A large California pool builder has set its sights on new markets.
West Covina, Calif.-based California Pools has launched a calculated yet
aggressive growth strategy for its licensee business model.
“We are looking at doubling where we are now, so we
hope to introduce another 20 [licensees] into the
marketplace,” said Steve Terry, who rejoined the company this
past summer as vice president of licensee development. Terry
previously was manager/owner of the Santa Clarita office from 1998 to 2006.
California Pools first looked at this concept six years ago, but a
slow economy and the absence of dedicated staff delayed
implementation. With Terry at the helm, the plan now is
Founded in 1952 by Wayne Steimle, the family-owned firm is composed
of 17 independently owned agencies, or branches, throughout
Southern California and one corporate-owned office. These branches
build under the corporate license. In addition, there are
five licensees in California, Texas and Arizona who build under
their own. All future operations outside of California will be licensees.
“Our future growth is going to be in helping local,
independent pool builders build a brand of their own, and grow
their own business,” said Vanz Steimle, executive vice
president. “Since day one, that has been our business model
and we’ve succeeded at it.”
The first phase of the plan is already under way in Texas, where
California Pools of Austin opened its office in July. The firm also
is in talks with builders in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas. By
early 2013, Terry said he anticipates at least five licensees
operating in the state.
“We think Texas is an exciting market,” Steimle said.
“The whole industry has its eyes on Texas.”
Texas has been on the radar lately because the state fared
relatively well during the economic downturn while other areas
suffered dramatically from declining pool builds and home starts.
In response, a number of large pool builders opened offices
In 2010, Paddock Pools, Patios & Spas and Premier Pools
& Spas — based in Arizona and California,
respectively — entered the Lone Star State. And this past
February, Ohio-based Anthony & Sylvan Pools expanded its
presence there when it teamed up with Anderson Pools and Patios in
But entering the Texas market is nothing new for California Pools.
The company’s first foray into the region was in 1986, when
the firm opened in San Antonio, followed by offices in Austin and
Houston. By 2002, however, California Pools exited the market.
In addition to Texas, California Pools is seeking to expand its
brand into more areas where it once had a presence, including
Northern California, Arizona and Nevada. Efforts in the latter two
will follow once those states show signs of a more robust economic
recovery, particularly in Tucson and Las Vegas, where the company
left in 2004. Meanwhile, the firm also will pursue previously
untapped markets such as Utah.
In the past, the licensee model has been criticized by some in the
industry. Those business owners have stated that it’s
difficult to manage distant offices and implement corporate culture
while serving the individual markets adequately. Some even question
what would happen if a franchise located far away went out of
business with projects incomplete.
California Pools addresses this concern head on, noting its
familiarity and prior experience in the regions. Growing consumer
interest and builder prospects also play significant roles in the
Not having the right builders to uphold California Pools’
reputation of customer service and core company values is what
drove the firm to exit some of these markets in the past, Steimle
said. Therefore, the company is committed to finding builders who
fit in with its culture and style.
“It’s more calculated than just opening the marketplace
up to anyone,” Terry said. “We’re not in a blast
growth pattern. There are a few companies out there that want to be
the biggest in the nation, but that’s not our mantra.
That’s something that’s really sensitive to our growth
pattern, so we’re careful about where we are going, and how
fast we grow. You start growing too fast and you lose that control.”
“We’d love to be in Florida and Georgia, but it’s
not that time for us right now,” Steimle added.
He’s also confident that the licensee business model will
become more and more common for the industry in the future.
“I think you are going to see a lot more of this available
for pool builders,” he predicted. “I really believe
that’s where the industry will go.”
To concentrate on this latest initiative, the company has turned
over the distribution logistics of its subsidiary, Master Supply,
to PoolCorp. Master Supply will remain its brand, but likely will focus on
manufacturing, Steimle said.
California Pools, Premier Pools, Paddock Pools, and Anthony &
Sylvan are Pool & Spa News Top Builders.