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.

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