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...

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