How this Poolwerx husband and wife franchisees gained financial freedom and quality of life
If you want to find out what it is like to run any one of the Poolwerx four tier franchise models, there is no-one better to ask than husband-and-wife franchisees Tony and Michelle Graham.
At one point they had seven territories, about a quarter of the Brisbane network. They have opened greenfield stores, run shops and warehouses, had multiple territories and stores, and it all started with just one van.
“In the early days things just came along, and we just grabbed the opportunities. I think we were first with the second, third, fourth store and fourth store plus warehouse,” says Michelle.
The couple had a corporate background, and before signing up to an existing business with Poolwerx had investigated different industries; they were attracted to the potential in the pool cleaning and maintenance sector.
“It had only just started here and we’ve ridden the wave. We’ve essentially grown up with it.”
The franchise offers two significant elements: stability and brand recognition, and a level of support. “It’s like we’re with mum and dad, and we’re the kids. You have somewhere to go for help, a whole community to help you,” says Michelle.
Moving from the well-paid employment environment into business ownership did present some big challenges, not least the salary. “Income was a challenge. We went from hero to zero,” says Michelle.
Good socio-economic demographics are key to the business success. When the couple started out, it was just wealthier Queenslanders who were happy to pay for their services.
Today, a well-paid, busy population benefiting from low mortgage rates can afford to outsource the pool cleaning.
“This is a seasonal business, so in summer it’s all hands on-deck. The other day I was working with my son in the shop and there was a chlorine spill. I’m the owner, but I‘m mopping it up. I will never ask staff to do something I won’t do.
“We have a healthy respect for each other. We entrust our business to them, and they care about it as if it were their own. The flexibility allows me to do the after-school run. I pick up the kids and can take them to any sport or after-school activity.”
Taking time out may cost the couple profits, but achieving a balance of profits and quality of life drives them. “We came in to this to get financial freedom and have quality of life,” says Michelle.
“One of our big goals was every two years have a big trip with the family. We’ve done five different overseas trips for three to four weeks in winter.
“I have a lovely home and a holiday unit. I’m in my late 40s, Tony is in his early 50s, what do we do? Hang on, get really profitable then sell. We’ve been able to maintain double-digit growth over the past few years, so we’re quite successful.”
That is not to say there have not been times where the pair felt stuck in a rut. “We looked at other opportunities because it felt like groundhog day. We were flat, a bit bored. But it was hard to find another business that offered similar profits and time off.”
Weekend work is still part of the job, particularly in summer, but in winter they may need to be there for just a couple of hours each day.
Looking elsewhere put their business gains in perspective and gave them back some motivation. Since then they have been among the top 10 Poolwerx franchises for turnover.
The business model structure is excellent, says Michelle.
Poolwerx continuties to grow and has a state of the art training centre, which benefits franchisees and their staff.
Michelle is the Queensland representative for Poolwerx advisory and regional councils, and the pair mentor other franchisees and present at discovery days for potential franchisees.
“I’m submitting an application for Franchise Woman of the Year this year,” Michelle reveals.
“It all means you grow yourself as a person, it’s really powerful.”