In another example of an emerging industry
trend, a Florida home services company is entering the world of
pool service franchising.
In a deal finalized on Jan. 18, UniServ acquired the recently launched swimming
pool franchise business ZipWorks. Both firms are based in Fort
Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Founded in 2001, UniServ offers pool cleaning/maintenance, pest
control, lawn spray and handyman services in five counties
throughout south Florida. ZipWorks, which began operating as a
franchiser in April 2012, had yet to sign on any businesses.
Prior to the acquisition, UniServ had operated not unlike a
franchiser in that it handled administrative, marketing and other
tasks for its 23 current business partners who service upwards of
2,300 pools. The firm had intended to roll out a plan of its own to
set up a franchise network early this year, but officials believed
a partnership with ZipWorks would expedite the process, CEO Chip
Though ZipWorks was still in its early stages when the deal was
made, Sollins was attracted to the firm’s business model,
which relied heavily on proprietary technology being developed by
ZipWorks founding partner Dan Rubenstein.
As part of the new relationship, Rubenstein will take on the role
of UniServ’s chief technology officer. In this position, he
will continue to develop the program Sollins believes will poise
his company for major expansion over the next three- to five years,
Using the technology as a selling point, UniServ hopes to
transition all of its current business partners to franchisees, a
process scheduled to take place by the end of the first quarter
2013. The firm also intends to venture into new Florida markets
later this year, with expansion into Arizona, Nevada and Texas
being planned for 2014 according to Sollins.
“It’s the perfect marriage because [UniServ] has a lot
of people running the operation smoothly, but it’s not
scalable,” Rubenstein said. “With the merger, we each
are going to get where we want to go faster … by bringing
[the industry] up to 2013.”
ZipWorks is a “management in the box” tool that will
include a series of apps designed to allow franchise operators to
conduct their business while in the field using handheld devices.
Rubenstein anticipates the application will be available in a year.
It’s intended to handle customer sign-up, ordering, quote
approval, invoicing, case management and more.
“Customers are expecting immediate attention with every
interaction, and we need to be responsive to that,”
While many believe franchising does not have its place in the pool
industry, some suggest the business model will cater to consumers
who rely on brand recognition as validity of a company’s
knowledge and reliability.
This may be especially true in markets such as Florida, which has
been home to a number of fly-by-night technicians who have
tarnished the reputation of other pool professionals in the
“I believe there is a place in the market for a pool
franchise, and with a good corporate franchiser, the franchisees
can do well,” said Jim DeBerry, a partner with Orlando-based
“Potential franchisees will breathe fresh breath into the
swimming pool industry. It should be attractive to let quality
newcomers join the industry, and companies like UniServ are on the
right track to bridging the industry gap and taking our beloved
industry to new heights.”