From the time he was a child, it seemed the entrepreneurial path was in the cards for Fraser Ramseyer.

“Since I was a kid, my passion and dream was always to build a business that’s doing good in the world,” says the Founder and CEO of Smart Pool Services, based in Austin, Texas.

As a six-year-old in his native Scotland, Ramseyer would see a bowl of free mints at a local pizzeria and start scheming. “I would say to my Mom, ‘Hey, let’s take 50 of these and go knocking on doors of big houses and sell them to people,’” he says.

Still a lad, he took a series of businesses beyond the conceptual phase. He and some friends bought candy from a bulk warehouse store, packaged it in Chinese take-out containers, and sold it in the cloak room at school. Each container sold for the price they had paid for a whole bag of candy. He built a music website, then another site for people to sell homes. He was 14.

“I had my Granddad drive me to houses with ‘For Sale’ signs out front,” Ramseyer says. “I’d go knock on the door and try to get them to sell their houses on my website. And when I was 14, I booked eight.”

That same motivation carried him to study international business at Robert Gordon University, with a year abroad at Istanbul’s Bogazici University.

After his studies, he was connected with fellow entrepreneurs in Austin, Texas, who were starting a business in the highly fragmented veterinary industry.

“There were a lot of Mom-and-Pop businesses, and not a lot of large sophisticated businesses that were advancing technology, implementing world-class marketing and medicine or putting money into research to advance the quality of care for pets,” Ramseyer says. “A lot of the hospitals were old, with outdated equipment, lower medical standards.”

Backed by private equity, they would acquire veterinary hospitals across the country, intending to provide standardized, first-class care and service, and provide career opportunities for the principals and employees of the selling companies. “They were starting a business to transform the veterinary industry,” Ramseyer says.

In his five years with Pathway Vet Alliance, the company went from the five founding employees managing about seven hospitals, to a network of 450 hospitals that generated more than $1 billion in revenue and recapitalized for billions of dollars. “It really scaled quickly,” Ramseyer says.

After his time with Pathway, Ramseyer identified the pool industry as a candidate for the same type of business model. He assembled a team, founded a private equity firm to back the venture, then kicked off Smart Pool Services with the acquisition of two long-standing Austin-area firms over the summer. Last month, it acquired two more operations, both located in San Antonio. In the near future, the company aspires to enter markets in Nevada, Arizona, Georgia and Florida.

Ramseyer’s Outlook

Q: How do you see business models such as yours playing out in the pool-service industry over the next five to 10 years?

A: There’s that famous quote that people always overestimate the amount of change in five years and underestimate the amount of change in 10 years ...

I think that in five to 10 years, there will probably be two to four major national scale businesses that focus on pool service and repair, perhaps renovation as well. I believe it will branch out into the construction side, but that might be a more regional thing in that space, with two to three major players in the biggest regions in the country that have grown with private equity capital and other capital injections.

I think there’ll always be one-polers out there, but I think over the long term there will be increased training, education, and risk mitigation. There’s probably going to be more regulation that holds these larger companies to a higher standard. That’s great for the industry, because it means that you’re held to a higher standard, which promotes a better and safer service delivery. I think that will make it a little more difficult for smaller, independent companies, particularly the one-polers. The companies that can weather that better would be the more sophisticated larger companies that combine that pool service expertise with the scaled business operating knowledge. The combination of those types of people collectively will enable and allow the larger businesses to adopt and adapt to any new regulation and higher standards. And it will become more of a sophisticated industry, for lack of a better word.

Q: After your previous company entered the veterinary industry, did others follow?

A: Whenever a group’s getting a lot of success and doing something where there’s an opportunity like that, inevitably other groups catch on to it. From our perspective it’s a good thing, because so long as they had a similar ideology to us then, hey, the industry is going to advance and change for good at a quicker pace. Of course it becomes more competitive, but healthy competition can be good.

Now there are a significant number doing it in the veterinary industry. I’d say across the first year, there were maybe two to three that popped up; the second year, five to six; the third year another five to seven. In the pool industry, I don’t think there will be as many popping up.

Ramseyer’s Takes

Single biggest accomplishment of his career: I’d say my greatest accomplishment is what we’ve done so far here. It’s an amazing industry, and we’ve brought amazing people together to create a great team.

Motto or favorite saying: You can achieve whatever you want, as long as you believe it, set your heart on it and work hard. If you can see it and believe it, you can achieve it. I believe that very deeply. I was like a young kid in Scotland with big business dreams, then all of a sudden things started happening. It was all through hard work and grit.

Most important thing to maintain focus and energy: Exercise and continually visualizing the end goal. I play competitively in a rugby team here in Austin, and that takes a lot of training and you keep fitness up. So I exercise every day, visualize the end goal every day to stay focused on what we’re doing and why we’re doing what we’re doing.

Favorite business book: When I was really young, I read The Real Deal by an entrepreneur called James Caan [not the actor]. It was all about his story. He had an idea to start a recruitment company, and he rented a broom closet to work out of. That’s where he started, and through hard work and believing in where he was going, he built a very successful business.

Personal role model and the single most important thing they taught: Jasen Trautwein is an important mentor. He started and founded the veterinary business, and then I serendipitously met him right at the beginning, when they were going to scale it up.

He’s now a big part of this company, too, as an investor and board member. He’s an incredible entrepreneur, an exceptional visionary and always thinks about things way into the future and about how to really change the game. And he does it all with the right intentions in how is it going to impact people.