Category Archives: Love Pool Industry

By Roy Waldhauer, Waldhauer & Son / waldhauerpools@yahoo.com

My business, Waldhauer & Son, has built more than 2,000 pools in the community and we have been a family-owned and operated company for over three decades!  I feel confident in saying we have seen it all!  These days there is so much information out there helping the consumer to find the right builder for them.  They are given tips on checking out review sites, ensuring the builders are licensed, and looking to see if they’re in good standing with trade organizations.  They are told to ask questions like how many subcontractors will be used to build their pool.  But what about questioning your future client?  I feel the consumers have become more demanding than ever and they are educated, for the most part, because they have taken time to do their research on this home investment.

We definitely don’t build every pool that a potential client requests.  We are blessed to be able to choose the right client to ensure a win-win end result.  Here are some tips that I have learned along the way.

REALISTIC GOALS

When speaking to your potential client at your showroom or at their kitchen table, be sure to ask them about their dream pool.  Write down all the bells and whistles that they want and show them what you’ve written.  Go over lights, tiles, fountains, etc.  Tell them to dream big!  Have them identify a priority list.  What can be removed based on budget?  Then ask them what they want to invest and show them where it all adds up.

I also recommend going over mutual goals.  Discuss timelines and explain what the best case scenario would be and what they can do to be able to make the process smooth from start to finish.  Educate them on being present on a job site.  Let them know how many workers will be there and that they will be taking breaks.  Explain what happens when it rains.  Give them all the details of what a perfect client would look like.  It will imprint in their brains and they will hopefully understand the process.

VERBAL CONTRACT

Ask your potential client a simple question, “If I can make the numbers work for your timeline and budget, and you can do what we discussed, do I have your business?”  Too often, we don’t ask for the sale and a verbal commitment carries to those who are people of their word.  You can get the signed contract later.

CHECK THEM OUT ONLINE         

Definitely pull up their address to learn as much as you can about the property.  Also, I suggest Googling their name.  That way you may be able to see if they are avid reviewers and give extreme critiques on all their one star reviews.  Find out as much as you can since this is a business relationship and you want to be sure you are going into this process with the right people!

Just a few tips that have helped our team throughout the years at Waldhauer & Son.  Hope you enjoyed!

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

As the year winds down and the dust clears from another summer, I thought it would be good opportunity to review some of the progress that this association has made in the recent past. Often times, we as pool people, look for instant gratification and results. But typically the items of greatest value and importance often take time to develop.  Ideas must be thought of, and then planned, and then implemented. Relationships must be started and then cultivated before being fruitful. Situations must present themselves before one can act or take advantage of them.  And change, while often times difficult, is sometimes necessary for the opportunity for growth.

This past year has seen this association move forward on many fronts. Some have been the culmination of years of effort and partnerships, while others simply appeared.

The beginning of the year began with one of the best attended Everything Under the Sunsm Expos in years.  Many of our partners at the show returned and expanded space on the showroom floor while new educational classes were unveiled.  Also at the beginning of the year, it was announced that our endorsed sponsorship and affinity partners Insurance by Ken Brown and Amerisure Insurance more than doubled their contribution to our association and we have extended our agreement for three more years.

The purchase of the adjacent building to our home office at the end of last year is going to allow us to expand our working space and most importantly, enable us to create a learning center that can be used by our members and industry partners to further promote education and knowledge in the pool industry.

Our education staff has been working on the introduction of online seminars to be used as a teaching tool for members and their employees and hopefully culminate in our version of “CE Sally.”  While these goals are being chased, the FSPA is still actively pursuing the creation of an accredited program at the state college level for swimming pool and spa degrees.

The government relations initiative has been reworked to include a dedicated position to concentrate on state regulatory issues and re- established a staff person as a point of contact for our members. The plan is to give the membership greater access to answers internally while having diverse views and dedicated responsibilities on important issues.

The annual FSPA swim meet has continued to grow and has received its largest financial support in recent memory. It is rapidly becoming one of, if not the most prestigious high school swim meets in the state.

The PIPAC initiative has refocused its contribution efforts to target leadership positions and ascending legislators that can help promote the objectives of our association.  By supporting our government leaders, we are able to create willing and sympathetic lawmakers to causes that have a direct impact on the industry that we make our livelihoods in.

The FSPA and its Board of Directors and Executive Committee members have worked hard to re-establish lines of communication with other industry partners such as APSP and The International Swimming Hall of Fame.  These relationships had diminished over the years and by creating new lines of communication with these other players in our industry, the hope is to co-brand ourselves with natural partners for the betterment of our industry.

The FSPA Scholarship Program has been able to partner with the Bill Kent Family Foundation to double our support of our young people in their quest for higher education. This partnership has been a natural fit for our association, and helping our children achieve higher educational goals is in the best interest of all involved in such a wonderful program.

  As you can see, our association has been busy with many items and goals that help make us an industry leader. These fresh ideas and successes often take time to come to bear fruit. But once they do, we all share in its sweet taste of success!

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!

Directory

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

Shhh, don’t tell your employees about FSPA!  Why not?  Because goodness knows, they might actually find something about membership beneficial.

FSPA is a trade association, which means your membership belongs to the company, not just the owner whose name is on the bill.  That means that EVERY SINGLE one of your employees is a member too.  Yes, every person who works in the field, who drives a truck for the distributor and who answers the phone in your office is a MEMBER!  That means their kids can apply for FSPA scholarships, their families can use the prescription discount card and most importantly – they can all take classes for FREE!

When is the last time you told your employees about FSPA?  Do they know what FSPA is?  Our newest employee recently did a ride-along with a local service company and discovered the tech (of a longtime member company) had little idea of FSPA and what it offers the swimming pool industry.  After hearing in detail what the FSPA does, he was interested in attending local events on his own.

Local chapters have all types of classes, social events and opportunities to network.  As an association, our distribution of information goes to people we know about.  That means unless you’ve provided a roster of employees (been sent with renewal forms in the past) we have no way to tell them about that really cool event at the local baseball game or a water chemistry class which could improve their skills.  FSPA relies on companies to pass information along – but that isn’t happening at every member company.

We are getting ready to launch an FSPA app which will serve as a resource for information and events throughout the state.  I hope that you install this app on your tech’s work phone, and tell them about it.  Would you mind sharing the phone numbers of your phones provided to field personnel?  We can send information via text message.  Employees who feel engaged with the company and the industry are happier and more satisfied in their positions.  Let’s work as a team to “advance the swimming pool industry in Florida”!

By Ray Pearen, Fresh Finish Pools LLC/ray@freshfinishpools.com

There is so much work out there. The phones keep ringing and almost every caller wants ‘it’ done now. During the busiest times of the year with a shortage of workers, we are challenged to get everything completed, meet every demand and keep every customer happy. Add this to the ever-increasing demand for instant, and constant communication and you have a volatile mix for stress and burn out.

It is at breaking points, where I’m alone in my truck and taking it out on my steering wheel, that the words of one of my mentors come to mind, “Just tell them ‘No’, you have to know when to say No.” 

He simply meant that by turning away business, in favor of work you already have, we are further ahead than feverishly accepting every opportunity for new business that comes our way. It is an easy statement to say, and is logical, but goes against every natural instinct of the entrepreneur. We want to grow our businesses and shutting down income opportunities seems contrary to that vision. But having a heart attack in your truck at the side of the road is also not part of that vision.

Organization and good scheduling are the easy answers but sticking with it when your phone keeps dinging with texts, emails and calls is difficult.

Sometimes we need to obey our inner stress meters, slow the train down, and get done what is in front of us. This equates to better work flow, happier customers and a staff that isn’t over taxed. It’s a constant battle to find a healthy work life / home life balance and being content at our jobs also makes us more present at home.

Although it can be tempting to always take that extra call, sometimes it’s important to take a step back and look at the big picture. I encourage you to take the steps to simplify your business, so you can feel an increased sense of success and fulfillment in both your work and personal lives.

By Rick Howard, Howard’s Pool Service, Inc./flapoolguy1@yahoo.com

For those maintaining commercial pools, dealing with Health Department inspections is a way of life. In Pinellas County they have really started cracking down on both not enough flow and/or too much flow.

Commercial pools are engineered for a required flow to turn over the pool in six hours. Some pools are designed for high flow rates to accommodate a higher bathing load. A general guide is five gallons per minute per bather. So a bathing load of 20 means 100 gpm, usually anyway.

We regularly see flow meters incorrectly installed. To be accurate they must be installed as per manufacturer’s specifications. For the most common flow meters in use in our county that means 10 times the pipe size diameter before the flow meter and five times after of straight uninterrupted pipe. For example, a 2” flow meter requires 20” of straight pipe before the meter and 10” after. If the flow meter isn’t correctly installed the readings will be all over the place and not accurate.

We have seen pools approved with flow meters that were incorrectly installed. Good luck with those! All the inspectors will look at are the readings. The pool technician needs to be aware of whether it is properly installed or not. We also see flow meters installed on pool heaters to verify water flow through the units. The same rules apply. We see them installed up against an elbow. Save your money, they aren’t working and the readings are most likely totally wrong. If you see a flow meter incorrectly installed you really need to correct it.

The new permit forms that must be posted in the pool area now list the required flow. They usually accept 10% plus or minus without failing the inspection, but not always. It is best to look over the flow meters every visit to make sure they are working. Doing this can prevent possible pool closures and/or re-inspection fees!