Florida pool service firm Tropical Breeze Pools is half the company it used to be.
That’s by design.
The Orlando firm’s president, Kevin Baron, sold the company’s commercial accounts to industry powerhouse American Pool Enterprises and now will strictly focus on expanding its residential division by way of franchising.
Tropical Breeze will be the latest company to enter the franchising fray, which includes America’s Swimming Pool Co., VivoPools and 1 Stop Pool Pros, each of which is steadily expanding. ASP remains the biggest of the bunch, servicing 200 cities across 16 states.
There are also whisperings of major service-related franchises outside the industry testing the waters, so to speak. If this trend continues to gain momentum, Baron foresees a day when the service landscape will be dominated by a half-dozen major players. He’s just trying to stay ahead of the curve.
“I almost wish I found American Pool a year ago so I could be farther ahead in my franchising approach,” he said.
Baron is a former Sprint executive who entered the pool market in 2006 with a modest number of residential accounts. Until last month, Tropical Breeze was servicing more than 400 commercial and residential pools in central Florida.
To take his company in a new direction, he had a decision to make.
“I feel the residential market is much more viable to franchise,” he said.
So he offloaded the commercial department, which included 140 accounts. The sale gave him some capital to fund his new venture. Tropical Breeze will undergo a rebrand. He expects to have a new logo in the coming months. The franchise initially will be limited to Florida, but eventually will expand to bordering states.
Maintaining proximity “is the easiest way to provide the level of service that franchisees deserve,” he said.
The acquisition of Tropical Breeze’s commercial routes and personnel gives American Pool Enterprises further reach into the Florida market. The Owings Mills, Md.-based company has been providing commercial maintenance, repair and renovation services in the Hollywood/Miami area for more than a decade.
“Florida is absolutely an area we’re looking to grow out and build out,” said Mitchell Friedlander, CEO.
Tropical Breeze will operate under the American Pool Enterprise brand.
As much as franchising has taken hold of the industry, American Pool continues to expand with its own unique business model. The 30-year-old company acquires businesses, but ownership stays intact.
“We’ll call them acquisitions, but really they’re partnerships,” Friedlander continued. “We only acquire a majority stock. … The business owner gets a pay day when we enter an agreement, then we accelerate their growth. ...”
And they still have the option to cash out later, he said.
It’s a strategy that has grown its Southwest service division, called Poolman, from 3,000 accounts to more than 7,000 residential and commercial pools in Phoenix, San Diego and Dallas/Fort Worth.
“We’re obviously looking to really expand that in all markets West,” Friedlander said.