Welcome to the Pool & Spa News Top 50 Builder rankings.
I rarely make promotional claims, but in this case I’m
confident there’s no other venue honoring pool companies with
the attention, care and comprehensive scoring system used in the
our redesigned award program.
While redesigning the Top 50, I spoke with dozens of industry
members to determine the most objective and accurate way
possible to rate builders.
With their help, we developed a six-pronged scoring template that I
believe is a powerful indicator of a company’s overall
quality. Here’s a breakdown of how it works.
Though construction revenue is no longer the only component used to
rank the Top 50, it’s still the largest single piece of the
equation. To be honest, part of me still thinks this is unfair. I
know dozens of exemplary pool builders whose businesses are too
small to make the list using this model, yet don’t they
deserve recognition, too? What if a given builder is in Michigan,
and therefore builds fewer pools — is it fair to punish them
because of where their firm is located?
Yet after giving it some thought, I realized my reasoning was
First of all, at a basic level, making money is the primary reason
we all work. No one enters this business to give pools away for
free. Revenue is the cornerstone of every pool and spa business, so
it stands to reason that it also should be a key element of our
Second, a high dollar figure actually is a symbol of something
A business with a lot of revenue requires the owner to keep
many more balls in the air than one with less earnings. Larger
companies generally have a higher number of digs, which means more
sales calls, bids, scheduling, purchases, budgets, staff, planning,
strategy and marketing. Doing those things well is the earmark of a
successful business, and the Top 50 celebrates success.
But a strong bottom line is only part of the picture.
Stay with me now — recently I purchased a pair of pants from
Ann Taylor (a hugely successful retailer) only to have the zipper
break almost as soon as I wore them. A similar incident happened
with one of Ann’s sweaters. If a company skimps on quality,
the result will be less business over time, and we wanted to
capture that fact in our Top 50 rankings.
To accomplish that, I racked my brains for a way of judging each
builder’s workmanship and adherence to scheduling, but
eventually scrapped that plan as being unrealistic. Instead, we
devised a way to judge staffing, and made that the second largest
component of a company’s overall score. The logic here is
that if a pool builder is serious about proper training, his or her
investment will clearly show in the final product.
We awarded a smaller number of points to builders with longtime
Next we looked at a less tangible aspect of what it means to be at
the “top.” To accomplish this, we created a sort of
citizenship component composed of a builder’s membership in
industry associations, nonindustry groups and a separate community
service score. While I can’t say belonging to a trade group
or local BBB contributes directly to a builder’s business, I
do believe it helps the entire industry grow and should be
rewarded. In scoring this section, I was pleased by the large
number of builders who are members of multiple organizations. I was
also amazed, and moved, by the commitment these builders show to
Indeed, this section was one of the more difficult to score because
so many builders have woven charitable activities directly into
their corporate culture.
The next category ranked the Top 50 Builders’ online efforts,
and included the strength of their Websites and social media
presence. Sites were awarded points for completeness, design and
functionality. Extra points were given for a firm’s regular
participation on Facebook and other social media.
Personally, I remain skeptical that Facebook provides enough ROI
for pool companies to devote a lot of resources there. But the
jury’s still out. Meanwhile, I believe participation on
Facebook and other social media is a measure of a company’s
ability to embrace new marketing outlets.
Finally, there were the reference checks. As part of the
application process, we asked builders to supply us with two
different types of industry-related companies we could call. First,
we wanted firms where the pool builder is the customer, such as
tile companies and plasterers. We talked with those folks about the
reliability of each builder in terms of scheduling and paying
bills. Second, we asked for a list of firms that employ the pool
company, including home builders and landscape architects. The idea
here was to get a sense of each contractor’s professionalism
and ability to deliver what was promised on time.
We didn’t publish the reference scores for confidentiality
reasons, but it was an effective way to learn more about each
On a final note, though this was truly a group effort, the
redesigned Top 50 benefited greatly from the tireless work, insight
and expertise of our design and construction editor, Rebecca