Michael Wagner wanted to grow Pool Scouts, his new pool franchise, in an area with a high density of swimming pools, high income and fast growth.
Wagner, the president of Buzz Franchise Brands, based in Virginia Beach, Va., saw huge opportunity to grow the burgeoning business in an increasingly fragmented industry. He estimates there are 56,000 different pool maintenance companies nationwide, most of them mom and pops.
After scouring the country, he found the perfect opportunity in North Texas, specifically the Southlake, Flower Mound and Lake Dallas area.
Then, he found Tom Allred, a recent MBA graduate, who purchased the territories and will open the Pool Scouts franchise on Sept. 19.
“When I look at the territory that Tom has purchased and will be opening, it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen,” Wagner said. “You’re not talking about huge areas of drive time just to get from one territory to the next. We look at data that says, single family home with pools in the yard with income threshold above a certain level. We know how to target specifically the customers who are out there.”
For Allred, this will be an opportunity to bring professionalism to the swimming pool industry. They’ll maintain the pools and do minor maintenance. The employees will wear new polo shirts, drive company branded vehicles and shake customers' hands.
“We’re going to be there when we say we are,” he said. “I’m going to use my business graduate degree and I have good branding behind me and a solid support team.”
He’ll start out with more of a soft launch with four employees since he’s starting the business at the end of the summer season.
Pool Scouts will lease new Ford Transit vans that have paint wraps and logos on them.
“You won’t miss it,” he said. “Our logos are red, white and blue. It’s like a huge billboard.”
The employees have passed background checks, have years of experience and are certified pool operators.
“We’re not going to sell them something they don’t need,” Allred said. “The industry has ethics issues and customers service issues. We want to bring a professionalism that the industry has lacked for some time.”
Pool Scouts is part of a larger trend where companies are bringing franchise firepower to the service industry, said Sara Waskow, a consultant with FranNet. The startup cost is usually lower than that of other types of businesses because you don’t need a storefront. Companies can lease the vehicles, too.
“You can get ramped up faster. You’re not waiting on real estate,” Waskow said. “I’m seeing a lot of these kinds of companies.”
The background checks bring peace of mind, too.
“Sadly, you can never be too careful these days, especially if someone is coming to your home,” she said.
For Pool Scouts, the franchise fee is $7,500 and the total cost to get a territory ramped up is $74,000. As part of that, Buzz Franchise Brands will do marketing and advertising for the franchisee. Pool Scouts will lease its vehicles and doesn’t need a home base, at least not yet.
The goal is to build a 10-year relationship with the customer. Buzz Franchise Brands launched the first Pool Scouts in January in Virginia Beach. The North Texas expansion is the second franchise with plans for a third in the Austin area in the future.
The company’s other franchise group, Mosquito Joe, has 115 locations in 27 states and 300 territories.
“We have a lot of the backbone to help establish the systems that leverage across the brands,” Wagner said.