H & H Pool Services

Garrett Hawes had plans to make his own mark on the world. When that didn’t work out, he devised a better path.

Hawes was the heir apparent of one of the most successful service firms in the country, H & H Pool Service in the San Francisco Bay area. He inherited the technical acumen of his father, popular teacher and speaker David Hawes, and, as with so many of the industry’s children, he had worked summers for his father’s business.

But the younger Hawes wanted to go in a new direction, and after attending school, landed an internship with Mercedes Benz in Los Angeles to become one of its mechanics.

Unfortunately, the recession got in the way when it came time to find permanent employment. “Mercedes didn’t have a job for me after my internship,” says Garrett Hawes, 25. “I took a couple jobs with various repair shops, and one closed down due to lack of business, and the other didn’t have enough hours to keep me there. So I moved back to the Bay area working for my dad.”

He now is service manager and a repair technician for the company. It wasn’t an easy road at first. “He came into the fold begrudgingly and not of his first choice,” says David Hawes. “So the first couple years were tenuous. I hired him and we kept him on but … it wasn’t what he wanted to do. That was a pretty big hurdle for him to get through.”

But after some time passed, Garrett began to see the pool and spa industry’s advantages. “I like working outside and there’s a lot of friendly people in the industry,” he says. “It seems like it’s a really nice industry to be a part of. It has its challenges and I like being challenged. Cars these days have so many computers that tell you what the problem is, so all you do is hook up a computer and that’s it. With pools, you kind of have to figure out [a problem]. You also have to look ahead and consider the next guy who’s going to work on it and try to make it a little easier for them.

“I didn’t think it would be very appealing, but it turns out it actually is.”

Father and son also credit the Independent Pool and Spa Service Association as well as attendance at seminars with engaging Garrett further. This way, he could see what the industry held, outside the business his father created.

Eventually, he plans to move out of the Bay area and start his own business — ideally before he turns 30. This actually is a Hawes tradition: David’s father had a pool supply store, but David started his own company focusing on service.

“No matter how much he respects what his dad does, he has his own ideas,” David Hawes says. “He doesn’t necessarily want to have a big company like we do, but he does want to run his own show.”

Right now Garrett is gaining as much knowledge as possible. He has the technical skills down and is fine-tuning his management and customer-relation skills. Important jobs such as keeping the books balanced, tracking inventory, and closely monitoring payables and receivables are being honed. “Just keeping a tidy ship is really what I’m trying to soak up,” he says.

Just as importantly, though, he’s shifting his mindset from that of an employee to that of an owner. “I’m treating H & H as if it is my own company, so if there are any mistakes, they fall on my head and not my father’s,” Garrett says. “That’s getting me in the mental state that I need to be. There’s no one to fall back on, no higher up who’s going to take care of something for me. That’s my responsibility.”