Q&A: PoolWerx award winners
Caroline and Paul Attard are the 2012 National Franchise Partners of the Year for pool and spa care franchise PoolWerx. Their multi-unit operation in Queensland includes two retail stores and seven mobile vans across Mt Gravatt, Balmoral, Rochedale and Carindale.
Paul Attard takes our Q&A…
1. Why did you decide to buy a franchise?
I was operations director for a marketing company and then a marketing consultant and Caroline ran her own child day care business from home, but we wanted a career that allowed us to be our own boss. A business with good brand awareness and proven success was important to us rather than starting from scratch in a new industry, and that’s why franchising appealed to us.
2. How long have you been in the system?
We bought our first PoolWerx ‘man-in-a-van’ model in June 2005. This was a great option for us because we didn’t have to go straight into a large retail investment and instead got the opportunity to learn the ropes and work our way up to a retail store. Three months later we bought our second mobile unit in Carindale.
The following year we went into a partnership with another franchisee and purchased an existing store at Mt Gravatt where we were able to grow the business significantly. In 2009, we opened our second retail store in our newest territory, Balmoral, and in 2010 we took over full ownership of the entire operation. Now, we manage two retail stores and seven mobile service vans.
3. How did you come to decide on this brand?
We investigated three franchise systems and PoolWerx was the last one we spoke to. It was far superior in terms of professionalism and the flexibility in the model was the final selling point for us. We weren’t required to ‘dive in the deep end’ by investing in a retail store from the get-go. Instead, we could buy a mobile van with the support of the large infrastructure behind the PoolWerx franchise and gradually work our way up to the operation we are today.
4. What surprised you about the business?
The biggest surprise was the detail of training and level of ongoing support by the franchisor. When you start, you go to ‘Pool School’ – our induction and training program – where you learn about the business, the products and services, and how to run a successful business. After that, you ‘buddy up’ with neighbouring franchise partners and have ongoing field support from a regional development manager. This support has been invaluable throughout our business journey.
5. How do you spend an average working day?
In 2005, I was a man-in-a-van operation – the administration, servicing and marketing team all in one. We now manage a multi-site team including two retail stores, seven vans and five marketing territories, so things have changed considerably.
Anyone looking to invest in a franchise needs to understand what it means to run your own business. The franchisor gives you the guidelines, but it’s up to you to make a successful business. You need to understand all areas of the business operation – servicing pools, equipment quoting, supporting technicians, retailing – so when it comes time to employ someone into your business, you are confident they can do the job properly and you can manage them accordingly.
6. Are you a sole franchisee or in a partnership, and if so, who with?
7. How did you fund your franchise investment?
When we started out, we got a partial business loan and the rest was self-funded. From there, everything has been self-funded or funded by the existing business.
8. How has the franchisor training helped you in business?
The support is very much done by the regional development managers, most of whom have business backgrounds. They mentor you and train you.
When we first started out, I met with the regional manager once a week and went through a ‘tick box’ process covering the whole spectrum of the business like quoting or checking stock levels are correct. This reconfirms what you’re doing is right, and it’s an important stage in learning the PoolWerx system.
I now speak to my regional manager about two to three times a week and we meet every fortnight. A lot of support also comes from talking to other franchise partners in the network about their businesses.
9. What will you do when renewal comes up?
We’ve already renewed four or five times and will continue to do so in accordance with our expansion plans. We want to make the transition to working ‘on’ the business rather than ‘in’ it and there are plenty of opportunities in our existing territories to grow, so this will remain our focus.
10. How has franchising changed your life?
Franchising has let us take control of our destiny. As opposed to going to work and being committed to whatever we do and the owner reaping the benefits, this way the hard yards are going towards us.