By Wendy Parker Barsell, FSPA Executive Director / wendy@floridapoolpro.com. 

Last month my column was about sharing the benefits of FSPA membership with your employees. This month I’d like to encourage you to use FSPA to recognize your employees and your company. Most of you are well aware of the swimming pool Design Awards program and the recognition it brings when your company wins awards. Winners are displayed at the February Show, printed in the event program guide and magazine, posted online and press releases sent to local and national media.

Several years ago FSPA introduced a program to recognize service professionals. This award can be given to one person in each of our sixteen chapters. Take a look at your team and think about who customers are complimenting and sending in praise about their work. Simply complete the form (available on the FSPA website) and send it in. They’ll be honored at the annual awards reception in February as well as in the printed program guide, the FSPA magazine and local and national press releases. Companies have told me that this recognition of an employee boosts morale among everyone. It’s a benefit for you, your company and the employee!

And don’t forget that we have a Tops In Trucks award. Submit photos of your fleet of vehicles to be recognized statewide for great graphics which wow customers.

Winners for each of these programs receive plaques to hang in your office and special winner logos to use in your materials.

As a follow up to my column about employee safety a few months ago, please see page 10 to read about how Reef Tropical Pools is using a vending style machine to provide safety equipment to their team members. This is an excellent example of supporting employees in their jobs every single day. What is your company doing? Please share with us so other companies’ employees can benefit. The FSPA mission is “Advancing the Florida swimming pool industry.” Sharing of great ideas is one of the best ways to do this.

By Alvaro Mendoza, Commercial Energy Specialists / amendoza@ceswaterquality.com

Once a service company takes over an account, they’re normally trying to figure out the personality of the pool, how much time they need to spend and what they have to do to keep the pool clear and the customers happy.

Sometimes the pool is lightly used and a piece of cake to operate, and other times… well you wonder if the pool was actually built on a proverbial Indian burial ground.

Here are a few additional considerations that might help with those difficult situations:

–Kill power is king: While your test kit tells you “how much” is in the pool. it cannot really tell you the “kill power” of that chlorine. The best indicator is Oxidation Reduction Potential (ORP) as read by your chemistry controller. ORP should optimally be above 700-750 mV at all times. If not, the culprits might be: high pH, higher stabilizer, and/or the more elusive “chlorine demand” on the water. ORP below 700 mV is against DOH code and requires immediate action.

–Important relationship between ORP and chlorine: One of the best diagnostics tools available is the relationship between the ORP and chlorine. It can tell you a lot. High chlorine and low ORP (600-700 mV) is indicative of trouble, while high ORP achieved (>800 mV) with relatively low Chlorine levels (< 2 PPM) is indicative of very clean and safe water.

–Chlorine alone is very limited: You can’t expect too much from a “chlorine only” pool as it is very limited in scope and might just not be enough. The customer should know you might not have enough tools to succeed. Supplemental treatment might be needed and options include treating with enzymes, UV, ozone, or Peroxolyte shocks.

–What about filtration? Less than stellar filtration can cause issues as well. Consistently cloudy pool water commonly indicates a filtration issue, while temporary lapses indicate a short-term chlorination or oxidation issue. There is a test to separate the two issues.

Once you have tight control of the chemistry part and the pool still doesn’t meet your (or your customer’s) standards, then it might be time to get them involved in finding a better solution. After all, it is their pool.

By FSPA President Brian Kelly, Shamrock Pools / shamrockpls1091@aol.com

As the summer winds down and the kids return back to school, many of our daily routines once again revert back to the primary focus of work. Not that the focus ever went away. It’s just that many of us with children have their priorities realigned to include our families and the responsibility of what to do with the kids. Our focus seems to wander away from our businesses a little more and our time gets stretched a little thin. All of this is perfectly understandable and quite predictable. But the demands of our time and the mental investment that is required of our jobs does not stop. In fact, for most in the pool and spa business, the summertime increases the demand of our focus and commitment.

Many of our local chapters are starting to rev up their local meetings and get-togethers. Quite a few slow down in the summer because of their workloads and extra demands on their time. But now is the time to get back into the swing of things and reinvest in our businesses. The local chapters have quite a slate of informative meetings planned, along with some great social events. The East Central chapter is hosting their annual bowling tournament, and the Broward Chapter will have their member appreciation fishing event. There is also a joint Government Relations meetings planned for Manasota/Charlotte Harbor and a separate one for the Central Florida Chapter. Meanwhile, the Florida Public Pool Specialist course is continuing to be offered across the state at many convenient locations. And let’s not forget that the premier high school swim meet in the state of Florida, sponsored by the FSPA, will take place at Sailfish Aquatic Center in Stuart, Florida on September 28-29.

These events, along with the local Board meetings, help us keep abreast of the ongoing developments that affect our businesses and our livelihoods.

Remember that these events, as with any FSPA gathering, are open to all members, so you do not need to be on the Board of a local chapter to attend. In fact, we encourage all of our membership to attend and participate. It is with your input and opinions that the Board of Directors develops the very course of this association. So whether it is a social gathering, a GR event, industry networking, or simply a local meeting to gather technical knowledge and information, stay involved with your association. You’ll feel refreshed, re-engaged, and the benefits are amazing!

By Brent Handy, Paragon Pools of Lake City, Inc. / brent@paragonpoolsonline.com with
Larry Losciale, Easy Modern Living, Inc. / mypoolstuff@yahoo.com

Most of us would agree that finding good employees and subcontractors is one of the single largest challenges facing the construction industry today. So, maximizing the efficiency of the crews we all work with is more important than ever. In our business, we have found the most efficient swimming pool construction method to be installing fiberglass shell pools.

By far, the greatest percentage of residential swimming pools installed in Florida today are concrete shell pools. And with good reason! Concrete pools have many things going for them. But, there is also lots of labor (typically both employees and subcontractors) involved with installing the concrete pools. As we are all challenged by a dwindling qualified labor pool, and good subcontractors are spread too thin, this can make scheduling a nightmare! Add in the Florida weather challenges, and this can quickly turn into a situation that costs us (the pool builder) real money that we did not have in the budget.

Let’s explore fiberglass pool shells for a minute. I know that fiberglass pool shells have their drawbacks. They have their strong points too! The single biggest drawback is that your customer will have to choose from the sizes, shapes and colors that the manufacturers offer. But, for the vast majority of homeowners’ situations, this is not too great a challenge to overcome. And you still have all of the decking options available that you have with concrete shell pools. In fact, with the same waterline pool tile and decking options, all of the fiberglass gelcoat finish is below the waterline just exactly the same way the plaster finish is on a concrete shell pool.

All of that being said, here is the main point of this article: I have found that we can install more residential swimming pools, with less employees, and less subcontractors, and finish in significantly less time when installing fiberglass pool shells than we could when we focused on building concrete pool shells. Ultimately this puts more money in the company pockets with less frustration than when we focused on concrete pool shells.

In fact, our front end crew is a four man crew. These four will typically install a fiberglass pool shell in three workdays. The front end installation consists of: digging the hole, setting the pool shell, rough plumbing and pressure test, and backfill and compact to be ready for the decking crew.

Imagine literally being ready for the pool deck crew the fourth day you are in the backyard! Imagine never having to send a crew out to dig mud that caved in from between the steel, and scrambling to reschedule the concrete and shell crew. Imagine never again having to delay the plaster crew because of inclement weather. All of these are realities for builders that focus on fiberglass pool shell installations. How much easier would this make the front end construction for the person responsible for the construction schedule?
Of course, one of the primary factors for the quick jobsite installation is that the shell is already constructed in a factory where trained technicians work in a climate controlled environment. The pool shell arrives at the jobsite structurally sound, and with the finish already installed.

Speaking of the pool finish, imagine not having to monitor the pool and water chemistry for the first 30 days. Imagine being able to put salt in salt water pools immediately. Imagine not having to brush the pool multiple times per day to help the fresh pool finish settle in. How would this change the pool start-up? How much more quickly will the already excited customers be able to enjoy their new pool?

At the end of the day, the success of business is ultimately its ability to turn a profit. We have found that we can make approximately the same profit margin installing fiberglass pool shells that we were making installing concrete pool shells. But, we can do this with significantly fewer employees and trucks on the road. We can install significantly more pools in significantly less time. Both absolutely increasing the net bottom line!

By Misty Knight, Zodiac Pool Systems / misty.knight@zodiac.com

Remember playing the “telephone” game as a child? You sit in a circle where one person whispers to the next person what was said and then the person at the end of the line tells everyone what they think was originally said. Even though I am speaking of a child’s game, word of mouth has always been one of the most effective means of communication. Word of mouth has been the marketing staple for growth within our industry. It’s truly the easiest and most cost effective way to market your company and the services it provides.
“Refer a friend!” “Share with your neighbors!” BUT does it work in today’s society? With the touch of a button, you can get reviews for anything. Do people really just take someone’s word for it knowing that they can easily do their own research from the device in the palm of their hand?

Are you doing research before you hire someone or buy something? For example, if you are going to hire someone to install hurricane impact windows, are you calling the first person who pops up online? No, you are not. You are looking at the quantity of reviews they have online and actually reading them in detail. You go to their website to find out more information, and if that website doesn’t load fast enough, then you move on to another company and go to their website. You are doing your due diligence to make an educated decision before you buy. This is how consumers behave and it’s a reality we must embrace. Being in the pool industry for over 15 years has given me insight into what we, as an industry, need to do to make our mark in the digital landscape that drives successful businesses, big or small, in today’s marketplace.
If you don’t believe me, then take at a look at some of the stats:

-97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses (Forbes 2016)
-81% of consumers conduct research online before making a purchase (Retailing Today, 2017); 80% of global search traffic is on Google (NetMarketShare)
-93% of all web traffic comes from a search engine (Search Engine J)
-80% of global search traffic is on Google (NetMarketShare)
-85% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation (BrightLocal, 2017)
-7: the number of reviews a person needs to read before trusting a business (BrightLocal, 2017).

Is your website up to date? Mobile optimized? Do you make an effort to get good reviews and dispute bad ones? Do you monitor where you stand online compared to your competition? Ninety-nine percent of people never make it past page one of Google search results (Junto). Do you have a good rating in the online review websites that consumers trust most? Yelp and FB are the most trusted places to find reviews followed by Google and BBB.org (BrightLocal, 2017).

I am often asked, “Where do I start?” If your expertise is within the pool industry and not in the digital marketing, don’t try to do this on your own. It will not work effectively. Hire the right person to help you develop a marketing plan. Make sure that digital marketing company understands our industry to convert traffic into quality leads, and ultimately, sales. An effective digital marketing strategy takes highly interested consumers (or leads) and drives them to action. For example, filling out an online form or making a phone call, with the end goal resulting in a conversion or sale of services or goods. Creating momentum to drive business means understanding how consumers behave online and then setting up the proper digital components; an effective website, reputation management (i.e. reviews) and pay-per-click campaigns-to channel those consumers to your company’s digital “door step.” Doing this requires some financial investment on your part, but your business is worth it and just remember; you have to spend money to make money!