Mr. Ivan Lim: Making Waves In The Pool Cleaning Business
Clear Water Services Pte Ltd
The sound of someone splashing and frolicking in the pool is the sound of success for Mr. Ivan Lim. The second generation owner of Clear Water Services Pte Ltd, a swimming pool building and maintenance company of 15 years, is no-nonsense, practical and get-it-done kind of guy. Here, he shares his crystal clear advice to rising entrepreneurs who want to make it big. Ivan’s ideas are as refreshing as a dip into the pool on a hot day. So listen up and get ready to swim to the top!
Facing The Twin Challenges In The Industry
Clear Water Service Pte Ltd is the first ever company that brought portable swimming pools to Singapore from the USA. As such, Ivan and his team have built pools in the homes of Singapore’s rich and famous, including the Sultan of Sarawak. One may think that being a pioneer in the business gives Clear Water the advantage of a constant flow of clients; that running the business is just like taking
a relaxing lap in the pool. But this is not so.
On the contrary, Ivan says the market has been very bad for the pool maintenance and building business in the past years. He cites two reasons for this: first, property sales have dived down and, second, China-made pool products offered by their competitors have swallowed up a huge chunk of the market. “There are about 8,000 pools in Singapore and about 100 swimming pool companies. We are only maintaining 1,200 pools. That’s just 1/8 of the market,” Ivan explains. Apart from this, Clear Water also encountered challenges with
original US-made pool products and the China-made versions which looked the same but worked differently. When Clear Water staff maintain pools, clients expect the features and function of a China-made pool to be the same as a US-made pool. “Some people do not understand the difference and they engage us to solve the problem. We have to teach them that what you pay for, you get.”
Despite this, the company has kept above water because of Ivan holding on to three principles: “Don’t lie to your customers. Don’t cheat them. Don’t destroy your reputation,” he says.
Fears, Failures, And A Forecast Of The Future
In the next five years, Ivan Lim envisions more futuristic ideas to be built in the basic pool concept. “Talent and knowledge will make this company more futureperfect,” he says. Ivan is using the knowledge and innovation key to unlock more potential for the pool building and maintenance business. Innovation will also help Ivan overcome his fear in running the business: Complaints. “I think every business has a fear of facing customer complaints,” This is especially true for a company that deals with people who have high expectations. “We are serving rich people. To them, time is very important. Sometimes when they call you, you have to be there in one hour,” Ivan says. Things can be tight when there are over 50 pools to service in a day. Ivan encourages his staff to overcome this fear by always being prepared. “Nothing is unsolvable. If let’s say you bust up a pool, don’t give up. Just do it all over again. At the same time you can learn from a mistake also. Because you will find out, “Hey what happened? How come it bust?” You learn from it. What you lost today, eventually you will earn back. Not if something happens just go and run, which, many contractors are doing. They build the pool halfway, the find that something is wrong, they cannot rectify. They just dump it and run away. For us, there should be no setbacks. No pain, no gain.”
Ivan’s subcontractors and in-house full time staff have imbibed this never-say never attitude towards a difficult pool job. On how he manages to make his staff stay loyal to him, Ivan does not hesitate to answer “Money. We pay them on time. We reward them for hard work. My sub cons are like their own bosses. The harder they work, the more they earn,” Ivan shares.
Advice To The Rising Entrepreneur: To Swim With The Big Guys, You Must Learn The Basics First
Not many Singaporeans like the pool cleaning job because it is hard work. But 98% of Clear Water’s staff are local, and they love what they are doing. It’s no wonder why. Ivan Lim loves his job and his passion has proven to be contagious. For years now, he is excited to get out of bed and go to work for the love of the pool. He had sacrificed working 364 days a year, with the exception of Chinese New Year, for many years just to make sure the business was steadily growing. He worked 12-18 hours a day, sometimes at night and during a rainy weather, just to complete a pool repair job. All these experiences led Ivan to learn the ropes of the business, every single fibre of it. “Learn the basic. Even pilots know how to repair the engine because when things happen while they are on air, nobody’s going to be there to help them fix it. Nobody could save them. If you own a company you must know everything. What if your workers prepare to strike? If you don’t know everything it will be impossible for you to go far,” he advises young entrepreneurs.
Asked how he defines success, Ivan says “If I see that all my sub con and workers are living a good life, to me that is success.” Indeed, with this inspiration to heart, Ivan Lim and Clear Water Services Pte Ltd is geared to achieve a big splash of growth in the future.
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