Launch Slideshow

The Making of the Top 50 Builders List

The Making of the Top 50 Builders List

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    Most social: Here, builders were scored based on whether they had pages on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Extra points were given to those who post to the sites fairly regularly. While Facebook and Twitter continue to be the main outlets for this type of networking, YouTube and Houzz are gaining participants among builders.

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    Certifications: Builders who invest in certifications for themselves or their staff scored higher in the training category. Among the 50, a full 23 had certifications in a number of areas including business, sales, construction and maintenance. Topping the list were APSP’s Certified Building Professionals, with nine Top 50 members attaining this credential.

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    Industry involvement: All but four of the Top 50 companies belong to the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals. Buyers groups also are well represented, with 22 belonging to either Aquatech, Carecraft or the Master Pools Guild. National Plasterers Council membership went up from last year’s 12 to 15.

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    Outside the box: Top 50 builders are a very engaged bunch — and not only within the industry. Three quarters belong to their local Better Business Bureaus and more than half to their Chambers of Commerce. After that, organizations for home builders and other contractor associations topped the list, with 23 of the builders belonging.

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    Top in staffing: To arrive at this score, PSN considered average employee tenure along with the amount of training required of each staff member. Among the 50, the average tenure was slightly higher than last year’s — 9.8 years compared with 9.5. Rosebrook Pools of Libertyville, Ill., had the longest, at 25 years.

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    Top websites: While judges felt that websites provided an area where there is room for improvement, these five stood apart from the rest. Two builders achieved the top scores in this category: Rosebrook Pools and Morehead Pool. Both rated highly in the overall design category. Besides the general attractiveness, websites scored highly if they presented a generous helping of quality information for consumers and if they were organized in a manner that made it easy to obtain essential information.

Launch Slideshow

Meet the Class of 2013

Thirty-four of the 2013 Top 50 Builders are represented here.

Meet the Class of 2013

Thirty-four of the 2013 Top 50 Builders are represented here.

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    Keith Zars, Keith Zars Pools, Ranked No. 4
    Hottest trends: We’re doing a lot more beach entries. Of course spas are pretty popular. The types of material customers are choosing are going up. We’re seeing glass tiles and Pebble Tec on a lot of pools.

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    Charlie Claffey, Claffey Pools, Ranked No. 5
    Fond memory: Our first Master Pools Guild meeting in October 2012. We were met with open arms and everyone was extremely genuine. We were just blown away by the organization.

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    Tony Schiavone, Seasonal World, Ranked No. 6
    Hottest trends: People creating a complete backyard environment that encompasses everything from the pool, outdoor kitchen, cabana and everything in between.

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    Debra Smith, Pulliam Aquatech Pools, Ranked No. 7
    On Social media: We get sales from it. We’re always shocked when we get someone though Facebook. It’s worth my while, but it is another job. I’ve also gotten inquiries through LinkedIn.

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    Jamison Ori, Rosebrook Pools, Inc. Ranked No. 8
    On Social media: My goal has really been to connect with our customers using it. When new customers check us out, they like to see that we have a Facebook page. I also have a really strong Google AdWords campaign.

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    Keith Harbeck, Premier Pools & Spas, Ranked No. 9
    Hottest trends: We’ve been doing a lot of installations with variable-speed pumps and LED lights over the last few years. The trend has almost become a standard. People are very interested in the latest equipment, energy efficiency and solar heating as well. That’s a standard feature now in almost every pool we build.

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    Mike Moore, Morehead Pools, Ranked No. 10
    On Family: My family really has made all the difference for our business. This new generation of pool builders is more innovative and our business has grown five times in the past 12 years. A lot of it is a result of the efforts of my son, Michael.

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    Michael A. Giovanone, Concord Pools & Spas, Ranked No. 11
    On Community: We auction off dream backyards and donate 100 percent of the proceeds. We raised $68,000 for the Saratoga Hospital in one evening, and we raised $35,000 for the Center for Missing or Exploited Children. I think it’s very important that you not lose sight of the community you’re serving.

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    Scott Waldo, Platinum Pools, Ranked No. 12
    On Community: We support a variety of local school and sporting events, as well as the Media Alliance of Houston and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

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    John Tortorella, J. Tortorella Swimming Pools, No. 13
    Hottest trends: Rimless edge and negative edge swimming pools and full automation, energy efficient equipment and hydraulics, along with salt water pools, are very popular right now.

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    Jennifer Satterwhite, Puryear Custom Pools, Ranked No. 17
    Hottest trends: We’re still doing negative edge pools. Also, outdoor kitchens and living areas are huge.

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    Michael Giannamore, Aqua Pool & Patio, Ranked No. 18
    Hottest trends: Internet enabled automation. Everyone has a smartphone. Everyone is on their computer. So now they can literally turn on their hot tub while driving down the road. It sells itself.

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    Tim Colon, Pools of Fun Inc., Ranked No. 22
    Career highlight: Last year, we built a double negative edge, one of the first ones we’ve done. It turned out fantastic. It was in the Parade of Homes. Just being able to participate in the parade was a huge distinction.

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    Jack Crowder, NVblu Inc., Ranked No. 23
    Career achievement: Keeping a cohesive group of dedicated employees who help further our goals and objectives of being a top pool builder.

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    Gene Ragel, Patio Pools & Spas, Ranked No. 24
    Memorable project: We finished a project at Casino Del Sol. It has these water laminars that are tied to multiple colors. It’s all synchronized to sound, so the water will dance to the beat of a sound system.

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    John Versfelt, Southernwind Pools, Ranked No. 25
    Career highlight: In 1993, I moved into our first true “business address” in Dallas. And while that was a major move, the most exciting step was to design and build a brand new $1.2 million office and design center from scratch.

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    Mike Geremia, Geremia Pools Inc., Ranked No. 26
    Family: We are a fourth-generation pool builder with strong ties to the industry. We were a founding member of the Master Pools Guild in 1962.

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    Tony Adams, Adams Pool Solutions, Ranked No. 27
    Career highlight: Recently, we did a project for Hard Rock International in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, a 23,000-square-foot pool, all done in Pebble Tec. We had to mobilize 45 guys to work outside the country for a 30-day period.

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    Tony Caciolo, Monogram Custom Homes and Pools, Ranked No. 28
    Hottest trends: Creating a hassle-free pool with filters that go all year without being cleaned. The homeowner never has to backwash or vacuum their pool. Also, iPhone control and pH levels that are adjusted automatically.

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    Michael Vassallo, Rising Sun Pools Inc., No. 29
    Customer service: A customer recently commented that whomever taught us taught us well. “That was our father,” I responded. His whole philosophy revolved around customer service. It was the backbone of everything he did.

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    Robert Landon, Maryland Pools Inc., Ranked No. 31
    Memorable project: We did a pool in the shape of a football for a gentleman who was a very big Washington Redskins fan. It had an artificial turf and a goal post at each end. We did alternating tile in burgundy and gold.

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    Kenneth McKenna, Jr., Tampa Bay Pools, Ranked No. 33
    Memorable project: We did a project with an island and a 15-foot-high, 30-foot-long rock waterfall with an enclosed tube slide that went through the middle of it to the deep end. It had a little lazy river that went around the island.

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    Robby Hauk, Hauk Custom Pools, Ranked No. 34
    On Community: We provide an annual $1,000 scholarship to a graduating high school senior, we sponsor a fundraiser to benefit veterans, and we support numerous little league teams.

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    Dale Overson, Barrington Pools Inc., Ranked NO. 35
    Advice: Work hard and do what you say. It’s about credibility. If you ask God to do something and he does it, you should expect people to do the same.

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    Aimee Elfert Elam, Pleasure Aquatech Pools, Ranked No. 36
    Career Highlight: We did a pool a couple years ago that was almost 3,000 square feet, quite extraordinary. It was the largest residential pool we’ve ever built. If we were in Houston, maybe we would have done several pools of that magnitude.

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    Brad Stephens, Backyard Amenities, Ranked No. 38
    Memorable event: HGTV recently came out to my home and spent the day doing a special on my pool. It’s a nice thing to get to the point where I’m on national TV for 11 minutes of glory.

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    Ronald Robertson, Robertson Pools Inc., Ranked No. 41
    Hottest trends: I think it continues to be outdoor kitchens incorporated with the pool. We’ve seen the average cost of jobs go up significantly because they’re adding all of that in.

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    Lew Akins, Ocean Quest Pools by Lew Akins, Ranked No. 42
    Hottest trends: We’re seeing more formal projects as opposed to natural pools. There is a lot of interest in features such as fire bowls and colored LED lights. They’re also opting for fancier coping options.

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    Thomas J. Arnault, Intercoastal Pool & Spa Builders Inc., Ranked No. 43
    On Social media: We’ll take various pictures throughout the construction phase to post on Facebook. We’ll tag people in the photos, then they all get involved. A family who lives out of town will see it online and say, “Oh, we’re coming down on vacation!” It’s been pretty fun.

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    Adam Traugott, Sunset Pools Inc., Ranked No. 44
    On Community: We sponsor more than 12 school athletic teams in Katy, including four swim teams.. We also support the Boy Scouts Association.

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    Jeff Kearns, Wildwood Aquatech Pools Inc., Ranked No. 47
    On the Economy: The one-percenters are coming out of the woodwork. Of course, there are still a lot of cash buyers out there, there’s not a lot of financing. But, I think the overall feeling is that, “We’re getting older, might as well spend the money while we have it.”

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    Ben Evans, American Pools & Spas, Ranked No. 48
    On Technology: iPad-equipped employees receive up-to-the-minute information on projects. Customers can map out their dream pools with 3D drawings and the company’s research and development department tests the latest pool materials and processes.

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    Art Allen, A & G Concrete Pools Inc., Ranked No. 49
    Lesson: The easiest thing I do is build pools. I can do that all day long. The hardest part is the paper end of the business: dealing with architects, engineers, and homeowners’ associations. You have to remember not to take everything personally. It’s just business.

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    Chuck Baldwin, Swim Things Inc., Ranked No. 50
    Hottest trends: I think for us, as far as design goes, it’s shallow-water sunning ledges for putting chez lounges in, or for laying around in about six inches of water. Adult ladies especially like this a lot and it’s great for kids.

 
 

This is the second year that the Pool & Spa News Top 50 Builders have been selected using new, more well-rounded criteria, and the competition has become fierce.

While many of last year’s group made the cut again, they welcomed 10 newcomers who had the right combination of construction revenue, staffing proficiency, industry involvement, web presence and community engagement.

This year, the rules were changed slightly so that franchise and licensing operations were not permitted to enter all locations under the banner of a single company. Despite this, last year’s No. 1 builder, Premier Pools, which licenses all its offices, was represented in the top 10 by its founding location in Rancho Cordova, Calif.

This year’s assortment, ranging from volume to high-end companies, reported a total of 7,156 excavations in 2012.

Showing the strength of Texas, a whopping 15 of the 50 hail from the Lone Star State.

So check out the special packages devoted to those ranking in the top three overall, and the five that received the highest customer-service scores from former clients.  

To view the complete 2013 Top 50 Builder list, click here . Get a breakdown of the Top 50 Builders' revenue here .