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Commercial Pool Operator – Why Should You Consider Becoming a CPO?

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Commercial Pool Operator - Why Should You Consider Becoming a CPO?

Undoubtedly, earning a customer’s trust is not a walk in the park for any business. In the pool industry, commercial pool contractors often struggle to establish a large clientele. Even with positive online reviews and top-notch marketing strategies, it takes some time for customers to trust you.

Commercial Pool Operator - Why Should You Consider Becoming a CPO?

Gaining an extensive clientele in the pool industry through training

Nevertheless, the vice president of the commercial division of Van Kirk and Sons, Don Cesarone, says that commercial pool contractors who undergo professional training have higher chances of becoming successful. Fortunately, the majority of states require commercial pool operators to go through a mandatory training program. Contractors who often choose to further their training are likely to become more successful. Cesarone also says that his company offers training to commercial pool contractors. This way, they are able to stay updated on all industry trends.

When it comes to taking good care of a commercial pool, education is key. Indisputably, you need to know about the different pool types available, chemical treatments, pool equipment, and circulatory systems of the pool. Remember, the expansion of the pool industry has brought about many changes. Understanding these changes helps you take good care of your commercial pool.

Do you want to become a commercial pool operator? Here are a few things to know…

If you aspire to become a commercial pool contractor, it would be best to understand the legal requirements. A good percentage of states often require commercial pool operators to undergo professional training before obtaining a license. The training entails 16 hours of learning and an assessment test at the end of the course. The course of the training is nationally recognized. After you finish the course, you will have the right to call yourself a commercial pool operator. The CPO title on your website or business card helps you earn trust with your customers. As a CPO, you can also decide to further your education. There is a broad spectrum of online courses that can help you stay updated on all trends in the pool industry.

Being a commercial pool operator is not easy. It takes a lot of work and effort. Think about it. You need to maintain your pool and spend lots of money upgrading and marketing the pool. Not to mention, you need a lot of knowledge to keep the pool in good shape. Additionally, note that commercial pools have strict water regulations that you have to follow to maintain clean and safe water.

The relationship between pool maintenance and a large customer base

Customers are always pleased when they know your pool is well-maintained. So, commercial pool contractors should fill out maintenance logs. Cesarone says that some states in America require all contractors to test the water quality at least twice a week. Ultimately, maintaining crystal clear water in your pool helps you gain your customer’s trust.

Keep in mind that commercial pools have hundreds of swimmers in a week, especially during summer. As a result, they need more maintenance. Failure to maintain a commercial pool makes the water unsafe for swimmers. Commercial pools are more susceptible to experiencing contaminants like E.Coli and Cryptosporidium. These organisms can lead to serious health issues.

Aside from ensuring the maintain quality pool water, commercial pool operators should also check and fix all issues in the pool. For example, they should check for any cracks and leaks in the pool. Chipped-off pool surfaces can cause injuries to swimmers, hence affecting public safety. So, do your best to fix all issues as early as possible.

One of the best ways to attract a large customer base as a commercial pool operator is to request customer feedback. Both positive and negative customer feedback help you come up with an effective marketing strategy. Customer feedback helps you know your strong and weak points. Subsequently, you’ll be able to improve on your weak areas as well as meet customer needs. Additionally, being a member of a pool association and having a mentor will also help you become a successful commercial pool operator. You need to ensure your customers attain 100% satisfaction. This is the only way you’ll build a good reputation for yourself and your company.

Final thoughts

It is clear to see that being a commercial pool operator is not easy. Commercial pool operators need to keep their pools in good shape at all times. We all know that pool maintenance is not easy; this process consumes time and effort. All commercial pool operators should consider going through training programs to expand their pool maintenance and operation knowledge. Currently, there is a broad spectrum of training programs on pools in the United States. If you aspire to be a commercial pool operator, be prepared for the intensive training that comes with this title.

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Pool News coverage brought to you by Pool Magazine's own Marcus Packer. Marcus Packer is a 20 year pool industry veteran pool builder and pool service technician. In addition to being a swimming pool professional, Marcus has been a writer and long time contributor for Newsweek Magazine's home improvement section and more recently for Florida Travel + Life. Have a story idea or tip you'd like to share with Pool Magazine? Email [email protected] your story idea.

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The Power of People

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How a Virginia retail business leverages their ‘most valuable commodity — human willpower’ for continued growth

Clements Family

Jennifer Clements is the first to admit she loves to talk.

“The gift of gab can be very powerful,” says the co-owner of Pla-Mor Pools, a family-owned retail business with two locations in the Mechanicsville, Virginia-area.

For 40 years, Clements and her husband Kenny have been running the business her in-laws began in 1968 by focusing on the relationships they build with their employees, customers, and industry partners. But Clements never expected her role to become so critical as it did in the last two years as COVID and supply chain shortages combined to make business more challenging.

The pool and hot tub retail business was the hardest hit segment in the industry, Clements surmises.

“We had to put a lot of rules, guidelines, and new practices in place. On the administrative side, I spent more time making sure that our retail store was compliant than helping customers, and that’s sad,” she says.

Looking back, she recalls the early pandemic days as “horrific” and the time since as a wild ride.

“In all my decades in the industry, I’ve never experienced demand like that,” she says, yet “[suppliers] limited how many tubs we could buy, and we could have sold probably five times as many.”

Pla-Mor weathered the storm, ensuring the next generation of Clements family owners, Jennifer’s four sons, can carry on the tradition. “I know now that where there’s a will there’s a way,” she reflects. “I think our most valuable commodity is just human willpower.”

Treat employees like family

Clements likes to tease her staff that she has “adopted” them. She says a big part of Pla-Mor’s success through challenging times is in how they recruit and retain employees.

It hasn’t been easy.

“It was the most exhausting feat trying to bring in folks (during the pandemic). I’ve been stunned by how few candidates apply for positions,” she says, citing stimulus checks, safety concerns, and family care responsibilities as culprits. Now she runs continuous hiring campaigns through Indeed, posts fliers, and uses local organizations to educate prospective employees on career opportunities. Her main message: “Your safety is front and center for us, and we value you.

Other tactics they’ve used the past two years include:

  • Aggressively adjusting pay rates to national trends
  • Adding short-term sales inducements to products to help create excitement and establish goals
  • Allowing employees to help set safety standards
  • Including all employees in ongoing training, including leading training sessions once they’ve hit a year of service
Jennifer Clements the co-owner of
Pla-Mor Pools.

Overall, Clements doesn’t try to get fancy with her employee incentives – she focuses on paying employees well and treating them even better.

“Most of our staff has been with us for a long time, so they know they’re part of the family,” she says. “You have to actively work with new staff to establish that sense of belonging.”

Build your network to expand your options

Ask Clements what her job title is, and you’ll get a few answers. She finally settles on “director of business development,” but that doesn’t quite capture the whole picture. She’s used to being behind-the-scenes wearing many hats.

Today she reaches out to other women in this business who feel the same, to help them see the value in talking about their roles.

“Women are networkers by nature,” she says. “I love to network, whether it’s with other people in the pool business or if it’s with sales reps to find out what the trends are and forecast ahead of time which direction our business needs to go.”

Regardless of gender, Clements says that networking can help anyone’s business grow. She suggests a few key places to make an impact:

  • Attending trade shows gives you time to pick the brains of other business owners, get key contacts, and reach out to people with a strong industry presence
  • Interacting with political leaders pre-pandemic allowed Clements to contact the Virginia governor’s office in the earliest days of COVID so that Pla-Mor could have a plan in place before restrictions began and keep their doors open
  • Joining industry associations like the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance has given Clements the “Batphone” – there’s always someone to call for help, which has especially helped in sourcing hard-to-get products

Communicate with your customers

Clements actively monitors all of her business’s online reviews. Last year, she had a tough one. The customer was lamenting that they had purchased an aboveground pool from someone else, and they couldn’t get a ladder from Pla-Mor. Clements did what she always does – respond with the facts.

“I had to explain the interaction we had in the store that, yes, we did have them on the floor, but they were sold and nobody can source them,” she recalls.

As someone who can talk to anyone, Clements does not shy from customer interactions. Quite the opposite, she’s picked up those communications in the past two years and recommends:

  • Getting to know your customer base – Pla-Mor has a large percentage who are older, so they expected elevated safety and cleanliness standards
  • Serving customers where and when they want, which for Pla-Mor has meant increasingly moving to online retail and continuing contactless curbside pickup
  • Re-evaluating your show floor setup or warehouse storage footage to meet current demands – at Pla-Mor that has meant utilizing space left open by carrying fewer spas to instead store and display pumps and filters that they stocked up on to fulfill customer needs when others couldn’t
  • Providing full transparency into your pricing and sourcing strategies, even going as far as creating a book that shows manufacturer and distributor letters/information on rate increases and product shortages

Clements has learned customers can be fickle. “We were so short on some products and then other products were so far ahead that it would have been nice if we’d had explosive growth on everything.” While not experiencing the growth some builders and service businesses saw, Clements applauds the hard-won 27% growth rate Pla-Mor achieved these past two years, in large part thanks to the people who power their business – their employees, customers, and allies.

Download a sharable PDF of this article. 

Watch the full interview with Jennifer:

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Pool Scouts Franchise President Michael Wagner Discusses Growth

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Pool Scouts Franchise CEO Michael Wagner Discusses Growth

Pool Scouts, a pool cleaning and maintenance franchise with 101 locations around the country, is riding the post-pandemic wave of pool construction, smashing revenue and franchise sales records in the process.

We had the opportunity to go one on one with Pool Scouts President Michael Wagner recently. During our conversation, we discussed their meteoric growth this year.

“A lot of this is attributed to existing franchisees just having spectacular growth years,” said Wagner. “Amidst challenging labor markets, some of our franchisees have not been able to expand as quickly,” continued Wagner. He indicated that hiring still remains a challenge in some markets but has slowly been improving.

A Look at The Numbers

Reporting big leaps in sales, numbers were up 76.3 percent year-to-date. The pool service franchise had a year-over-year revenue increase of 77.8% in Q3 2021 vs Q3 2020. In the process they have grown considerably, recruiting 20 new franchisees and 42 purchased territories. Most recently, they announced the signing of franchisee Clarence Herry in Annapolis, Maryland. Pool Scouts reached that coveted 100-unit milestone (now 101) as they begin operating in their 15th state on the map.

Defining Pool Scouts Recipe for Success

A big reason why the brand has so successfully resonated with consumers has been its effective digital marketing strategy. Wagner emphasized this has been fundamental in helping them achieve growth.

“Part of our unique special sauce as a franchise is doing a lot to get the phone to ring.”

Pool Scouts – President, Michael Wagner

We provide search engine optimization, websites, digital marketing, and PR which really affords us the opportunity to scale that for all of our franchisees.”

Taking The Guess Work Out of Marketing

Wagner says back-of-the-house operations are the driving engine. The franchise has in-house staff handling marketing for franchisees. A team of graphic designers, videographers, and marketing professionals helps drive lead generation for all of the offices.

Wagner says offering best-in-class marketing at the corporate level leaves his franchisees with more bandwidth to run their business. In a data-driven world, Wagner says using strong analytics tools like Tableau is essential in proving ROI. Consequently, he touts the Pool Scouts system with removing the guesswork from marketing and providing franchise owners better optics.

Pool Scouts has dramatically increased its market share with a strategic marketing approach.

Increased brand recognition in the market has also what has been essential in propelling growth, states Wagner. “We’re really adept at getting the brand out there in the marketplace for the franchisees. We have a PR agency that we work with to tell our franchisees stories in their local market.”

The Pool Scouts franchise is rapidly expanding into new states around the U.S.
The Pool Scouts franchise is rapidly expanding into new states around the U.S. – Photo Credit: Pool Scouts

Building The Right Culture

Above all, Wagner credits the culture and camaraderie of the Pool Scouts organization with being their differentiating factor. Elaborating, he explained how this has helped distinguish them from other pool franchises. “We have varied backgrounds, and we really try to assess the skillset of potential candidates to make sure that they are not only a fit from a business perspective but also from a cultural perspective,” saidWagner.

Expanding Into New Territories

Eager to expand the Pool Scouts footprint, Wagner has his sights on the horizon. While proud of the growth his team has managed to accomplish, he says they will continue to absorb market share. “We’ve added 9 new states to our franchise system this year. We’re going to be opening up in Salt Lake City, Utah, and just opened up in Boise, Idaho. We’re super excited to be in Kansas City and had a great first year in Columbus, Ohio. I see us continuing to expand robustly across multiple states.”

It’s been a big year for Pool Scouts. Due to the thousands of new pools erected during the pandemic, pool sales skyrocketed this year. With limited choices due to lockdowns, families made a concerted effort to reinvest in their backyards. Suddenly, an entire market of new pool owners needs assistance with pool service and maintenance. Wagner finds his organization well-positioned to meet increased demand for these essential services.

The stars may very well align for the type of growth Wagner is anticipating. Consumer interest in swimming pools and outdoor living continues to be white-hot. If 2022 is a repeat of last year, Pool Scouts could be looking at another year of unprecedented growth.

Listen to our entire interview with Pool Scouts – President, Michael Wagner on the Pool Magazine podcast.

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Diagnosing a Pool Leak Isn’t Always So Cut & Dry

Think you may have a pool leak? Finding the source can be a challenge.

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Diagnosing a Pool Leak

Diagnosing a pool leak can put some pool owners in over their head – it’s a fact. No matter what type of pool you own, every swimming pool naturally loses some water due to evaporation, splash-out and backwashing. However, when you find yourself watering your pool way too often, it’s cause to stop and think. If you find yourself routinely adding more than two inches of water to your pool, you may just have a pool leak, according to experts.

A pool leak is a very common problem but does require some time and effort to diagnose properly. Swimming pools are designed to be waterproof, but sealants can and do deteriorate over time. Components inside of your pool can shift, settle, or just plain wear out. It’s not uncommon for older swimming pools to have multiple leaks in multiple locations.

Early Pool Leak Detection Can Prevent Costly Repairs

Pools can leak through any of the fittings, equipment, plumbing, or even the pool shell itself. Neglecting to fix a pool leak can cause incredible damage in both inground and above ground pools. Pool leaks are serious business and can actually compromise the sub structure of the pool itself. It’s not common for a leak to systematically wash away the backfill which supports the pool walls and deck.

Diagnosing a Pool Leak is a Specialty Service for Pool Contractors

The process of identifying and diagnosing pool leaks come and how to fix them is a highly specialized area in the pool industry. While many pool service technicians may specialize in cleaning and maintaining pools, only a portion actually specialize in leak detection. You need specialized equipment and training to properly perform a leak inspection.

Pool Leaks Can Cost Homeowners Thousands

A pool leak can ultimately result in a slew of bills and repairs if not addressed quickly. One thing homeowners notice right away is a surge in their water or electric bill. Rising utility costs could suggest the need for a repair elsewhere in your home, but your pool should be towards the top of your list of things to look into. If you do have a pool leak, the surge should be obvious and significantly higher than the general spike in utility costs seen throughout pool season.

Just to put things in perspective, a pinhole leak can waste up to 970 gallons of water each and ever day. In terms of water consumption that is roughly four times the amount of water that an average family consumes each day.

DIY Pool Leak Detection Methods

Bucket Method

If your swimming pool, spa, or fountain is losing half an inch of water each day, it could be due to evaporation or it very well could be a leak. Evaporation and splash out is the most likely cause of a quarter-inch to a half inch of water loss each day. Any more than that, and you may want to do the bucket test to make sure you don’t have a leak.

The bucket test is a reliable method of determining whether you have a pool leak. - Photo Credit: Pinch A Penny
The bucket test is a reliable method of determining whether you have a pool leak. – Photo Credit: Pinch A Penny

Leak Detection – Bucket Test

  • First, start off by filling your swimming pool to it’s standard level.
  • Next, fill a 5 gallon bucket with water up to 1 inch from the top.
  • Submerge the bucket in the pool to a depth of about 5 inches, place it on the first or second step of the swimming pool.
  • Mark the water level inside of the bucket with a magic marker as well as the water level outside the bucket.
  • Return in 24 hours to compare the inside to the outside water level. If the water level outside of the bucket has substantially dropped more than the water level inside the bucket, it’s quite possible you could have a pool leak.
Think you may have a pool leak? You could be in for some expensive repairs.
The dye method is another popular leak detection method. Photo Credit: Hightech Dad

Dye Method

Using the dye method will involve using a pool leak detection kit. This method is really only effective if you have a pretty good idea of the general vicinity where the leak may be.

To perform this test, all you do is squirt the dye close to where you suspect the leak is. If the leak is there, you should notice the dye being sucked through the source of the leak. This test may require being underwater for some time. You may want to use a pair of goggles to see better. You’ll also have to stay pretty still so as not to disrupt the dye during the test.

The most common pool leak usually occurs in the skimmer
The most common pool leak usually occurs in the skimmer throat

8 Questions To Ask If You Think You Have a Pool Leak

appears to be a crack, put some pool leak test dye near it while the pump is turned off and the water is still running to check if the dye gets sucked into the crack. Underwater lights can and do leak as well. One of the most common leaks occur around the conduit that connects the light niche to the junction box.

Is the soil around the pool area damp all the time?

Do a thorough inspection of the perimeter around the pool deck and between the pool and the equipment pad. Examine the ground for moist soil and deterioration. If your pool slopes down hill, stroll around to see if there is any water weeping down the hillside.

Is the shell leaking?

Some sources of leaks are the result of structural design flaws. These types of pool leaks are the most serious type of leak and most expensive to repair. Leaks can cause settling of the pool shell. A leak can create conditions for unpredictable ground movement that is likely to produce cracks in the walls, floor, or both. In concrete pools – high slump concrete, low cement content, or poor craftsmanship and curing are all likely to generate low quality concrete that allows water to travel right through it. Thermal or shrinkage stress cracks can occur. Cold joints or weak construction joints can create leaks as well. Improperly sealed joints can create conditions for structural pool leaks as well.

Is the skimmer leaking?

The most common pool leak usually occurs in the skimmer throat at some point. The skimmer does has a tendency to move somewhat when the pool and deck expand and contract. This movement can break the sealant between the pool wall and the skimmer over time. The skimmer can be dye tested (with the pump turned off) to see if there is a leak pulling water into the cracks surrounding the skimmer opening.

Is the pool leak coming from underground plumbing?

Honestly, it’s very rare that a pool leak is going to happen in the subsurface plumbing. That’s not to say that it doesn’t happen though. From time to time a leak can occur at a pipe junction beneath the pool deck or beneath the skimmer. These types of repairs rarely necessitate having to hire a team of pool builders to dig up the entire backyard in order to find the source. The simplest approach to check if the pipes are leaking is to turn off the pump and stop all of the lines. If it continues to leak, it’s probably not the pipes. If the leaking does stop, the plugs can be removed separately to determine if the leaking resumes, though some pools only leak when the pump is running. Once a complete leak inspection has been performed, a pool plumbing pressure test on the pipes themselves can be conducted to determine if any are leaking.

If there is an underground leak, in 90% of cases a very small 3’x3′ hole in the deck can be cut to fix the break, but it’s rarely ever necessary to replace a complete run of pipe.

Is the pool leaking when the pool equipment is running?

If you find that the pool is leaking when the equipment is running, this could be a very good indication that there is a pressure-side return leak. The piping on the pressure side (after the pump) is under pressure when the filter pump is turned on. This can cause little drips to turn into spraying gushers. Checking the waste or backwash line for water that is constantly flowing can tell you if you have a leak.

One inch of pool water is equal to 500 gallons. Look for weepers where subsurface leaking is trickling downhill from the pool. Examine the yard for soft or moist places, particularly on the pool’s side where the plumbing returns water to the pool.

Pool Manufacturers - Pool Distributors - Pool Industry

Does the pool leak when the pool equipment is turned off?

If the pool is leaking when the equipment is completely turned off this usually implies a suction-side leak or a problem with the plumbing itself. When the pump is turned on, air can be brought in via voids that would otherwise leak. If you have a clear lid, you usually see air bubbles in the pump basket. You’ll also observe air bubbling out of the return lines, or air repeatedly building up inside the filter tank.

Cost for Pool Leak Detection

Testing an average residential pool, including both the plumbing and the structure, typically costs $400-$500.It’s not always necessary to empty the pool in order to diagnose and repair many types of pool leaks. However, expect to pay upwards from $500 if a scuba dive is required in order to properly detect the source of the leak.

Pool Leak Detection Being Conducted With Scuba Gear
Pool Leak Detection Being Conducted By Technician With Scuba Gear

Cost of Pool Leak Inspection & Repairs

Labor and materials for most basic leak repairs typically start anywhere from $500 to $1,500, not including the expense of draining and refilling (if needed). If the problem is determined to be coming from the pipes themselves or the structure of the pool, anticipate opening up your wallet for major repair costs. The entire cost of repairing a major structural leak in the shell or in underground plumbing is determined by the severity of the damage, the location of the leak, and the difficulty of the repair work.

Pool Plumbing Repair involving  underground plumbing can be costly.
Pool plumbing repairs involving work to underground plumbing can be costly.

Pool Leak Detection Equipment

It’s not always necessary to hire a pool contractor to diagnose a leak. Use the tools the pros use for finding out where a leak is coming from in your own swimming pool.

Pool Leak/Pool Plumbing Pressure Tester/Pool Leak Detector/Swimming Pool Leak Detector

Pops Pool Tools – Swimming Pool Pressure Tester Kit is a quality, affordable leak detection tool for the do-it-yourself homeowner.  This kit allows pool owners to test their own swimming pool plumbing with the same results the pros get.  This kit will confirm whether or not you have a pipe leak causing water loss or air bubbles in the filtration system.  Great kit that comes with step-by-step photos and instructions that makes this tool easy to use.

Atlas Pool Leak Detection Kit – Swimming Pool Leak Dye (Yellow) Syringe & 8oz Refill Bottle – Atlas White Putty Epoxy Sealer

Now you can easily locate precise swimming pool leak locations and fix them yourself with the Atlas all-inclusive pool and hot tub leak tester kit for DIYers

  • ENOUGH LEAK DYE FOR THE WHOLE POOL
  • PROFESSIONAL-GRADE POOL LEAK SEALER
  • STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEOS

Fix a Leak – Pool Sealer

FIX-A-LEAK is a blended concentrated material designed to seal leaks in virtually any material. It can be applied for leaks in the shell and works equally well in plumbing. Will seal holes 1/8″ in diameter. Will form a permanent seal. Use 1 quart per pool up to 22,000 gallons. Do not use in excess of 1 quart per 5,000 gallons of water.

All Fix H20 Underwater EPOXY Putty Pool Marine Repair Cracks Leaks Seal Bond (48 oz. Unit)

  • Permanent repairs to filters, PVC, skimmer boxes, inlets, jets, lighting, drains, cracks, splits or chips.
  • All-Fix Premium Pool & Marine Epoxy Putty can be applied above or below the water line, or in wet environments.
  • Cures Underwater! – Great For Underwater & Wet Areas Rock Hard Cure – Drill – Sand – File – Sculpt – Shape Tintable To Infinite Number Of Colors !
  • All-Fix will adhere to just about any surface or material: Concrete, Tile, Plastic, Gunite, Wood, Ceramic, Metal, Stone…and just about any other material!

Featured Photo Credit: Gulfcoast Pool Pros

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