• Credit: Roland Hernandez / Milestones Photography

Hamlin Pools of Pharr, Texas, is now officially a third-generation company. Founded in 1952 by Francis Hamlin, the firm was purchased by his son Rodney and son-in-law John Stansberry in the early 1990s. It seemed meant to be: Rodney Hamlin and John Stansberry were fraternity brothers and friends when Stansberry met Hamlin’s sister, Beverly. Eventually the two married, and fraternity brothers became brothers-in-law.

As of last December, the second generation has given way to the third. Hamlin and Stansberry retired and sold the company to their four sons: Travis Stansberry, 33; Joshua Stansberry, 31; Taylor Hamlin, 30; and Tyler Stansberry, 29.

All four have college degrees, and not one had planned to work in the pool industry after they graduated. But their fathers suspected where they would excel, based on experience and their college degrees, and gave them positions as they became available. Travis Stansberry, who has an agricultural business degree from Texas A&M and loves the outdoors, heads the construction department. Joshua Stansberry, with his outgoing personality and business management degree from Texas Lutheran University, runs pool design and sales. Taylor Hamlin, with a construction science degree from Texas A&M, runs remodel design and sales. And Tyler Stansberry, who earned a business communications degree from Creighton University, manages the service department.

“I think they’ve done about as good as they could have done with each one of us, putting us in the spots to succeed where we are,” says Joshua Stansberry.

Tyler was the last to join the company. He was living in Colorado, newly engaged and managing a car wash, when the service manager position became available. He had to make his decision quickly. “He wanted x amount of time and we said, ‘No. If you’re coming back and you want this spot, you need to get going now,’” says Joshua Stansberry. “So he and his fiancé — now his wife — moved down.”

When it came time to transfer ownership from the two elders to their sons, each partner handled it differently. The two older Stansberry brothers took their ownership positions after working with their father on a succession plan for five years. At the end of each calendar year, John Stansberry would hand another 5 percent share of the company to each son. At the end of five years, each had 25 percent, or John Stansberry’s half of the firm.

The younger cousins had to move a little more quickly. As Rodney Hamlin saw his brother-in-law nearing retirement, he decided it was a good time for him to leave as well. He asked Taylor and Tyler, the younger half of the quartet, if they wanted to become owners. Fortunately, they were able to get financing from a local bank.

While the younger partners make payments to the bank, Travis and Joshua Stansberry will continue to make payments to their father. “One thing I think was interesting is I’ve talked to a lot of people in the industry, older gentleman who have thought about it and they’ll ask, ‘Does your dad charge interest?’” Joshua Stansberry says. “I go, ‘Heck, yeah, he charges us interest.’ It’s a business deal at the heart of it. It’s a very fair business deal to us, and it was a good business deal for them. They’re smart businessmen, and one thing our family has always been able to do is take the family aspect out of it.”

The elder Hamlin and Stansberry are remaining with the company on a part-time basis as consultants. “We asked that they try to at least put in a half year, whether it’s one week on and one week off, or one day on/one day off,” says Tyler Stansberry. “We pay for certain things like cell phones, so we ask them to answer their phones in case we have a question.”