When Hal Denbar started Patriot Pool and Spa fresh out of college in 2006, he admittedly knew nothing about swimming pools. Denbar had one account in an outlying suburb of Austin and had to supplement his income with a substitute teaching job.

Despite this limited experience, there was one thing he knew well.

“I was confident I could out-customer-service anyone,” recalls Denbar, who operated the business as a one-man show until growing his roster in 2011 and again three years later when he hired six more technicians.

Denbar was right. In an effort to cover up what he says were “knowledge gaps,” he developed and perfected relationships with his customers, slowly building the foundation of his firm on the very basis of providing premier customer service.

As part of this approach, Patriot Pool and Spa has adopted a set of core values that anchors its hiring choices: Positivity, Passion, Accountability and Communication.

“A person who has a positive attitude, is passionate about their work and serving people, is accountable for the job they do, and can communicate all of that clearly is a natural at customer service,” Denbar says.

At quarterly leadership meetings, Patriot Pool and Spa grades each team member on the core values. Those grades serve as leading indicators for all promotions, raises and firings.

Enforcing the core values does not come without pain. “We’ve had members of our team who we truly care about but who we had to exit from the company because they did not align with our values,” Denbar explains.

The company also has changed its training methods so it can hire more from outside the industry. This way, Denbar can place company culture above experience. Additionally, training for new cleaners was extended to 8-10 weeks, and the firm continues to refine its Patriot Academy.

In return for these efforts, the company has generated customer and employee loyalty, excitement, and growth, rising from three to 30-plus team members since 2014.

“I like to think of us as a customer service company that happens to clean swimming pools,” he explains, “As we have grown, customer service has remained our top priority.”