Are You Giving Away The Store?

In these challenging economic times, our industry needs to rethink where our emphasis has been in the past and look at what other professionals do to create some new income streams for ourselves we have not considered. Notice I refer to us as “professionals”. We may not all have PhD degrees or the same kind of formal training other professions require, but many of us are every bit as knowledgeable in our areas of expertise as the doctors and lawyers and Indian chief “experts”.

Yet, too often we tend to give away our knowledge for free and hand away with both hands expertise we should be charging for as other professionals do. None of us would ever consider approaching our doctor or lawyer at a party and asking for free medical or legal advice, yet all too often we find ourselves in the position of handing out free pool advice over the cocktail or shopping for peas at the grocery store.

We design their pools for free while they “put our design out for bids”, we solve problems for free less professional practitioners of our trade have screwed up, we test their water for free, hold free classes for pool clients who may be buying their chemicals at Wal-Mart, and give away free info we print up to instruct our clients. While I am a big proponent of educating your client and feel the informed customer will be happier and purchase more from you in the long run, I think we need to look to the “other” professionals and take a few clues from them as to how we might upgrade both the appreciation for what we do and our just compensation for it as an industry.

These thoughts came to me after spending the weekend at our recent Region trade show and design awards and doing some follow up on some work after representing my own product at the booth where I talked with many of my peers. Here are some of the examples of what I call “giving away the store”:

Pool Builder X stops by the booth and I introduce my pool care book, and he immediately cuts me off, saying “ oh no, I have something I made up I already give them; we wouldn’t be interested in that.” So, instead of making double his money on a small product already created for him with pool care information, he would rather spend company time writing, revising, typing up, and making copies of his knowledge and giving it away for free. Okey dokey.

All too often, pool builders fail to value what they know and fail to capitalize on the fact that the pool owner will BUY what they know. The doctors and lawyers and Indian chiefs rich enough to purchase our products, of course, know this. Interestingly enough, his wife stopped by the booth a little later and had a completely different reaction to the product, eagerly accepting the ideas I was offering as to how she could use it in their business. It will be interesting to see if this company will eventually “get it” and profit as a result.

We then attended the design awards on Saturday night and, as usual, loved seeing the best of our industry displayed with award after award of beautiful pools. Again, with the vast majority of this fine work, many of us nevertheless likely often “gave away the store” in the design phase of our work. While all of these fine projects the pool builder got to actually build, how many times have we designed these excellent projects for a prospect, spending hours of our time and often numerous changes, for FREE, and then had the client blithely announce he was “going with somebody else because they are cheaper??” Other design professionals CHARGE for design- we in the pool industry should too. All of us. We need to place more value on what we know and how we present it in order to reap the rewards we deserve in this industry. Knowledge is power and knowledge should have a price. While we routinely pay it ourselves, sometimes we don’t charge enough for selling our own and we “give away the store”.

Following up with a distribution branch after the convention, I had a talk with the manager passing on leads in his area for my product. He mentioned a pool builder in his area who had also mentioned to him giving away his own little typed up instructions on pool care, and both of us marveled at the guys who pass up profit for “giving away the store” on pool care. Many of us already do free water testing as well, and instead of driving sales with our knowledge we sometimes simply “give away the store”.

We do have so much to offer our customers and it is good for us to be helpful, generous and provide excellent service. But we also owe our employees, our families and ourselves a profit, and we can’t serve our customers as well when we give away the store and weaken our ability to continue to serve them with nonexistent profits. You are a professional, a knowledgeable expert every bit as valuable as a source of knowledge as the doctors, lawyers, and Indian chiefs who are your clients. Respect yourself and them enough not to “give away the store”.

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  • Thank you for the kind words, Monique. I would also like to hear some suggestions about how we can raise the perception of our industry and encourage others to view themselves as the professionals we are and charge accordingly. The Pool Genius Network and Academy are certainly excellent places to start building this knowledge and perception.
  • Merry,
    Amazing post, as usual. I agree with just about every word you have here, and it would be so inspirational if some of the other members could share ways in which they are acting like "P"rofessionals and NOT giving away the store. Your examples are a fantastic start, and I think many more of us can benefit from this way of thinking.

    Some things I am left considering, however, is how to go about changing the mindset of not only our industry Professionals, but the customers that have become so used to getting something for nothing?

    In your opinion (open to all PGNers), would it require the entire industry to band together with this new philosophy and present a united front, forcing the customers to see us as the experts we are? Or could a few leaders become the "Premium" of the industry by setting themselves apart from those who do give away the store?

    Great topic, I'm looking forward to reading what else people have to say!
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