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Contractors and Builders

When Customers Don’t Want To Pay For Their Pool, Don’t Do This

These guys give contractors everywhere a bad name

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When Pool Customers Don't Want To Pay Their Bill, Don't Do This

Every single builder in the pool industry has encountered that one problem customer, the perpetual goal line pusher that is constantly moving the bar and making it almost impossible to finish their pool construction project. Quite often, it’s easy to get frustrated when a customer refuses to pay for work that has been performed on their property. There have been many times when I’ve heard pool builders say over the years “Man, I wish I could just go back there and jackhammer everything out.” What they don’t do, is actually act out their fantasies of getting even. No matter how frustrated a builder gets on a job site, there is always a better recourse to take than willfully destroying someone’s property and immediately opening yourself up to a civil and potentially criminal penalty.

Recently a video went viral featuring a contractor destroying a customers bathroom for refusing to pay the balance of their bill. The video itself elicited plenty of cheers from fed-up contractors on Facebook who have probably faced a similar situation themselves.

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We’ve all been there and have been confronted with a customer that you just can’t make happy. It can feel like no matter how hard you work or how much you’ve done that they are impossible to please.

Destroying a Customers Property is Probably The Worst Way to Settle a Contract Dispute

Contractor Terry Gregory went viral this week for his rather unorthodox way of settling a job that went sideways with one of his customers. He was caught on camera destroying his customer’s bathroom after she refused to pay the balance of a bill he had submitted.

Obviously there are tons of folks who can empathize with said contractor getting stiffed on the bill and “taking back” his work product. Like many who saw the video that was my first gut reaction, however there are always two sides to every story.

The homeowner Amber Trucke, had been documenting her experience in a variety of Facebook Groups and was receiving feedback from ongoing work on the progress she was posting to the group.

Trucke’s complaints stemmed from the fact she had paid $3,000 down on a tile remodel for her bathroom but that as work progressed she noticed that her bathroom tile renovation was beginning to look like amateur hour on her dime. She posted photos of work that contractor Terry Gregory had performed to date. The reactions she got from the group left her with serious reservations about paying the balance of her $7,500 bill.

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Many Facebook Group members told her that based off of the photos she was showing, that in their opinion the job was substandard and was a complete do over. Hundreds of homeowners advised her that the work was not up to snuff and told her not to pay the remaining balance.

Trucke had been going back and forth with Gregory and his business partner Jordan Cazares over the project and had been presented with a bill for $4,225.00 to which she stated the she was not prepared to pay yet because she had not had time to inspect the final work product and was not happy with the overall work based on what she had last seen.

The company she hired Dream Home Remodels of Colorado, released a statement to the news regarding the incident. “After several weeks of work for a customer, communication broke down at the end of a project. There was no displeasure expressed, and we proceeded to ask for payment on the project by the end of the day. Communication broke further after that and resulted in our company repossessing a tile shower.”

‘Repossessing’ the tile caused considerably more damage to both the homeowners property and the firms reputation. On camera Gregory was recorded saying “Is someone going to pay me? Let me tell you something. No contractor in the state of Colorado will fix that when they found out that I took it back because she refused to pay me. No one!” and continued to demolish the bathroom.

That turned out not to be true. After witnessing the video three local area contractors offered to fix Trucke’s bathroom for free. The behavior was all documented on camera and can probably be used in a civil suit against Dream Home Remodels of Colorado at some point. It’s important to note at the end of the day the contractor did not get paid the balance on the work they performed and may have caused future irreparable damage to their reputation for acting in such a fashion. Ultimately it may prove that there may not be a homeowner in the state of Colorado that wants to work with the firm after watching how they resolve conflicts with customers.

What Can Pool Builders Learn From This?

The lesson here as it applies to the pool industry is that no matter how angry a customer may make you, or how justified you feel in your frustration with their behavior and ingratitude, that there are often two sides to every story. Personally, after having seen the photos the homeowner posted, I would not have been eager to pay my final bill either.

A builders first impulse may be to say, “oh that customer is crazy” or “they’re just being difficult”. There are some who immediately shut down to criticism and refuse to accept that their work may not be their “A” effort and could be sub-standard. Not allowing for customer feedback and insisting they pay for work they are unhappy with is a recipe for disaster.

Thankfully we don’t hear stories of unpaid pool contractors acting out on their impulse to destroy a customers backyard. That’s probably the best way possible to go out of business. However, what this whole story can teach us how important it is to listen to the customer and work towards finding the best resolution that satisfies them.

It’s important to note that there are a few huge social media groups that cater to homeowners that are building a pool as well as existing pool owners. For pool builders to ignore the fact that their work is being posted on Facebook and Instagram and being critqued by homeowners is tantamount to living in a vacuum.

It’s a fact that homeowners are giving customers feedback on the pool construction process. When a homeowner encounters an issue that brings quality of construction or build decisions into play, they will often head to one of these groups to get feedback from others.

In some instances the comments they receive may lead to pushback on paying their final bill. How builders handle that criticism and proceed in satisfying their customers are what separates them from the Terry George’s of the world. At the end of the day, it’s probably better to file a mechanics lien than it is to act on impulse and harm your reputation.

4.9/5 - (10 votes)

Editor in Chief of Pool Magazine - Joe Trusty is also CEO of PoolMarketing.com, the leading digital agency for the pool industry. An internet entrepreneur, software developer, author, and marketing professional with a long history in the pool industry. Joe oversees the writing and creative staff at Pool Magazine. To contact Joe Trusty email info@poolmagazine.com or call (916) 467-9118 during normal business hours. For submissions, please send your message to submissions@poolmagazine.com

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Joe Trusty
10 months ago

Sound off in the comments and let us know what you think, was the contractor in the right to react the way he did or is that kind of behavior just unacceptable?

Contractors and Builders

Pool Repairs With a Purpose

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Pool Equipment Repairs

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.

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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.

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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.

Reynolds says he finds it fulfilling to be able to donate to local charities by recycling old pool equipment.
Reynolds says he finds it fulfilling to be able to donate to local charities by recycling old pool equipment.

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.

4.6/5 - (24 votes)

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Contractors and Builders

Premier Pools & Spas Elevates New Talent in the Pool Industry

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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.

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“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.”

Premier Pools & Spas - Sacramento, CA
Premier Pools & Spas – Sacramento, CA

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.

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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.”

https://www.phta.org/membership/be-a-part-of-phta/phta-deep-dives/premier-pools-spas/

Photo Credit: Jovan Valdez

4.8/5 - (21 votes)

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Contractors and Builders

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.

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Raising the Bar Through Continuing Education - Gib-San Employees Attending GENESIS

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.”

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“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.”

GENESIS Logo

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.”

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Photo Credit: Sarah Ramalho – Designer – Lance Irby | Premier Pools & Spas of Sacramento

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.

Pool Construction Education - GENESIS®

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.”

Gib San Pool & Landscape Creations
Photo Credit: Gib-San

“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.”

4.8/5 - (17 votes)

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