David vs. Goliath

  @FortuneMagazine April 11, 2013: 6:46 AM ET
DAV29 david vs goliath

From pool cleaning to bank loans to making brushes, three small companies are finding ways to thrive against much larger competitors.

VivoPools vs. ASP (America's Swimming Pool Co.)

The challenge: Bringing reliability, top-notch service, and panache to pool maintenance.

What he did: Willan Johnson spent 20 years frustrated by the slapdash, small-time contractors maintaining his pool near Los Angeles. In 2009, Johnson opened his own alternative -- VivoPools -- where he's making a splash with high-end service, online scheduling, and spiffy-uniformed workers. Previously employed by a search-marketing firm, Johnson, 48, raised funding from fellow Internet industry veterans and quickly hired a team with expertise in pools. With operations up and running in Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, and New Jersey, he's now going up against America's Swimming Pool Co., a franchise serving 12 states. Vivo, which has begun franchising, brought in about $6.8 million in sales last year and has attracted clients like W Hotels.

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