Pool Franchise Looking to Expand Offers Veterans Valuable Discounts
Veterans can enjoy year-round savings from the United States’ No. 1 swimming pool repair, maintenance and renovation company, but a lucky few get even more.
That’s because every year around Veterans Day, America’s Swimming Pool Company (ASP) holds a contest among veterans vying to become franchisees and waives the entire fee for the winning veteran. Two runners up also receive a 50 percent discount on the franchise fee.
And during the rest of the year, all veterans enjoy a 15 percent discount on the franchise fee, Jef Flournoy, VP of Franchise Sales and Development at ASP, explained during a recent interview.
At the moment, the Macon, GA-based franchise has about a dozen veteran owners among its 99 franchise locations.
Flournoy praised the great work ethic of veterans and called them not only great business owners, but great leaders within the ASP family.
Great for Customers and Owners
Founded by current CEO Stewart Vernon in 2002, ASP has been franchising for the past 12 years.
With the swimming pool industry being so fragmented and offering a relatively low quality of service at the time, Vernon saw the opportunity to create a company that would become a national brand in the industry that promised professionalism, stellar service and the use of the latest technology for both customers and franchisees alike.
On the consumer side, ASP has Pool Ops. With Pool Ops, franchisees can schedule appointments and then track those service calls. When service is complete, Pool Ops will send a complete report via email to a pool owner outlining everything that was done to their pool — from a simple cleaning to any maintenance they requested — along with a time-stamped photo of the clean pool or the piece of equipment that was worked on. From this report and photo, the owner knows for certain the service was completed. The report even gives details like which chemicals were used to balance the water, how much of the chemicals were used and which technician completed the work.
On the franchisee side, ASP boasts a comprehensive training program and a strong support system.
For 11 days from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m, franchisees attend ASP’s Pool School on its campus in Macon, which features 14 working pools that have every kind of pool equipment conceivable. But, Pool School isn’t actually the beginning of their training.
“Before Pool School starts, they would receive between 30 to 35 hours of what we would call pre-Pool School training,” Flournoy explained. Much of this training happens online.
At Pool School, in addition to the hands-on maintenance training, franchisees receive instruction in every aspect of running a business from marketing to billing to running QuickBooks.
After Pool School, brand new franchisees go through ASP’s Guerrilla Action Marketing Plan for another 10 weeks of training. This training is a little less demanding, consisting of a call once per week with an ASP operations team leader.
“We really want franchisees to get off to a good start and get into good habits,” Flournoy said.
Along with a local marketing team, the company has a national PR firm that supports franchisees, plus staff at headquarters who handle technical questions from franchisees throughout the day.
Regional round table meetings are held where franchise owners get together to discuss best practices and build relationships between each other. Flourney described those as meetings where six to 13 people who are all involved in the pool industry gather in a room to share their best ideas and best practices with the goal of making everyone a better business person.
Lastly, the annual owners meeting lasts for two days and is a smorgasbord of information for franchisees where industry vendors give presentations on the latest technology in the swimming pool market.
Flournoy himself is a former ASP franchisee. About 10 years ago, right before his wife enrolled in dental school in Augusta, GA, he bought an ASP franchise in that city and ran it for about eight years while his wife attended school. After she completed her pediatric residency, she received a lucrative job offer back in Macon where the couple were both from. Flournoy sold his ASP franchise, the couple moved back to their hometown of Macon and he immediately called ASP and requested a job on the corporate side of things where he remains today.
Typical ASP franchisees are between 25 and 55 years old and have to be willing to follow the franchise system. They do not need to have swimming pool experience, Flournoy noted, but will usually have some kind of customer service or sales experience, although that’s also not required. But they do need to possess an undergraduate degree.
Right now the franchise is in 21 states, but the VP of Franchise Sales and Development is expecting to expand that.
“In the next three to five years, we should be in 30 to 35 states,” he outlined.
The only places the franchise is completely sold out is in Dallas, Atlanta, Orlando and in Montana.
There are franchises available everywhere else throughout the country and ASP is particularly interested in expansion in Houston, Memphis, Richmond, VA, Las Vegas and Tampa, FL.
ASP starts as a predominantly home-based business and generally grows into a business that requires a small office and warehouse space, Flournoy noted. While it’s not really a retail franchise, some franchisees have added a retail element to their businesses.
For veterans looking to become business owners, America’s Swimming Pool Company offers great opportunities and for a lucky few, an amazing opportunity at savings while getting started.