Rudy Stankowitz: The Biggest Rookie Pool Pro Mistake

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For everyone running their own company, please do me a favor. Stop everything right now, just for a second. Take a breath, and look back. Do you see all that? I'm talking about everything you have accomplished!

Wow! Whether you have hit your goals yet or not, you have been seriously kicking ass over the years. You've torn down or hurdled all those stumbling blocks and brick walls. Even if you tripped, you stuck the landing and hit the ground running. You have proven all the naysayers, even the ones that never said nay to your face, wrong. Which is very satisfying. You and I both know this much: It's hard to do what you have done. 

Having and working toward goals is essential in business, but don't forget you must laud your accomplishments. Quietly, to yourself, if you're the modest sort. Publicly and loudly if you're not. I just needed to say that. On to what this article is supposed to be about: route optimization.

DON'T BE A STAR POOL SERVICE PRO.

Being called a Star Pool Service Pro sounds like it should be a compliment, but it's not flattering. This is the person who runs their route tracing points on a star, driving all over their service area like Gilligan lost at sea to get from one home to the next, or has one customer or more who is miles away from the others.

This globe trotter approach will keep you from achieving your profit potential. There are better ways to run a business.

I know, you came to this place honestly. Everyone has had to go through the same. When you first started your pool service company, you took all the customers no other pool service pro wanted. That's what you are supposed to do. You got to get some dollars flowing. Where you screwed up is when you kept them.

These stops are only supposed to be temporary placeholders. You only have these customers until you have enough business to replace them, these long- distance relationships, with ones closer to home.

I overheard a conversation the other day where a group of pool service pros were comparing notes on the percentage of original clientele they still had on their routes. It was a great conversation because customer retention is integral to a service-based business. But some of these pros were talking numbers upward of 95%. Such a high percentage is incredible.

But it gave me agita; instead of wondering how, I asked why. It is possible someone could have built a tight route with nothing but excellent, high-paying customers right off the bat, but c'mon...

I get it. They may be extraordinarily friendly and pay well. Still, if their house is 30 minutes away from your other pools, you should cut them loose or build a route in that area around them. A half an hour there, then a half an hour back. That's an hour of travel time. How many pools could you have cleaned in that hour? Instead, your butt is glued to the windshield.

They may be the first customer you ever had. It could totally be for sentimental reasons. I've been there. I had a copy of the first check from my first customer hanging up on the wall for many years, but we can't allow emotion to overpower critical thinking.

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IF YOU OPTIMIZE YOUR ROUTE, YOU SAVE MONEY.

In case no one has told you before, route optimization is a vital part of a route-based service business that can significantly impact the business's success. Back to the goals conversation we started with, I know you are not in business to lose money. When money is left on the table, that is money lost. I want to take you through a few steps that'll get your routes tighter than a bull's butt during fly season, but first, I want to ensure you know what money I'm talking about.

When your routes are optimized, the heightened level of productivity enables your team to handle a much larger client base within the same time constraints. The difference between the revenues from the larger client base you could have, and what you have now β€” that's the money left on the table.

The tightest route I ever had was a dream β€” 26 homes in the same HOA. Every pool was between five to 10,000 gallons, screened, salt, with in-floor cleaning. The houses were within walking distance of one another, and I only had to move the truck every third or fourth house. Twenty-six pools in nine to 10 hours, depending on how much sand blew through the screens and the need for filter cleanings. Not too shabby!

Optimizing your route saves a lot of fuel. And those dollars not going into the tank go straight into your bank account. Capeesh?

Before we jump into the part about how to make it happen, I want to have a quick discussion on Friday routes. Honestly, this is the only day when a route may be scattered by design.

Fridays are in high demand. Everyone wants their pools serviced the day before the weekend. Days in high demand should be available only at a premium. It's okay to drive a little further than usual when you get paid large sums, so charge the big bucks for Friday service, and Monday through Thursday, keep it tight. Also, since you will be driving slightly more on Fridays, it only makes sense that you listen to the Talking Pools Podcast (yes, that one specifically) when you're on the road between pools. It's really good.

I WAS TIGHTENING IT UP!

So what are we trying to do here? Basically, we want your business to grow like kudzu throughout the neighborhood, driven by word-of-mouth advertising and targeted marketing.

First, arrange your existing stops based on geographical proximity. I don't care if they want service on 'that day'; if you can't build a route around it, it's not a customer worth having. After that, it's not rocket science. It starts with people talking about the excellent service you provide, and then seeing your truck with its magnet sign (at the bare minimum) or its eye-catching wrap. (Incognito Pool Service is not going to cut it.) Even better, a nice yard sign. Professionally made door hangers are a nice touch. Just remember, no one can call you if they don't know who you are.

Invest in route-planning software that considers factors like traffic, distance, and optimal sequencing of stops. These tools can help you create the most efficient routes for your service techs, saving time and resources. Many free programs are available.

Establish time windows for service visits to ensure your team arrives at each location within a timeframe that aligns with your set narrative. If you get the route set the way you want, and they dawdle or go park somewhere, it will tear away at what you're trying to build. Set timeframes that allow for S.H. (sh!t happens) situations to help create a more predictable schedule and payroll.

Understand that route optimization is an ongoing process. You need to stay on top of this. Something that makes sense today might not work a month from now. Religiously review and tweak your routes based on changing factors such as seasonal variations in demand, new clients, or even traffic patterns.

Stick with it, and you'll build a route that saves time and costs, increases customer satisfaction and revenue growth. Ultimately, instead of driving all over town, you're driving the long-term success of your pool service business! 

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