"If the business is out there, this is one tech who's going to get it."
Pool service technician Steve Jones always carries one thing with him in his truck that he believes helps set him apart from the competition: his portfolio.
Jones, who owns Anglo American Pool & Spa in Torrance, CA., doesn't actually build pools, nor does he do any landscaping. But he offers just about every other pool and spa service, and he likes to show off his accomplishments. "If they want to refurbish their pools, replace the deck, put in a water-feature, I just show them my brochures and say, "I can do this," he says. "It's best to advise the customer as much as possible as to the things that can be done."
With pool customers becoming more demanding, offering additional services has allowed Jones, a ten year pool service veteran and native of England (thus the company name), to respond in a way that can benefit both parties.
"Sometimes I will have a customer who says, ‘Hey do you know anybody who can do this or that?'" Jones says. "And I say, ‘Yeah-me!"
"The customer likes everything rolled into one," he adds, "I always let them know I am not just here to treat the water. Anything that needs to be done, I can do it. They don't have to keep running to the Yellow Pages. When I meet a new customer, I put forth that I am not just a service man."
Anglo American stands out among service firms for two reasons.
First, more than a service tech, Jones considers himself a sort of service contractor. He subcontracts out renovation and replastering work to a select group of acquaintances he has put together through networking at trade group meetings and shows, reading trade publications, and from hanging out with fellow techs at local pool stores.
He then serves as the customer's liaison throughout the process and after the sale. Offerings include refinishing and replastering, deck work, tile and brick work, electrical work, automatic cover installation and after-market water-feature installation.
Secondly, Jones is eminently qualified to supervise all this work because of an unusually rich background in electricity, plumbing, digital components and masonry.
Born in Southeast London 47 years ago, Jones became an electrician at age 20. He moved to Holland when he was 22 and tried his hand at carpentry, also dabbling in concrete forming. That work eventually led him to become a plumber.
"But then I went back to England and got back into the electrical trade," he says. Jones then sought the green pastures of California.
He quickly learned, however, that the electrical training he had received in England did not apply to systems in the United States. "I was sitting in the back yard wondering what I was going to do. I was watching the neighbors put in a pool- and I saw the plumbing and the pumps and everything and thought, "I can do that."
The ability to provide consumers with "one-stop shopping" when it comes to pool care did not happen overnight for Jones. His eclectic knowledge of pool service was built slowly through on-the-job and formal classroom training.
The industry is changing so rapidly, service companies must remain on top of new developments to stay competitive, he says. "I go to the Western Pool & Spa Show and take the classes they offer there. And at our monthly Independent Pool & Spa Service Association meetings, we try to get people to speak about stuff that is new on the market," he says. "It all helps."
Changing the image of the pool service tech will take time, Jones says. But if they can position themselves as teachers of residential pool owners, the respect will come.
"Most (pool owner) walk into a pool store and don't understand what they're looking at," he says. "There are just so many options now. The pool man has to teach the pool owner what is out there and what can and can't be done. That's why I carry the portfolio around. It shows the work I've done and shows (the pool owner) what they can have installed."