Relatively quick success in the pool industry isn’t common. In the case of Regal Pools, based in Spring, Texas, their surprising rise can be attributed to years of industry experience, boot strap learning, and a great deal of care about customer perception.
This year, Regal Pools became a Pool & Spa News Top 50 Builder for the first time in the company’s eight-year history, ranking 46th. The company also earned an award as the top-rated customer-service company in the Top 50.
PSN spoke with owner Josh Buzzell and his right-hand man, Edwin Escobar, about their company and their approach to the pool industry.
Regal Pools was founded in 2008 by Buzzell and serves the community of The Woodlands, a master-planned city on the northwestern fringe of the Houston metro area.
Originally from Bangor, Maine, Buzzell moved to Houston out of high school so he could attend the University of Houston. While there, a friend gave him a job as a pool cleaner.
He stayed in all through college and even after, despite receiving a degree in communications.
Buzzell and Escobar met when they both worked for that pool company. Buzzell managed the office while Escobar was in charge of the service side.
While they worked together, Buzzell discussed with Escobar his ambition to start his own company. Eventually, he left to do just that.
Regal Pools is a close-knit group: With only 10 employees, they have to be. Escobar’s wife manages the office and Buzzell’s first pool industry boss runs the service side.
“He said, ‘I’m going to come back for you when I start building pools,’” Escobar says. “I have a family. I can’t just leave like that.”
But after a few months, Buzzell approached Escobar about joining him, and a partnership was born.
Regal Pools tends to sell toward the higher end of the market, largely because of the dense population of business workers and oil men found in The Woodlands.
For Regal Pools though, it’s not about the cost of a pool, Buzzell says. It’s about the materials the company uses to build it. A basic pool starts at around $60,000, which Buzzell says isn’t a dollar minimum for the firm but a product minimum.
“We want to give you something that will last,” he says. “People don’t want problems with what they have. They want it to work, look good and that’s it.”
It’s part of the company’s all honesty policy. Most of Regal Pools’ success stems from this, says both Buzzell and Escobar.
“We’re not salesmen. We try to be at the same level as the customer. You need to let them know what it is, not what they want to hear,” adds Escobar.
Regal Pools is a close-knit group: With only 10 official employees in their roster, they have to be. Escobar’s wife manages the office and Buzzell’s first boss in the pool industry now runs the service side of the company.
The company does most of the post-dig work in house. Excavation, gunite and rebar installation all are subcontracted out to companies that only work with Regal.
“Everything else is pretty much our guys. They’re contractors but they don’t work with any other companies,” says Escobar. “We have enough work year ’round that all of our guys are pretty much our guys.”
Buzzell designs the pools himself with another staffer, Joe Byrd. When it comes to design, Buzzell is entirely self taught.
“When I started my own business, I needed a way to sell pools,” he says. “I just downloaded Pool Studio and started plugging away at it.”
Technology is an important facet of how Regal Pools operates. All of the company’s employees carry an iPad and an iPhone when out in the field.
Via the iPad, contractors are able to access the Regal Pools server using the company’s virtual private network.
“We don’t carry [paper] plans,” says Escobar. “The only time we have plans is when we’re digging the pool. We can log into the VPN and check everything.”
Using these tools, employees also can boost the company’s visibility. Buzzell encourages his employees to take at least two or three photos a week while they’re on job sites. Since the field technicians have Internet access, they’re able to quickly post these images to various social media sites.
Buzzell jokes that sometimes they’ll go for periods when they forget to post and, once he gets on them about it, there will suddenly be 10 photos added to the company’s Facebook account.
Both Buzzell and Escobar said customers and prospects alike appreciate these postings because they like to see the process in action. Browsing Regal Pools’ Facebook profile, users can view tons of images showing thermal-edged coping, gunite application, and digs in progress.
It’s all part of the company’s desire to be open and honest about what they do.
“We try to be as informative as possible through social media,” says Escobar. “Customers appreciate that. They get to see how the process is, how a pool is done.”