Michael Wagner | Crain's Nashville

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Michael Wagner


As the pool maintenance field continues to grow, franchise-based Pool Scouts has made a splash. As part of Buzz Franchise Brands, the two-year-old residential pool cleaning, maintenance and repair franchise is active in New Jersey, North Carolina, Florida, Texas and Virginia, and plans to expand to Nashville in 2018. 

The Mistake:

Fortunately for us, and being part of Buzz Franchise Brands, we have been able to hire a great leadership team from the very beginning. And we've always been well-funded, so we can think and make decisions strategically. That being said, one of the things that I wish I would have done better was to take a much more targeted approach to specific geographic areas that we know are great for our business.

With franchise development, you have two sides of the coin. You have a franchise model that you're trying to sell to individuals who become business owners, and you can do a great job of building that business model. But you also have to look closely at the external markets that you're servicing. In our case, we're in the residential swimming pool service and repair business, so external markets that are good are ones that have a high concentration of residential pool owners.

In our early stages of marketing, we spent a lot of money and time in more of a buckshot approach to selling and marketing franchises. The buckshot approach represents some digital, where you're not targeting certain areas, but rather just targeting the mass.

We had things like franchise portals where people could go on and say they wanted a franchise business and Pool Scouts might pop up. They could be doing that in Nebraska, [but] there aren't enough pools in the state of Nebraska for us to have a viable territory.

We spent some money on some of the airline magazines and The Wall Street Journal and things like that, that might not have been geographically targeted and were expensive.

We have fewer leads, but more targeted leads in the right areas.

The Lesson: 

Now, we are spending money and efforts in areas that will bring Pool Scouts more success. We have fewer leads, but more targeted leads in the right areas. It has really helped us generate a lot more success.

If we're on a portal now, we can limit where we appear. If we're going to do anything digital, we would geo-target the digital span to make sure that it appears only in certain markets. We've just kind of opted out of some of the broader channels like the airline magazines unless they are able to be geographically targeted. We might generate a third less leads, but the leads go a lot further in the process.

There are a lot of really good zip codes in Nashville and tight concentrations of pool owners. We've learned to target the right areas where we think franchisees can be successful. I've looked at lots of territories in different parts of the U.S. where you might have to drive a long period of time between concentrations of pool owners – and that doesn't make the best business model. 

Pictured: Michael Wagner | Photo courtesy of Pool Scouts 

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