We recently had a customer in our office we’d been working with for more than a year on the design and planning of his pool’s complicated hydraulics. At this point, he was onto his third home builder and was ready to start work on the pool. All we had to do was finalize the price.

The King, as I’ve dubbed him, was not building an inexpensive house or a “plain Jane” pool. But needless to say, he was now fighting us on the price. When I had the pleasure of meeting the King, I asked him how much he thought we should make on his $120,000 pool for our design, construction and warranty services. He replied that my company shouldn’t make a penny — and that in these tough economic times, we should thank him for the opportunity.

I did thank him, and wished him a good life without a pool built by us.

As pool builders, we constantly deal with a little trio called the Good, the Bad and the Ugly when it comes to the value we assign our product. The Good is simple: We provide a wonderful product that can greatly improve our customer’s life, and that’s worth something.

The Bad is a little trickier. The economy’s hurting everyone, and there aren’t as many consumers buying pools. We’ve had to cut expenses, and that’s not pleasant. But we’re lucky that, compared to many other businesses, pool firms have much less overhead.

Because we didn’t build the King’s pool, we didn’t need to buy all the materials, the warranty, pay for labor and insurance, etc., saving on our overhead. I would have liked to build a pool for the King, but at a fair profit — not for free. It’s those decisions that make or break us.

That leads me to the Ugly. As pool builders, we should demonstrate self-control when selling our product. We need to manage our costs and revenue so we can both serve our clients proudly and feed our families for the work we do. That gets ugly when, in our efforts to succeed, we promote price rather than fun, health and beauty as our core offering to the customer. That puts the focus in the wrong place and undermines the entire industry. We can provide all this at a fair price, make the customer happy, and still take care of ourselves. We shouldn’t forget that.


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