Quality & Integrity - Tools For A Pool Pro
Swimming pools, at least according to me, are the origin of the term "doesn't hold water". This is what I told every one of my clients over the years. You can hire anybody to work on your pool. There is no way to prove, or for you to really know, the history, experience and skill level of the person you are hiring. To make things relatable I would explain that you should ask yourself whether you would hire this person to build you a new car from scratch. If not because you doubt they would have the technical skill to actually accomplish this, then you should not hire them to work on your pool.
The average pool owner has no appreciation for how complicated and immensely technical swimming pools are - especially as we enter this golden age of swimming pool automation and integration with smart technology. If a pool owner wants lower prices then they will certainly find them. There are plenty of handymen who occasionally work on pools who also have no appreciation for how complicated pools are. That is like asking the kid next door mowing the lawn to come over and tinker with your new corvette to see if he can figure out how to squeeze a few more horsepower out of it.
Selling a job on integrity
I am the one that you hire when you want it done right. I am more expensive than most other people, and more experienced than other people, and that is the price of doing the job properly. The number of ways that unscrupulous, uninterested or under-skilled workers can compromise the quality of your pool are genuinely immeasurable. I will work on your pool as if it were my own and I will do everything that I tell you that I am going to do. I am excited to work on this project with you - please sign here and we will get started!
This was pretty much the gist of every contract negotiation that I dealt with with my clients. By the time I had opened my own company installing shotcrete and vinyl liner pools I had already been in the industry for 18 years, and installing million dollar pools and spas had been my daily job for years. The client has no idea about the skill required to build pools, or how the industry is rigidly segmented into installers, servicers and maintenance companies. They might get a bid to build a new pool and be happy with the numbers. The company that gave the bid has a store and good reviews online...only problem that the customer forgot to ask is "have you ever built a pool before?" as, shockingly, I have encountered disaster pools built under just such circumstances on three separate occasions over my years.
You need to do a massive amount of customer education in order to produce an informed consumer who can ask the right questions and cut through all of the BS when it comes to hiring people to work on their pools, as well as when it comes time to open the wallet and shell out some cash for an expensive new piece of equipment they are not even sure that they need. The more you can educate the customer, the better you both will be for it. Most pool builders in my experience loathe the customer hand holding involved with selling a new pool. They want to dig holes and cash checks and I can understand that to a certain degree...but at the same time it baffles me that customers are left with half-assed pools with major integral flaws, improperly sized or installed equipment, expectations of function not being met, inferior plumbing and filtration systems, the list goes on and on.
What does all of this mean? It means there are levels to this game. I have been working in the industry since childhood and had the benefit of a decade of one-on-one mentorship with someone who built hundreds of pools per year. We did not use subcontractors and so every stage of the pool was done in house. Looking back this was a huge advantage to me as usually this is not profitable and employees are assigned task-specific roles that they do over and over for maximum company profitability. Most pool plumbers would never get a chance to see concrete day, or tile work, or plaster day, or any process other than plumbing for that matter. They would spend all of their time plumbing pools and spas and making maximum money for the big company they work for.
Most large pool companies have divisions within the company for layout and design, grading and framing, plumbing, concrete, plaster, tile, mechanical installations, followup service and maintenance, leak detection...each of these departments requires someone who is experienced and able to plan, organize and execute that stage of the job. Large companies have divisions that for the most part workers do not tend to travel between, and smaller companies tend to rely on subcontracting out the stages that they are most unfamiliar, underskilled or understaffed to take on in house. So what is the big deal? Just learn how to install pools properly and be done with it, right? Not so much.
After literal decades in the industry, one on one mentorship, exposure to all aspects of the industry, ultra high end residential installations, commercial systems, product training seminars by the hundreds...and I would estimate that I barely understand how all of it comes together. I am speaking honestly here that I have to work very hard to just maintain a working understanding of the waterproofing systems, coatings, automation, new equipment technology, alternative sanitizers, chemistry and balancing, code regulations and best practices for a hundred different technical applications. In my experience the worst builders out there are the ones that know everything.
The Best & Worst Pool Builders
If you know everything then you are not looking for answers. If you are not constantly looking for answers then there is basically zero chance that you are up to speed on current technical standards. Most often I find that builders have one or two strong technical suits, like concrete or plumbing, but then have little to no experience with the rest such as electrical, tile setting, system design, filtration etc. and they compensate for this usually by subcontracting out these other areas.This, in my experience, weakens the quality control chain and opens the door for people to be working on the pool who are not heavily invested in the finished product one way or another.
Quality - Quality comes from establishing a technical standard for each and every process involved with the pool installation. Fortunately it is easier than ever to step up your technical game. Things like Facebook groups for other pool and spa professionals are a literal goldmine of information with some of the greatest minds in the industry posting about pools and spas and answering questions daily. Even this website that you are reading right now contains hundreds of detailed and in-depth technical articles about various facets of the pool and spa industry. These resources did not exist when I started working on pools and spas. If the person standing next to you did not know the answer to your question then you just continued on with your life (and the pool installation) not knowing how to proceed correctly. Now you just pop on Facebook and ask someone who has built 10,000 pools how to do a certain thing and they answer in seven minutes. Access to information like this could have, and would have, easily been enough to build a successful construction firm on back "in the day". You used to have to pay people handsomely for technical information. I remember a fellow who was trying to sell me a refinishing technical process for $50,000 plus a residual cut of any of that type of work I take on in the future. Can you imagine? That, and just building pools that ended up failing early, were the two main ways to learn how to build when I got started. In the current state of the pool industry there is no lack of educational resources to say the least. Control the quality of the products and services that you sell by investing time, money and energy into studying these systems and asking questions from people more experienced than yourself. Admitting how little you really know is the first step in learning how to truly build quality pools and spas.
Integrity - The heart of this article boils down to this one word. When you are working on pools you will be faced on a daily basis with situations where you will need to decide the course of action to take...and really nobody will know other than yourself. Without a strong moral compass guiding your hands the inclination to start cutting corners will eventually happen. We all get tired. It is not always as simple as a contractor scamming a customer. Sometimes corners get cut because you are under too much time pressure, or money pressure and you know taking a step back is going to eat into your profits and timeline. Would you be willing to push back an already annoyed customer more, and potentially lose your profits in order to fix something (or make something better) that you should have caught earlier? Would you spend $1000 on another concrete truck to avoid having to spread out the amount of concrete that you have even a little? Would you refuse good money because the requested work is not safe, or you know will not meet the expectations of the buyer? What about turning down huge money for a job that, really, is over your head technically? Integrity happens in the mind and it has to happen in advance of the ultimatum between the right course and the easy course of action. Decide that you will conduct yourself professionally and with integrity at all times, even to personal and financial detriment, and this quality will radiate through to your clients. Definitively, integrity is the main ingredient that will set your company apart from the others and drive you towards success.
Since pools are only as good as their weakest link, and are (as far as I'm concerned) the origin of the "term doesn't hold water", then avoiding cut-corners becomes paramount in developing a long term plan for success. If you commit to working to your maximum potential, continuing to expand your trade knowledge, and refusing to accept compromise or cut corners then you are setting yourself, and your clients, up for success. Most of all you must decide to continue learning and advancing your knowledge about the various technical processes involved with pools and spas. Only through continuing education can you hope to maintain a working knowledge of the technical side of pools, and when you operate your company with honesty and integrity then you have the best opportunity for long term success. When I first started working on pools I was told something which I will tell to you now - you never want to have to cross the street to avoid one of your old customers. Almost 30 years later from being told this I still think about it all the time.
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