The Top Reasons Pool Builders Go Out of Business
Ahhhh, the New Year is upon us. And for many of our readers, this means it's time to get serious about finding the right pool from the right company. Buying a swimming pool often times requires great thought (hence 'The Thinker') and can at times get pretty stressful.
One of the benefits I absolutely love about having a blog that is read on an international level is that it helps me share tips that will lead to a great swimming pool buying and ownership experience, which will be the goal of this and my next article. The first will be "Top Reasons Pool Contractors/Builders Go Out of Business" and the second will be "5 Keys to Choosing the Right Pool Contractor." After reading both articles, it is my hope that many of you will be well prepared to make the right choice for you swimming pool this coming year.
After being in this business for about 10 years now I've seen some pretty sad examples of how to run a pool company (some made by yours truly). Believe it or not, more than 75% of the builders I've seen start a pool business during this time period are no longer in the business. So what caused them to have such a short lifespan?
Why do so many pool builders go out of business?
- They're too cheap.
- They stink at building pools.
- They don't educate the consumer.
- They're a jack of all trades, master of none.
#1. Too Cheap
This may sound self-serving, but it's the truth. Just like any other business, swimming pool builders must turn a profit to survive. No profit means no business, which is why so many pool companies, and manufacturers for that matter, are unable to weather this current economic storm. Although there are many factors (efficiency, labor, mistake-free work, etc.) that will dictate the profitability of a job, there will always be unpredictables. But one thing that I'm absolutely sure of is this:
Pool companies that price their pools on the 'high side' are, as a whole, still in business.
I've seen this issue of pricing and company longevity come up time and time again. Homeowners will come to me and say something like "Marcus, I really like company X and they've been in business for a long time and they adhere to everything you wrote in your book, but they're ($5k, $10k, fill in the blank) above the other quote I have."
My answer to this is always the same:
Listen to your gut, and use common sense—there is a reason this company has gotten where it is.
I've seen hundreds of pool shoppers with buyer's remorse simply because they based their decision on the cheapest quote. Such logic is a recipe for disaster.
#2. Stink at Building Pools
Yes, this may sound like an obvious answer but it's amazing how many people get in the swimming pool industry because they think that installing a pool requires little skill.
This is especially true in the fiberglass pool industry. Some guy that owns an excavator thinks he'll naturally make a great pool builder because all he has to do is "Drop the shell in the ground." I've seen this scenario over and over again and it really is one that damages the pool industry. I don't care what type of pool it is—above ground, vinyl liner, concrete, or fiberglass.
There is no such thing as an ‘easy' pool to install until a builder has repeated the process many times over and over again.
#3. Don't Educate the Consumer
The world we live in has changed drastically over the past few decades, with no change having a greater impact on businesses than our world's entry into the information age, and more importantly, our dependency on the internet.
When I got into the swimming pool industry, I was amazed at how little information was being provided to consumers on this complex topic. Hence my efforts to change this culture with this blog, our ebooks, our company YouTube videos, etc.
Pool companies that don't take the time to educate their clients are quickly going the way of the dinosaur because they are no longer being recognized as an authority in the industry. Consumers realize that if a business truly takes their trade seriously, they will also be an ample provider of helpful product information and enlightenment.
#4. Jack of All Trades, Master of None
One of my favorite books of all time is Jim Collins' Good to Great. In his book, Collins analyzes companies that have managed to stay in business for a long, long time all the while leading their industry and becoming one of the best at what they do. In order to become 'great', Collins says all businesses must have a 'hedgehog concept'.
To make this a long story short (sorry, I wish I could explain all about why it's called the 'Hedgehog Concept' here but that would make this blog way too long), businesses need to find the one thing they can be the absolute best at, and then do it better than anyone else.
When a business understands their hedgehog concept, it allows them to have clear vision and direction, as well as the ability to become truly branded because of their chosen concept.
About 10 years ago, after having been in the swimming pool industry for a couple of years without much success, my businesses partners and I decided to initiate what would eventually become our hedgehog concept. Our goal was this:
Focus our entire efforts in becoming the most informative and educational swimming pool website on the internet, which would in turn help us become the best fiberglass pool builder in the world.
Now you may be thinking I'm trying to toot our horn here by explaining this, but believe me when I say I'm only trying to make a point through example. When we decided to become 'the best fiberglass pool builder in the world', many people in the industry thought we were crazy because fiberglass pools were practically nonexistent in most parts of Virginia and Maryland at the time. Our answer to this problem was education, and lots of it.
Since we made that decision, fiberglass pools have exploded in our area and looking back it was easily the best decision we ever made. Instead of focusing efforts on retail, above ground pools, concrete/liner pools, etc; we've established our identity as a great fiberglass pool installer.
Are we perfect? Absolutely not, but we are trying to fix our flaws and because we know exactly who we are, identifying and fixing such flaws is easier.
So there are your top five reasons swimming pool contractors don't survive in this difficult business. Because so many pool builders subscribe to this blog, I invite each to give their thoughts and feedback on what I've stated here and as always, I invite current and future pool owners to submit any comments or questions they may have.
At River Pools, we manufacture world-class fiberglass pools for customers across the country. If you're interested in getting an inground fiberglass pool, you can browse our pool shapes, try our pool pricing calculator, or request custom pricing and information using the button below.
Editor's Note: This blog article was updated on August 5, 2020.