My dad opened his store in 1984, then I came around three years later in ’87. I spent a lot of time there. For years and years I would spend my days with him out in the van working. As I got older and became more helpful, I started to learn about the tools and what was going on in the pools.
However, I didn’t plan on going into the business. Originally, I went to college to be an orthodontist.
While there, I joined a band and we toured the country and overseas for six or seven years.
When I came home from touring, I would work for my dad. It wasn’t until my mid-20s that I started kicking around the idea of eventually taking over the company.
To get a handle on running a company, I started with rental properties in 2013. It’s the perfect sideline.
When I started, I really had no business owning a house at all. A lot of guys do snow shoveling and Christmas light stuff, but I wanted something that could last and be residual.
I presented the idea to my dad as a way to earn money in the off-season. I wouldn’t say he was enthusiastic about it.
I had other ideas for improving the business, but my dad was stuck in his ways. He was 30 years into it and he was making the money that he wanted to make. To this day, we still do hand-written service orders. We planned an ownership transition that would be a 10 year kind of thing. He would spend more time in the store.
But my father still had some big changes in mind. In 2013, he was building a new, larger store when he was killed in a motorcycle accident.
My dad was 69 when he passed away and he had no intention of slowing down at all. I was by no means his right-hand man. I did basic motor changes, liners. I didn’t touch covers, I didn’t do heater work.
After he died, I nearly lost everything.
My dad didn’t have a will. It’s pretty crazy because the estate stuff is just now starting to be settled.
All construction on the new property completely stopped. Because there was no will, the building ended up in an auction.
His widow, Teddy, and I decided to buy it together. I couldn’t do it without her help.
She wanted to continue my father’s dream. He bought the building in the ’90s and refused to break ground on it until he paid it off. My dad was very planned out, not necessarily safe, but cautious to not overstep his bounds.
But there were 12 other bidders at the auction. I swallowed my pride and went around campaigning. I pleaded with the others and told them who I was and that I was bidding. In the end, only one guy tried to outbid me.
My dad had invested a lot of money in the building. He pooled all his resources just into getting the down payment. I look at that building as my inheritance, my chance to try and keep alive his dream that he had for two decades.
I did change the store from what he wanted. My dad envisioned a drop ceiling, very colorful decor and carpet. I flipped the script on the contractor.
The industrial chic look is in right now. I did all the tiling and flooring myself. We built shelving out of gas pipes.
It’s always something that keeps me up at night. People have been very kind, saying that the store looks good. But it stings that I’ll never hear his opinion, hear him say he’s proud of me.
It's been a pretty intense couple of years. When my dad passed away, he was boss. I went from playing drums in a band ... to running a 30-year-old business.
I’ve got a memorial in the store that I built. I definitely keep him close to heart.
It’s been a pretty intense couple of years. When my dad passed away, he was boss. I went from playing drums in a band five or six months out of the year to running a 30-year-old business.
Luckily, I’ve had a lot of help adapting. Teddy handles the bills for me like she did for my dad.
Other pool guys in Wichita took me under their wings and showed me the ropes. Chad Hosford of AquaSizers opened up his business to me and taught me how to run a company.
My dad died on a Sunday and I went to work the next day. Chad was the first one there.
Chris Able of Blue Water Products taught me all the high-level service repairs that I didn’t know how to do, such as working on pool covers. He’s a great friend.
The whole operation is very much in its infancy. It’s the 31st year as a name, but otherwise we’re a brand-new business.
We went from 250 square feet to 6,250. We have a warehouse and a forklift. We used to store stuff in our garages — Dad’s and mine. It’s a whole new thing this year.
We got to where we were by being in the phone books and through word of mouth. My dad was well-loved and liked by his customers.
Now my goal is to show the customers that I care about them just as much as he did.