Close-up | Bill Schlemmer of Virginia Beach
By Lee Belote
Bill Schlemmer does not mind being called “pool boy.” In fact, he’s proud of his new nickname.
After 23 years in the military serving as a naval flight officer, he now spends his days cleaning pools, replastering, installing pumps and replacing liners. Schlemmer had always planned on transitioning into the business realm after his military service. “I always wanted to own my own business,” Schlemmer said. “I recognized the similarities of the business world and the military.”
While on active duty, Schlemmer earned his MBA, so he could pursue his dream of business ownership once he retired from the Navy. His opportunity came in the summer of 2014, while talking to a colleague, who happened to be a venture capitalist. Schlemmer recalled that his ears perked up when he first found out about the idea because his friend is known for “picking winners.”
By March 2015, America’s Swimming Pool Company(ASP) of Coastal Virginia was launched, and Schlemmer was the managing partner. Fast forward one year, and the company ended its first year above forecast projections. It was named “Best New Start Franchise of 2015” by his franchiser, America’s Swimming Pool Company, based out of Macon, Georgia.
“Bill’s attention to detail, work ethic, and utilization of the corporate support system are what got his franchise to this point,” said Stewart Vernon, founder and CEO of ASP. “We look forward to watching his continued success.”
Schlemmer attributes his business accomplishments to honing his skills for 23 years in the military environment. He calls it the work ethic of a veteran. “It’s a zero-fail mentality. You’re going to succeed or die trying,” Schlemmer said. “It’s been an easily transferable mindset into the business world.”
Belote: What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Schlemmer: Meeting new people
B: What is the greatest challenge you face doing what you do?
S: Time management
B: What do you love most about the people you work with?
S: The amazing amount of talent and resiliency
B: Who or what inspires you to do what you do?
S: My family
B: Who or what in your background best prepared you for doing what you do?
S: My parents
B: If a snapshot was taken of you enjoying a perfect day, what would it look like?
S: Being with my family.
B: Favorite movie(s):
S: “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”
B: Pet peeve:
S: Guitar, skiing.
B: Best/worst job:
S: Military officer
B: Favorite Virginia Beach spot to…
S: Meet up with Friends, Stoley’s
B: Of what achievements are you most proud?
S: Having served my country and being a husband and a father
B: Something you’ve done that others might not expect of you:
S: I was in a Japanese shampoo commercial.
B: If you could choose your theme song, what would it be?
S: “Rearview Mirror” by Pearl Jam
B: The song you’re most likely to be caught singing along/dancing to:
S: “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town,” also by Pearl Jam
B: What is your personal motto?
S: Be a duck; above the waterline cool and calm, below the waterline flipping like mad.
B: Most exciting experience on the job?
S: Winning the Best New Start award for 2015
B: Favorite local restaurant?
B: The most memorable words of wisdom you received and from whom:
S: “You can do anything, you can be anything.” My mother
B: The words of wisdom you’d share with someone interested in doing what you do:
S: Seek out mentors and cultivate genuine relationships with people you find successful, caring, and happy.
B: Favorite part of the job?
S: Feedback from our customers (good and bad) is very important to me, and I really enjoy seeing our customers grow to realize just how good their pool service experience can be. I love it when our customers take the time to write a review on our Google + page. We have 315 star reviews, and I always spend a few moments writing a thank you note for their feedback.
B: How has the military prepared you for business ownership?
S: I feel my military background and training prepared me for business ownership in 3 key areas:
Multi-tasking. A pool service company can be very busy, with multiple projects working simultaneously. The abilities to prioritize, focus, and execute are vitally important to achieving or exceeding our customer’s expectations 100% of the time.
Accountability is very important in being a successful military member as well as a business owner. You have to gain trust by doing what you say you are going to do, and pledge to the customer that you as the owner will be held accountable if the team misses the mark.
Planning is such a key ingredient of any successful operation. Whether launching a start-up or preparing to conduct and extensive renovation, planning is where you start. The more planning you conduct, the higher the percentage of mission success and mitigation of unplanned consequences.
Article originally posted on The Virginian-Pilot.