In the Northeast, typically the pools are too far apart
to do a pay-per-pool compensation. Also, because of the seasonal aspect of the
business, it sometimes makes it hard to offer a fair and legal salary. During
spring and summer, there is a lot of overtime to get the workload done. When
our company started, most of the help we hired were from other trades such as
construction; they were used to working more hours in the nicer months, then
getting a pink slip for a few months, and looked forward to the down time. Now
the company is more established; we do keep a few full-time people in winter.
Once you find good people, do what it takes to keep them going during slower
months. Right now, our field staff is compensated by the hour, but our office
staff is salary.
We use all our own trucks, and everyone gets a W-2. The
only exception is our vendors [1099 subcontractors] that do our renovation
work, such as sandblasting or plaster.
Companies need to be careful when reporting someone as a
subcontractor. In some states, if you report someone as a subcontractor but let
them use your truck to perform a maintenance route, they will not be considered
a subcontractor — and you can be fined and owe the taxes.
Craig Sears CSP, CPB, CPO, President Sears Pool Management Consultants, Inc. Atlanta, Georgia
Our swim season is May to September. We service
commercial pools, so our practices might be a little different from others.
Our strategy is to attract top talent and develop them
to their full potential, so it’s important we have a competitive compensation
package. We look for people who want a career in the aquatic industry, which
includes pool maintenance, repair, renovation, lifeguarding, instructing and
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Our maintenance personnel drive company vehicles and are
W-2 employees. This way we know they have proper insurance coverage in the
event of accident or injury.
Though the vast majority of pools we service open
seasonally, we try to keep as many maintenance staff as possible year-round. So
we have a tiered system within our maintenance staff: Year-round staff are
eligible for benefits, and receive industry training and certification.
Seasonal staff are not eligible for benefits and may or may not receive
training, depending upon their career goals and company needs. Seasonal staff
ride along with year-round staff, so they are supervised and receive on-the-job
I believe everyone should be paid on commission, but it
is not always possible. The majority of our staff are W-2 employees, with the
exception of a few subcontractors. W-2 employees are paid either commission or
an hourly rate, and have taxes deducted from their paychecks each pay period.
Subcontractors bid out each job and get paid an agreed-upon amount per job. We
send them a 1099 at the end of the year, and they are responsible for their own
We have both retail and service employees. Retail
employees receive an hourly wage, with full-time (nonseasonal) employees
receiving commission on gross store sales. Our service technicians are
commission only — they are paid commission based on a percentage of billable
labor plus a percentage of parts. Maintenance techs (pool cleaners) are paid an
hourly rate plus bonuses. We will be moving our maintenance techs to
commission-based compensation at some point, which will be a percentage of the
service contracts plus a percentage of the parts the tech replaces for the
customer, like skimmer baskets or pressure gauges.
Commission is scary for both employer and employee, but
it works out to be more profitable for employees. They are compensated for
quality work, which motivates employees to turn out a better work product for
the customer. It also lets the employee increase their earning potential by
encouraging them to actively look for ways to increase their sales, thus
increasing the gross revenue on which they are paid.