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Skip the Commercials?

What keeps pool pros from servicing commercial pools

Teaching health department–required certification classes for commercial pools is part of what I do. These are necessary certifications for anyone who has anything to do with cleanliness, maintenance and chemical treatment of a public pool.

However, over the last six or seven years, I have been offering these courses to pool pros who do not clean or maintain commercial pools. So, what are they doing there?

Commercial pools are an underserved niche. I hear often from commercial properties that it’s challenging to find a service company that services small- to mid-size pools at hotels, apartment complexes, condominiums and HOAs.

Entre-Pool-Neurs

A good amount of the people I see are folks who are new to the industry. Maybe they are starting from scratch or perhaps purchasing a route. These ‘entre-pool-neurs’ are in it for the education; I see a lot of employers send their techs for this reason. Others are looking for a marketable difference with certification that sets them apart. (“At ABC Pool Cleaners, we value the health and safety of your family so highly that we attend the health department certification class for public pools even though we are not required to.”) But they do not clean or maintain commercial pools. Why? They simply don’t want to be attached to something that has them on-call.

But they are missing an opportunity; commercial pools are an underserved niche. I hear often from commercial properties that it’s challenging to find a service company that services small- to mid-size pools at hotels, apartment complexes, condominiums and HOAs.

What’s that in the pool?

When I had my service company and visited commercial facilities, I enjoyed my work for them. Yes, if a child has an accident in the pool on Saturday, they expect you to come treat the water, but this doesn’t happen as often as you might think. I only had a few of these weekend incidents in the nearly nine years I owned a service company. But if you operate a pool where toddlers are regulars, you’ll have to scoop the poop more often.

Knocking on Doors

Commercial pool service is growth you can control. With residential pools, you cannot wander up and down the streets in a neighborhood knocking on doors to find customers. People don’t usually take that type of solicitation well. However, commercial facilities are used to it, and they expect it. Salespeople stop by their offices all day long.

“Hello, Mr./Mrs. Property Manager. I take care of the pool at the property next door and wanted to stop in to drop off a business card. To see if you’d like a free water test to compare notes. To let you know about the aphid infestations running rampant through the neighborhoods.”

If you need to grow your business, you can knock on doors at commercial properties — it’s better than sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring. It’ll take a few visits on average, so check in quarterly. Sometimes you’ll score first at-bat.

The Water Quality & Health Council keeps a list of states that publish inspection results. This list, meant for the public, can be a valuable tool for you. There is a facility near you somewhere with a DOH closed pool that can use your help: bit.ly/WQHCinspections

Predictable Consistency

You never know what you are going to get when you step into the backyard of a residential customer, and they are not always willing to pay for necessary repairs or updates so that you can keep the pool properly clean.

But with commercial pools, things tend to be relatively consistent. When you’re there three times a week or more, it makes them a lot easier to clean. Public pools, for the most part, are regulated. They have specific, required turnover rates. If the equipment is undersized or not operating correctly, the health official will shut them down. Closing a sale on an item that is needed to meet code is usually effortless.

Commercial facilities tend to pay on time, too. I only had to chase money once when I owned my company. This is just a regular operating expense for these facilities; they cut your check after they write the one for electric and right before the gas.

Don’t Undercut the Market

When the economy is good, commercial facilities pay well for pool service, which means profit margins are high. These pools are figuring out the whole social distancing thing and starting to hire vendors once again, which is excellent news. Although it doesn’t look like there will be a recession (knock on every piece of wood I own), these commercial venues held steadfastly in 2008. In fact, it took a worldwide pandemic in 2020 to get these properties to shutter. Remember the underserved niche: Companies who do not want to do commercial service are creating a massive demand. Yes, commercial facilities have budgets and allocate a certain amount to the pool. But unless your pricing is stupid high, you’ll get what you quote. Don’t devalue service by offering undercut pricing. That just hurts everyone.

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