Who has opened their own pool cleaning business?

SoFlo Tech

In The Industry
Feb 5, 2022
14
South Florida
I’ve been cleaning pools for almost a year, and friends have been saying I should start my own pool cleaning business.
I have owned and successfully run several businesses in the past. But when I started this job, it was my semi-retirement job. It has perfect hours, no stress, working outside.
However I could more than likely work half the pools and bring in the same amount of money, if I ran my own business.
Any advice from those that made this move? Or those that may have gone the opposite direction and went to work for an employer?
 

Katodude

Silver Supporter
Aug 22, 2017
2,104
West Palm Beach/Florida
Pool Size
15000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Hayward Aqua Rite (T-15)
I have thought of the idea as an intellectual exercise a few times. I just cant seem to make it work for S. Florida. Most pool companies charge about $30 a visit. That includes probably about 30 minutes of time. That plus chemicals, gas and wear and tear on truck just does not seem to work out. I have never seen any of the pool folks down here do any serious testing. Once a week visit does not correspond with TFP principles unless they have SWG. Also S. Florida has a lot of small cartridge filters that require frequent cleaning.

So the only way I thought about making it happen is there is an upfront set up charge of $1000. It gets your pool balanced and an S200 robot. You only accept SWG pools. You come in, throw the robot in, do a full set of tests (which you provide the owner digitally for which they would freak out on how much FC you have in their pool). Empty the skimmers, adjust the chemicals, once a month clean the filters. Come back in 2 hours remove and clean the robot. Not sure what I would charge per visit.

Anyway the point is to make the service one that I would want to do, I would price myself out of the market.
 

Newdude

Mod Squad
Gold Supporter
TFP Guide
Jun 16, 2019
16,525
NY
Anyway the point is to make the service one that I would want to do,
I agree, but that's not the norm. There is an endless line of folks who just fired 'their guy', who turned out to be just like the 10 before him. Plus all the new pool owners either by moving, or building.

Leslie's has proven that they have zero problems finding new customers for each one that quits.
 

athflying

Well-known member
May 2, 2017
99
SARASOTA, Fl
Pool Size
10000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Hayward Aqua Rite (T-9)
A good friend of mine runs a pool cleaning business. I believe he charges $80 a month for weekly service. His biggest challenges are growth and supply cost. Supply cost is more recent due to world economy and events. Growth has always been an issue. I believe he currently has 3 guys that work with him and have for years. Trying to find people you can trust at a price worth it for them to stick around is what he has yet to overcome.
 

jark87

Silver Supporter
Jun 5, 2011
894
Flower Mound, TX
Pool Size
25500
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Jandy Aquapure 1400
I’ve thought of the same thing, but like Katodude, only as an intellectual exercise. I think most services charge extra for any added chemicals or services like filter cleaning, SLAM, etc., at least in the DFW market. So testing, brushing and emptying baskets shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes. That’s $40-$60/hour if charging $20-$30 visit, but doesn’t factor in drive time or equipment costs. I’d want to put a pretty tight limit on the service area, but that might be tough when competing against established businesses. I suppose you could limit startup costs by starting small, but you’d need to establish an online presence and pay to have your site appear in Google searches. Assuming you expand to hiring employees, that’s a whole headache in and of itself and it probably also means buying trucks, which are insanely expensive. But the services in our area seem to be doing ok, as I’ve seen their trucks around for years, so it’s worth a shot if you have the stomach/finances for it.
 

SoFlo Tech

In The Industry
Feb 5, 2022
14
South Florida
Here is the way I break it down. Current average wage is $20 for a technician.
I live in an area of snowbirds/older residents. I’d be willing to say 50% of the houses use a pool company.
Average rates begin around $99 per month with the norm being $150.
Time spent should be chem test- 10 mins, clean/vacuum- 10 mins, filter clean- 20 mins.
You can easily do 50 pools in a 30 hour work week. So $6250 monthly; $75000 annually; $50 hour. Easily over 6 figures if looking to work 40 hours plus.
Obviously expenses need to be factored in. Truck- $5000; equipment- $250, vacuum- $2000.
What is the cheapest you guys have paid for the following- 2.5G chlorine, 1g muriatic acid, 40# salt?
Advertising is word of mouth and signage on truck.

I see double the income being self employed after the initial start up costs.
 

jark87

Silver Supporter
Jun 5, 2011
894
Flower Mound, TX
Pool Size
25500
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Jandy Aquapure 1400
The good news is that you have experience in the field, so you probably have a good understanding of the actual time requirements. You’ve also owned and managed businesses in the past, so you’re familiar with the time required for accounting, taxes, ordering supplies, etc. I don’t think that’s in your time allocation, though. Your math above suggests that you’d do all the work - no employees. Expenses would eat a big chunk of revenue, but you sound confident in your estimates. Word of mouth advertising assumes you have clients. If you have a base of clients to start with, that might work. I just think of how I would look for a service. First thing I’d do is Google “pool service” in my area. Yes, I see lots of trucks around, but I don’t remember the names on them, much less the phone number.

It definitely can be done, especially if you’re not under any non-compete employment agreement with your current employer and can solicit people you already serve. We use an exterminator who did the exact same thing. He worked for Terminex and started his own service. We were one of his first clients and his business is very successful.

Good luck!
 

Toxophilite

Silver Supporter
Feb 23, 2022
827
Dickinson, Texas
Pool Size
15500
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Liquid Chlorine
I keep thinking I'm reading an older thread! Basic service in our area starts at $220 per month. My PB quoted me $225 if I wanted to continue after startup, which is in line with neighborhood polling, with one neighbor paying $275! Of course, I wasn't interested.
 

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athflying

Well-known member
May 2, 2017
99
SARASOTA, Fl
Pool Size
10000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Hayward Aqua Rite (T-9)
Here is the way I break it down. Current average wage is $20 for a technician.
I live in an area of snowbirds/older residents. I’d be willing to say 50% of the houses use a pool company.
Average rates begin around $99 per month with the norm being $150.
Time spent should be chem test- 10 mins, clean/vacuum- 10 mins, filter clean- 20 mins.
You can easily do 50 pools in a 30 hour work week. So $6250 monthly; $75000 annually; $50 hour. Easily over 6 figures if looking to work 40 hours plus.
Obviously expenses need to be factored in. Truck- $5000; equipment- $250, vacuum- $2000.
What is the cheapest you guys have paid for the following- 2.5G chlorine, 1g muriatic acid, 40# salt?
Advertising is word of mouth and signage on truck.

I see double the income being self employed after the initial start up costs.
Have you talked to any other companies? Even when gas isn't up, that is a big expense. I think you may be driving more than you think and leaving you less time to be cleaning. 1,000% not trying to discourage you, just hoping you are factoring in everything.
 

convan23

Gold Supporter
Sep 27, 2020
207
DFW
Pool Size
15000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Hayward Turbo Cell (T-CELL-5)
Around here service costs can easily run north of $300/mo. I keep trying to convince my FIL to start one but he won’t charge that much. He’s still charging a few people he services ~$100/mo.

I keep thinking we could do something that send premeasured chemicals based on weekly water testing or maybe even something digital you out in your pool. Kind of like those services that send you lawn care in a bag. You get a box with all liquid/predissolved chemicals and instructions to add on your own. That and an S200 robot you could have a “do your own” pool care service.
 

jark87

Silver Supporter
Jun 5, 2011
894
Flower Mound, TX
Pool Size
25500
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Jandy Aquapure 1400
Around here service costs can easily run north of $300/mo
Wow! I had no idea it had gotten so expensive. I’m also in the DFW area and hired a service a few years ago while we were out of town for several months remodeling a 2nd home. I think I paid around $125/month. Of course, they didn’t follow instructions. I keep TA around 60 to help control pH rise and asked them to keep it there. When I returned home, my TA was 90 and I had been charged for alkalinity increaser….
 
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Katodude

Silver Supporter
Aug 22, 2017
2,104
West Palm Beach/Florida
Pool Size
15000
Surface
Plaster
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Hayward Aqua Rite (T-15)
In S Florida the pool service rates are pretty cheap. The rates that SoFlo has mentioned seem about right. There are a lot of pools and a lot of pool companies. I get stuff stuck to my door or in my mailbox for a pool company at least once a month. In my neighborhood probably 90% of the houses have pools, with close to 95% of them with pool services. In fact I am probably the only one that takes care of his own pool.

You could keep your gas cost down by restricting yourself to just a few neighborhoods. If I got 100% market share I could probably get 30 pools in my neighborhood alone. Word of mouth goes a long way as most people dont like the services that they are currently using. Make friends with real estate agents, they will be a great source of leads.

As for @SoFlo Tech questions:
2.5 gallons of chlorine 10.5% about $7.50 from Leslies you might be able to negotiate a commercial price from them
2 gallons of MA is $16 from Home Depot
40# of Salt about $5.50 from Home Depot

I would only work on SWG pools since without tabs you wont be able to keep them sanitary. Tabs are just too expensive now also.

I would also consider buying a few S200 and just dumping them in the pools and come back 1.5 hrs later to remove them. Easier than vacuuming/brushing and will leave a cleaner pool for your customers. I also think you are underestimating 10 min for a brush and vacuum.

Also a lot of companies charge extra for CYA additions, so you may want to consider that.

I would also invest in some sort of web site that you can show what you have done, plus post their test results. Picture of the clean pool, picture of the clean filter (I would only clean the filter once a month). Be a little better than your competitors with useful communication. Just think how cool it was when Amazon started leaving pictures of the delivered packages. Or maybe just email that information to your customers after every visit. A lot of your customers will be snowbirds and that extra level of care when they are out of town will go a long way.

The big money is also made in the post clean up after a hurricane. That is not included in most of the service contracts and can be up to about $400.
 

SoFlo Tech

In The Industry
Feb 5, 2022
14
South Florida
You guys are awesome! Tons of great advice and I appreciate it.
Sorry if I forget some of the responses but here is what I remember.
I ran several businesses up north prior to moving south 2 years ago. So I have the accounting provisions already in place.
10 minutes is an honest estimate to brush, Hammerhead, and skim a pool. Should it not have a pool cage it takes longer. And the fee is higher. Whether they are a weekly or alternate clean account is also a factor.
I live on a 4x6 mile island, so travel time is never more than 5 minutes between clients.
I signed a non compete clause and would never infringe upon the company that trained me. But there are companies selling existing pool contracts almost monthly where I live. It is mostly due to lack of manpower.
I live in an area where I can literally walk out the door and shake 3 realtors’ hands at any given time.
So this, and the fact I speak fluent English (sorry, but I’m told this all the time) is a benefit.
I work with a great business. But there is always the intrigue to run my own business, as I’ve previously done.
 
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Mdragger88

Bronze Supporter
TFP Guide
Jun 1, 2018
5,865
Hernando, Ms
Pool Size
26000
Surface
Vinyl
Chlorine
Salt Water Generator
SWG Type
Intex Krystal Clear
I am going to tell u like Mr.Ramsey would-dip your toes in the water (get a few clients on your own) & then let the boat get closer to the dock (build that clientele via word of mouth etc.) before jumping in & quitting your current employer.
This will of course mean that you will have to work more than u do now since you will still have your current job to do. Use this extra $$ to invest in equipment. Use your connections to source refurbished equipment perhaps. You will need some sort of insurance/bond which may or may not be pricey.
 

moore887

Gold Supporter
Silver Supporter
Bronze Supporter
In The Industry
Aug 14, 2018
364
CAPE CORAL
HI guys. A little late to the show but that's because I'm absolutely flat out servicing new clients here in Cape Coral. (SW Florida). I named by business North Cape Pool Cleaning LLC with the intention of just servicing the North Cape. Smart move, because, since becoming a Leslie's PRO partner, they had my phone absolutely hopping and I ended up taking the advice of our mentor and friend, David Van Brunt of Swimming Pool Learning (SPSPA) and doing the one in one out customer strategy. My route is so tight now, I could probably walk to each of my pools on any given day.

It's not all been a walk in the park. I only got into this because after we had our own pool built and the builder's pool service guy was taking care of it, our daughter got a UTI and I tested the chemical levels myself. I had spent the previous week reading up on the ABC's of pool chemistry and figured out what was going wrong. Like MOST pool companies around here, our service guy was a splash and dash merchant. Honestly I don't blame him, but with the cost of pool chemicals, insurance and fuel costs, I find myself having to bash through 20 pools a day working 7a,m to 7pm to make what I was making two years ago. However, I see myself as one of the very few that can still balance 97 pools a week to LSI and vac almost all pools on my route each visit. I also you an app called Pay the poolman which gives my clients a full report of each visit. To speed things along, I ditched my trusty K2006 test kit and have opted for a spintouch instead.

It's a tough business and I am always competing against unlicensed and uninsured part time pool guys doing it in their personal vehicles but I will persevere. I'm always lurking around here and happy to answer any questions that anyone may have.

Dave
 
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