The unbelievable power of a trade organization to your commercial business

Michael Cooper, Cooper Pools / Coop@Cooperpoolsinc.com

Many in our industry have been doing the Hokey Pokey dance with commercial service and maintenance for years. They put their whole self in and take their whole self out. Believe me I get it. The larger-than-comfort size of the contracts and demanding frequency of visits can be overwhelming. We are held accountable by the Department of Health for inspections, on-property Board members, as well as the IRS. The invoices with commas (ones for more than $1,000) will not be left in cash on the back patio table with a bottle of water.

I bought my commercial pool route from the Thanksgiving table in 2009. Let's just say it was a steep learning curve. I learned that I was in the most regulated, complex sector of the pool industry. Man did I get punched in the face early on. My entire first month's deposit from my PO Box went out of state with my trainer (a fact I discovered painfully). I maxed out my credit card on gas and chlorine month one. I lost my largest financial account on day 110 of a 90-day transfer guarantee. Oh, and I was $100,000 in financial debt with a loan secured by my childhood home. My father-in-law trainer moved out of the state on day six of my 30-day training period. I did not have a DOH-approved public pool service technician certificate (FPPS, CPO, AFO etc.) at the time. I had not read the code nor did I even know there was one to look at. Fortunately, another industry veteran took me under his wing and mentored me, with no financial gain for himself other than becoming my go to repair technician. It started a relationship of give and take that lasted through his retirement from the industry. Had it not been for him I would have been a statistic; a closed business before the first season was even through.

My mentor ran my route with me. He explained what a plunger did. He showed me safe methods for adding chemicals. He walked me through a system from filter to return. We bought gloves, goggles, and even tools together. He walked me through my one-page quote contract and helped me land my first ever service contract. While I was in a public pool service technician 16-hour class, he even covered my route in my truck. He introduced me to the guys at the supply house; some of the most valuable connections anyone in the industry could pay for. They became free resources for issues and people became readily available to me. He introduced me to the Everything Under the Sunsm Expo in Orlando. There I got to check off the box of less than one year of experience while looking at the 10+ years checkbox on my FSPA membership application.

Thirteen years later I am all in commercial. My relationship with my ex-stepfather-in-law is one of the best in both friendship and respect. I have been given the opportunity to serve on my local chapter Board. I take all commercial questions in the Tampa Bay area. I freely volunteer on the state Board writing articles such as this. I get to speak with senators, government relations firms, lobbyists, philanthropic foundation donors and some of the finest industry professionals Florida could hope for. Joining this trade organization for the cost of a few energy drinks a week gave me resources for training. I get to actively pursue industry knowledge to make myself a better business leader. In my contacts list is more than 700 businesses that want to see the industry get better. Insurance questions, best practices for remodeling and starting up a pool, they are all right here at my fingertips. Yes, I am in business for myself, but I am not BY myself. As I approach being a multiple seven figure business, I am aware that I could not do any of this alone.

If you are reading this as a new-to-the-industry single poler, I suggest you check the back of this magazine and get to your local chapter and plug into this network. Get credentialed. Get informed. Get code information in real time. Get clear industry guidelines. I cannot wait to meet you! Find your Steve Dachs. He or she is waiting for you in the FSPA.