From 12 years of corporate banking and gas-fitting, to a home office with a view, meet April & Myles Robson, busy parents of two and co-owners of Pools Plus Vancouver – a full service pool installation & maintenance company in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland. They’ve been kind enough to share their thoughts on starting a small business, parenting, and the elusive Work–Life balance.
K – What was life like before Pools Plus, and what motivated you and your husband to quit your day jobs and start your own business?
AR – I was working at BMO (The Bank of Montreal) for twelve years before we had our two kids. I was involved in lending, investments, and account set up.
Right now, we have a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old. After I had my youngest, my husband worked for a small pool company that specifically built swimming pools. He was their main guy – technician, gas-fitter, and plumber. I think it was almost a week after my daughter was born, he said; “I think I am going to quit my job and go out on my own!” and I was like, “Okay, that’s great.”
To be honest, I didn’t sleep for the next week. He was already doing jobs on the side and it seemed like business was really picking up. Sure enough, he quit his job and started working on his own, and in May 2013, Pools Plus was created. At the end of 2013 when my maternity leave was up, he told me, “Don’t go back to work. We are going to make this work!” So I said okay. I was really nervous.
K – What an entrepreneurial leap of faith. So, what would you tell someone else who is a little scared to start their own small business?
AR – Well, the first thing I would tell them is: we’re definitely making more money than we ever did working for other people (smiles). Our business has doubled from last year, and we’re still growing. Having your own business is hard work, but it’s worth it.
K – So speaking of hard work, what would you say is the biggest roadblock you’ve run into so far?
AR – I would have to say hiring the right people. We’re growing so fast – we need help to get all the work done on time. The company has been our “baby” for several years and we’ve always struggled with having another person representing us who doesn’t have the same passion, determination, and drive. Luckily, we have one good employee at the moment and we’re actively trying to recruit another.
K – It’s a “normal” work day, what’s your morning routine before you start work?
AR – For Myles, it’s simple; Get up and Go! He’s out of the house and at the job right away. For myself, I usually start around 6:45. I wake the kids up and help them pick out clothes, get dressed, and then feed them breakfast. While that’s going on, I get myself ready. Then I pack all the lunches. I’m out the door by 8:10, drop my son at school, take my daughter to daycare, and then either head to my first job-site or back home to do my paperwork. Family first, then work comes after.
K – That’s a busy schedule. Tiring sometimes I’m sure. Where do you look for business inspiration to keep you going?
AR – Honestly, we look inward. We look at where we’ve been, what our goals are, and where we want to be in the next year, in five years, and then in 10 years. Comparing ourselves to “us” is the best way to see if it’s really working.
K – As you alluded to before, balancing work and life is tricky for a small business owner and a mom. What helps you stay balanced?
AR – This is ideal for us, so we make it work. We have two small children and one just started kindergarten, and the other one is three. Having our own business allows me to work my schedule around theirs. This is exactly what we wanted. I didn’t want somebody else raising my kids.
I only work outside the home one day a week – either on job sites or at maintenance contracts. Myles works four days a week. He gives himself Monday off every week and then heads out Tuesday through Friday. Kind of a perk of working for yourself! We find that having a solid schedule for our clients keeps us on track. Otherwise, I do all of the books and paperwork and anything to do with the household; kids, you name it.
K – What will 2017 bring for Pools Plus?
AR – 2017 is going to be a huge year for us. I’m pretty confident that we’re going to find a great new employee. On the numbers side of things, it will be our first year as an incorporated company, and hopefully we can double our growth as we have the last few years.
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