Investing in a new management software
system may be the furthest thought from your mind right now.
But consider this: Management software can save a lot of staff time
and ultimately boost your bottom line.
While it’s true that implementing new software takes
resources, the rewards of doing it right can be great. Pool
& Spa News recently spoke with a variety of builders,
retailers and service technicians about how management software
programs have changed the way they do business.
Builder: Champagne Aquatech Pools
No one knows the value of management software better than Michael
Manley, president of Champagne Aquatech Pools , a Pool & Spa
News Top Builder in Sanford, Fla. In 2004, when hurricane
damage from Charley caused the company’s entire computer
system to fail, the proprietary scheduling software that
Manley’s team had spent years developing was lost —
along with data on all 260 jobs under construction at the
“Our whole life was built on this system, and it was all
gone,” he says.
That’s why Manley decided to implement a Web-based system
that safely stores all the company’s data off site. The
program went live six months ago, and it supports every customer
transaction, including sales, scheduling, warranty and service
calls after a pool has been completed. It also handles the
accounting side of the business.
“You can be building 25 pools a year, or you can be building
1,000 pools a year, and this system will work for you,”
Sales staff, vendors and subcontractors can all access the system
remotely if desired. Even customers can check their accounts, view
the schedule and receive messages from the company, such as e-mail
reminders to select the tile for their projects.
Manley stresses that this system has not replaced direct
communication with his customers. But having these details
available online has greatly reduced the frequency with which
customers call the office.
The system also has dramatically increased staff productivity.
Manley notes that even large companies using the software would
need to have only one person in charge of scheduling.
“If you’re looking for ways to be more efficient and to
bring costs down, automation is definitely one of the ways to do
that,” he says.
Builder: Gold Medal Pools
Last year, Gold Medal Pools Inc. in Frisco, Texas, undertook a
major software conversion, trading out several smaller programs for
one unified system designed to track every aspect of the business.
Making real-time information available to all departments was the
“If a homeowner calls our office, anyone there will be able
to give them an answer to their question because they will have the
background on the job,” says Josh Sandler, vice president of
Gold Medal Pools.
Completing a successful transition to the new software was a group
effort and involved a fair amount of training. “It took a lot
of patience and a lot of persistence, not only to implement the
change, but also to make the change stick,” Sandler says.
“If everyone puts in the correct information, you can get
very powerful results out of it.”
To make sure all employees were on the same page, the vendor set up
phone calls, Web seminars, meetings and video conferences to answer
questions, offer tutorials and help work through the transition.
Sandler also credits having a tech-savvy employee within the
company with helping this effort proceed smoothly.
Once the software program was up and running, it soon became
obvious that everyone was benefiting from office efficiencies. For
example, employees on a job site now can send work orders directly
to the office from their laptops rather than waiting to process
them until the end of the day. This means a faster turnaround for
the customer, too. For Sandler, these benefits made the software a
“At the end of the day, it really helps our employees do
their jobs more efficiently, and our customer’s experience is
all the better for it,” Sandler says. “When we’re
able to do that as a company, the expense is an investment in
everyone’s future, and that’s how we see
Retailer: A&M Corson’s AquaValue
When Dallas Boyer, CEO of A&M Corson’s AquaValue in Scottsdale,
Ariz., started searching for a better software system, she was
quickly disappointed. Having separate reorder points and quantities
for each of her five retail stores and two warehouses was a top
priority. But none of the software programs she looked into
supported this feature.
Just when Boyer was about to give up, she met with a vendor whose
software could not only support separate reorder points, but also
reflected live transactions that allowed each store to see exactly
what is in stock at the other locations throughout the day.
A hardware setback in February delayed plans to go live with the
new system, but portions were operating by March. Now that the pool
season rush has subsided, Boyer is working to ensure that sales
from the beginning of the year also are reflected in the
She says the new accounting system is much easier to use.
“Instead of having five separate ‘companies’ for
five separate stores, we have it all in one
‘company,’” Boyer says. “So we don’t
have to jump in and out in between ‘companies’ in our
programs for the accounting part.” She can also easily run
reports on each separate store.
“The POS programs are as easy to use as a cash
register,” Boyer notes. “When you get into the
accounting, it gets a little more confusing.” Still, she says
the learning curve isn’t too steep on the accounting side,
especially for those who have worked with other accounting programs
For Boyer, the benefit of investing in software is the sheer amount
of information she can have on her business at the touch of a
button. For example, the software can instantaneously calculate the
average ticket sale whenever it’s needed.
“It gives you data that you could not get otherwise,”
she says. “It just gives you so much more information that
you can then use to work on your business.”
Retailer: Aqua Palace Spa and Pool
When it became clear that her store’s inventory system was no
longer a good fit for her business, Cindy Rolenc knew it was time
to make a switch.
The vice president of Aqua
Palace Spa and Pool in Council Bluffs, Iowa, was using a
program with decent accounting capabilities, but the point-of-sale
side couldn’t handle special orders, service calls and
So in 2005, the firm invested in a POS system that could
handle more complicated transactions, including tracking special
customer discounts. For example, if a customer purchases a spa and
a chemical kit simultaneously, they qualify for a 25 percent
discount off their chemical purchases from that point on. Whenever
the clerk pulls up the customer’s name, the software will
bring up the discount automatically.
“By simply clicking ‘Apply,’ it will take that
discount amount off their purchase,” Rolenc says.
The software also is instrumental in the store’s Fun Pass
customer-appreciation program. Shoppers bring in Fun Pass ID cards
that are swiped at every transaction, and the software
automatically tallies the points based on their purchases.
“This qualifies them for either additional discounts or a
free item once they hit certain levels,” Rolenc says.
The software vendor is active about system updates, and also
solicits customer feedback. Currently, Rolenc is working with the
vendor to allow kit pricing on customer receipts instead of long
lists of line items.
“Then the customer’s receipt would just show a kit with
that price, but you’re able to cost it out on a separate
screen,” she says.
Ultimately, Rolenc is satisfied with the switch to a new POS
system. “It gives us more accurate information and a much
easier way of tracking than before,” she says.
Service: PM Pool Service
Before PM Pool
Service in Roselle, N.J., switched over to its current software
system in early 2007, it was obvious that the company’s old
mainframe-based system was no longer meeting its needs.
“We found it was almost impossible to do any type of
efficient routing as well as inventory control with that old
version,” says Mike Izzo, vice president of operations.
“It just wasn’t very flexible.”
After a year-long search, the company opted for a program that also
incorporated the advanced billing features they needed, as well as
scheduling features that allowed the staff to arrange jobs by
geographic area, or even the expertise level of techs.
“We actually saw an efficiency increase when it came to gas
and labor hours,” Izzo says. “I’d say it was
probably a 10- to 15 percent reduction in direct
Since implementing the software, Izzo has worked with the
vendor on improvements and new features. Last year, he was part of
a focus group that helped shape the latest major release of the
“All the features that came out of that version were
custom-made and tailored based on our feedback,” he says. One
of these features is a past-due and credit-alert system that
visually notifies users to late payments.
For firms that are researching software options, Izzo recommends
getting feedback from data-entry staff, then calling the vendor to
see how their software would work in the company’s
“Don’t just go online, download their demo and play
with it,” he says. “Call them and let them go through
it with you.”
Consider the following factors to make sure you find a good fitting
Following is a list of some of the leading
design, management and service-related software available to pool
and spa professionals.