The second U.S. purchase by Australian retail/service firm Poolwerx shows acquirer and acquiree both moving closer to their goals. Six months after entering the U.S. market, Poolwerx will hang its shingle in two more key Sunbelt states - California and Florida - after acquiring the retail and residential servicing and maintenance division of fellow franchiser VivoPools, based in Monrovia, Calif.
The new locations include SC Pool & Spa Works in San Clemente, Calif.; Citrus Pool Services in Hernando, Fla.; and Crystal Tech Pools in Tucson, Ariz.
Vivo still holds residential accounts in Northern California, Las Vegas and the northern Los Angeles area.
The transaction places both companies on track for their respective missions. When Poolwerx purchased Phoenix-based Cactus Valley Pools in March, its founder and CEO, John O’Brien, said his company planned to expand throughout the Sunbelt and gain 300 locations in five years.
But the company has set a shorter-term goal as well. “By the end of 2016, we want to have 50 stores and 90 mobile service vans and trucks," O'Brien said. "So we’re on track for that.”
The next acquisition is expected in fall. While O’Brien couldn’t discuss the current negotiations, he did say one thing: “Texas is the next market we would like to enter into.”
Including all purchases so far, Poolwerx now has 17 retail locations in the U.S.
This also marks a change in course for VivoPools, as the sale frees the service company to focus mostly on its commercial and waterpark/resorts businesses.
“We’re looking to become the largest commercial management company in the United States and beyond,” said company CEO Willan Johnson.
In October 2014, Vivo branched out with the opening of VivoAquatics, which will focus on high-end chemical automation, technology and brand standards for waterparks, resorts and other high-level commercial accounts. It has signed with more than 20 major resorts and waterparks, Johnson said.
VivoPools focuses on the day-to-day maintenance and repair of commercial pools.
The company is beginning to explore accounts outside the U.S. so it can better support larger waterpark and resort chains.
“As they start to roll out their products globally, we want to be there to support them,” Johnson said. “And we’re also looking to continue to build strong relationships with each of the large branded hospitality chains as well.”
And while this latest transaction prepares Poolwerx to entrench itself into American franchising, it lessens Vivo’s participation. The company had made news the past few years when it took on a franchise model for the residential side of its business. As a byproduct of its new commercial focus, Johnson said, the company likely will not be bringing on any more franchisees. It currently still has six.
“Ultimately, it’s hard to do everything, and we were growing our large aquatic business quickly,” Johnson said.
While Johnson will no longer be affiliated with the locations that were sold, Poolwerx plans to retain the 45 employees working at those operations, including the managers.
“Each of the groups, particularly those in Florida and Tucson had been with Vivo for four or more years, they were great people and business managers,” Johnson said. “It was important for me to find an acquirer that would give opportunities for those teams to grow and be successful in their careers.”
For the time being, the former VivoPools operations will keep their current names. But by year’s end, O’Brien expects them to have completed their transition to the Poolwerx brand.
Though Poolwerx is known for its franchise model, the former VivoPools locations will be corporate-owned and used as a home base to support local franchises in the future. These operations also had been corporately owned by Vivo.