We had the good fortune of connecting with Jerry Jurden and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jerry, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I came from an IT background and as I worked up toward the C-suite in that field it became clear how much IT was viewed as a cost center rather than a revenue center. Also, I came from an environment where I felt like employees were not as valued or given as much autonomy as they should have been given their talents. I began to feel like as an owner I could create a better culture and working environment than the experiences I had in my previous employment. Though I had had thoughts of owning my own business since college when I took business classes as part of my minor, it was these recent events that spurred me to take the leap. Also, I was getting older and time was running short, and I finally concluded if I didn’t do something now I would never do it. I actually bought an existing business that was producing revenue, so I did not create one from scratch. As I was looking for businesses to buy there were several criteria I was evaluating. First, as I mentioned, it did need to be a business that was already generating revenue, because my family situation did not give me the freedom to start from scratch and go without income for months while the business ramped up. While I did have to take about a 40% pay cut when I bought the business, I was still able to produce a steady paycheck and have been able to take a salary since day one. Second, I wanted to find a business model that I either knew well already or that I could pick up quickly given my background and talents. Since I had never run a company before (only departments), I would be learning two things at once–how to run a business and possibly the technical side of the business as well. While I did not have any experience with pool maintenance, I knew from my engineering and mechanical knowledge and life experiences working on cars and general handyman work, it was something I would be able to pick up quickly, which has been the case. YouTube has been very helpful as well! Finally, I wanted to find a business model that had recurring revenue, was local and could not be outsourced, and was going to be recession resistant, if not recession proof. After putting all these criteria together, I found a local fellow near me that was selling a pool maintenance and repair business that he had started from scratch three years earlier. The business met all the criteria and we finalized the purchase.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
In the pool industry, most owners of businesses in this space came from the technician position. Most business owners in this industry have been pool cleaners, pool repair technicians, construction supervisors and the like. I was in Information Technology for 23 years before buying a pool maintenance and repair business. My unique angle is that I bought into this industry straight at the top and did not have any direct experience in the field before diving into it with both feet. Many people would argue that as a disadvantage, but it has given me a unique perspective. One of the things I do not suffer from is a “we’ve always done it that way” mindset. Coming from outside the industry, I am not constrained by industry norms and I find it easier to come up with unique and innovative solutions. On the other hand, it has presented it’s fair share of challenges as well. One of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve had is trying to use a white-collar hiring process when trying to fill blue-collar vacancies. In the white-collar IT world, it is much more of a long drawn-out process. The standard operating procedure is to publish openings and get as many resumes as you can and then pare them down to maybe a dozen or so, then schedule interviews with those folks. Then you narrow it down further and possibly do second interviews until you ultimately have to decide between two or three candidates. The whole process can take weeks. In the blue collar world, if there is a great candidate out there looking for work they will likely be snatched up by another company within a couple of days, so if you come across an A-player during an initial interview, you have to make them an offer on the spot.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Dallas has some great places. I especially love eating at some of the great restaurants in the city. A couple of my favorites are Wolfgang Puck’s in the Reunion Tower as well as S&D Oyster Bar, which is an old Dallas staple. Seeing a concert or NBA game at AAC is always a great experience. Also if you haven’t driven up Swiss Avenue and checked out all the old mansions just north of downtown you’re missing out!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have read several business books but two have stood out that have changed my approach to managing my company and that I highly recommend every entrepreneur read. The first is The E-Myth. There are a couple of E-Myth books and I have read them all. They are invaluable in elevating your thinking about running a business, especially if you started out as a “technician” and are struggling with transitioning from technician duties to actually managing your business. It will help give you a framework for systemizing your business. The second, even more influential book has been Profit First. This book completely turns the financial management of a company on its head and forces you to look from bottom up instead of top down. It has personally resulted in significant additional profits and money in my pocket as a business owner. It forces some tough choices but provides significant financial clarity in running the finances and operations of your business.
Jerry Jurden, Charley Crum, Linda Gonzalez