The host of Pool Kings on how franchising helped his pool company dominate the segment.
If you know Brian Porter, it's probably as the host of Pool Kings, the home-improvement show on the DIY and HGTV networks that helps homeowners transform their backyards into extravagant oases with luxurious grottos and towering waterfalls. What you might not know is that Pool Kings is Porter’s side job. Porter’s main gig is vice president of Premier Pools & Spas, one of the world’s largest pool-building companies.
Premier Pools & Spas was founded thirty years ago by Brian’s father, Paul Porter, who ran the company out of his garage before expanding into an office, then multiple offices, then dozens of franchise locations across the country. We talked to Porter to learn why the brand turned to franchising and what he loves about the industry.
When did Premier Pools & Spas decide to franchise?
My dad built this company out of his garage thirty years ago, and I’ve been lucky enough to work with him for the past twenty years. By the 2000s, we’d grown a thriving company, doing about $50 million in business annually. Then the Great Recession hit. We were one of the few pool builders to make it through the recession. When we came out the other side, like everyone else, we realized that the landscape had changed. With Amazon and these other giant companies, there wasn’t much room for mom-and-pop shops anymore. So we saw a lot of people who wanted to own business but didn’t have a way in, and we realized that was a way for us to grow.
We converted to franchising in 2010, and it was a great decision for us. We were doing about $35 million in business coming out of the recession, and now we’re about four times larger than any other pool business. Last year we finished up with about $220 million in revenue.
What do you love about franchising?
It’s all about established systems and procedures. Franchising allows us to implement great, modern systems of sales, marketing, construction — really everything. And that allows us to focus on bringing in the best people, not just the people with the best pool experience, the best people, period. If we find someone with the right character, we can bring them in regardless of their experience.
Is there anything you wish you could change about the industry?
More uniform laws would help! It’s extremely easy to get things done in some states and extremely difficult to get the same things done in others. There’s not a lot of cohesion in the laws. A little more organizations and speed on the government’s end would be a big help, but I certainly don’t expect to see that any time soon. Beyond that, more exposure for the industry would be great. I believe that franchising is the best way to go for just about any business model, but right now it typically draws a certain type of person, and I think we need to extend our reach beyond that.
What’s the biggest change you’ve noticed in franchising since you started?
Franchising has really taken off, there’s no question about that. We’re seeing a lot of ‘me-too’ brands these days — one successful concept followed by a million copycats. I think the biggest reason we’re seeing more franchising is that getting into business by yourself has become increasingly difficult. Without having the cash and support of an existing business behind you, it’s nearly impossible to get a new business up and running.
What makes a great franchisee?
Accountability. Ultimately, the franchisee is the entrepreneur. It is their business, and they have to be accountable. The people who go into franchising with that mindset tend to be the most successful. Beyond that, I like to see that fire in the belly. I always tell franchisees, ‘we are giving you the opportunity, but it’s up to you to succeed.’
What’s the number-one thing that sells franchises?
The clarity of the business model. Franchising offers a proven roadmap for success. There are so many unknowns when you go into any business. I talk to so many people who are interested in getting into the business, but there’s so much they don’t know, and that makes them apprehensive. Franchising lays out the whole map, and if you’ve got a strong, clear model, you can really alleviate the fears that keep people from signing up