Gohlke Pools hasn’t seen big shifts in demand since entering the post-pandemic era.
There’s still plenty of work to occupy the construction side, which generally builds about 55 high-end pools per year. “And our service department is pretty much recession-proof to a point,” says Matt Gohlke, president of the Denton, Texas-based company, which ranks as a PSN Top 50 Builder and Top 50 Service company. “We haven’t seen a lot of change.”
Leads are slowing down a touch, but they’re also higher-quality leads than before. “The main thing we’ve done [in response] is what we would do during good times — really trying to keep an eye on the financials,” he says.
However, the company still faces some ripple effects from COVID-19. Primary among them — staffing issues.
To help move the company forward, it has focused on ways to motivate employees not only to stay, but also to recommend the company as an employer to friends.
Perhaps first and foremost, the company needed to address the issue of burnout.
“Our people are tired,” Gohlke says. “The pandemic effect, then the freeze damage that we had a couple years ago, really wore our people out. So we’ve really tried to be aware of that and be aware of how important retention is and how important our people are.”
To help, the company moved forward with a significant initiative — changing to a four-day work week in the off season for the company’s 50 maintenance and repair technicians.
“We felt like they needed a break,” Gohlke says. “Generally it’s December through mid-March. It depends when the leaves fall.”
The company can’t have everybody gone the same days, so employees alternate. Those with more tenure get first choice, so they often take off Fridays or Mondays. Newer staff will take off a day in the middle of the week.
Crews must finish all their work in order for them to take the fifth day off.
The company also saw a need to address mental health with its employees, especially after somebody close to the staff took their own life. “We try to talk about mental health and have our department managers take more interest in what the employees do when they’re away from here — if the employees want to talk about it,” Gohlke says.
To help keep the staff physically ready for work, Gohlke Pools provides light breakfast foods such as breakfast bars, fruit, cereal and milk, every morning. In the hot months, staff can take sports drinks or protein drinks. At the monthly company meeting, the team receives a full breakfast, often sponsored by a vendor.
Part of the goal is to create a sense of connection with the company and among the employees.
“We’ve been trying hard to be the type of place that’s a really good place to work, where people like coming to work and are happy,” Gohlke says. “What we do can be difficult work. But we try to do what we can to make it good.”
To this end, the staff also volunteers together as often as possible. Not only does this help Gohlke Pools show up as a good citizen in the community, but it furthers bonds among staff as they get out of the daily grind and focus on a higher good.
“We’re trying to focus on more things than just work and customers,” Gohlke says.
These efforts have paid off, he says, helping to stave off the staffing shortages experienced by most.
“If you take care of your people, they can make a good living for you. Then they tell their friends and when we have an opening we usually don’t have any trouble finding somebody.”