An Entrepreneur’s Secret to Success

When John O’Brien was traveling the world looking for a franchise to launch, he was very particular about the type of business he wanted to run. “I was specifically looking for a services industry that already existed, yet had strong growth potential, high gross margins, and most importantly, was totally disorganised,” O’Brien says.

During a visit to California in the early ’90s, the Brisbane native noticed that the swimming pool maintenance business was driven by a lot of one-person-and-a-van operations. “I’d finally found my business.”

john obrien banner

International Expansion

Now more than 20 years later, Poolwerx, the company founded by O’Brien, has nearly 350 franchises operating globally and is strategically located in warm-weather cities throughout Australia, New Zealand, and the US.

To join its ranks, prospective franchisees can convert an existing service vehicle or retail pool supply business to Poolwerx branding or purchase a new Poolwerx franchise. Globally, Franchise Partners  now operate more than 550 service vans and 160 retail stores, which stock pool maintenance equipment and supplies.

New Economic Model

Poolwerx upended the traditional pool service contract. Typically, a pool cleaner would for weekly services, testing and adjusting chemical levels. “With three or four service visits each month, that wasn’t a viable business,” O’Brien says.

O’Brien developed a premium monthly service for the same cost and delivered it for close to what clients were already paying. To do that, he had to convince pool owners to upgrade their equipment. And one big selling point for that equipment upgrade: lower energy costs.

With greater cleaning equipment automation and chemical-level monitoring, the company claims to have helped its customers cut the amount of energy their pools use by two thirds, halve pools’ chemical consumption, and move to a single monthly visit for about the same price as they were paying for weekly service.

“We’ve changed the whole economic model for the pool industry,” O’Brien says, who boasts that the company’s franchisees’ gross margin dwarfs the swimming pool services industry’s 35% gross margin substantially.

changed the whole economic model

Time for a Life Raft

But while Poolwerx’ growth prospects were taking off; the company’s accounting department was struggling to stay afloat.

After looking at 10 different cloud-based software packages, Poolwerx chose Oracle Suite, in part because of its franchise module. That platform provides dashboards that track the performance of each franchisee’s retail, finance, and service operations, which can be rolled up by region and the company overall. “We’re able to help build our Franchise Partners’ —whether they’re a young entrepreneur starting out, or a family business looking for an exit,” O’Brien says.

With Oracle NetSuite, “all of our Franchise Partners can log into their accounts and see their own average transaction value at any time, and then use those figures to forecast sales targets or calculate bonuses.” Additional visibility has also helped increase the company’s average monthly contract among its 300,000 service clients by 3.5%.

Real-Time Management

By having a real-time view into route schedules and in-transit status, the company can also schedule more visits and increase its per-day mobile service revenue for its 550-plus vans by 3%. Getting this kind of insight used to take six weeks to produce, but using NetSuite, “we have better visibility, better control, and it’s live,” O’Brien says.

Such efficiencies have helped Poolwerx focus on revenue growth, which rose 14% in 2018. As it looks to expand across the US Sun Belt, from California to South Carolina, O’Brien sees the commercial sector as its prime market.

For hotels, schools, fitness centres and retirement homes, O’Brien thinks he now has the right pitch thanks to Poolwerx services and the visibility and insights Oracle NetSuite can offer.

better visibility better control

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