Poolwerx hits 100 stores, $100m revenue

Inside Franchise Business: Poolwerx founder John O'BrienPoolwerx has just passed a significant milestone, the magic 100 figure across three metrics: 100 franchisees, 100 stores, $100m group turnover.

Today Australian store numbers total 118. Adding in the US business takes the figures to 150 franchisees, 150 stores and $150m revenue.

Reflecting on the achievement John O’Brien, founder and CEO of Poolwerx, says “We set the $100m target three years ago for group revenue. We achieved it in Australia with three days to go in June.

“Sometimes we don’t look back enough and celebrate our wins. It’s like all these things, they look big when you set the goal, then when you reach them, you think ‘what’s next?’ ”

What’s next for Poolwerx is further significant growth with the burgeoning US business close to matching the home-grown targets.

“Our five year plan for Australia and the US is almost aligned: 300 stores and 1000 vans across Australia, and the US is almost identical.”

Boosting sales and profits

However growth hasn’t been a smooth upward trajectory. In fact, the number of franchisees has gone down from the high point of 140 franchisees 10 years ago.

O’Brien explains what happened.

“We realised we didn’t want to be a man and a van business but to be in business with franchisees who are business people.”

The goal of cutting back franchisees was a difficult message for O’Brien to deliver at the national conference all those years ago. But by working with franchisees to partner with other franchisees the business achieved both a reduction to 70 franchise owners and an increase in sales and revenue.

“We improved the revenue of individual franchisees,” said O’Brien. “Now we have 100 with revenue close to $1m each. We have five key KPIs and the number one, not talked much about in franchising, is to increase the average EBITDA plus owner’s earnings. A key driver is to increase profitability.”

That KPI has been in place for a decade and that’s encouraged focus from the whole Poolwerx team for whom 10 per cent of their salary is a bonus allied to key metrics.

“The biggest weighted bonus for our staff is that KPI. That focuses everybody,” says O’Brien.

The average EBITDAO today is 25 per cent.

O’Brien says the quality of incoming franchisees has helped boost business too, and the average Poolwerx franchisee tenure is eight years.

“Having a greater focus on better qualified and business partners as we’ve grown, been awarded and profitable, means the ability to attract good franchisees is greater.”

He says one of the franchisors key responsibilities to the franchise network is “to keep looking under rocks to find the next opportunity so franchisees can stay and grow within the brand.”