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Old 24th January 2005, 07:35 PM   #1
Poolman
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Hello, my name is Kevin. I work for a major gunite pool builder on Long Island, NY as a Service Foreman. For a few years now, I have also been operating my own pool business part time, mostly on days off from work.

My ultimate goal is to operate my own full time business. I plan on staying with my current employer for the upcoming summer, but then I want to be on my own. I have extensive technical knowledge and experience, as I have been in the business for over 15 years.

I plan on building pools and performing everything from renovations to weekly cleanings. Ever since I started this business, I have taken almost every penny I made and put it back into the business. I have a Van and all the tools needed. Ultimately, I want to have two trucks running, myself and helper on one, and another mechanic/helper on the other. I will run this out of my house with my wife as bookeeper/office staff. For now, I can run just the one truck and hire one helper and get by. I will add staff as it grows.

I have the day to day running planned out, but my main concern is getting customers (I know, that's the big obstacle in any business)

I am optimistic because, frankly, there are not many quality pool services in my area. The level of incompetance is shocking to say the least. almost every one of my own customers (all 10 of them) tried me out because the last guy in there screwed it up bad.

my current employer, and one previous one, never spent one cent on advertising ever. They built it up on word of mouth. I realize that word of mouth is the best kind of advertising because it's free, but i am looking for a way to "jump start" it. I feel that once enough people experience what I have to offer, that I will get many referals. I was wondering what you all think? some ideas I have considered are direct mail, newspaper ads, yellow pages, and local swapsheet/yankee trader type publications.

sorry for the long 1st post, but i have been thinking about this for years, but never really asked anyone these questions before (anyone in business, that is)

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Old 24th January 2005, 07:49 PM   #2
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Welcome to the forum Poolman! Sounds like you are already off to a great start and it's good to see you are planning your next steps.

In my mind, it's important that you focus your marketing dollars on pool owners. The problem is, how do you figure out which house has a pool? Once you know that, you could do direct mailings, flyers, etc.

One thing I would do is call every lawn service in your area. Offer to pay them $2.00, $5.00, or whatever for every address they give you of a house they service that has a pool. You could compile a list of homes that have pools and focus your mailings just on them. Get the most bang from your marketing buck.

You could also have referral cards printed for the lawn services. One side describes your services, the other side has a space for the lawn service to write their name. I'd then pay the lawn service a really good finders fee for each new client - keep them motivated to send those referrals. If a lawn guy makes $25 for a lawn and you pay him $25 bucks just for a referal, he'll be motivated.

I'd keep these referral cards on you at all times so if you are out and see a lawn crew you could hand some out.

Also, try thinking about other services that you could use this approach with - painters, pest control, maid services, etc, etc.

I'll keep thinking and see if I come up with more ideas.

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Old 24th January 2005, 08:45 PM   #3
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good ideas, robert

I had been thinking about direct mail, but until now, I did not know if it was worth it.

years ago, for one summer, all I did was my own stuff an I used the local pennysaver to send out a flyer that they helped me design. I got some business from it, but I found them to be "penny pinchers" and I have been there and done that. unfortunately, I learned the hard way that cheapskates complain 5x as much as anyone else.

I guess the mentality of a cheapo is to squeeze every last thing out of you, while the no questions people could care less how much it is, just that it's done right...

anyone else have experience advertising a new service business in the yellow pages? I know I have personally gone to the yellow pages to find a plumber, etc.... I am starting to think about staying away from the local pennysaver type papers due to the aforementioned problems I had.

I don't want to give the impression that I am living in fantasy land and that "poof" I will have lots of customers right away. I am aware that I will have to "suck it up" for as long as it takes to build up at least 100 customers (winterize/summerize/weekly vacuuming) but I want to minimize the crunch by having a plan in place and ready to go. I figure my only major expenses at first will be advetising/insurance/county licensing. I already have computer,seperate phone line w/machine, net 30 account with supply house, cards w/logo, shirts w/logo.

I suppose a credit card machine would be a good idea too? probably will make it easier to get paid, plus gives that "air" of being a big company. In the end, I think people are more comfortable when someone shows up wearing a uniform in a nice vehicle and they like it when they call the "office"

one other thing: I have a good friend who bought a pool business locally 3 years ago and he is doing really well with it. he has mentioned to me that he is looking to liquidate some accounts because he is getting a steady stream of new business from the prior owner (who still builds pools, but subs it all out and does not do service work) If I were to approach him about buying some accounts, how would I place a value on them? is there some formula based on what you could gross from them in a year?


Last edited by Poolman; 24th January 2005 at 08:48 PM.
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Old 24th January 2005, 09:45 PM   #4
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Quote:
I learned the hard way that cheapskates complain 5x as much as anyone else.
That's so true and I learned it the hard way too!

Quote:
the no questions people could care less how much it is, just that it's done right...
How to find them is the hard part. Another thing that I've seen done here is a maid service and a pool service got together on some co-op flyer advertising. The pool service got one side of the flyer, the maid service the other. They were very nicely done and it was a smart way for non-competing companies to share advertising costs.

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Old 25th January 2005, 02:45 AM   #5
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Hi Kevin,

Just wanted to say, welcome to the forums.

Teresa

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Old 25th January 2005, 07:02 AM   #6
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thanks all for the kind words and advice. the wheels are turning.....I still would like to hear from anyone with experience using the yellow pages for a startup service type business (maid, plumber, electrician, etc...)

also, has anyone used tax records to find out more info on customers. in my case, pools have to have permits and c/o's, so I was thinking I might be able to get a list of people with pools in the county where I live....

I realize that it's probably public information, but getting it is another story....


Last edited by Poolman; 25th January 2005 at 07:04 AM.
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Old 25th January 2005, 09:07 AM   #7
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That's a great idea. You could also focus on just those higher-margin jobs by approaching just those pool owners in wealthier neighborhoods. You could sort by zip code once you pull the permits.

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Old 25th January 2005, 05:37 PM   #8
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I am just concerned that they won't give me the info. I was wondering if there are services that can make custom lists for you based on your requirements.

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Old 25th January 2005, 08:26 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Poolman
in my case, pools have to have permits and c/o's
If a permit is required, you may want to check with your county clerk's office to see if the information is available there.

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Old 26th January 2005, 09:16 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Poolman
I am just concerned that they won't give me the info. I was wondering if there are services that can make custom lists for you based on your requirements.
They probably won't just give it to you, but they'll likely let you go find it yourself in their records. There very well may be a number of list brokers who could rent you exactly the kind of list you're looking for, but it might be cheaper in the long run to hire a fiirm to do the local research for you on an hourly basis. At least that way you would own the list outright.

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