What do you do when you suddenly have nine weddings to attend in one year and you’re a member of the wedding party for most of them? If you’re James Blevins, you start looking for a side hustle that will help you earn some extra money to pay for it all. That’s how his swimming pool maintenance company Diamond Pools first began. James already had 12 pool seasons under his belt, having worked part-time throughout high school and college for small pool businesses in his hometown of Long Island, New York. Even after graduating with a degree in education, he still worked summers as a pool renovation and service assistant. Now living in Albany and working in the private sector for General Electric, he needed work he could do in the evenings and during weekends to bring in additional cash. Pool cleaning fit the bill.
Three years later, COVID-19 hit the world and the job at GE disappeared. He committed to Diamond Pools full-time and began growing his clientele for pool maintenance. Business started to escalate quickly throughout the pandemic. Suddenly, people were looking to invest in their backyards and outdoor living spaces. James saw the opportunity for growth, but he knew he wasn’t equipped to take advantage of it. He says, “Although I spent eight seasons as a pool maintenance technician on Long Island and four seasons as a renovation assistant in Albany, I didn’t have an extensive skill set in the industry. Customers wanted more than I could give them, and I was farming out projects to other companies. I started hiring more employees who really enjoyed what they were doing, but I knew my company had reached a plateau.”
James attended a trade show and had a conversation with another pool brand that sparked his interest in the potential that franchising offered. He began doing his due diligence, researching top pool brands in the industry. Enter America’s Swimming Pool Company (ASP), a nationally known company that has over 360 franchise units across 26 states and is part of the Authority Brands portfolio of industry-leading home service franchisors. “I was attracted to ASP’s proven track record, and I found that it mirrored the kind of culture I had been creating with my own company,” says James. “They have a reputation for being customer-focused, with an emphasis on friendliness, high-quality service and professionalism.”
ASP Brand President Jimmie Meece was originally a franchise owner himself, opening ASP’s very first franchise. He knows firsthand what it takes to run a swimming pool business. “Many small business owners come to a point where they need more resources,” Meece says. “Franchisees like James who convert appreciate the strategies and procedures we have in place. Whether it’s access to our buying power, operating systems, training or more, ASP provides the tools that can take them to the next level.” For James, achieving that next level meant gaining the confidence to take on bigger projects and answer increasing demand from his customers. The support, coaching and training he has received combined to give him the confidence he needed to grow. ASP’s Pool School was a big part of that.
He attended the two-week intensive training course at company headquarters in Macon, Georgia. There they have a 20,000-square-foot training campus that includes 12 fully functional display pools, a classroom and three outdoor swimming pools. There’s also a warehouse with equipment and product representative of key swimming pool manufacturers and distributors in the industry like POOLCORP, Heritage Pool Supply Group, Pentair, Fluidra and Hayward Pool Products. The hands-on Pool School training James received in service, repair techniques and renovation was a boost to his confidence, as were the operational systems and strategies he was introduced to and continues to use in building his business. “My college degree is in education and public policy, so I did not have exposure to business classes. I didn’t know what key performance indicators were or how and why to track them. With the help of my team of ASP advisors, I’ve learned how to make both small and large adjustments to my business habits that have helped support my company’s growth goals,” he says.
For example, the brand has an easy-to-implement bookkeeping system that increases understanding and accountability on the key financial indicators impacting profitability, all with an eye on building the bottom line. ASP franchisees also benefit from an industry-leading automated platform called PoolOps©. James can operate his business from the cloud, monitoring his staff from anywhere and providing customers with personalized information about their pool.
Another area where ASP can help existing businesses expand is through harnessing the power of data-driven marketing strategies integrated with demographic information. The result is a customized, advanced approach. Every ASP location is given specific, invaluable territory data unique to the industry, down to the name, address, property value, income, and buying habits associated with each demographic. James also now has access to exclusive pricing and incentives. By joining ASP, he gained the buying power of a company doing millions of dollars in annual sales. James and his team have been able to add some new services since launching as ASP of Capital District in May 2023. Previously offering regular maintenance as well as installing and repairing equipment, they now also perform liner changes and renovations on gunite pools. James has his eye on future expansion into construction, a new division ASP has launched featuring a fiberglass pool partnership with manufacturer Latham.
When asked what advice he would give to independent owners thinking about franchising, he says if you have the desire to grow but don’t know how, it’s a no-brainer. “Converting my business to an ASP franchise has made me a better owner. Although I had serviced plenty of pools over the years, I did not have any formal pool training or business experience. There has certainly been a learning curve as I’ve come onboard a franchise system and been introduced to many financial and marketing tasks I should have been doing all along. But the knowledge and resources I’ve gained help me see the bigger picture of the present and future; the goals I want to set and the amount of work it’s going to take to get there. Now I truly understand what a business needs to run and have the tools to help me do it.”