Ep 37: Pushing through Doubt in Entrepreneurship — Hal Denbar

This week on The EnTRUEpreneurship Podcast, Wes chats with Hal Denbar, President and Founder of Patriot Pool & Spa. Denbar’s company has appeared on the Inc. 5000 list and the Aggie 100 list, featuring the most successful businesses run by Texas A&M alumni. Last year, Patriot was a winner in Austin’s Fast 50 contest, which celebrates the fastest growing companies in the Austin area. Patriot has also been named the #1 Customer Service Company in Texas by Pool and Spa News. In 2018, Patriot accrued $3.5 million in revenue — a figure which Denbar aims to quadruple within 10 years through rapid growth and expansion. In fact, Austin Business Journal has described Patriot’s growth as “white hot.”

However, on the podcast, Denbar is open about the pains of entrepreneurship — particularly the loneliness and feelings of rejections often associated with taking “the road less traveled” — yet explains how these feelings are just fuel to continue building his business. Denbar dives deep on many topics, including the importance of customer service, how to care for customers well, and how building trust with customers can be a differentiator in an industry where everyone largely does the same types of services.

 

The EnTRUEpreneurship Takeaway:

[On the early years] “It was a more mental and emotional struggle, you know — ‘I’m just not doing what I set out to do, and I know I can do more.’ … That’s what sort of drives me to keep trying to grow this thing. I very much still have a chip on my shoulder.”

“A route of pools that can really sustain a single person working is about 40 pools to clean, and it took about 3 years to get to that point… It was by year 3 that I got that first full workweek of customers.”

“When I first started and knew nothing about swimming pools, I was self-aware of that. I knew that I couldn’t go out and sell technical knowledge, so I was selling that I could out-customer-service anybody in town."

“We’re a customer service company that happens to clean swimming pools.”

“Our values are BYOP — Bring Your Own Positivity. Be passionate. Serve others. And communicate quickly and clearly."

“I think the most self-limiting factor for most entrepreneurs is not being able to get over themselves to be able to grow."

 

Bullet Points (w/ timestamps) - Highlighting key topics discussed:

1:54: Hal discusses how the directive to “create your own way” was engrained in him from a young age and details some of his earliest businesses — including one with one of his high school teachers.

6:03: Denbar admits to being a poor student in college yet lays out his interest in “the other education” that ultimately prepared him to lead a company.

8:12: Denbar describes the “light bulb moment” that moved him towards the pool service industry, including one incredible coincidence involving his future father-in-law.

16:08: Hal deep dives on the loneliness of entrepreneurship, the patience needed to traverse slow business growth, and the despair of often being known as “just the pool guy.

20:07: Hal details the business’s incredible growth over the past 5 years and the “secret sauce” that spurred its rapid growth.

22:32: Hal discusses the importance of customer service in any industry and how he’s effectively started “a customer service company that happens to clean swimming pools.”

26:14: Denbar describes what has been the most challenging part about growing his business thus far — hiring his first employee and starting to let go.

29:43: Denbar admits that, in his most challenging years, he looked around for other career alternatives on a daily basis.

31:00: Hal lays out his company’s goals moving forward, which include exponential revenue growth and dreams of becoming the single largest individual location for pool service in the U.S.

31:44: Hal explains the importance of mentorship and describes the regret of not learning this lesson sooner in his entrepreneurship journey.

 

Bullet List of Resources –

Hal Denbar

Patriot Pool & Spa