Thursday, December 18, 2014


Are you my next Larry and Harv?
No experience necessary. WE WILL TRAIN TO OUR STANDARDS! IMMEDIATE OPENINGS IN ARVADA AND SOUTHEAST DENVER!!! Dependable, reliable seasonal work.

After working part time and earning $3000-4000 every summer for me for years upon retiring from the railroad and accounting, Larry and Harv have finally completely retired. Both are in their mid-70s.

These gentlemen liked the seasonal, warm weather and worked 3-4 days a week from 6-10am servicing small community swimming pools and rest rooms near their homes in the Arvada, Westminster area. They also were a bit handy and earned extra money making minor repairs like fixing toilet and PVC leaks.

They were able to take a few days off to fish or attend family reunions because each had a route of 3-4 pools and a partner to cover for them as the pools need to be cleaned every day. The two of them preferred it this way because they both believed that maintaining every day was better and easier than a couple times a week. They liked sharing the route with another person so they could alternate weekends and always have a backup.

They knew they could count on having their seasonal job year after year, liked the hours, the work and even the early morning exercise, though the job is not strenuous.

I now have openings in Arvada, Westminster, Thornton, Littleton, Aurora and Southeast Denver.

You must possess a reliable vehicle, have a valid driver's license, pass a background check and have a cell phone. You must also be able to work some weekends. Applicants who live within 15 minutes of job sites will be given priority. You must be available from May 1 through September 20. Therefore, students, teachers, etc. need not apply as the school year ends too late and starts too soon.

So..are you my next Larry or Harv?? Respond once only with the following information:

Name and phone number(s)
Type of vehicle
Main streets near your home
Brief work history
Are you currently employed, where
Can you start April 13, 2015?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Talkin Handyman Services for Denver area HOA community

Little by little Community Managers are using our handyman services for those small tasks that need to be done sooner, rather than later. Checking and changing community light bulbs, adjusting/replacing photo cells or light timers, replacing broken/stolen light post globes, removing graffiti, cleaning gutters and downspouts, repairing perimemter fences and fixing hose bib drips are just a few of the light handyman jobs we have performed for communities.

Community Managers use our reliable services for communitites whose pools we service, as well as communitites that do not have a pool.

Is there a way my semi-retired work force can lighten your work load?

If given a list of items, my guys would happily and thoroughly do community "walk arounds" and submit a report to CMs, make the repairs we can and suggest repairs we cannot make all at very reasonable prices.

Please call or email if Talkin Handyman Services can be of help.

Feel free to post any comments or questions.

Friday, November 14, 2014

"Wolf!" Talkin Pools Shepherd's Plan for community pools.

"WOLF!" Talkin Pools Shepherd's Plan.

In addition to daily #pool #service, maintenance and repairs, we realize we are the pool's shepherd. It is our job to oversee and protect the entire amenity. We see the pool more than any CM, board member or community member combined. It is naturally in the community's, management company's and Talkin Pool's interests to keep the pool and pool area as economically, efficiently and aesthetically pleasing as budgets/reserves allow.

Here's what we offer:
#Pool resurfacing. We use a two-part epoxy coating that is less that half the cost of plaster, is more resistant to algae, can be touched up to cover stains and footpaths and lasts 5-7+ years with proper application and daily maintenance.
#Expansion joint installation. We remove the old material, apply proper sand and backing material and industrial grade, self-leveling caulk.
#Deck coatings. We offer a variety of packages from sealant only to troweled on and knocked down non-slip substances for most deck surfaces. **Some decks have deteriorated beyond what our coatings can do and need to be completely replaced. We attempt to give the board ample time to not let the condition of the pool deck come to this.
Complete pump room restoration for under $12,000.00. Includes pump, heater, filter, chlorinator, circulation plumbing.
#Pool safety cover replace and installation.
Security. We install state of the art motion detected, night vision, security cameras that can be accessed via the internet.
Mosquito/insect control in and around the pool area. Monthly spray and free repeat sprays should it be necessary. We also will spray common areas and private areas, as well as specific sprays for private events.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Pool School for Community Managers: Pool Closing steps made simple

This is another post in the Talkin Pool School for Dummies series. This series is aimed specifically at community managers and HOA board members who want to know the basics of their community pool operations. There are other methods of winterizing a pool. Again, this is purposely NOT TOO MUCH INFORMATION!!

Pool Closing Steps
1. Turn heater off, if there is a wall switch, turn it off as well. A supervisor will go around checking progress and shutting off the gas valve. Add four or five pounds of Soda Ash to pool. We want to get the pH up to around 8.0 and let the pool circulate for a day or so. This “softens” and “lubricates” the internal parts of the filter, pump, and heater. After circulating the pool for a day or so at 8.0 pH level, turn pump off. Empty chlorinator and leave the lid off. Take drain plugs out of pump, heater, and the filter!! Put all drain plugs in the pump basket so they will be easily found next spring. If you know where and what the pressure switch is, undo one of the lines to it and spray the switch with WD-40.
2. Find pool lights breaker switch and turn pool lights off, this is very important as lights will shatter if they come on after you drain pool below them.
3. Drain pool to approximately 6 inches below the lowest return line in side of pool.

**At this point, it is critical that you use an air compressor and attachments. Blow out all lines, including the heater and all circulation lines.

4. Plug all return lines using the rubber expanding plugs which should be in a container in the pump room. Each plug has a number stamped on it. The most common plugs are #8, 9, 10 and 12 with 8’s and 9’s being the most commonly used to plug return lines and skimmer suction lines. Twist the butterfly to tightly secure the plug into the hole.
5. Pour anti-freeze down all skimmer lines and any fill spout lines.  Plug the suction skimmer holes (the ones you would use to vacuum the pool) with expanding rubber plugs, leaving the drain holes unplugged. The drain holes are the holes in the skimmer bottom that drain water back into pool and have no suction. These holes are usually the holes closest to the water in the bottom of the skimmer housing. Place an empty, capped, bottle of tile cleaner or super blue, etc in each skimmer housing. This works as a shock absorber over the winter when the skimmer housing fills with snow, then melts and freezes. Instead of cracking the skimmer housing, the empty bottle “cushions” the expansion. Take skimmer baskets out, leave skimmer lid in place.
6. Remove all ladders, rails, fill spouts and put them, with skimmer baskets in pump room.
7. Add 7-8 pounds of chlorine granules, spread around whole pool as best you can.
8. Add another 3-4 pounds of soda ash.
9. Add 1-2 bottles of algaecide if there is any left.
10. Add ½ gallon jug of Wintertrine.
11. Fill bucket with holes drilled into it half way with chlorine tablets or sticks, also put lids on Wintertrine and Anti-freeze jugs, put these empty containers inside the bucket with the tabs, or tie to bucket handle, and float in the deep end of pool.
12. Screw cover anchors up, put cover on, making sure the rubber part of the straps are on the bottom not facing up. KEEP TRACK OF ANY ANCHORS THAT NEED TO BE REPLACED!
13. Store all pool furniture where it was stored to begin the season.
14. Make sure any left over chemicals are stored properly with all lids secured!!!
15. Clean pump room, any trash, empty bottles, etc.
16. Empty all trash cans at pool side and store them.
17. Put any chains/locks on, making sure a key to the lock in the lockbox first.
18. Winterize restrooms. Turn water off; pour some anti-freeze in toilets and urinals.
19. Turn water supply off to building, unless it is a club-house that is used throughout the year.
20. Complete any end of year checklists or inventory required and submit to supervisor.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

THE BACON TEST: Talkin Pools Pest Control A+ Formula

I sprayed my backyard a couple of days ago. This morning, I cooked breakfast on the deck. I'm not much of a breakfast chef, so a very simple menu. But, would the smell of eggs, hash browns and BACON attract flies? What would happen if I removed the bacon from the grill and let it sit out to attract the flies, while I finished the hash browns and eggs? Can Talkin Pools Pest Control really guarantee you will take back your yard and patio?? Watch this:

Friday, July 25, 2014


West Nile in Boulder County>>> Talkin Pool & Handyman now offers guaranteed mosquito free living for a month at a time. We use a formula, designed by our applicators, who also service our pools and know that pools and surrounding shrubbery and landscaping breed certain types of insects. We use a specially designed misting/fogging unit to apply the insecticide. This allows us to thoroughly cover grassy areas, trees, all shrubbery and ground cover where insects lounge during the heat of the day. Our formula is completely safe for people, pets and plants. It cannot be purchased at local stores as it is an industry known product. Our formula kills on contact, leaves a residual repellant that lasts for up to a month and completely disrupts the hatching cycles of most insects, including ants and spiders. Contact Mike at or call 303-550-7730. First application is free. Our service and products sell themselves. The first spray is free and without obligation. A cost of $75.00 per month after with one free return if not satisfied, thereafter until mid-September. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mosquitoes and your community pool!

Community Managers, if you aren't having your swimming pool areas sprayed for mosquitoes and other flying and non-flying insects from wasps to ants, why aren't you? Is it a cost issue? I have the technicians and use a government approved, industry used pesticide that really works. It lasts for up to a month, it is applied with a special misting unit to get into and under all the shrubbery that looks great as landscape around the pool, but is a five star resort for mosquitoes and other insects. Talkin Pools guarantees the community pool area will be free from mosquitoes and other insects, will return to spray again if the community is not satisfied and will return every three weeks, in the morning, to spray the pool area. Is having your community pool mosquito free worth $80.00 every three weeks? Call or email to set up an appointment or solicit information. FYI..the substance is called Bifen I/T and can easily be googled. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Proactive swimming pool maintenance should be the standard.

Talkin Pools and Best Practices Maintenance, or.. Why doesn't every pool maintenance company do this.

Things happen. When dealing with swimming pools and spas, we take the most proactive approach possible. We hear horror stories frequently regarding previous pool companies and their lack of prompt response and overall performance.

When Talkin Pools knows a big week end, say for instance, Father's Day or Fourth of July, is coming up, we anticipate a larger than normal bather load. What seems to us to be such a common sense approach, is ignored by other pool companies because with extra service, comes extra expenses to the company. There is no substitute for thorough service. It does take more effort and cost more money. A service company better understand this or forever provide substandard service. We also anticipate larger than normal usage of rest room supplies and an abundance of trash.

We train our Service Techs to bump the levels of free chlorine up, adjust the pH to at least 7.4, backwash thoroughly, begin the week end with empty trash cans and completely stocked rest rooms, have refill supplies available, communicate with each other regarding issues and concerns and attempt to maintain complete communications with the management companies and community managers.

We take these proactive measures to ensure a pristine pool throughout the heavy usage period. Having free available chlorine at the ready for heavy bather loads, having the pH adjusted a bit high to accommodate, ummm....multiple urinations, is an art. One we have mastered over 25 years in business. It is very simple stuff. Steps that our "old guys" take because it's the best practice.

I have said it many times, in different ways, but our hiring practices enable us to confidently state we deliver the best pool maintenance service in Colorado.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Talkin Pool School: Ducks!!!


There's always a couple of pools that seem to be nice "vacationing" spots for ducks. There's seem to be more ducks "vacationing" this season than usual.

Remedies:  Actually, the only ones that work are not feasible in a community pool, or are illegal. Based on research, while many swear hanging tin pie plates from trees, using fake animals (owls, snakes, fox) and all sorts of creative methods, the ducks quickly find that they pose no threat and return.

So, since using a pellet gun or some instrument to cause their demise and using a swimming dog to scare or catch them is not an option, they will move on when bather load increases and there's just more activity in the community.

Over the years, I have found another key contributor...homeowners. It only takes one animal lover to be throwing out bread to the cute little duckies before the ducks realize this is a terrific place to hang out.


Pool sanitation: It certainly isn't pretty but we keep the chlorine levels a bit high in these instances. Unless it gets unreasonable to manage, we keep the pool open and filtering. It is, however, a judgement call. We clean the deck as best we can, knowing that we clean the pool, five minutes after we leave the ducks return.

If anyone living next to the pool would take every opportunity to make noises and chase the ducks away it would probably help, though with people working, the ducks just lounge during the day if there are no bathers.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

"It must be the swimming pool gods!" Common pool opening repairs.

I realize that community managers care about the condition of the pool and the satisfaction of the community. This is a brief "pool school" for community managers who need just a bit of information regarding usual pool opening repairs.

While I have seen everything and anything during pool openings, there are some repairs that just happen a lot as part of opening, especially when starting a pool up after sitting dormant for the winter.

Suction leaks:
The primary ingredient needed for pool operation is suction. The pump is the motor that supplies the suction, but it's everything else connected that determines the integrity of the circulation system. So, every place there is a valve or gasket in the circulation lines, is a potential "suction losing" seal that needs to be addressed. For instance, the pump lid is separated from the strainer basket by a gasket. If this gasket doesn't seal 100%, circulation is severely compromised. The same can be said for each and every rubber gasket along the way. The filter valve, depending on the style, has one critical gasket or a series of "O" ring gaskets, if it's a plunger type. The chlorinator, too, depends on a gasket.

Additionally, every joint in the pvc is a potential leak. The two places in the pump room where there are the majority of these leaks is at the suction and discharge sides of the pump. The connection between the pvc going into the pump and leaving the pump must be air-tight for perfect suction/circulation.

Hardware issues:
The pool safety cover is removed and stored during opening. In a perfect world, each and every brass deck anchor screws back down flat for the summer. In the real world, some refuse to screw down. In this case, the brass anchor, which is now sticking up and is a scraped foot waiting to happen, must be removed after liquid wrench and other industry materials do not loosen it. And, if it needs to be removed, a new one will have to be drilled and installed come closing.

Ladders and rails often need new escutcheons, landings, brass wedge bolts, foot treads, stainless steel nuts/bolts and rubber wall bumpers.

Gate/lock repairs:
Often times the board decides to change the locks and key entries to the community pool. Other times, the locks work, but the gate doesn't close completely, the lock works but is sticking and will only get worse, the lock and catch need to be adjusted, and lastly, the gate has a safety lock or a chain and padlock for emergency lock out during the season and throughout the fall and winter.

Coping Stones and tiles:
The  coping stones are the cement stones around the lip of the pool. They generally hang a little bit over the water and are rounded on the water's edge. These are held together with plaster/grout type material. These stones become loose after years for a number of reason. They can be easily repaired, replace, grout. The tiles are at the water's edge and go around the entire pool. There are different styles and shapes. They too, after years, start falling off and need to be replaced. Once one tile falls off others connected will surely follow. And, kids just love to pick at the tile next to the missing one!

The submerged pool light is another common opening repair. Usually it requires a new bulb and gasket. Sometimes, though, the entire light housing needs to be replaced. This amounts to "snaking" new electrical lines under ground and through conduit to the pool wall. Also, photo cells and light timers, as well as circuit breakers and GFI safety components are tested and replaced if not working properly.

I believe there truly are pool gods! We often joke about why never on a Tuesday. The joke is, it is absolutely amazing how many times we have a pool up, opened, clear, clean, warm for 3-5 days before opening weekend. And boom...Friday night, Saturday morning, something that had been functioning perfectly for the last week, decides to die.   This season it was a couple of pool lights. They were tested during opening, but were not turned on until opening day to dissuade early swimmers. Sure enough, all three lights that worked a week ago, need some electrical repairs. As the season goes on the same continues. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday are the days most likely to have mechanical issues. It's not the bather load, by the way. The number of people in the pool have no effect on a pump motor that up and freezes. So, we say, "Why does nothing ever break on a Tuesday?!" I really don' t know, pool gods is my only explanation.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Could I do it again? Was this summer luck? Gulp, I'm gonna keep going. PART 11: "From Classroom to Pump Room"

So, the way it all went down, we already had signed contracts for the next summer which was a couple months away. I was saddened at my friend's demise, I was sick to have witnessed a great guy completely implode due to alcohol dependency and...I was freaking out about the business. I needed the money. Two daughters soon to enter college, two future weddings to look forward to funding, deteriorating health on my part, more and more hours spent doing what I really love, working with kids, and I was forced to literally put my big boy pants on and see what I could do alone. I felt a little responsible to a couple of our employees and a lot responsible for the state of our company. My reasoning was simple. I had been pretty much running the company the last couple years around Jerry and succeeding in spite of him rather than because of him. I learned so much overall that I thought, if nothing else, I'll try it this first summer and the worst that could happen is I stumble and lose all my contracts, but still make one last little pay day. My reasoning, hell, the worst case scenario was they wouldn't fire me until I had repeatedly messed up, based on our reputation alone. And the best case scenario was I succeeded and now pocketed all the profits, rather than the 50% I had been. So, I began thinking like a sole proprietor. It was actually refreshing. I had only myself to answer to and I answered myself a lot. I answered in my sleep, while I was driving, sitting, not really relaxing, that's all I did was talk to myself and answer. Then, without really consciously realizing it until much later, my business tendencies and decision making traits were nothing more than my teaching and administrating tactics with high school students, parents, teachers, support staff, only in a capitalistic environment. Additionally, I noticed myself going back to my twenty years of coaching high school basketball. The whole thing was to form a team, train them, coach them, support them, and then, wholly crap, charge money for their efforts! If I found the good to great players and coached them, they would perform accordingly. The one caveat, I completely went to hiring, "Nicks." No more high school kids, ever, no more college kids, ever. Well, thats not totally true, I have and do employ one or two high school/college athletes to deliver the chemicals to our pools. I realized the obvious, like sports, the more you anticipate, the more you plan for  all kinds of defenses (obstacles), the hungrier you are, the more conditioned mentally and physically you are, the better your team plays. The better they play, the more we (our customers most importantly) win.
The first thing I did was I made sure old Don, the handy semi-retired school custodian who had been moonlighting as our repair was on board for a few more summers. He's a great guy, taught me a ton about a lot of things, couldn't be a handier guy, builds and shows antique pumps and motorized things and though he has long since retired, I can find him any time I need some advice sitting there drinking coffee and telling stories at the McDonalds, with all his old buddies, from 6am to 10am every morning. Once I knew he would literally make all the repairs all I had to do was find more "Nicks" to fill my roster. I intentionally began searching for and hiring "old guys." I can't lie and say every one of them was terrific, but I can say that my worst "old guy" was still better than my best young guy. Along the way I've employed some really interesting gentlemen. That's a key word, I hire gentlemen. If you are reading this and you don't actually get what I mean by they are gentlemen, bless you, your'e probably young! I'm not talking holding doors open for females, of course they would do that as well. No, I'm talking about men who served in the military, grew up in poverty, some are educated, some are the smartest people I know sans college degree. There's a fairly famous band, Big Head Todd and the Monsters. The drummer's dad worked for me for a couple years. I remember him telling me his son was in a band and they were getting a little popular. After a couple of summers, he resigned. His son was famous! I've hired a tough, old, retired railroad worker. Great guy, Marv, was. Our phone conversations were hilarious. He was as close to completely deaf as you can be. I would be literally screaming over the phone, repeating myself, over and over, but his pools were pristine. I have another guy who's worked for me for years, he told me his wife is finally retiring and so this will be his last summer with me. Way back in the 60's, I'm talking Richie Cunningham and the Fonz, this guy, Tim, is one of the original north Denver car/cycle club members. In fact, there's a locally famous decal you still see today on vintage cars in Denver of a lion. It became the official decal of every one in north Denver who was involved in car clubs. I'm not talking gangs here. I'm talking the James Dean types. Sure they were rebels without a cause, but really they just liked their hot rods and liked cruising 16th Street before it became a trendy open air mall. I could go on, maybe some day I will write something completely about dealing with old guys for going on 26 years. What's the connection? Every once in a while someone will comment or email that this post or that post were misleading in that they veer away from the business of running a small business. My response is, hell, I'm just telling my story. I have spent many years formulating, perfecting and repeating my process. I'm certain I could show the right people; the motivated, hungry people, to follow my formula. My point with this post was merely to talk about  my "teams" over the past 25 pool seasons. And, all but one of my guys from last season, is coming back this season. The one not coming back has some family health issues, wants to stay involved, and asked me to please call him during the summer if we need an extra hand, or a pool needs a little extra TLC.
I proved to myself I could go it alone. I pocketed 100% of the profits. I continued to do things the right way. While other pool companies, to this day, pay "contract labor" in order to save on matching Social Security, Medicare payroll taxes, I have a payroll company do all my payrolls, quarterly reports and the like. I run an above board company. I feel good about my little contribution to our nation and the medicare, social security benefits to which I contribute. Could I do it again? Was this summer luck? Gulp, I'm gonna keep going...

Saturday, April 12, 2014

"Jerry, is on life support, doesn't look good." My business story.

Well, what just happened was, Jerry's wife had been more and more angry at him for his drinking. At first, looking back, I didn't notice anything. Now, my wife will tell you, I'm a guy. I don't notice much. But, slowly, Jerry's wife began to get more and more antagonistic toward me and certainly, Jerry. So when she was called from her job to the hospital, she was immediately angry at him. Still, the anger I felt was more of a selfish "now you've gone and embarrassed me", than a holy crap, my husband could have died. Just my opinion.

Jerry survived, he returned to work, was "clean," I think, for a while. Come to find out, Jerry, damn, I get emotional writing this, wanted so badly to kick his drinking that on his own, with no medical supervision, he went cold turkey starting a couple days before his first day back to school. His body was so conditioned to exist with a high percentage of alcohol, that he literally had seizures as his withdrawal  time increased.

Jerry proceeded to teach his classes, at least show up and pretty much weather his days at school. His pilot light was going out slowly. He laid low at school, did what he thought was a good job of hiding his behavior and continued his weak performance with our company. Our friendship was terribly strained. A complete reversal had taken place. It was Jerry who was the leader, the head coach, my "big brother" leading the way. It was Jerry on his way to becoming a high school principal, then just like an unexpected pH bounce (sorry) I was the big brother...

People say, "you just never know," and they are so correct. It only got worse. This is very sad for me to write about, but it was the turning point in my career/business. Jerry went on to drive drunk through his neighborhood, miss a turn, and plow into a neighbor's front yard tree. He was pulled out of his truck by a friend of mine who happened to live across the street from the accident. He also happened to be a police officer.
 Then, and I'm jumping ahead a bit because this isn't intended to be a melodrama, Jerry showed up drunk at work one too many times. He was reported, the principal, thankfully, didn't have me involved, personally went and got him out of his classroom. I saw him as he walked past my office door. He looked dark. She told him what was going on, had our school resource officer administer a blood alcohol, suspended him with pay temporarily and took his car keys so he couldn't drive home. Strangely, I can't remember if someone took him home or he walked. Either way, he returned with another set of keys and moved his car out of the teacher's parking lot.
That was, as I recall, and a lot of conjecture, the final straw for his marriage. Though there wasn't talk of divorce, at least not that I heard. Jerry moved out and was living in an apartment. I didn't have much to do with Jerry after that. He sent me an apologetic letter telling me he would love to drive around with me, since he lost his license, and check pools. I continued to split the profits 50/50 with him because it was the right thing to do, but he had cost us so much money and credibility I could not bring myself to encourage any involvement by him in  our business. Business wise, we were still profitable, but for the first time, had we not had such decent employees, we would surely have been out of business.

One day, I answer the phone and a mutual friend and teacher is on the other end. He says, "Jerry, is in intensive care and on life support. It doesn't look good." Dammit!!!! He did it again. He went cold turkey trying to kick the disease. This time, though, he had done it in his lonely, sparsely decorated apartment. He seized and laid there, alone, on the floor. I can't even remember now exactly who found him. Our mutual friend and I went to the ICU. Jerry was unconscious, his wife, daughters, and parents were at his side. I went over and whispered into his ear. I doubt he "heard" me, and only he and I know what I said. Ultimately, there was no hope as he was brain dead. They pulled the plug and my partner, my friend, my big brother, died.

I have explained Jerry's demise partly to honor him, but mostly to establish that if I've learned anything in 26 years of business it's that resiliency, resolve, hunger, desperation, greed and pride will all be tested and displayed at some point, sometimes foreseen and others completely out of nowhere.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Huh, what just happened? Part 9 of "From Classsroom to Pump Room"

I've alluded to having to go it alone. In the long run, it was a blessing in disguise for me. I didn't want it to happen. I sure didn't think it would happen. But, here's what happened...
After a couple of summers with Jerry, which I have somewhat summarized, I was a complete mess. Our daughter was born with a serious health issue, would need life saving surgery at eight years old, and what I thought was indigestion was a heart attack, complete with emergency, quadruple bypass surgery. I mention this because these events preceded Jerry's path. Please understand this next sentence or two. While I was recuperating from open heart surgery, Jerry kept us afloat. It was killing me, being in the hospital knowing what Jerry was probably doing, or not doing, having seen his contributions. But, bless his heart, he stood tall and did the best he could. Was it as good as the way I deal with things while giving myself a heart attack from stress? No, but, given Jerry's condition, and, umm, his wife who had had enough at the time, he manned up.

You see, when we started this little venture, Jerry and I would occasionally drive around together checking pools, trying unsuccessfully mostly to make repairs, and...always stopping for a few beers. We coached together, golfed together, socialized together, his kids taught mine to swim, but from where we started, I watched firsthand, how alcohol is a vicious, relentless  disease.
In the span of a couple of years, Jerry went from admired, loved father, teacher, head  basketball coach, interim assistant principal, pool business owner to living, isolated and alone in an apartment.
The first time I actually realized Jerry had a serious problem was the first day of school one year. Jerry had fallen from respected teacher, interim assistant principal to the teacher who has parents and students whispering about vodka on his breath. Somewhat embarrassingly, Jerry completely screwed up his interim administrator job. I say embarrassingly, because, geez, I keep saying this, no one was more surprised than I when they came to me and offered me the job. Not, an interim, I was full time administrator. And Jerry went back to his classroom.
So..I'm a new administrator, I didn't mention, at the same school we were teaching and coaching together. It's the first day back for teachers. Always a fun day. We had a new principal. She injected a much needed enthusiasm into the school with first day team building activities, games, catered lunch, etc. I vividly remember being in the main office hearing all the returning teachers and staff out in the commons area when a teacher runs in and yells, "Call 911, Jerry ***** is convulsing in the commons!"

I followed the ambulance to the emergency room. The principal knew we were close and I was his friend. I sat out in the emergency room, adrenaline blasting through me, hoping he's not gonna die and leave a wife and two kids. I kept waiting for his wife to show up. Eventually, they had him under control and he was unconscious but looked okay. While I'm standing over him, his wife walks into the curtain cubicle. I'm expecting a grieving, sobbing wife. Instead, she walked in with a cold look I had never seen, and haven't seen since. She looks at me, gives me a dirty look, asks the doctor if he will be okay and when he says, "Yes, with rest." she did an about face and walked right back out the door.
Huh??? What just happened here??

Friday, March 28, 2014

My go to, "Nick, you knock yourself out." Read Part 8 of my business journey.

Now I confess, I'm writing this from memory because I had no intention of ever revisiting these times for any reason. So, at this point the pool seasons kind of blend in for few years. Basically though, I kept paying our debts, making payroll and all the tax payments that go with running a reputable business, being thankful that I had found Don and he was working out so well, learning from Don more than any one source about pools, sharing the profits with my partner, accepting that I basically am running the company in spite of my partner rather than with the help of my partner, and feeling blessed and fortunate and smart for owning a profitable small business. I was now seeing first hand, capitalism. I liked it.

Summers began to get pretty stressful. We were making good money, I had taken to driving around to all our pools in a random fashion to keep our young employees on their toes as best I could. I pretty much isolated my partner and took over the entire operation. If you know me, you know I am confident but I am not full of myself. I was in fact, running the show. All the while splitting the profits 50/50. Now, in a perfect world, I could solve the employee/hiring/training/ dilemma. I asked old Don one day if he had any retired, semi-retired, friends who might want to work cleaning a couple of pools,  a couple of days a week. Sure enough, he did have a friend. I hired, Nick, and as I write this he is still working for me. I realized very quickly that Nick, though he was overweight and out of shape, understood the concept of daily maintenance, working smarter not harder, calling me to report repairs necessary that he didn't do and making minor repairs himself and just letting me know what he did. At first I had him get everything approved by me. The routine, because I'm a simple guy,, was Nick would go to Home Depot, buy whatever he needed, make the repair, send me the receipts, I reimburse him for his Home Depot purchase, I pay him for his time, I don't make anything on the Home Depot purchases because I would be adding on to the retail and I just don't operate that way. I have said this to Mike recently quite a lot. I have always "left some money on the table" before I get greedy. It's worked well for my credibility, which as we all know, is the most precious commodity to the customer. Because this is a blog, I am omitting a number of steps it took to get to this place. Suffice to say, in a service business, employees will make or break you. After writing that, I realized that could be said about all businesses! That being said, I also made a little money in my hourly charge after I paid Nick and paid all the required taxes. I could have done some things to make more money, I suppose, but at that time, I was just realizing that I actually do have the ability to organized and run a small business profitably. I may not have said this enough. No one was more surprised than I. And, part of my never being greedy was because as a teacher, with no real business education, I actually felt guilty charging what I was. Sure, I read all the articles about what my time is worth, and expertise, blah, blah.. I was afraid someone, somehow, would figure out I didn't have the slightest amount of confidence that this would succeed, that I seemed to have all the answers. Wow, I'm just writing randomly here. If this were a book, I would have this edited, But it's not. So, things just started to become clear to me. My original vision of how this would look a few years into it, was nowhere close. I started thinking I was going to do my thing, and Jerry, would do his. I mean, I was hoping we would make a little money like some of our other teacher friends that were out there madly aerating lawns after work for $25.00.

From that vision, I started seeing things differently. Mike tells me a lot, I'm great at explaining, and putting a plan in place, keeping all informed of status, and executing. This is so simple. I had read about this in the many books I read as mentioned earlier. Axioms are true for a reason. I already saw that we had found a need and began filling it with quality service. Haha, the hilarious part is I can't begin to tell you how our young adults were still doing a better job than our competitors. I knew I could improve. I had to. There were lots of emergency things that would come up and I would panic having to deal with them, all the while slowly, silently, seething that I was splitting the profits.

Then I realized I can make money having Nick and good old Don do the work that came up. Duh! With that, the next axiom has to do with yes, a pyramid, but not the Amway kind of crap. No, this axiom is the basic concept that I can make that repair myself, and pocket all the money...if you see where I'm heading here, you see the premise that is yes, I could do that. Or, I could spend my time getting more business, and making more by increasing volume. Yes, I may only make $20.00 only their labor, but if I have Nick and Don and more, I could have five guys, making me collectively $100.00 an hour. A point I valued watching my teacher friends, aerate, mow, house paint, for $25.00 an hour. I'll say it again, I felt guilty for some reason learning what I was learning and fearing it would explode at some point due to some idiotic thing I did. With this plan I completely changed my plan of attack. I went about looking for more Nicks to replace the young adults. I worried, for good reason, about our young adults getting up early enough to service the pool before the swimmers showed up. With Nick, one of the first things he said the day I met him at a McDonalds, was, "I know you said I should be at my first pool by 6:00 am in order to be done with the other 2/3 pools on my route by our 10:00 am open pool time. But, could I get to my first pool like 5:00 am?" I remember my answer, it has become my go to. I said, "Nick, you knock yourself out. If you want to be done by 9:00 that works for me." Here's the punch line...Then Nick says, "I realized some times because my pools are so close to each other, I can leave one pool filling while I run to another one to get the equipment out instead of watching the pool fill. And, if I need to make any repairs, I will likely have them done before opening." Is there a Double Duh???? Heck, that is not the conversation I would have with a 20 year old! It would have been more along the lines of, "Well, I didn't get home til late last night, then I forgot I needed to get gas in my car, and my mom made me drop my brother off at his friend's, but I was only done an hour later than I should have been.
Yup, only an hour.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Community Manager/HOA board swimming pool beginner's guide

An easy to understand guide for community managers and HOA boards summarizing different swimming pool terms, repairs, operating procedures and all things community swimming pool related. This is not a how-to for industry professionals. This is a "Dummies Guide to Pools" effort for communities.

Pool Opening:

Since we are seasonal here in Colorado, the pool has been dormant for the winter months. The hope is that last year's pool company properly winterized the pool. This can go both ways. Essentially, depending on the water quality when the safety cover is removed, the pool needs to be thoroughly cleaned and  vacuumed. Often, the pool is drained (not by the pool pump) and power washed to remove surface grime and algae. A plaster pool may need to be "acid washed" which is a method of diluting muriatic acid with water and spraying on the pool surface to remove stains, algae, scum lines, etc. This is like bleaching your teeth. It eats away at the plaster like bleach eats away at your enamel.

The pump room is put back together. All drain plugs are installed, unions connected, hoses checked and connected, electrical connections checked, the filter inspected and cleaned or new filter media added, the heater is checked, the chlorinator and it's hoses are inspected, the submerged pool light breaker works and the light and timer work properly. It is much wiser to replace bulbs while they are not under water. Rarely is there not a few minor repairs that need to be done during opening.

All the pool hardware is installed. This includes all ladders, rails, steps, fill spout and life-hook.

The safety cover is folded and stored and the cover anchors are screwed down.

The pool is filled with water and hopefully, circulates when the pump is turned on. It can take from a day and a half to four days to fill a pool depending on the size of the pool and the diameter of the main fill line.

The heater is turned on and tested. Adjustments to heater are made to insure safety and constant pool temperature. The chlorinator is charged and begins chlorinating the fresh pool water and the service tech begins adding chemicals to maintain industry standards.

Any/all pool furniture is brought out, cleaned and staged around the pool.

A daily sign in sheet for the service techs is placed in the pump room, usually on a clipboard. Chemicals are delivered, tiles are scrubbed, deck is power washed and the pool heater gradually brings the temperature up for opening day comfort. Many people think a pool can be filled and brought to 83 degrees in 24 hours. This is not the case. It takes a couple of days when starting from 40 degrees or so. Any pool operator that doesn't have the pool a few degrees higher than normal on opening day is foolish and either doesn't care or didn't start heating the pool soon enough. There is a huge difference between 82 degrees (industry standard), 80, 79, yikes.  Why not open at 84 degrees, all the parents are happy because they can easily get into the pool for the first time, the kids get in and stay in because it's warm. People only notice that the pool they pay HOA dues for was and is cold. So, no complaints, parents happy, kids happy, community manager happy, pool guy happy.  Win, win, win and win.

Occasionally, there are some major surprises that arise. There's always a solution, it's a matter of time, cost and type of repair. If a community pool is 30+ years old, it is tantamount to a used car with 120,000 miles on it.

Blog question regarding comments

I am so thankful for the number of people reading my blog,

I can not tell if the comment section is available as no one has left a comment. I don't expect lots of comments, but I thought I would get some chances to "meet" people who like my story. If you are reading my blog, will someone or two please leave a comment so I know if it is allowing comments.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

From Classroom to Pump Room Part 7: How desperate was I?? Prettty desperate!

So, what was my plan for the following summer. I was going to go around with him once or twice a week to check our pools. I was going to basically manage around him and work with him like I would with a student who couldn't write, or a basketball player who couldn't shoot a free throw. I told myself, if I assemble a better support team of employees, all he had to do was take and make the appropriate phone calls. He assured me, looked me right in the eye, and swore he could and would do this.

Another ad in the newspaper provided an older gentleman, Don, who also happened to be a part time school custodian, knew pools backwards and forwards, had a pool in his backyard, had actually been in charge of a couple of small mountain towns' water supply and in general is just a great guy. I had, at this point, given up on my partner ever actually fixing anything. All I hoped was that he could coordinate repairs and communicate with all involved. How stupid am I? Extremely. But in my defense, I was completely ignorant but fiercely loyal to my friend. What was I going to do? Fire my partner? Start a business without him? (Through it all, there was always a little bit of strength in numbers, even if one of the numbers was mentally compromised. I admit it, I was afraid to go it alone.)

That summer actually ran pretty smoothly using Don to make our repairs while moonlighting from his school custodian job. Now, the problem was our terrific, young student athletes we counted on to be terrific, young employees were not so terrific. In fact, they were horrible. There were, to be completely honest, a few that were just stellar and worked for me for a number of years. But, all in all, we could not count on them. As good a student, athlete, citizen as they may be, a kid will walk past a bag of McDonald's wrappers left from the day before all day, every day. He will then be pissed tomorrow when he's fishing it out in a thousand soggy pieces from the pool's bottom. I was never surprised that our young employees did what they did. They were in a situation, with little leadership, and expected to actually think and be proactive. Granted, I still didn't know much about the actual  pool servicing. That was my partner's job. Yes, I know, why would I think my partner would know anything at this point? I wish I had an answer. I think the best way I can describe it is to say that I had been watching a man deteriorate before my very eyes and was still hoping the young, enthusiastic teacher/coach I once knew, still had it in him. By now you should have already guessed how that worked out. So, our training program, my sadly sinking partner meeting them at a pool or two and showing them what he doesn't even quite know, wasn't exactly comprehensive training.
I keep stressing this because it's my truth. The whole point of this blog and my open, maybe biased, interpretation of  "my story" is to demonstrate that the possibility of making money and actually making money is what keeps a hopeless dreamer and "idea" guy going. I am now looking back and laughing at my dumb luck. I was too hungry to give up. I looked at it as a competition between me and the business world. I used to subscribe to Inc. magazine, used to subscribe to cheesy business magazines selling the "own on your business" dream like, Business Opportunities and Entrepreneur. I stayed up late watching what at the time was relatively new, Real Estate millions and the three day seminars. I never did actually go to one, but I would watch those shows and the millionaire would spend the entire hour giving away his only a smidgin of his secret formula, enough to entice you to spend the couple hundred for his seminar and failsafe book. I felt an urgency to make something financially positive happen. I took to reading books, usually more motivating than actual business X's and O's. I read success type stories at first. Then, as the years passed, I read more and more business strategy, marketing, personnel and other business detailed books and articles. One time I did actually send away for a free "sales kit" of a roof coating product either called "Pace" or that was the name of the company selling this amazing roof top weather sealant. I was going to take off driving the back roads of Colorado during my summers off from teaching, knock on business doors, especially large, flat roofed warehouses, demonstrate this amazing tar like substance by poking a hole in a styrofoam cup, lathering on the product and filling the cup with water to see the revolutionary sealant. Haha, I'm laughing at myself and the others who will read this and have similar thoughts. If you are a teacher, I'm certain you have.

But....we made even more money. This is more a comment on the poor service of other companies, that was industry standard, in our area.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

He's my partner?? "From Classroom to Pump Room" Part: 6

I didn't quite have a plan, but by the third summer, incredible as it seems, we were asked to take on a few more pools. Amazing!! So, we went to our next phase which was to hire some of our student athletes, who we knew were great kids, to clean the pools. I also ran an ad in the local newspaper in the help wanted section looking for people with pool experience. Sure enough, I had a number or responses to the ad. Boy, was that ever interesting. Every weirdo that ever was in a pool responded with varying degrees of expertise and just plain baloney. One guy though, a young married guy, responded. He had been working in one of the mountain ski resorts, had been sent to pool classes and had been repairing the resort's pool and spa. He and his wife were relocating to Denver and his plan was to start his own spa business. We met with him and explained that we had no intention of starting a spa business, and that he was free to do that if he would moonlight as our pool repair guy. He needed the money, we needed someone to work for $20.00 an hour instead of the $60.00 an hour we had been paying the other pool company. Heck, now we would charge the $60, pay him $20 and pocket the rest. Sweet!!! Again, the plan was, he would do our repairs using our wholesale parts, which we then charged retail for, my partner would be with him learning about pool repairs. Sounds like a plan, right?? Well, it would have been had my partner not been battling some demons of his own. Looking back, as mad as I was at this young guy, and how I thought he was a complete pirate at the time, I now realize that my partner left us ripe for the picking. How? He never went with this young guy. Instead he trusted him to be honest and ethical. He trusted him that is, until this sonofagun replaced us at two accounts. He stole them right from under our noses. I remember pulling up to one of these accounts as this young pirate was there meeting with a board member. They both looked at me as I exited my car and walked toward them. I swear, they both looked like they had seen a ghost and were fully expecting me to walk up and deck the guy or pull out a weapon. Instead, I just walked up and verified that he had taken the account. The board member stated something along the lines of, "Well, he was the one my partner had said to call." Yup that's right. My partner went and told this board member to go ahead and call our employee!!! I was so pissed I could hardly move. I confronted my partner and he hemmed and hawed, but it was at this time that I was finally seeing that my partner was, ugh, LAZY. He wanted the money, he wanted to tell people how he owned a profitable business, but he was too damn lazy to actually see that we were still in the infant stages when a parent has to watch every step carefully.  About this time, I began to notice something else. My partner would have lapses in memory, he would lie about communicating with property managers and homeowners, and lastly, he little by little was showing signs of a drinking problem. Later, this same summer, I answered a call from a community manager at one of our pools. He told me that the board had decided to fire us due to poor response. He went on to tell me that he had called my partner numerous times, left messages, all regarding an issue with one of the rest rooms at the pool. All my partner had to do was respond. He needed to call him back, fix the problem himself, find a plumber who we would pay full price to fix it, any of those. Instead, he was paralyzed with alcohol. He just stopped functioning. Of course, when I confronted him he had the usual excuses. But he knew and I knew that I was more than holding up my end of our deal. His deal went from making repairs, to being on site watching someone make the repairs, to at least making the call to have someone make the repairs and see that it got done, to doing none of those. And still, at the end of the summer, we made more money than we ever should have. Begrudgingly, I shared the profits with him 50/50. The point here is, while he was screwing me over, though alcohol was to blame, I was the real idiot. I was so loyal to him. For God's sake, he had a classroom right next to mine, he helped me finish my basement, I coached basketball with him, we were a team...not.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

"From Classroom to Pump Room" Part 5: Fake it til you make it! How a teacher faked it and succeeded.

We decided that we would do the pools each morning, seven days a week, the first summer and began with three community swimming pools.
Considering we had no idea exactly what we were doing, even though we had passed the certified pool operator's test with flying colors, we actually did succeed in having a great summer. Unbelievably, we actually made money right out the gate. No one was more surprised than I, when I realized we may have to become incorporated.  I have no idea how much it is to incorporate these days. I remember how thrilled I was to report to Jerry that we were about to each pocket $3500.00. As I've already said, it was many years ago so by my best recollection, we decided to keep $1000.00 each, $2000.00 total, in the bank for operating funds the next summer. You have to realize, this was big money to make in one summer for two teachers. And, it did two things for me. It convinced me that having the chance to make as much money as we could was as exciting as I had hoped, and it convinced me that we could expand to more pools. I mean, if we could stumble through one summer with three pools, make money and have the property manager tell us how awesome we were (without knowing just how much we faked our way through), then we could certainly perfect the day to day servicing procedures. I had, out of sheer necessity, located a competitor to actually bail us out. I had to swallow some pride, but we befriended a couple of pool guys who knew what they were doing as far as pools go, but were making the same customer service mistakes we founded our company on not making. I will never forget a call I made to this company. We had a pool and for the life of us, we couldn't get suction at the pump. True story...I was so hell bent on this business working, that while my partner, the one who was supposed to be the "mechanical" guy, was not figuring this problem out, I was in a pool, with unheated water, wife holding me down with a long pool vacuum pole, while I was sticking an inflatable rubber hose attachment to the main drain. We were convinced there had to be some sort of a suction leak between the pool and the pump. For the life of me, and man was that water cold, I couldn't figure out why we could not get the water to completely fill the pump basket. It would struggle, some water would start to trickle into the pump, but just as quickly, it would stop. So, back to my embarrassing moment. I called this company and was talking to one of the young owners. He asked me, "Have you checked the fitting on the suction side and the discharge side of the pump?" I swear this is true. I did not know what the hell he was talking about. I could tell from his tone of voice he was completely amazed, as well he should have been, that this moron didn't know the suction and discharge sides of a pump. Anyway, he finally explained to me what this meant. Though I still didn't know the answer, I talked him into a) going to our pool and checking, b) fixing the problem, c) helping us with other pool problems. Here's the kick in the pants. Because I didn't have much of an option, I agreed to pay them regular price. I asked if maybe they would give us a discount based on our friendship and potential volume and they partially agreed. I also worked it so that my partner, Mr. Fixit, could be on site as they fixed things watching and learning for future repairs. Here's the gist of it, after our second summer, we had made even more money as we had taken on another two pools. But, in looking at our costs, I saw that we had paid this other pool company as much as we pocketed!! That's right, that isn't a misprint. Because my partner couldn't fix much (there were other problems that were hidden which I will get into), we paid this company what we paid ourselves. Again, I'm not a genius, nor did I or do I have a degree in business, but I knew that if I could find someone who we could pay, to make these repairs for us as one of our employees, buy wholesale parts and sell as retail, we could greatly increase our profit and reduce our out of pocket expenses. I knew this going in, but not having a business degree, I concentrated on one thing at a time. I had been concentrating on customer service, having money left over after all expenses were paid, securing more contracts/pools, expecting my partner to fix more  big ticket items, and taking necessary steps to keep our momentum heading in the right direction. Here's what always amazed me, not how much money we had left on the table, no, not me, I'm an idiot. I was amazed at how we could basically pay other small businesses to do our work, add just a little for our time and expenses and still make a profit. Oh, and here's just a bit more incite from an idiot. I was charging less than every other similar company, so I had to realize my worth, take a chance and increase my fees to, less than the market, but significantly more than I had been. Best part, the communities were so happy with our service they didn't even notice and, we were still the most economical pool/handyman service available!

Monday, February 3, 2014

"From Classroom to Pump Room" Part 4: Find a need and fill it.

I hadn’t forgotten my entrepreneurial desires, but I put them off as probably not going to happen to me. Here’s where my fortunes changed.

Find a need and fill it!

I was coaching high school basketball to make extra money and became very good friends with the head coach. He too had kids and lived in a community that had a pool. He would invite us to spend the day with his family at their community pool. It was free, the kids loved the pool and we enjoyed the beer and conversation.

One day, as we sat around the pool, a scruffy looking young man showed up, walked around the pool, tested the water with his handy kit, and left. My friend, who also happened to be a board member for the homeowner’s association there turned to me and said, “That’s the pool guy, every summer we try a new pool company, and every summer this is what we get. He is supposed to clean and service the pool daily, not walk in and walk out.”  I remember turning to him and saying something like, “Just how much do you pay these guys?” When he told me, my next response was, “You know, we do have the summers off and Colorado is seasonal in that pools are only open during the summer.”  Anyway, we kicked it around and did some research. We found that we would need to take a course to become Certified Pool Operators. After a number of poolside meetings as the kids swam, we decided to find where, when and how to take this course. It wasn’t expensive, I really don’t remember how much, but it couldn’t have been more than a couple hundred dollars because I wouldn’t have been able to afford it if it was more than that.

We took the course, and while I don’t mean to be disparaging, we were the two most educated people in the class. The rest of our classmates looked exactly like the young man who “walked in and walked out” the day our business venture began. We passed the class and became Certified Pool Operators. My partner, who I will call, Jerry, because I don’t want to use his real name, for reasons I will detail shortly,  then realized we needed to find a community or two willing to take a chance on these new pool guys. Jerry, being a board member, knew the management company who managed his community. Admittedly, we were lucky, not only did he know the owner of the management company; this owner lived in the same community. Also, as more luck would have it, I had actually taught both of his kids and fortunately they loved me.

We set a meeting with him and explained that we were going to try the pool business. We explained what we saw, what Jerry and he knew from their experience, and that we wanted to know if he would take a chance on us. Our logic was pretty simple, “…really, can we do any worse than what is out there?”  And, we told him we would be servicing the pools ourselves in order to learn first hand and under fire. Our big plan was to then hire a couple of our basketball players, who we knew were reliable and smart to become “pool boys” as we supervised them. To our surprise, and I say this because we didn’t know exactly what his response would be, he said, “Go for it. I’ll give you a couple pools and we will see what happens. I know both of you and trust that, if nothing else, at least if you fail, it won’t be because you didn’t give it an honest effort.”

So we walked out of his office and were high fiving each other in the parking lot when it occurred to us we needed a business name, and probably should become a legitimate business for legal reasons. Our plan was that Jerry would be the head of the daily service, repairs, etc. because he was a very handy type, while me….umm…not so much. My contribution would be the business end. I would get the legal forms, the sales license, do the billing, etc.  It was a lot more work than I ever imagined. Not so much hard, just very laborious because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. And dealing with government receptionists proved very frustrating. I talked to my brother-in-law, the accountant, and he suggested we become a Type S corporation.
So far I'm very happy that I decided to go as an S Corporation. I do know that LLC is essentially the same. Roughly, these types of entities guard you  should something happen and you get sued. If you should lose the lawsuit the complainant could only take whatever assets you have in the corporation. Fortunately, I have never been sued or even brought to court. I think 12 years of Catholic school has made me very serious about running an ethical business!
Anyway, we set out and began as M & T Pool & Handyman Services, Inc.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

"From Classroom to Pump Room" Part 3: Teacher succeeds after a few failures!

If nothing else, I always fathomed myself an “idea” guy. I may not know how to get there, but I always have an idea. You may not believe this next part but I swear on my daughter it is true. I realized selling the cosmetics wasn’t going to happen. But, I had an idea. Let me assure you, I’m still on the failure part, this is just the next failure.

One of my frustrations as a teacher was contacting parents. I would send home the appropriate attendance forms, detailing dates of absences, tardies, missed assignments, and the like. But, and I knew this, the students got to the mail before their parents did!! I would call during my planning period, I would call the parent’s place of business, and rarely did I have much success contacting parents by the “school approved” methods. I got to thinking…what if there was a computerized dialer that actually worked? 
What if I put the numbers in and sent home a recording? I approached Lou with the idea and he immediately liked it. While these exact systems are widely used in schools today, once again, I swear, if I wasn’t the first person with the idea to use these machines in schools, I was among the first couple. One thing I knew for sure, I couldn’t go to my principal and sell him our phone computer, I was too ethical to sell him a piece of junk, and I knew, the school didn’t have an extra $5000.00 sitting around to be spent on, what at this time, was a crazy, but maybe workable, idea.

I figured, there has to be more of these phone dialers out there. I set out to find one that worked and Lou would find a computer programmer expert-type who could make them for us by figuring out how they worked. Sure enough, I found a company, I believe based in Kansas City, who manufactured and sold a board that was actually placed in an existing computer, hooked to a phone line, and worked by dialing numbers that were manually set, and delivering a pre-recorded message. It cost about $400.00 as I recall. Again, please accept my figures as fairly accurate. I never thought I would be writing about any of this, and it was many years ago.

Again, being an “idea guy” I wanted to test this machine, see if it worked, and see if I would have any success using it for the purpose of contacting parents. I had a very amicable assistant principal back then. I knew he thought I was an excellent teacher, and he trusted me. I went to him with my idea. He made the mistake of telling me the principal would be out of the building attending a conference or something, for the next week. I explained in more detail about my idea and how I would use it. All I needed was a computer, an office with a phone line, and his okay to just try it and see what happened. Son of a gun if he didn’t think it was a good idea and not only did he help me out, the office I used was the principal’s!!

I got an older computer that had the necessary amount of memory to support this board we, had purchased and talked the school tech support guy, Brad, into installing it. I then went to some of my friends with the idea. I asked them to give me the phone numbers of their twenty or so worst students. It came as no surprise that many of the names submitted were duplicated over and over. It also was coincidence that parent conferences were a few days away. Instead of recording a message regarding student attendance, I recorded one saying that, “your student has been identified as one who would benefit from parents attending the conference." Usually, these invites were sent home in the mail as part of a beginning of the year newsletter and students were asked to remind their parents as the times approached…yeah, right.
So, with no warning, I began entering phone numbers of the identified students, recorded the message inviting parents to the conference and eagerly awaited the results. The results were, to say the least, terrific. So I had the idea, now, could we either duplicate or mass produce a similar board and sell them to schools. I learned, again from Lou, about selling an idea. He was a master at selling ideas, and dreams, unfortunately.
He went so far as to have a "non-working prototype" produced and entered our business in a couple of educational conferences. We didn't sell one of our  machines, though we had a lot of interest in them. Looking back, it's a good thing we didn't sell any, since we didn't' actually have a working one to sell!

During this time, Lou leased us a small office. I wasn’t sure why, but it was cool telling people I had an office. Then he came to me and told me he needed to secure a line of credit and needed me to sign for a line of credit. I hesitated knowing this could be a stupid move, but becoming more and more desperate, I agreed. All was good for months. I trusted Lou and had no reason to believe he would go against his promise to never, ever use my credit. By now our daughter was born, he and his wife knew about her heart defect and I was certain he wouldn’t cause me any financial distress. I know you’re thinking, is this guy an idiot?…well not exactly, but close. One day I got a call from a bank telling me I owed $1500.00 on a line of credit. I was crushed. I went to the bank and found out Lou had in fact used some of my line of credit… stupid, stupid me. I also learned what check kiting was. I had never heard the term until the banker explained it to me.

So… for my effort during these couple of years I was a failure and duped out of $1500 by a “friend”. Shortly thereafter, we took a chance, assured by doctors that our first daughter’s heart was a one in thousand fluke, we had our second child, another daughter. The doctors were right; she was born with no health problems.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


I thought, damn, if I could just find a way to make some money in a small business I could help my family and my financial worth.
I know what you are probably thinking as you read this. Here we go with some huge, one in a million, success story that this guy is trying to make profit from. Not true. I have done over two million dollars in gross business in the years I have been in this business, but I am far from a millionaire.
My Initial Failure
Before our daughter was born, my wife talked me into joining a bowling team from her work. I suck at bowling, but I did it more for the beer and socialization, plus, it was a cheap night out. Anyway, we bowled with a bunch of her co-workers and their spouses. One of these spouses was an elderly gentleman named, Lou. He saw I was eager to make money and we became friends. He had purchased a formula for a collagen based cosmetic line and approached me with the idea of marketing it. The only reason I went with it was because he offered me part ownership in the business. Please stay with me here as this is one of my failures, but it is important that you see how I ended up where I am today. Anyway, he seemed to be honest with some financial resources to get this company started. He brought on another young guy that claimed to be some marketing genius….he wasn’t. But, he did design the packaging, the pamphlet and the strategy before he slipped away with money Lou paid him never to be seen or heard from again. His strategy was to do mailings generated from leads which were generated from, and I hate to admit to this…computerized phone dialers. Lou purchased a $5,000.00 machine and I made myself a little office from a spare bedroom. I would run the machine and listen to the responses. Most were people cussing me out for interrupting their day with this stupid message, not very cleverly disguised as a survey (our disappearing marketing genius’ script). Crazy as it was, some people would actually respond with their name and address and I would address the envelope, stuff the pamphlet and send it off. To my knowledge, we never sold one bottle of the magical collagen cream. But along the way, I was getting the itch to own and operate a profitable business. I wish I could say I took this opportunity and now own a Fortune 500 cosmetic business, but that’s not even close.
Part of my frustration was the dialer machine didn’t work very well. I would check it at night after it was supposed to have run all day only to find it had been stuck in some kind of sales call limbo. We took it back to the manufacturer who tested it, tweaked it, tweaked it some more and finally told us that was as good as it gets. The company that sold us this piece of garbage went out of business.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

From CLASSROOM to POOL PUMP ROOM, a teacher's journey Part 1

After retiring from 29 years in education, 19 as a high school English teacher and 10 more as an Assistant Principal, I decided maybe there are other teachers out there who might benefit from my entrepreneurial success and yes, failures.

Without going in to too much detail, I was a typical teacher.  I was married, my wife worked in retail, and at the end of every month we would see our bank statement and realize that though we had lived frugally, we had $8.34 left until payday!

Our first daughter was born with a severe heart defect, we were told she would need surgery, we couldn’t find a daycare provider to accept her and we decided it would be best for her health if my wife stayed home to care for her. Again, this isn’t about her story or our struggles as a family, it is about my need to make money.

At first I decided the best thing to do would be to get out of teaching and into the corporate world. But there were two problems; one I had an English education degree, and two, I had no idea what I could do and realized I loved teaching. From there I decided a part-time job may be the answer, but honestly, every part time job I looked into was chump change given the time I would spend away from my family. Somehow, fellow teachers and friends saw this as their opportunity to solicit me to sell term life insurance, become an Amway distributor, etc. I was told many times how I would excel at sales since teaching is basically selling to students. The problem was, I didn’t want to sell. I wasn’t about to call my family and friends and try to sucker them into the benefits of vitamins, soap, insurance, none of that.

I will continue to post short exerpts like this for those reading and interested in how a high school teacher/administrator started a perfect small business.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

What if someone did the "community walkthroughs" for you?

There has to be a way to help Community Managers spend their time more wisely!

Is there a way my semi-retired work force can lighten your work load?

If given a list of items, my guys would happily and thoroughly do community "walk arounds" and submit a report to CMs, make the repairs we can and suggest repairs we cannot make all at very reasonable prices.

Little by little Community Managers are using our "I Got a Guy" handyman services for those small tasks that need to be done sooner, rather than later. Checking and changing community light bulbs, adjusting/replacing photo cells or light timers, replacing broken/stolen light post globes, removing graffiti, cleaning gutters and downspouts, repairing perimeter fences and fixing hose bib drips are just a few of the light handyman jobs we have performed for communities.

Community Managers use our reliable services for communities whose pools we service, as well as communities that do not have a pool.

Please call or email if Talkin Handyman Services can be of help.

Feel free to post any comments or questions.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Tired of poor handyman services?

One call or email is all it takes for us to dispatch one of our handymen.
Rates: $35.00 - basic minor repairs
$50.00 - locksmithing, construction 
$75.00 - plumbing

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Free pool class for community managers

The past few pool seasons, I have been asked to meet community managers at a pool site and give a "Pool School 101" seminar. I do this as a free service for a couple or reasons. First, I know that community managers are inundated with information from vendors as problems arise. I have seen how a basic idea of a pool and pool parts helps with the communication between me and the community manager and just as importantly, between the community manager and the HOA board. Secondly, I was a high school English teacher and basketball coach for 20 years so I enjoy the "classroom."

Rest assured, I know exactly how much information is too much, and how much is just enough. There will not be any test and all questions will be answered on the spot. Also, if a management company cares enough to send their community managers to my seminar, which always includes managers I do not directly work with, then I feel a responsibility to continue the relationship by responding to calls and emails regarding pool questions whether I am the pool service provider at that community or not.

Please contact me for information or to schedule a seminar. Each seminar lasts approximately one hour depending on the number of questions, concerns and discussions that usually take place.