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Servicing swimming pools in Kokomo, Indiana

Mike Cowell is not only the first winner of this year’s annual Service Industry News Industry Survey prize giveaway, but also serves as proof that this publication — devoted to service technicians — is truly a nationwide paper. 

Cowell won a $100 gas card when he was randomly drawn as the winner.

Cowell started Advanced Pool Service in Kokomo, Ind., in 2005 and services pools for seven months out of the year. 

He spends the other five months relaxing and enjoying time with his wife of 29 years.

Cowell started in the service business 27 years ago, working as a pool renovation and construction technician. 

He left when he realized he wanted to specialize in pool service exclusively.

Today, Cowell and his team of four offer complete service to residential accounts, which amount to more than 50 per week, and they service all of their pools on Fridays. 

“Out in a place like California, a service guy probably has all of the pools on his route real close together, but out here in Kokomo, the pools are real far apart from each other, and so keeping Friday just for service makes sense,” he said. 

During the other four days of the week, Cowell is busy with repairs, modifications and equipment installs. His crew works six days a week for nearly 15 hours a day starting in March using the company’s three logo-brandished service trucks.

Cowell’s system seems to be effective, too. His route is roughly 40 miles in radius, where the total area has less than 500 pools and four other service companies rivaling for accounts. With those numbers it might seem hard to live on, but Cowell does well enough and supplemental income is unnecessary.

“We work hard out here until about October and then we start relaxing in November,” Cowell said. 

They start their vacation by heading to Vegas and the International show. 

“The International show is a good show,” he said, “but I like to gamble, too, and that’s one reason why we go.”

Cowell adds that he likes to attend classes when goes to shows and this is an area where he would like to see some improvement. “The classes at some of these shows are all the same,” Cowell said. 

“They give you the basic information that anyone new to the industry needs to know, but for someone that’s been doing this for more than 27 years, I’d like to learn something new.” 

Cowell suggests that when the subject matter is technical and focused on trouble-shooting, manufacturers should bring in the equipment for hands-on learning.

“Trouble-shooting is not easy to follow without seeing it in front of you,” he said. “It would be better if some of the classes showed you what they were teaching.” 

As to the pools Cowell troubleshoots and services, they are mostly all vinyl.

“The ground here is full of clay and so using concrete isn’t wise because the expansion and contraction of the ground becomes an issue, but there is also a cost factor as to why people chose vinyl,” Cowell said. 

Cowell also favors lithium hypochlorite, particularly when opening a pool for the swim season. Due to the chill factor in April, coupled with the vinyl material, using lithium is ideal. Lithium dissipates quickly and does not sit on the bottom of the pool like other products such as Cal Hypo. 

For automatic cleaner choices, robots are his favorite. Cowell said that homeowners in Indiana do not like making adjustments to equipment and that pretty much eliminates the use of suction cleaners. As to pressure-side cleaners, Cowell said that they do not clean as uniformly as robots, which in addition to being more uniform, also clean all the way up to the tile line and he likes that.

“I love this business and being outside,” he said. “Taking care of someone’s pool makes me happy.”

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