Over the past year, we have been trying to get to where we do almost everything in-house construction-wise. We have two acres and we bought two more acres down the street to house our tile, coping and rock. So we do pretty much everything in-house, with the exception of the decking and gunite. We handle the landscaping and irrigation, as well.
Now we have a bit more control over the quality of work that goes into our pools. And by cutting out the middleman it’s more savings for us, which we can pass on to our customers.
We made the transition trade by trade. Tile and coping was the first thing we brought in-house. From there we just started opening up several other companies. Some of them, like our plaster company, actually do work for other pool builders in the area, mostly on commercial projects. It’s been a way for us to stay on top of the market.
The biggest challenge has been managing the people. We started with 12 employees; now we have more than 90. You start with that core group of people who you really trust, and then the people that you hire, you hope that they have the same vision and care about the customers as you do. It’s worked out beautifully.
Obviously anybody has growing pains. At the beginning, some homeowners weren’t feeling like they were being communicated with enough. So I brought in two administrative assistants who call our customers everyday and keep them informed of every step, every day. Now we actually get complaints that we communicate too much!
To keep everybody on the same page, my husband created a database and file maker that everybody here has access to. We all keep very good notes, we have different pages that we have to babysit. All our builders have iPads. Change orders get done right there on the fly — the customer uses their finger as a pen, signs their name, and it’s automatically here. So using that system, we’re very much in the loop with each other. That helps quite a bit.