Every year, AQUA conducts a Truck & Van Contest, typically showcased both in- print and online in one of the summer months. The purpose of this competition is to highlight pool and spa work vehicle designs to wow, and maybe even inspire, other like-minded service technicians.
This past year the winners were revealed in the July issue. One winning design, from Clarity Pool & Patio of Auburn, Ind., was so simple, yet so captivating, that we wanted to learn more about it. We asked co-owner and president, Ken Thompson, about the process of developing a great wrap and also the risks and rewards of investing in a company fleet.
Thompson started his business just a few years ago in 2017 with his wife, Pam. They acquired the company from an older gentleman looking to retire when it was still under the name of Dan’s Pool Service. The couple rebranded the business to what it is now, Clarity Pool, and then got to work on a new-and-improved truck wrap for the van they inherited as part of the company acquisition.
Thompson felt it was vital his customers and their neighbors were aware of who was parked outside on the street. “Awareness, or in other words, trust and transparency, is important to establish with both customers and noncustomers from the very beginning as a service technician,” says Thompson. “People need to know who is pulling up in front of their houses and neighborhoods so that they feel safe.”
“The original work van was just plain white,” Thompson adds. “I like to refer to it as a candy van: a dingy, white vehicle that parents warn their kids not to get into... even if the driver offers you something sweet like candy. We immediately rebranded for two reasons: advertising and awareness.”
Aside from a truck wrap design being attractive for promotional reasons, providing employees with work vehicles may just be a hiring and retention attraction, too. “No one wants to drive around in their own vehicle when hauling chemicals,” says Thompson. “It would be impossible for some of our guys to pick up a heater and then go install it when driving their own personal vehicle. Not to mention the wear and tear we’d be demanding from them and their property. The little things, like providing a company vehicle, are what really makes our company stand out and appeal to our employees.”
In the case of company vehicles, Thompson emphasizes that the rewards far outweigh the risks, but there are a few downsides to providing a fleet of work trucks for your service technicians.
“Things like theft of truck equipment or driving the work vehicle outside of working hours and getting into an accident are what you really need to look out for,” says Thompson. “In a perfect world, our vehicles would only be used for company use; however, we understand that sometimes life happens, and our employees will need to hop in our trucks to do something quick — completely unrelated to work. When that happens, as long as it’s only on rare occasions, all we ask is that they replace the gas they personally used.”
Clarity Pool & Patio provides their employees with fuel cards, so they aren’t expected to pay for gas outside of their occasional, personal gas usage. They’re also allowed to take their designated work vehicle home at night because Thompson has created a routing process that starts his employees off near his store — where there’s plenty of parts and supplies to stock up on for the work day — and ends his employees’ days near their homes.
Clarity Pool & Patio performs an in-depth background check prior to hiring, so initial trust comes a bit easier and faster between the boss and employees. “A driver’s license check on all prospective employees is very important,” says Thompson. “For example, you could hire a service technician who has a suspended license, and you would never know that unless you pulled their records.” Company trucks may or may not be necessary, Thompson says, it just depends on the type of work being done. “Clarity does both the service and construction side of things when it comes to pools and spas,” says Thompson. “We’re still relatively small — we only have five work vehicles in our fleet, and they’re really only for our service technicians. It’s not really necessary for our construction workers to have company trucks, but for our service technicians, it’s integral. As a boss, it’s just providing your people with the tools and equipment, or in other words, work transportation, they need to successfully complete their jobs.”