Everyone is earning less these days, including many swimming pool service professionals. But believe it or not, we’re doing better than a lot of people in other lines of work, and they want a piece of our pie. It takes finesse to protect your income.

Starting a side business cleaning pools can seem like a simple way to make ends meet for someone not in our industry. For example, schoolteachers have been hit hard in recent years. For educators who aren’t subject to layoffs, pay cuts have been severe. With three long months to fill in the summer, we’ve seen many teachers pick up a skimmer net and try to earn extra money on a pool route. In addition, college kids whose families may be struggling are also undercutting long-running pool businesses. These students don’t have a warehouse to stock with replacement parts, and they don’t employ a highly trained year-round staff, so the price is much lower.

This practice hurts our industry in multiple ways. First, of course, we stand to lose business when we can’t beat the price. More damaging to our culture as a whole, however, is that untrained pool service providers are prone to simple mistakes and don’t always know what a homeowner expects when it comes to pool care. I knew of one such moonlighter who didn’t turn the valves he should have and the entire pool drained. This gives the industry a bad reputation as a whole. We have to be known as specialists in what we do.

The way to do that and defend our earnings is education. This is a highly technical industry, and that technology is always advancing.

In order to keep up, we send our workers to trade shows constantly and fund seminars. They go to all the manufacturers’ classes. This isn’t cheap, and our prices reflect that. But when our employees have that history of education, many consumers find the extra cost immaterial. We regularly get clients calling to request specific techs.

By protecting our businesses, pool professionals are actually in a position to help the underdog. Instead of letting a newbie steal clients, take that person under your wing. I’ve had success with this at my firm. If you are running your company right, even in these trying times, you may need an extra hand or two during the busy summer. You can hire a schoolteacher or a college kid to perform simple cleanings, keeping your expensive techs free for the technical jobs. When they have that name recognition, making your main employees feel valued is another way to maintain business. If you hamper them with menial tasks, you may see less loyalty. It’s about balance.

When you have a tiered system like that, you are controlling your overhead in an intelligent way. Only then can outsiders become a boon for your business.


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