If it weren’t for Oprah, I might not be in business today. How many pool professionals can say that? In my case, it’s absolutely true.
In January 2006, I was doing what the newly unemployed usually do: sitting on a couch and flipping through channels. This felt completely unnatural to me.
I’d been working steadily since I was a kid selling newspapers on the weekends. In my early 20s, I worked as a lifeguard at a waterpark, was promoted to assistant manager of its engineering department, and then owned a pizza shop with my wife before getting back into the pool industry, this time working for a local pool builder for a number of years before I was unexpectedly let go.
That’s how I found myself watching “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” This episode was all about The Secret. And it changed my life.
For the uninitiated, The Secret is a 2006 movie that was later adapted into a self-help book that sold nearly 20 million copies worldwide. The Secret proposes that the universe is governed by the law of attraction. Essentially, negative thoughts attract negative circumstances. Conversely, positive thoughts result in positive outcomes. It may sound like New Age hokum, but it’s been my experience that there’s really something to it.
Per the Queen of Daytime TV’s suggestion, I bought the DVD and worked my way through the companion workbook. Though unemployed and down to my last $4,000, I had hope. According to The Secret, I could change the course of my life by simply changing the pattern of my thoughts. Instead of dwelling on the past, I looked toward the future where I saw myself working for … myself.
I determined to make a go of it as an independent contractor specializing in building and repair. If The Secret’s philosophy held true, all I had to do was fix my mind on that goal and the pieces would fall into place.
I printed a stack of business cards and networked like crazy at industry conventions, hoping to establish some kind of warranty or service center. That’s how I became a Fox Pools dealer. This was in 2007, and you can probably guess what happened next — the economy put the kibosh on my plans to become a successful pool installer.
This was only a minor setback. I figured I could still go the service route. So I bought a rust bucket of a van (the same model Tony Danza drove in “Who’s the Boss?”) for $400, patched the holey truck bed with carpet I picked out of the trash and loaded it full of pool chemicals.
I was in business.
Work was intermittent in the beginning. But on days when my services weren’t required, you wouldn’t find me on the couch watching Oprah. I always dressed as though I were going to work and remained at the ready, even if I didn’t have any appointments — again, putting the power of positive thinking into action.
My first big break came by sheer happenstance. I was in line at a convenience store. Standing behind me was a subcontractor who used to frequent my pizza shop. He recognized me and, knowing I had a background in swimming pools, asked how much I’d charge to install some pool equipment. I quoted him $30 an hour. He said he’d give me $50 an hour if I could get on it right away.
That was the first of many jobs I’d end up doing for him, and it was a much-needed shot in the arm for my little start-up.
It wasn’t always easy maintaining a sunny outlook on things. Just as Lilly Pool and Spa was getting off the ground, my tired old van gasped its last dying breath. This was just days before Memorial Day weekend, and I had 20 jobs lined up! This was a make-or-break moment for my business. I had to abandon my dead van at roadside and hitchhike to the nearest dealership. Who should I see along the way? My old boss at a stop light!
I couldn’t let any of this discourage me. Instead, I forged ahead. I had my wife drive my one functioning vehicle, a Dodge Durango, to the dealership, where we traded it in toward the purchase of a brand-new 2007 GMC Savana.
I was back in business.
Not only does keeping a positive mind-set help me achieve goals, but I also believe it helps sidestep pitfalls. After my business was firmly established, I decided retail was the next logical step. I narrowly avoided making the disastrous decision to sign a lease on a building that I later discovered was set to be demolished three months after I would’ve moved in. A sign on the building announced a shopping center was in development. I dodged a bullet.
There were many other curious little coincidences along the way. Shortly after my father died, I learned that he was in the pool business many years ago with the father of former NESPA president Pete Lucy for a short time. I didn’t know that about him and took it as cosmic confirmation that I was on the right track.
Today, I have a fleet of five service trucks and six employees. I have over 400 accounts with more than 100 requiring routine maintenance. I aim to be a $1 million business in five years. I’m positive I’ll get there.
One more thing: I mentioned that I used to be a Fox Pools dealer. The man who arranged that for me was Mike Ribnikar, who was with Fox at the time. We kept in touch over the years. I turned him onto The Secret. Today, he is the co-owner of Premier Pools & Spas of Dallas, No. 31 on PSN’s Top 50 Builders list this year.
See what I mean? There’s really something to it.