Jimmy Reed is unquestionably one of the top experts specializing in glass tile interiors today. A master artisan, he is definitely on a short list of A list installers. When it comes to tile, Reed is often sought out for his expertise in that particular realm.
We had the opportunity to catch up recently on the Pool Magazine podcast and discussed his impressive body of work. Working with a veritable who’s who in the swimming pool industry, Reed’s work has taken him from coast to coast working on some of the most jaw dropping pools in America.
Jimmy Reed Has a Reputation
A native of Southern California his entire life, Reed first began building a reputation on the West Coast for his incredible mastery at installing glass tile interiors. That notoriety has spread over the years to catapult Rock Solid Tile as a premier consulting firm providing expert pool tile installation all over the country. Today he is widely considered by many to be one of the best of the best.
Reed first got his start in tile almost 5 decades ago and has become a permanent fixture in the pool industry. A humble and unassuming person, you’re almost lulled into the false security of believing he’s just a regular guy. In fact Reed is without a doubt one of the crème de la crème when it comes to tile and an important resource for veterans who value his craftsmanship and wealth of knowledge.
“The first important job I ever had the opportunity to work on was for Jaqueline Bissett” who costarred opposite Steve McQueen in the 1968 classic “Bullitt”. Over the years, Reed has worked on tile interiors for a laundry list of Hollywood celebrities and famous athletes.
First getting his start as an assistant in the 70’s, Reed would spend years learning the trade and honing his craft. “I inevitably wound up hiring most of the guys I used to work with” said Reed, discussing his progression to starting his own firm Rock Solid Tile back in the early 80’s.
First starting with luxury tile interiors for kitchens and bathrooms, as tile interiors began to become more popular in swimming pools, Reed would eventually focus on making that a bigger part of his repertoire. “It was kind of a new thing back then, especially in L.A. to be doing an all tile pool interior.” said Reed. Over the years glass tile would become a mainstay with him. “Glass tile really began to take off around the late 80’s” said Reed, “over 85% of the pool interiors we do today involve glass tile”, he explained.
Seeing as though he’s collaborated with some of the most well known designers and builders in the pool industry, we wanted to know Reed’s process for consulting on a high end glass interior.
“Every project is different and I get called in at all different times,” said Reed, “Often, I’ll get the call before the pool is even built and be the first one called in to consult with a client who doesn’t have a pool or they have an existing pool they want to add tile to.”
This was certainly the case on a major remodel Reed worked on with Dave Penton, Alison Terry, and David Peterson for one luxury home owner in San Marino, California. The homeowner had the budget and the desire for a complete pool and landscape makeover.
While elite pool builders know to consult with Reed when it comes to glass tile, Reed likewise knew to tap his resources in the industry to consult when adding on all of the extras the client was asking for to compliment the $250,000 glass tile interior he was installing.
“Sometimes I’ll come in and recommend that we create a team with a landscape architect, and a legitimate viable pool builder to really take on the project and make it what they are ultimately looking for.” said Reed.
Advice For Those Aspiring To Learn Glass Tile Interiors
“Learn the techniques and the trade from the ground up, don’t take any shortcuts. It’s not just about putting tile on a pool. There is so much preparation involved. If you can master that, by the time you get to the tile installation part, that should be a breeze.” said Reed.
However when it comes to actually pulling off luxury tile interiors, Reed admits the number of installers capable of doing high end work at that level are far and few between.
Personally, we have seen our fair share of glass tile installations posted to social media showing evidence of catastrophic failure. Consequently, we asked Reed to weigh in on what folks may be doing wrong. Some of the failures have occurred in areas of the country where tile typically experiences more expansion from season to season. Reed stressed that proper surface preparation can account for expansion even in cold environments which aren’t traditional markets for glass tile interiors.
Reed’s best advice for those tempted to take on glass tile if it is outside of their wheelhouse; “Don’t do it, or hire someone that’s experienced in those types of installations” he explained. Suggesting that because of the high price tag associated with glass tile interiors, doing one wrong could be prove to be extremely costly. “Homeowners doing a project of that nature typically have no problem taking care of themselves on an installation that goes wrong. I’d either go into it with the utmost confidence or not do it at all”, said Reed.
Many builders would love to be doing more glass tile interiors but there is a limited number of skilled tradesmen capable of taking on high end work. Many contractors are unwilling to learn how to properly install glass tile. We asked Reed if he saw a lot of that going on in the pool industry. “It’s very true, they don’t need to do the training because they are very busy as it is. It’s like learning a different trade. They don’t see it as learning how to do their trade better, it’s something completely foreign to them.”
A Return To The Norm
Although Covid-19 has seen unprecedented demand for inground pools, the pandemic has brought it’s fair share of challenges for many folks in the pool industry. This has also been true for Reed, who has had to scale back his operations. “We’ve been busy, but not as busy as we’re used to. We scaled down so our overhead is lower, our workforce is smaller. We’re still very busy though. This season has been nuts (referring to demand).”
We asked Reed if he expected a return to the norm soon, now that the demand associated for pools due to Covid-19 has begun to taper in the market; to which Reed responded “I do, at least we’re certainly seeing that on our side.”
Listen to our entire interview with Jimmy Reed on the Pool Magazine podcast
Pool Repairs With a Purpose
There are plenty of pool companies in Las Vegas. In a landlocked desert town where over 23.8% of households have a pool in the backyard, you’d better believe swimming is big business. Consequently, with the number of swimming pools, there is steady and consistent repair work for knowledgeable professionals with the right know-how. One of those firms which stands out not just for their expertise, but because of their particular mission; is Purpose Pools.
The Henderson-based company has been making a name for itself throughout the Las Vegas region by providing reliable pool equipment repairs and warranty work. Recently we caught up with the owner, Scott Reynolds, on the Pool Magazine podcast which gave us some insight as to what his firm is doing differently in their local community.
Performing Pool Equipment Repairs in an Underserved Market
“Las Vegas is just booming right now and has been for decades. I’ve lived here for the majority of my life. When I got here many years ago we were at a population of about 200,000, now we’re closer to three million. We’ve got upwards of 5,000 people moving here every single month. The need for pool professionals is growing. We’re projected to reach 4 million residents by 2055,” explained Reynolds.
Reynolds, who has eyes on the field when it comes to new pool construction in Sin City, says that while things may be slowing down in other parts of the country, pool companies in Las Vegas are still inundated.
Demand Seems Unphased By Recession in Las Vegas
News of a recession and inflation has been circulating throughout the media but so far Reynolds says, “We just aren’t feeling it yet in Vegas yet. That’s probably due to the offset of new homeowners coming into the Valley. Each and every month, we’re helping more and more homeowners and haven’t really seen signs of that slowing down yet.”
“Post Covid, the pool has become valuable as a safe place to recreate with friends and family. I know we’re feeling it at the gas pump and other places, but as far as homeowners continuing to invest in their pools, we’re still seeing that as well as them leveraging their home warranty and manufacturers warranty to help offset those expenses,” explained Reynolds.
“We provide equipment manufacturer warranty work for some of the top builders in the nation here in Las Vegas, and based off of my conversations with them we see no signs of slowdowns. Some of these builders are more than a year out,” said Reynolds.
Las Vegas Homeowners Continue To Reinvest In Pool Equipment Repairs & Upgrades
Reynolds, whose firm is one of the leading pool equipment installation and repair firms in town, says that this year’s interest has been white hot as far as homeowners reinvesting in their existing pools.
Popular Pool Equipment Upgrades
“What’s been really hot this year is we see a lot of consumers looking to upgrade to a variable speed pump,” said Reynolds, “these new pumps can help consumers save up to 90% on their utility bills and operate much quieter than a conventional single-speed pump.”
Requests for pool automation have also dramatically increased says Reynolds, “I’d say it accounts for around a third of our business,” he explained, “they want to add ease, control and comfort to their swimming pool.”
Another popular upgrade homeowners are looking to make in light of the recent spike in chlorine prices is upgrading their pool to a saltwater system. “Chlorine is getting so expensive that there are companies willing to finance a bucket of chlorine,” explained Reynolds, “It costs around $3,000 to upgrade to a salt system, but again we’re seeing homeowners willing to invest that money into their pool to realize the cost savings on chemicals.”
The fact that demand remains high in Las Vegas is good news for the industry. It’s also been instrumental in helping Reynolds grow his pool equipment repair service company. His firm, Purpose Pools was established with the mindset of helping his local community. Consequently, the firm has been doing just that since its inception.
Partnering With Professionals
Reynolds’ firm has partnered with many of the leading pool construction companies in Las Vegas to provide warranty work for pool equipment repairs. Consequently, he’s also working with many of the leading pool service companies that don’t handle equipment repairs. “There are a lot of pool service companies in Las Vegas that do a great job at cleaning and maintenance but just aren’t very knowledgeable when it comes to repairs. We partner with them on installations and repairs and train them up a bit so that they can better service their own clients,” said Reynolds.
Pool Equipment Repair Company Finds Ways To Give Back to the Community
The mission of the firm is also stated right in its company name ‘Purpose Pools’ and one that Reynolds and the company take seriously. “The very foundation of our company is to support our community. It’s in our name and in our actions. What we do regularly is, donate to charities. Our customers nominate local charities and donate their old pool equipment to be recycled. Essentially, all of that money that is recouped from recycling is donated directly back into the Las Vegas community,” said Reynolds.
Some of the organizations that Purpose Pools have been able to help recently include the March of Dimes, St. Judes Children Research Hospital, Las Vegas Rescue Mission and the list goes on and on. “It’s cool that we’re able to do this and amazing that our customers are willing to contribute by allowing us to take their old components, recycle them and at the same time are helping us give back to this incredible community,” said Reynolds.
Listen to our entire conversation with Scott Reynolds of Purpose Pools on the Pool Magazine podcast.
Premier Pools & Spas Elevates New Talent in the Pool Industry
Partnering with the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance, Sacramento-based company is able to educate and certify young professionals
When Lance Irby came to work at Premier Pools & Spas for owner Keith Harbeck back in 2012, he didn’t even know what a skimmer was.
“But I found out pretty quickly!” he jokes, now 10 years into his career as a pool professional and sales manager at Premier Pools & Spas in Sacramento, California. Irby’s previous industry “experience” consisted of one public swimming pool lesson and some construction work. He rose to become the man his mentor Harbeck calls “the best pool salesman I’ve ever met.” That’s high praise considering Harbeck founded Premier Pools & Spas in 1988, a company that is now the world’s largest pool builder with franchises in over 60 locations.
Like many construction businesses, pool builders have struggled to attract and keep young talent like Irby. It’s something that Harbeck noticed and felt compelled to change.
“Although we have some salespeople here that had worked previously for other builders, it’s not really what we do anymore. And that’s true in other places, too, even in scheduling and supervision,” says Harbeck, who himself started cleaning pools as a kid. “I think it’s far more important to hire for character as opposed to skill. We can train and teach in this industry.”
Certification programs raise the bar
The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA) supports that goal of bringing new life into the industry. PHTA sets professional standards and provides education and certification. Irby took “every single class” PHTA offered last year and became a Certified Master Pool Builder & Design Professional. It’s the highest level of certification under the PHTA Certified Pool Builder & Design Professional Pathway powered by GENESIS® and offered in-person and virtually.
Premier Pools & Spas just signed up 43 more people to begin their certification tracks this year, an investment Harbeck champions and that Irby says “really fast-tracked” his abilities.
Harbeck and Irby both say the message is clear: “This is a career. It doesn’t have to be just a job.”
“I had other jobs before I worked at Premier Pools & Spas. I would clock in at nine and clock out at five. And I knew when my breaks and my lunchtimes were, and it was mundane and repetitive,” Irby recalls. “Our industry is quite dynamic. I don’t know that we always represent ourselves as an industry, as a very professional environment or destination for skilled employees.”
Weathering change all comes down to customers and employees
“Dynamic” is an understated way to describe a long career in this business. The constant change is one of the reasons Harbeck has stuck with the business for these 30+ years. Technology has impacted everything. The move from phone book listings to online and text message advertising and communication. The digitization and increasing complexity of the permitting process. The shift to 3D software and virtual reality in sales and design. These are all areas that require new approaches.
“When I started in ‘88, yes, there were some elaborate pools, but not like today. There are so many features and options, and things people can add to swimming pools. It’s a much different product and a much different consumer,” Harbeck says. “So, it’s a relatively young industry when you stop and think about it.”
The technological acceleration comes as the swimming pool business is booming. It’s a flashback to the recession for Harbeck. Business peaked pre-recession when he was building 1,000 pools a year in the Sacramento area. By 2008, he was building 260 pools a year. It nearly put him out of business.
“It was the Great American Pool Depression. We had a 75% decrease in business. What it did teach me then, as always, it comes down to your customer service and your reputation,” Harbeck says. “The experience of building a pool has always been my passion. So, as we came out of that recession, I redoubled the focus on that.”
Harbeck hit the streets. He went door-to-door putting up fliers to drum up business. It worked. Premier Pools & Spas survived and thrived. For the first 10 years out of the recession, the business grew at 20% per year.
Training the next generation of pros
Last year Premier Pools & Spas saw a whopping 37% growth rate. Harbeck doesn’t bank on that being sustainable. Instead of stepping back from the day-to-day he has dived in deeper, especially where it comes to training up his next generation of leaders, like Irby, who in turn champion his emphasis on customer service.
“Keith is a great teacher. He treats people well. He is kind. He is humble. And when you’re that way as a leader, and then you instill that in other people throughout the organization, it just has a trickledown effect to even how we treat our customers,” says Irby.
Now Irby’s brother has joined him in the pool business. He says he will keep spreading the message that the pool industry is the place to be, that this is “a very good career (that) will take care of your family.”
Consider the newest Irby in the business just one more person who will be starting a PHTA certification program soon. Irby says he knows how it makes people feel to be empowered in their careers.
“Everybody was extremely excited about what they were learning,” he says of his team’s GENESIS® journey. “There was a lot of positivity on the job site the next day after being online. It’s a lot of work, but very fulfilling.”
Photo Credit: Jovan Valdez
Raising the Bar Through Continuing Education
Continuing Education – Pool construction and design are often seen as “learn as you go” types of jobs, but a more formal education can help.
The pool and hot tub industry is constantly evolving, from technological advancements in equipment to new design trends. Although pool construction and design are often seen as “learn as you go” types of jobs, a more formal education can help you and your business in many ways.
“Education at any company really starts with the owner,” says Ed Gibbs, President and CEO of Gib-San Pools Ltd. in Toronto, ON. “But if the point of view is only directly from one individual, the problem is you have a very narrow vision of where your company will go.”
“We’ve got some really smart people that work for us, but if they’ve never been exposed to any kind of formal training or education in this industry, it doesn’t matter how smart they are—they’re going to learn by making mistakes,” explains Gordie Robinson, President of Cox Pools Service Inc. in Birmingham, AL.
“I know very little about building swimming pools,” admits Lance Irby, Sales Manager at Premier Pools & Spas in Sacramento, CA. “I can build great, beautiful pools with my team and design them. But the nuts and the bolts and the whys and the hows, all of the science and math—those are things that all of us have a tremendous amount to learn, even people who have been doing this for a long, long time.”
Enter GENESIS®, which has been teaching pool industry professionals in design, construction, engineering, and business since 1998. Thousands of students have taken GENESIS® courses, and many have advanced through the different accreditation levels: GENESIS® Associate, Society of Watershape Designers (SWD) Registered, and SWD Master.
Robinson first met GENESIS® co-founder Brian Van Bower about 15 years ago, when Van Bower was consulting on one of Robinson’s projects. After meeting Van Bower, Robinson thought to himself, “Whatever it takes, I’m going to learn what that guy knows.” Robinson started taking GENESIS® courses about eight years ago and is now SWD Registered. He has been sending his employees to GENESIS® for the last few years “in an effort to get everybody that works for us as educated as they can possibly be in this industry, and this is the best way I’ve found so far.”
The employees benefit just as much, if not more, than the employers. “It’s really created a positive culture,” Robinson says. “It’s been really good for morale. The employees really like the fact that our company is willing to invest that kind of money in them to train them.”
Irby agrees. Even though his employees have only been attending GENESIS® since the beginning of 2021, he has already seen a positive impact. “It gives everybody a level of enthusiasm and excitement,” he says. He describes how, especially in a year as busy as this one, employees’ mental and physical tanks are often depleted at the end of the day. GENESIS® actually refills their tanks and “puts a little pep in your step, because you’re excited about what you’re learning and you’re looking at things differently. It’s been good for us.”
Irby has been in the pool industry since 2012. As he started to hear more about GENESIS®, he realized that the SWD Masters and the projects that they do “are on a different level.” This created a desire to get himself and his employees up to that level.
“The value that’s added with [GENESIS®] is tremendous to both the company and the employee,” says Gibbs. “It goes back to the culture of your organization and what kind of culture you are creating, whereby the importance and investment in education is to help both of us grow—not just you to leave, not just me to use you, but to develop a symbiotic relationship. It has to be a journey together.”
GENESIS® is a serious investment, in several ways. Sending one student to one virtual course can be more than $2,000, and in-person classes before the pandemic were even more expensive when adding in airfare, lodging, and food. It is also an investment of time, with both virtual and in-person courses lasting 16 to 24 hours over several days.
If accreditation is the goal, that is even more of an investment. It could take over a year for an employee to earn the SWD Registered designation, which involves 150 hours of education and completing seven core courses that cover design, construction, and engineering. But employers are in agreement that it is well worth the time and money.
“The target is the SWD,” Gibbs says. He has three SWD Registered on his team, and two more will complete the requirements within the next few months. “Being SWD Registered adds that level of credibility and kicks up that level of education.”
“We’ve focused on construction and taking that construction track to get everybody that SWD Registered designation,” agrees Robinson. Although Cox Pools is a construction company, the required design courses help his employees gain a better understanding of what they do every day, he says.
For newer sales team members, “I’m putting them through basic construction classes as well as basic design classes, because those things go hand-in-hand,” explains Irby. “You can’t sell something if you don’t have an understanding of how it should be built.”
Gibbs and Robinson, who have been sending their employees to GENESIS® since before the pandemic, both agree that their employees really value the in-person networking and connections that they are able to make with other students. Gibbs explains, “That camaraderie that is created over that two or three days that the classes take place is part of that GENESIS® secret recipe.” Robinson says that students learn a lot from the class itself, “but when you take it with a lot of people who are in the same boat, you learn a lot too from those people.”
“In our world that we live in today, when you see groups of people wanting to raise the bar, there’s an attractiveness about that. There’s a magnetic attraction to wanting to be better. That’s where we want to be,” Gibbs says. “Clients smell that. Your other employees smell that. And that’s really success.”
How do these three employers sum up the benefits and importance of GENESIS®?
GENESIS® has given Robinson’s employees “confidence to move a little further in their ability to function and contribute to our company. It gave them some sort of energy that there are goals out there where they can learn more, and do more, and be more.”
“These classes will take you wherever you want to go in the swimming pool industry,” says Irby. “If you want to be in this industry long-term, this is your foundation.”
“It makes a better you. It makes a better company. It makes you build a better pool,” states Gibbs. “GENESIS® has proven year after year after year to truly be that gold standard.”
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