for IT administrators to manage Apple devices, apps, and accounts within an organization. It provides a streamlined way to deploy and manage Apple products in business environments.

Broadly: Broadly provides customer engagement and review management solutions for local businesses. Their platform helps businesses improve their online reputation, manage customer interactions, and increase reviews.

Calendly: Calendly is a scheduling automation platform that helps individuals and businesses streamline meeting scheduling. It integrates with various calendar systems and is designed to eliminate the back-and-forth of scheduling meetings.

Dope Marketing: Dope Marketing specializes in helping agencies automate laser-focused direct mail for their clients. Using their open API, Zapier integration, and direct CRM connections, they offer automated direct mail solutions with no minimum orders, ensuring targeted and efficient marketing campaigns. The company is led by Dave Carroll and is based in Minneapolis.

GoCanvas: GoCanvas provides mobile forms and workflow solutions for businesses, enabling them to replace paperwork with digital forms that can be completed on mobile devices. Their platform helps businesses collect and analyze data more efficiently.

Google Workforce: Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) provides a suite of productivity and collaboration tools, including Gmail, Docs, Drive, and Calendar. It is designed to help businesses work more efficiently and collaboratively in the cloud.

Mosyle: Mosyle offers mobile device management (MDM) solutions for Apple devices in education and enterprise settings. Their platform helps organizations manage, secure, and deploy Apple devices efficiently.

OpenPhone: OpenPhone provides a modern business phone platform for startups and small businesses. It offers features like call forwarding, texting, and voicemail transcription, integrating seamlessly with other business tools.

QuickBooks: QuickBooks by Intuit offers accounting software solutions for small to medium-sized businesses. Their tools help with invoicing, payroll, expense tracking, and financial reporting.

RingCentral: RingCentral offers a cloud-based communications platform for businesses, including messaging, video conferencing, and phone services. Their solutions are designed to enhance business communication and collaboration.

Ruby: Ruby offers virtual receptionist and live chat services to help businesses provide excellent customer service and capture leads. Their team of receptionists handle calls and chats, ensuring businesses never miss an opportunity to connect with customers.

SearchKings: SearchKings provides digital advertising services, specializing in Google Ads, Bing Ads, and SEO. They help businesses maximize their online presence and drive measurable results through targeted advertising campaigns.

Skimmer: Skimmer is America’s #1 pool service software. We’re on a mission to modernize the pool and spa service and repair industry through easy-to-use software and best-in-class support. Over 27,000 pool service professionals servicing 700,000 pools in North America use Skimmer to get organized, get paid faster, and grow their businesses.

22. Join the Skimmer community! 

Skimmer recently launched The Pool Deck, an online community designed to pool pros connect, collaborate and grow. The purpose of this new community is to bring together pool service professionals (both Skimmer customers and non) and experts in marketing, human resources, finance, water chemistry, pool service training and more to share advice, exchange ideas, and support one another on their professional journeys. 

“Lean into the skimmer community. It's a whole bunch of really great people, and we're all trying to do the same thing. So listen and learn, and always be willing to grow.” -Chantel Dooley

Whether you’re a Skimmer customer or not, you can benefit from the community discussions in the Pool Deck (and yes, it’s totally free to join). 

We recommend checking out the post about this webinar– you can watch the recording and participate in the discussion. Pros are already sharing additional tips, tricks and questions for other pros and our community experts to answer. 

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