Even at a young age, Aaron Burkett, owner and founder of Aaron's Elite Pool Service, learned the importance of patience, persistence and proper planning. Burkett lived on a farm in Iowa from birth until the age of five. His parents sold the farm and moved the family to Omaha, NE, for five years, in anticipation of relocating to Florida. As Burkett shared, they took vacations and several trips to Florida to find the perfect town and the perfect house to call home.
"My parent's weren't fly by the seat of their pants type people," he said. "They took their time. My dad wanted to find the right employer and community prior to relocating our family of five. I was about 10 years old when we moved to Sarasota County."
After graduating from Riverview High School in 2000, Burkett enrolled in Manatee Community College, now called State College of Florida-Bradenton. While pursuing an Associate of Science Degree in Business Administration and working part-time at Circuit City, Burkett identified an opportunity and took action.
"People weren't willing to read the manuals or take the time to program all their remotes into one," he said. "I saw an opportunity to help these people install their equipment, so I started a side business doing just that. I would hook up their DVD players, TVs, receivers and get all the remotes consolidated into one."
As Burkett shared, it was a great side business, but one that would eventually take a back seat to an opportunity with even more potential. Around September of 2002, Burkett's mom had the idea to start a pool company. Her sister's friend had a successful pool service and she liked what she saw. Unfortunately, after a few weeks of training and taking concrete steps towards starting the business, she realized it wasn't for her. That's where Burkett entered the picture.
"She basically handed me an envelop with a piece of paper and a list of phone numbers," he said. "It was a cheat sheet for setting up a pool business."
Burkett didn't waste any time. While still running his home theater installation business, he got to work on the pool business. Before long, Burkett was spending less time installing DVD players and more time cleaning pools. He moved his college courses to Tuesdays and Thursdays and set aside Monday, Wednesday and Friday for cleaning pools. The business was growing and Burkett had to make a decision.
"I honestly got to a point where I felt like I wasn't gaining anything by being in school," he said. "After earning my AS Degree, I was still living at home and making really good money. I had a decision to make. I decided that I would leave school to focus exclusively on building my pool business. At that point, it also didn't make any sense to continue with the home theater business. It was a one-off type business. The pool business is something that needs to be done over and over again. It had a lot more earning potential."
Since devoting himself full-time to the pool business, Burkett has grown Aaron's Elite into one of the premier pool service, repair and construction companies in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. Whether it's wrapping his vehicles to advertise the business, utilizing traditional forms of advertising or handing out high quality drink koozies, Burkett is laser-focused on attracting new customers and retaining current ones. Burkett shared some of the ways he differentiates his pool business from others.
"First of all, we drive newer trucks and they're all the same make and model," he said. "Having the same consistent message is important. We're also dressed in uniform and we show up when we're supposed to. Our pool technicians are professional and they make our customers feel comfortable. That's extremely important to us. It all starts with our employees. If they're not doing what they're supposed to be doing, I won't hesitate to let them go. I'm also focused on automating the company. We utilize a true CRM as our backbone and digitize whatever we can. Our route books are digital, along with our billing infrastructure and our customer data. This speeds things up and makes everyone's lives easier. When it comes to pool construction, we take a proactive approach to make the pool as low maintenance and user friendly as humanly possible. It all comes down to building the pool the right way. We also have recently installed a competitive stainless steel overflow gutter on a Rehabilitation Pool with underwater audio."
Looking ahead, Burkett is doing more and more custom work with the commercial sector. To that end, they're focused on rehabilitation facilities. Hydrotherapy, also known as water therapy, is growing in popularity and Burkett is positioning Aaron's Elite to capitalize on the growing trend. They're also expanding beyond Sarasota and Bradenton to provide high-end custom designed pools to residential clients. They're focused on incorporating the homeowner's lifestyle and house architecture into the design of the pool. Constructing a pool that naturally flows with its surroundings is more visually appealing.
What advice does Burkett have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Have a very clear plan of what you want to do, believe in yourself and never ever give up," he said. "When things get tough, just keep pushing forward. Also, write down your goals. It's important to have a list of what you're going to keep pushing forward on. There will be days that suck, but keep pushing forward. That's what allowed me to reach my levels. There were plenty of times where it would have been easier to close the doors, but I didn't. Those are the times where you have to dig deep and keep your eye on your goals."