SBM #9 - POOL-ology at $16 million (2)

Sometimes the service providers that got you here, are not the ones to take you to the next level. 

‘Small Business Black Holes’ exist to tell insightful, interesting stories about initially successful small businesses who found themselves in black holes and climbed out of them through whatever means necessary. 

Last time, I introduced you to Malcolm Marshall, who runs POOL-ology. 

We learned about the importance of business pivoting: when to do it, why to do it, and how to do it. 

But that’s not the end of Malcolm’s story.

📓 The Overview:

  • Business: POOL-ology

  • Revenue Barrier: $16 million

  • Learning: It’s not just the company’s team that has to change as the company grows, but its service providers have to as well..

📓 The Story:

We left Malcolm last time as he was pivoting the business from pool maintenance to construction.

In just a couple of years, construction was responsible for 80% of revenue. 

The pivot was successful.

Now Malcolm was looking to take his business to the next level. 

To grow POOL-ology, he needed more leads and that meant more marketing. 

Malcolm had previously hired an all-in-one marketing company to help drive growth and revenue. 

Which was great, and the right move for his business at the time.

When a company is small and has scarce time and resources, a broadly focused marketing firm is usually your best option. 

However, as you grow this is seldom the case.

As POOL-ology scaled up, Malcolm couldn’t help but notice the marketing team wasn’t getting the results he needed to continue POOL-ology’s growth.

His current provider that got him here wasn’t the right vendor to take him where he wanted to go.

Most marketing suffers from the classic John Wanamaker quote: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half.”

So Malcolm did what all smart and scrappy owners do. 

He set out to learn everything he could about marketing and effectively become the Chief Marketing Officer.

This is a common trait among all entrepreneurs.

If you want it done right, learn it and do it yourself. 



As we have learned in previous editions of SBBH: You have to learn enough to evaluate what you are getting back from those you delegate to. 

But your job is running the business and not its functions. 

To be clear, at $1-3m in revenue, going out and learning for yourself is often the only thing you can afford to do. 

It also made sense to get a comprehensive vendor at a time when selecting and managing separate ones might have overwhelmed him and the company.

But at $16m, the opportunity cost of the CEO spending the time and effort to become a CMO is not a great bet or a good ROI.

Sometimes the person holding your business back is you.

So Malcolm decided to do the smart thing.

He hired a fractional CMO and he used the CMO, who had the network and expertise, to bring in speciality providers for SEO, ads, social and content. 

This was the game changer they were waiting for. 

And they haven’t stopped either.

They continue to evolve the marketing division.

And by bringing in the other providers, they were able to keep their original marketing company by focusing it on its best service: creating content. 

The key here is that as you grow your company, you have to grow yourself, your team, and the vendors that serve your company. 

Many owners forget that last part.

As for Malcolm, the journey continues. 

And who knows? 

Maybe in five years, there won’t be a block in Texas that doesn’t have a POOL-ology swimming pool.

🧑‍🎓 The Lessons: 

  1. The vendors who got you where you are aren’t likely to be the ones to get you where you’re going.

  1. Bringing in fractional expertise can be a game-changer allowing you access expertise you couldn’t afford full time. 

  1. The moment you think you know everything is the moment you stop growing.

📅 Next Week:

Stay tuned, because next week we jump into another small business story learning about how difficult it is to grow a professional services company beyond the core client base it starts with. 

Keep growing,



I just launched my Small Business Mentor Podcast where you can learn more about overcoming adversity in your small business. 

Check it out here: 


Do you have a small business growth story and want to be featured? Ping me on X @apentz, or submit at


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