How to Start and Run a Pool Service Business

VasserPro©

CONTENTS
Introduction Chapter 1: Start a new business Chapter 2: Finance a new business Chapter 3: Identify the services you will offer Chapter 4: How to run your new pool service business

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Published by VasserPro, the international pool service software experts 3317 S. Higley Road, Suite 114-219, Gilbert, AZ 85295 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright holders and publishers. However, we hope that the contents of this publication will inspire you and help you start and run a successful pool service business.

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Introduction

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tarting any new business is exciting and challenging. But whatever you decide to do, you need both knowledge and integrated systems that will help you to succeed. If you are keen to start a business servicing the pool industry, you are going to need to learn about the industry, and then identify which areas of the industry you can become involved in. There are various options ranging from simply cleaning people's swimming pools and spas, to maintaining equipment (like pumps, filters and heaters), renovating old, tired pools, and even designing and building new pools. In this ebook I am going to discuss the basic principles you need to know before you s tart a new pool service business. I am going to start out by giving you advice relating to choosing a business name and deciding on a suitable structure for your business. I will help you to understand the important legalities, including licenses and permits, bylaws, zoning and insurance implications. I will talk about finance, which is always a vital element when people launch new businesses. I will discuss business plans and give you some invaluable information about business software that will help you to succeed in your new venture. I will identify the most successful services that pool industry experts focus on, and help you model your new business. These services include straightforward maintenance and cleaning as well as openings and closings, which are so important in the northern hemisphere. I will also discuss the kinds of repairs that a pool service company might tackle as well as the implications of including pool construction and remodeling in the service that you offer. It is often a good idea to start small and then expand your services, as you gain experience. This is partly because you need experience and expertise to run a good, reliable service business. But it will also give you a chance to feel your way. Last of all I am going to share some personal marketing experiences with you that will help you to succeed beyond your wildest expectations. I am excited about my achievements, and I am sincere about wanting to share them with you. I will also give you some insight into how our pool service software can help you both launch and run a successful pool service business. Enjoy,

Chad Crandall
President, Founder VasserPro

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Start a new business

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ight, you have decided to become your own boss. Congratulations! Now what? Nowadays more and more people are starting their own businesses, but for your business to be successful, there are some very important things you should know about. These include various important business principles that will help you set up your new business and then run it successfully. First and foremost you need to be sure there will be a market for your new business. If you are sure the idea is feasible, then you can choose a name for your business and decide on the type of business structure that is best for you. But before you launch the business, you need to do some more work to be sure the business will be viable. Many new small businesses are successful and make a lot of money, but many more close down within the first five years of operation. If you aren't going to be able to maintain the business over time, there's no point in launching it. So I'm going to help you get it right from the beginning.

Clarify your business idea and identify your market
You have decided to start a new business in the swimming pool service industry. But exactly what services will you offer? Before you make a final decision, find out what other pool service businesses already operate in your area. What services do they offer? How can you offer a different or better service to theirs? You need to be sure that there is a need for your new business. So do some market research and talk to potential customers. Ask if they need the products or services you want to offer, and find out whether they will be willing to pay the rates you plan to charge. The caliber of customer who supports your new business will determine the type of swimming pools and spas you will be servicing. They will also determine the rates that you will be able to charge.

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Whatever market research you do, be careful not to try and prove to yourself that the business will work – just because this is what you want to do. It is essential to be completely objective and to take everything possible into account, whether it is good or bad. It is for this reason that people often do a SWOT analysis to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses, as well as the opportunities and possible threats that will either make their new business succeed or fail.

SWOT Analysis
A SWOT analysis will help you ascertain whether you have what it takes to start and run your own pool service business. Here are some questions you can ask yourself. Just be sure that they are genuine strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that relate to you. If you answer 'yes' to questions, this is a strength while 'no' indicates it a weakness. The same applies to opportunities versus threats. STRENGTHS and WEAKNESSES Do you have access to sufficient finances to set up a new business? Do you have the expertise and skills required? Do you have marketing skills to let people know about your business? Do you have good management skills? Are you responsible, reliable and trustworthy? Will you put time and energy into the business even if it means working long hours? Are you determined to make the business work no matter what it takes? OPPORTUNITIES and THREATS Is there a gap in the market with little competition? Are there new products you can market? Do you know people (family or friends) who can help you set up the business? If you have more weakness and threats than strengths and opportunities, you are going to have to work tremendously hard, and be very determined to succeed.

Choose a business structure
Regardless of what services you decide to offer, you need to choose a business structure that will work for you. There are three basic options that you can choose to:    operate on your own, as a sole proprietor, form a partnership and work with one or more other people, or establish a company or corporation.

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Sole proprietor
This is by the far the simplest and cheapest type of business to establish and run. But what it means is that you and the business are one entity in terms of the law, so if anything goes wrong, you will be responsible for debts and liabilities. On the other hand, you get to make all the decisions and take all the profits from the business, which you will then record on your personal income tax statement. Being a sole proprietor or sole trader doesn't mean that you have to work all on your own. You can still hire people to work with you. It also doesn't stop you from having a separate name for your business. In fact in most parts of America and Canada, you have to register a "fictitious" business name that does not include your surname or, in the case of a partnership, your partners' names.

Partnership
Partnerships work best when the people involved in them all have complementary skills and expertise. Like sole proprietorships, they also have low start-up costs, but instead of being the only person responsible for the business, you share responsibilities with your partner or partners. The advantages and disadvantages are much the same, and you will all reflect personal earnings on personal income tax statements. Just remember that if a business that is in a partnership fails, usually all partners will be "jointly and severally" liable for debts or legal action taken against the business. For this reason it is essential to get both legal and financial advice and have an explicit partnership agreement drawn up before you start operating.

Companies and corporations
Companies and corporations are the most formal and regimented type of businesses, and they are the most expensive to set up. But liabilities are limited to whatever investment people have in the company. Again you will need professional assistance setting up.

Choose a name and identity for your business
It’s very important to have a name for your business so that people know what you do. Most people also like to have a logo that is the official sign of the business. A logo is a symbol that uses pictures, words or both, and it helps people to recognize and identify a business. For example, think about well-known businesses like, Nike and Coca Cola. The Nike logo is a simple tick, but every time you see this tick you immediately know you are looking at a Nike product. The Coca Cola logo is just words, but when you see the logo on a bottle or on a can you immediately know what kind of drink you are buying, and what to expect.

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You will need to decide on a name for your business before you decide on a logo. Then you can write a mission statement that tells people in short, what your aims and aspirations are.

A name and a logo
If you don't know where to start, have a look at the names and logos that other swimming pool and pool service companies have. Also look at the logos that the leaders in the industry use. If you go to the VasserPro web site – http://www.vasserpro.com – you will see not only our logo, but also the logos used by ipssa (The Independent Pool & Spa Service Association inc.), the National Swimming Pool Foundation, APSP (The Association of Spa and Pool Professionals, which was previously the American NSPI), and FSPA (the Florida Swimming Pool Association). VasserPro offers pool service software to help pool service businesses operate successfully. The company's logo features simplistic blue waves that clearly indicate the idea of water. When you think of your business name, try to think of something that tells the story of what you will do. Also try to think of a name that people will remember. A logo can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. But like the name, it should be something that people will remember. Also, you need to choose a logo that can easily be used on letterheads and business cards, on a web site and possibly also for signage. While bright, colorful logos look pretty and can be dramatically attractive, printing in color is expensive. If you don't have any creative ability, you can easily find talented people to create a logo for you, for example at freelance web sites like http://www.elance.com and http://logo.designcrowd.com.

Understand the legalities
Unfortunately there is always some red tape when you set up a new business, and you will need to check exactly what licenses, permits and other paperwork has to be done. Remember that requirements do differ from state to state, and within different countries. It is your responsibility to check with your local or provincial authorities to see what is needed.

Bylaws and zoning
You need to find a home for your new business before you can start to operate. If you are going to sell goods, then you will probably want a location that attracts passing trade. Even if you aren't going to be selling products, you may still have customers who want to meet you at your place of

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business. You will also need to have somewhere to store your tools and equipment. Many people who start new small businesses decide to work from home at first. This is fine if you aren't going to trade from your office. But some jurisdictions have restrictions on what type of business you can run from home and how many employees you can have. You might also need a special permit to operate from home.

Licenses and permits
Generally the bigger the business, the more licenses and permits you will need. You can get guidance and advice from your state, provincial or local authority, or you can consult an accountant and/or a lawyer. Just remember that ignorance is not acceptable in law. If you don't have the necessary licenses and permits, you may be fined or charged in a court of law. These are some of the licenses and permits you might need:         A business license that allows you to run a business. These are usually renewable annually. A permit to allow you to run a business from home. A "fictitious" business name that has to be registered with the authorities. A vehicle permit for commercial vehicles. A contractor's license, depending of course on the services you decide to offer. Unlike business and other licenses, these are based on expertise, to ensure you are competent. Tax registration. This varies from state to state, and even within different states in the US. But wherever you live in the world, there will be some sort of taxation you will have to comply with. In the US you may need to pay federal tax registration, depending on the business structure you choose, and whether you decide to employ people. Check at http://www.irs.gov. If you do decide to hire people, you will be responsible for withholding a certain percentage of money that gets paid to the government. If you have employees working for you, you will also need to be registered for workmen's compensation, just in case something happens to them while they are on the job.

Insurance
A pool service business will inevitably involve working on other people's properties. You will need vehicles to get there and equipment to do the work. Here are some types of insurance you should consider:   Life insurance is something most people consider. If you are the bread winner and something happens to you, it will give your family a financial support system if something happens to you. Personal disability insurance will help if you are the only person in the business and you get sick or have an accident and can't work for a while.

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Vehicle insurance will cover whatever vehicles you need to use. Just be sure to include the names of any employees who will drive the vehicles, and check whether the contents of the vehicle will be covered if it is stolen. Equipment insurance can be a lifesaver if you have expensive items and they are stolen. Make sure you know whether the equipment is covered in storage and on the job. Home office insurance is similar to regular household insurance but it will cover items in your home office if they are stolen or damaged. Liability insurance will cover damage to property and injury to people who don't work for you when you are working.

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Finance your new business

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tarting a new business takes money. There's no getting away from it. So before you go any further, let's see how you can establish just how much money you need, and where you can get it from. Most of us wish we had enough money to start a new business without borrowing, but the reality is that very often we are forced to borrow money to be able to make it work. To establish how much you need, it's a good idea to do a comprehensive business plan that tracks potential profit and loss. This will also show you when you are likely to break even and start making money.

Where to find money
People often say it takes money to make money. While you can certainly make a living, and even run a small business without a huge amount of finance, having money to buy tools, equipment, office furniture, chemicals, and so on will make it a lot easier to get started. If you have to rely on the money you get in from each consecutive job it's likely to take a lot longer to get established. By the same token, the best advice when it comes to borrowing money is to only borrow what you need … and only when you need it.

You won't get pool water looking clean, clear and healthy unless you have the chemicals and equipment to work with.

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Friends and family
Although not generally a good idea, many people do borrow money from friends and family to start new businesses. But the best way to ruin a friendship or good family relationship is to borrow money you can't pay back. Even though you know the person well, put everything in writing, including the terms of repayment.

Banks
Banks have various options when it comes to borrowing money. If you have a home loan or bond on your property, this is probably the cheapest form of finance you will find (unless of course friends or family don’t charge you any interest on a loan). Borrowing via an overdraft is usually the most expensive option. A personal loan from a bank is often a good option, but make sure you can afford the interest repayments. Chances are you won’t get a loan of this type if you can't prove that you can repay the necessary monthly amount. Business loans are another option, but banks are usually much stricter in terms of security and collateral. It is often a lot easier to secure a personal loan, particularly if you have chosen a business option that gives you personal protection. Remember that banks lend money as a business, not because they simply think a business idea will succeed. They want to make money out of you and your business.

Government and quasi-government agencies
There are various government agencies worldwide that will lend new businesses money to get them started. Generally they are easier to borrow money from than banks, but you will need similar paperwork, including a well prepared business plan. If you live in the USA have a look at the Small Business Administration website at http://www.sba.gov, and if you live in Canada investigate the Business Development Bank of Canada. Their website is at http://www.bdc.ca.

A business plan
Not everybody draws up a business plan before they start a new business, but a good business plan will show you – and anyone who you need assistance from – exactly how you plan to start and then

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successful run your business. A business plan is particularly important if you are planning to borrow money, regardless of who you are going to approach. So what exactly is a business plan? Simplistically it is a written document that sets out everything about you, your proposed business and how you will start and run it. If somebody who knows nothing about you or your proposed business reads your business plan, they will understand immediately what the business is all about. A business plan needs to explain explicitly: 1. the products and/or services your business offers, 2. how the business will work and make money, 3. how the business will be run, 4. that there is a market for your business, 5. how you will let people know about the business, 6. who will work in the business, and 7. where money will come from to run your business – or, alternatively where you are hoping or planning you will get the necessary finances from. Usually a business plan will look at how the business will operate over a period of between one and five years and it will show how much money the business hopes to make during this time. People like bank managers, possible partners and accountants will usually want to see a written business plan before they will agree to lend you money or get involved with your business. But a business plan is more than just a written report. A business plan is a process that starts with an idea and then develops until you have a detailed plan of action. A well thought out business plan will help you develop your business and work out every aspect of the business. Once you’ve finished your business plan and got the business up and running, you should be able to work according to the business plan, and use it as a guide to keep you on track with your future plans. By stating clear goals in your business plan you will be able to measure you potential success and make any necessarily changes as you go along. There are many ways to organize a business plan, but for a visual presentation you must be sure to have:  A good cover page that includes your business name and logo, as well as contact details that show where you will operate from.

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A summary of the business that explains in some detail what the business will do. A marketing plan that shows how you will advertise and publicize the business and so grow the business. A sound management and operating plan. A realistic financial plan.

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The financial plan is vital and must include a profit and loss statement, a current balance sheet and cash flow projections.

The importance of cash flow
Cash flow is essential to the survival of any business. Yet it is one of the most overlooked aspects of business planning. Even though you may have worked out what your revenue and expenses are going to be, it is even more important to know when you will receive your money – and when you will have to pay it out to cover your expenses. A typical scenario for someone who doesn't pay attention to cash flow could be identified after a busy summer season or at the end of fall when everyone wanted their pools closed for winter. The money flows in and there seems to be a lot of extra disposable income. Then business slows down and so does the money. If you analyze your cash flow in advance, you will know how important it is to hang on to some of the money earned in mid-summer or just before winter sets in. Good computer software can be a great help when it comes to analyzing cash flow, because you can feed in certain information – for instance estimated receipts and estimated expenditure, and also total expenditure. Then you get a cash flow projection at the press of a button. It couldn't be easier, but it can spell the difference between success and failure.

A financial plan for your business

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Money makes the world go around, and if you don't have enough money to run your business, sure as nuts it is going to fail. I have already said that money makes money, but there is also a lot to be said for good accountancy. If you manage your money well, then whatever you have should multiply. When people do viability studies to see if their businesses are likely to succeed and make profits, they look at expected costs and probable profits. They also look at projected possibilities in terms of both the strengths and weaknesses of the business, as well as things like assessing market share. Often people try to make a business plan – and indeed an operating plan – work by cutting selling costs. This doesn't always work because people don't always rely on price to make choices. If you can prove that your products and services are good, people will usually stick with you if your prices are reasonable and market related. Once people are happy with a product or service, they often continue to use that product or service even if another cheaper product or service becomes available. And if you can show people that you are able to offer something that is better as well as being cheaper, even loyal customers who currently support a competitor may try your new product or service. BUT – and this is a big one, you do need to run the business profitably. For example, you need to track costs and expenditure and identify which customers are profitable. If a customer is costing you money, you either need to put their prices up or fire them as a customer. This might sound odd, but it can happen. For example you might offer an introductory special which includes discounts which eventually end up being losses for you. So watch this carefully. One of the best ways to keep track of costs, expenditure, profits and all the rest is to use a good business software package. Then all you do is feed in the information regularly and your computer will do the rest. No guesswork required!

Can you imagine doing a profitable job keeping beautiful pools looking beautiful?

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Identify the services you will offer

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ave you identified exactly what kind of pool services you are going to offer? There are two primary ways you can decide on the services you are going to offer. First of all decide what you WANT to do. Secondly, decide what will make you and your new business the most profit.

In an ideal world you will want to balance the two so that you make a good living and have fun doing it. Generally people who don't like what they are doing don't succeed. And people who don't make money usually give up!

Is this the type of pool you would like to service?

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Regular maintenance
Pool owners need to maintain their swimming pools as well as the water that is in their pools. It isn’t a very difficult task, but a large number of people find they don’t have the time to do it regularly. They are also careless and often use either incorrect chemicals or wrong proportions. When they get it wrong, and their pools don't stay clean, clear and healthy, they usually look to professional pool care companies to help them. This is where a good pool service company can help. So – if this is what you are going to do, handling regular pool and spa maintenance is a good place to start. If you get the basics right, you will already be on the way to success.

Openings and closings
For anyone who lives in the northern hemisphere and wants to get into the pool service industry, pool openings in spring, and pool closings in fall, will always bring in the bucks. Many pool owners think they can do it on their own – until they do it wrong. And this happens surprisingly often. As a pool service specialist, you can either advise your clients how to do it correctly, or you can do it for them. Either way, you can charge for your services.

Repairs
Pool maintenance jobs vary from water maintenance to fixing up bad problems like cracks or sinking copings and leaks. Then there are simpler repairs like replacing pool light fittings or skimmer boxes. You need to decide exactly what you are going to do and whether repairs should be a part of your portfolio. Some pool service companies do undertake renovations and major repairs, but you will need the skills and expertise to be able to do this.

Pool product sales
Many pool service specialists operate out of shops where they sell pool products to pool and spa owners. These range from everything needed to maintain the quality of pool water, to pumps, filters, chlorinators and heaters, even safety nets and solar pool covers. Some also sell pool fittings and kits for DIY installations and repairs. Most pool shop owners also offer professional advice and will analyze pool water for their customers, to make sure it is balanced. While pool owners can of course do their own water analysis with a pool test kit, if you can offer a computerized water service, you'll easily improve on the test kit. When pool water

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isn't properly balanced, you will tell them what to do to get it back into shape – and see them the products too. Of course those pool service specialists who have shops often offer on-site services as well. Some install spas in their shops so that customers can see what different spa models look like in use. Some specialize in spas, stocking a good range of spa chemicals and offering an installation service too.

Pool construction and remodeling
Before you include pool construction and remodeling in your job description, you need to be sure that you have the skills and expertise to do the work. If you don't, you will have to either employ skilled people to work for you, or outsource the work. This approach is quite acceptable, but it can quickly push up the price that you will have to charge for the work to make a profit.

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How to run your new pool service business

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t doesn't matter whether where you are going to operate your business from, or even exactly what sort of services you are going to offer, there are a few business basics that you will need to take care of before you launch your business. These include setting up your office and furnishing it, hiring staff – if indeed you are going to take on employees, making sure you have suitable contracts you can ask customers to sign, and a marketing plan that will help to get you on the map. You also need to be sure that you have a business management system that will help you to keep track of customers, bill them and show you exactly what you owe and what the state of your cash flow is.

Set up your office
The kind of office you have will depend on where you locate it and what you are going to do. But there are several basic items that everybody needs including a desk, a computer, a comfortable office chair that allows you to sit correctly – even if you are in your van most of the day. You may also want to create an area where you can meet clients – either around a table or on comfortable chairs. It's your choice. Of course if you are going to run your business from a shop of some type, you will need to do some shop fitting to be able to display the items you are going to sell

If you work from home, your own swimming pool will need to be permanently kept in show pool condition, as a recommendation to customers.

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Staff and sub-contractors
Employing people to help you run a business has its responsibilities, rewards and also its drawbacks. Obviously it will cost you money to hire people, but good employees can help you to succeed, and also grow the business more rapidly than you would be able to if you were working alone. It is up to you to decide who can help you and how. For example it may be enough for you to hire a personal assistant who can man an office telephone and keep invoicing and other records updated on your computer. On the other hand, with a cell phone, you can operate a mobile "office" and then attend to paperwork after hours. If you aren't able to do all the servicing tasks yourself – either because you don’t have the time or because you don't have the required skills – you can either employ people who have the skills who can do the work for you, or you can hire sub-contractors. Sub-contractors are people who have their own business and who generally offer specialized services which could range from accounting to redoing the marble plaster of a concrete pool, or a paver who will relay paving blocks around a pool that you have remodeled.

Marketing
If you don’t market your new business you aren't going to be able to generate customers. So from Day One you are going to need to have a marketing plan. There are many different ways that you can market any type of business:   You can advertise the business in newspapers and other publications, or on the Internet. You can tell your local community newspaper about your new service, or employ a freelance writer to compile public relations press releases about your new business and send these out to various media. You can set up a web site and then market the site by, for example hiring a freelancer from a site like www.elance.com to write articles for various Internet magazine sites like Ezine or Hub Pages that will link back to your site. You can also set up a Facebook and/or Twitter page for fans where you can publicize what your business offers, or new products and events. By word of mouth, which is one of the most powerful marketing tools you could ever dream of. Good, happy customers are the best way to spread the word…

 

I've already mentioned the VasserPro website, but also have a look at my Facebook page at http://facebook.vasserpro.com, or simply do a search for vasserpro from your own Facebook profile. Feel free to copy my idea!

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Records and contracts
No business can operate successfully without some paperwork. While you can charge a certain price and get paid for a product, most businesses offering services require some sort of written contract that shows what is needed and what will be paid for the services. It is best to get a lawyer to help you draw up contracts that suit your particular business. You also need to keep a record of what you buy and what you pay for what you buy. And you need to keep a record of what customers pay you for different jobs. If you use good software, you will be able to track costs and profits from each individual customer, and analyze your profitability by each and every pool and property you service.

How workflow can impact on a business
Workflow relates directly to cash flow. If you don’t have the work you won’t get the money in. It's as simple as that! BUT… if you take on too much work that you can't handle, you can do a lot of damage to your business. This is largely because your reputation will be at stake. Sometimes it can cause more damage than a lack of cash flow.

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