Credit: GRAPHIC BY NICK ORABOVIC
Most of us love a good story, and Ryder Steimle, CEO of California
Pools, is no exception.
Steimle’s company started back in 1952 when his grandfather,
a schoolteacher, decided to build a pool over summer break.
“After he completed his own pool for his family, all the
neighbors were kind of watching, and they said, ‘Hey, will
you come build a pool for us?’ So that was sort of the birth
of our company,” he recalls.
Today, California Pools is one of the world’s largest pool
builders, with more than 20 offices throughout the Western United
States. Though it’s responsible for 60,000-plus pools over
nearly 60 years, it remains the consummate family business, having
been stewarded by multiple generations to its current
Another company with a great story, and one Steimle continually
looks to for inspiration in running his own firm, is
In the 1960s, avid mountaineer Yvon Chouinard was dissatisfied with
the equipment available to him at the time. So he began making his
own climbing hardware, which he sold from the back of his car. As
demand increased, he partnered with another climber, and in 1965,
the beginnings of Patagonia were forged.
Steimle sees similarities in the tales of his company and
Patagonia, and believes the use of these stories in their
individual marketing strategies helps to set both businesses apart
from the crowd.
“We do have similar stories and backgrounds, and Patagonia
uses their story a lot in their marketing, and in their
company’s philosophies, and we do the same,” he said.
“We tell our story in [sales] presentations, and that
separates us from our competition. Even some companies that have
been around for a long time still don’t always have a story
or a soul to their company. So we’ve definitely tried to
capitalize on that. And Patagonia does that as well.”
Another aspect of Patagonia that Steimle admires is their adherence
to the ideals they feel defines their company, be it a commitment
to protecting the environment, or to crafting a high-quality
product that keeps customers coming back.
“I like their commitment to values,” Steimle says.
“There’s product values revolving around quality and
customer service, there’s environmental values, and then
there’s also company lifestyle values. With Patagonia, I know
they’re very selective in the people they hire. They want to
make sure everyone’s in alignment with the vision and mission
of their company. That’s something that’s inspired me
to strive for in my own company as I’ve watched Patagonia
over the years.”
Steimle, himself a lover of mountaineering, skiing and the
outdoors, spent his college years in Utah, taking classes at night
and skiing by day. It was out on the mountains that Steimle first
heard of Patagonia’s superior equipment, and began using the
company’s products. That word-of-mouth is something he works
to re-create for his own California Pools.
“Patagonia’s philosophy is basically to rely on
word-of-mouth and use direct advertising as a last resort. In our
industry, that is such a lesson to be learned — with
advertising being so expensive, a referral is just huge. And if you
don’t have quality products and good customer service, you
don’t get referrals.”
To this day, Steimle keeps a book titled “Let My People Go
Surfing,” close at hand in his office. It was written by
Patagonia’s founder. He also has a favorite jacket, which
he’s owned for 15 years and still values greatly.
“Man, I have worn that thing thousands of times, and on
thousands of different adventures,” Steimle says.
“Everything from sailing through the Channel Islands off the
coast of California to rock climbing in Utah. That jacket is one
that I‘ve had for a really long time, and probably will
continue to use for a lot longer.”