With the North American economic engine running at about 3,000 rpm with pools and spas going in faster than any time in the last decade, the service sector as a whole is cruising into the summer of 2019.
Not that service depends to a great degree on construction. It depends on the overall pool and spa base and consumers' love of convenience, but still, adding more installations at a rapid rate only helps. And new pools provide a service department's best opportunity to lock in a long-term customer.
This year's SOI survey painted a picture of a youthful but maturing service industry. About 10 years ago, as the country sank to the darkest depths of the recession, a lot of people figured out service was the really dependable money-maker in the leisure aquatic industry. (Some people already knew that, but when half the industry's builders went belly-up, it was a real wake-up call.)
Since that time, competition for the service dollar has steadily increased, and the SOI survey shows it. Yes, the pool and spa service pie is getting bigger, but there are more people at the table crowding in for a piece.
Our survey (which, BTW, blew the top off our all-time response records) skews toward the most successful and experienced companies. Eighty-two percent of respondents have at least a dozen years in the field, and a majority have more than 20. Even these well-established service departments are feeling the rising pace of the game. Their comments reflect not only intense competition for employees, but struggles with workers leaving to start their own competing service businesses and an overall environment less forgiving than it once was.
This comment bears the flavor of many we received: "Business here is very cut-throat. In order to keep your work ethics, you lose some work. To me it's worth it. Work will always be there and when our present team members branch out on their own they will react this way when they [are working] in the future against us."
Having noted that change, these are undeniably great years to be in the service business. Seventy percent recorded a growing business, and another twenty percent were holding steady, and both those groups include plenty of sole entrepreneurs who are not really interested in growth, but rather maintaining a steady number of customers. Things are good, and they're just happy where they're at.