How to start a pool cleaning business
When the weather’s warm, many people take a dip in a swimming pool to cool off, have some fun, and get exercise. Keeping swimming pools clean and safely operational is big business, as there are nearly 11 million swimming pools in the US. The pool cleaning industry has grown 6% over the past five years, reaching $5 billion in 2018. Over the same timeframe, the number of businesses has increased 3.4%, while the number of employees has grown 3.5%. It’s the perfect time to start your own pool cleaning business, but doing so successfully means proper planning before you begin.
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Making a business plan
All good businesses start with a business plan that defines the business mission, examines the target market, competition, startup costs, revenue projections, marketing plan, business structure, and more. The more time and effort you put into your pool service business plan, the better prepared you’ll be when it’s time to open to customers. There are a number of templates available to make it easier for you, and are absolutely necessary if you plan to seek investors to help you get up and running.
In this phase, you’ll want to focus on market research. How many pools are in the area? How many pool cleaning businesses are in the area? How can you make yours different to appeal to more customers? You’ll want to use a tool like KWFinder for some local keyword research to help you find the competition and start working on your digital marketing strategy.
It is also critical to consider the legal formation of your business. Sole proprietorships are the simplest form and easiest to start, but leave you legally liable for any business debts. LLCs are an affordable way to provide asset protection, but it’s best to consult with a lawyer to see what’s ideal for your situation. There’s also local, state, and federal legal requirements to make sure you are in compliance with, such as obtaining a business license, before you begin taking clients.
While working on your business plan, you will also want to think about business accounting. You’ll need a bank account to handle all the income so you can easily pay any employees, cover your expenses, and prepare for taxes. It’s also a good time to figure your income, so you can use this with your competitive analysis as the basis for setting your rates.
Be prepared to handle the extra seasonal business if you’re operating in an area where it’s not swim-ready weather all the time. It may mean hiring seasonal help to cover the increased demand. In the off season, focus on servicing indoor pools and spas to keep business running.
When dealing with all the financial aspects of starting your new small business, you’ll need to factor in all business expenses. The good news is, there’s a low barrier to entry, especially if you already have a truck or trailer. Your initial startup costs shouldn’t run more than about $2,000, not including any fees paid to setup your legal business structure. You’ll need:
- A vehicle large enough to transport your equipment
- A trailer for the equipment if your current vehicle isn’t large enough
- Business insurance
- Water-testing kits
- Pool-cleaning chemicals
- Skimmers and brushes
- Leaf rakes
- Company branded T-shirts or hats
- Advertising flyers
- Service agreement to use with customers
- Pro tip: Leave door hangers to verify service with contact information.
How to build skills and get certified
As a pool service professional, you’ll obviously need to know how to clean and service swimming pools. One of the best programs available is the Certified Pool/Spa Operator Certification Program by the National Swimming Pool Foundation. You can also look into Certified Service Professional (CSP) certification from the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals. In certain states, such as Florida, the health department requires open-book testing to become certified to clean public and health-club pools, spas, and hot tubs.
Investing in your professional growth and education helps to keep your pool cleaning service growing, but also allows you to offer additional services, such as pool maintenance, to increase your income. Continually make investments in your education to give yourself an edge against the competition.
Because many of the pool cleaning chemicals on the market today are hazardous to your health, it’s worth learning about environmentally-friendly alternatives. Some customers may not want to rely on the harshness of chlorine, and having something that’s just as effective available for them can set your business apart from others in the area.
How to make your pool business look professional
Most pool owners have had bad experiences with fly-by-night pool cleaners, and pool cleaning is a business that requires a certain amount of trust. To project a professional appearance even when you’re brand new, set up a business website with information about your company and your services, and get a business email with your URL (example: JoeZ@OrlandoSparklingPools.com). There will be times when you cannot answer the phone, so you’ll also need a professional voicemail.
Signage on your vehicle and a neat appearance – including a company logo shirt if possible – adds an air of professionalism and can ease neighbor’s concerns.
How to make more money
The goal of almost every small business owner is to increase revenue, and that can be challenging. Here are four cost-effective strategies for a small local business to build reputation, make sales, and establish an online presence without breaking the bank.
1. Increase sales
Invest resources into building an online presence that includes a website and social media channels. Use your website to chat with potential customers and use social media to draw in leads. Post photos of pools before and after you’ve finished with them, and share customer stories.
Broaden your skill set so you can do more than clean the pool and offer maintenance and minor repair. A quick and easy way to increase your earning potential is to sell supplies to pool owners who want to clean the pool themselves between professional cleanings.
2. Increase word of mouth
Make providing great customer service a priority, since people will share their experience with friends and family. Remind your customers your business relies on reviews. Use reputation management to your advantage. Always be friendly and cooperative with your customer’s neighbors. Hand out flyers or business cards. Connect with pool builders and ask them to recommend your company to their customers. Most importantly, pay attention to customer feedback and use it to adjust your operations accordingly.
3. Cheap online marketing
Make sure your website information is complete and detailed, and claim your Google My Business listing. It may not seem logical for a mobile service like pool cleaning, but add your business to Google Maps. Remember, some people will search “pool cleaning near me,” and you want that business.
Start a Facebook Business Page, and a linked Instagram account, and fill them with enticing pool pictures, fun-in-the-sun stories, and helpful tips.
4. Decrease expenses
Research costs periodically. Look for ways to save money by buying in bulk, whether it’s through a dedicated pool supply store in your local area or a wholesale club like Costco. Remember, just because you’re getting the best deal you can find right now doesn’t mean that a better one won’t show up in the future. When you grow, you may find even greater savings with larger purposes.
Planning for the future
As your business grows, you’ll want to have a plan in place for scaling without sacrificing service quality. Develop a training system for new crew members that includes how to behave with customers and passing neighbors. Add an incentive bonus for generating new sales so your crew is also your sales team. Add new trucks and equipment so you can expand your service area.
Dip your toes in the water
If you’re not quite ready to dive into pool cleaning full-time, this is a great business to work part-time and scale up as you’re able. Even if you don’t live in a tropical climate like Florida or California, you can still be successful in the industry.
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