Pulliam Pools, one of the nation’s largest builders, has been purchased by two of its employees.
Third-generation owner Barry Pulliam sold the nearly century-old
firm to Vice President/General Manager Debra Smith and Sales
Manager Mike Clark.
“I know it would have been ideal to advance the family
business to a fourth Pulliam generation,” Pulliam said.
“But while not biologically related, both Debra and Mike are
family, too. They have been a critical part of the success of this
business, and I am delighted that they will continue my
Smith, now majority partner of the Fort Worth, Texas-based
company, becomes president/general manager. Clark is vice president
and sales manager.
As part of the sales agreement, Barry Pulliam, who is 60, will
remain as a consultant for 15 years.
“I [wanted to] consult for the next 15 years, but
couldn’t wait until I’m 75 to do that,” he said.
“I want my existing customer base to be taken care of. I want
the business to continue and the employees to have livelihoods. If
I wait another 15 years and sell to an outsider, I have no control
over whether those employees would still have jobs.”
Pulliam Pools was founded as Pulliam Inc. in 1916 by Theo
Pulliam who began the company as a concrete contractor. His son and
second-generation owner, Doren, purchased the first gunite rig in
Tarrant County, Texas, and helped develop the process of
pneumatically applying concrete that has become standard for the
In 1984, Barry Pulliam purchased the company from his father,
growing it from 50 pools a year to 100 in his first 12 months as
owner. At the economy’s peak in 2005, Pulliam built 500
pools. In 2007, the most recent year recorded in the Pool &
Spa News Top 50, the firm reported nearly $20 million in
Debra Smith joined the company as a part-time employee in 1992.
She was promoted to office manager, general manager, then vice
president/general manager. For the past few years, she’s
largely overseen day-to-day operations.
“I feel very honored and proud that Barry would entrust
this to us,” Smith said. “I’m speechless and awed
by his confidence and faith in us.”
Smith also is president of APEC, the Texas pool and spa industry’s
legislative advocacy organization.
Clark joined the firm in 1984 as a salesman, and later became
sales manager. Credited with strong planning skills, he made it a
priority to teach the sales staff to draw, provide thorough plans
and implement CAD systems.
Pulliam said the sale was the perfect exit strategy in an age
and industry where some people have a hard time with succession
“To me, this seems like a real win-win situation:
It’s good for my employees, it’s good for my customers,
and it’s good for me. Everybody’s taken care