Shreveport, La.-based Morehead Pools has maintained its months-long backlog through 2023 and will do so well into 2024.
“We feel like we’re backfilling our backlog,” says Michael Moore, President and CEO of the PSN Top 50 Builder. “We’re keeping up with a one-to-one ratio.” For every pool that starts construction, another is generally sold and added to the backlog.
That may be the case, but the type of pool being sold has changed a bit. Where the company’s projects used to include a wide price range, now they’re skewing above $150,000.
“In our market the $80,000 to $120,000 customers are on the sidelines,” he says. “They have the equity, they have the credit, and the access to cash. They’re just not willing to borrow it at 8%. But they’re still interested. I feel like maybe in 2024 or 2025 they will come from the sidelines.”
Despite its consistent performance, the company isn’t resting on its laurels, but has made several changes in response to the shifting environment.
Adjusting with the times
Over the last few years, one thing has become clear to Moore and his team: Things move faster than ever. So they found that the company’s old way of planning and introducing new initiatives isn’t working anymore.
“For years, we always strategically planned,” Moore says. “We’d draw a plan, talk about how we were going to do it, we’d have this big road map and a new process. Then six months later, we start to implement it, and we’re out of date because the world moves so fast.”
Now Morehead replaces such strategic planning with “strategic thinking.” Here, somebody might bring up an idea at the monthly manager’s meeting – or even in conversation. When managers like an idea, they're quicker to greenlight it.
“Before, we would say, ‘Let’s think about it,’” Moore explains. “Strategic thinking is ‘Go with it.’ Then at our next strategic meeting, we’ll have data to help decide whether to move forward with it or move on. Not every idea is a ‘go forward,’ but [at least] if we met yesterday at our monthly leadership team meeting and you have a great idea the day after, you don’t have to wait 29 days to share your idea.”
Of course, the team consults with all affected parties before proceeding, both to make sure it won’t cause problems from their end, but also to receive their input and suggestions for honing the new process. And, of course, the appropriate manager must sign off.
“It’s just giving people a little more authority,” Moore says. “Just being a little lighter on our feet, with people not being afraid to pivot off something that we’ve always done.”
With room to breathe post-COVID, Morehead’s management is spending more time strategizing education for its workforce.
Things may not be moving at the unwieldy pace they had for the past couple years, but his team is still busy. So employees can’t take multiple weeks away from the job to attend all the trade shows and conferences. Management is evaluating which venues are most appropriate for each department – which will offer technical training best suited to its service/maintenance crews, for example, versus which specialize in the kind of business education that would help its administrative team.
Additionally, in expanding its headquarters from 7,700 to approximately 13,200 square feet, the company is developing a specialty training area. In addition to the education that Morehead provides on its own, the company is also partnering more closely with its vendors. Not only do they encourage vendors to train staff at Morehead’s facilities, but Moore works with them on the content and processes that are best for his company.
“I want to bring them to my backyard and say, ‘These are the products I want to upsell, and this is how we want to sell,’” he explains.
Improving the workplace
Like so many other companies, Morehead Pools has been looking for ways to attract and retain good employees.
With that objective in mind, it recently began qualifying employees for vacation earlier than before. This way, newcomers feel appreciated right out the gate. Then, to make sure that long-time staffers also felt valued, Morehead Pools now provides more vacation time than before each year.
“With the workforce issue, we want to make it more lucrative to join our industry and our team,” Moore says.
It’s also gotten rid of cubicles. Before, some offices held multiple cubicles, but the company has decided to provide individual workspaces for most of those who have them. “I’ve found that cubicles are not necessarily the best, most conducive to ultimate performance,” he says, citing interruptions and personality conflicts among the reasons.