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!

1 comment:

Unknown said...

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