How Poolwerx is future proofing franchisee business

By Sarah Stowe | 01 Apr 2020 View comments

Poolwerx has seen a surge in customer demand for its services but this income boost isn’t expected to last. What is the franchisor doing to future proof business?

Founder and CEO John O’Brien told Inside Franchise Business “We’re going through a spike, but there will be a point at which people will feel the economic impact of job losses.  We will see them cut back to repair rather than replace, looking after their own pool themselves.”

Poolwerx has plotted a trajectory of changing circumstances and is ready for the fallout, he says.

Future proofing Poolwerx

The pool firm had conducted a whole of business brand review strategy over the last six months and developed new service and product options which it is now bringing forward.

The changes incorporate contactless and delivery options, scaled to suit a range of customer demands.

Pool technicians can operate test pool water and give a client the results, provide the chemicals, or upscale to test and treat.

Poolwerx also offers click and collect: customers phone ahead, drive up to a reserved space outside the store, put their water sample on the car roof and wind up the window.

“We’ll test, and drop the chemicals into the boot and charge your credit card,” explains O’Brien.

Taking it to the government

The business also contacted government to reiterate its case.

“When we saw the New Zealand lockdown we didn’t want to get caught here. We moved a team of four into full lobbying mode,” says O’Brien.

“We appointed a manager as coronavirus coordinator, a go-to person for initiatives and responses. 

“We mapped our stores to their local MPs and sent out letters – we had an 85 per cent send out rate.”

The message to ministers was focused on employment and the issues of health and hardship.

“We tuned in to the message coming out of government. We had enough responses from ministers or shadow ministers, or advisors, to give us confidence by the end of the week.

“We purposed all of our resources to be in front of ministers to stress the essential nature of the service we provide.”

If there’s a suburb lockdown swimming pools will go green, he says. But he is confident the industry will be one of the last to be shut down and chemical deliveries will be allowed.

Ready for franchisee distress

O’Brien has staggered plans too for handling declining franchisee fortunes.

“If a store shuts down, our franchisees will be progressively affected in sales, even though distanced from the full impact. All the relevant letters are prepared to send to landlords and we appointed an in-house real estate manager last year.

“We will co-operatively negotiate a rent sharing reduction program. We have the same thing for vehicle leasing.”

Poolwerx is 80 per cent of the way through a new technology rollout so is also negotiating with platform providers for holiday periods on licensing.  

Anything we can think of that’s expense related we’ve come up with a strategy.”

Poolwerx has a store shutdown procedure, if franchisee businesses go into a hibernation period, down to the details of how to turn off the power supply.

“It’s about the one per cent in their expense lines,” says O’Brien.

“We’ve created a financial modelling tool to see break even point, so if franchisees are following all the steps above, and if they are below break-even, we’ll deal with it case by case.

“We want to see everyone get through to the other side, we will help them.”