Embracing change is not always easy, it can take courage, foresight, wisdom and sometimes luck. Veteran watershaper, Kevin Woodhurst has been through many such passages in his long career, but perhaps none more rewarding than a recent move to a new home and into a new chapter.
By Kevin Woodhurst
“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.” — Marcus Aurelius
Last April, my wife, Heather said, “I want to move to Boca Raton.”
My first reaction was to give credit where due for making such a bold and specific declaration. It made sense, our kids are all out of the house, she loves Florida and thought we would both benefit from a change. Having lived and worked in the Phoenix area for a long, long time I could only agree.
I’ve moved around a lot throughout my life and every time I’ve changed locations, it’s always worked out, for a variety of reasons. Still, for all of its sunny appeal, Florida seemed a bit too far from our kids, so I asked her what might be her second choice. She then said, “What about Texas?”
I was immediately intrigued by the idea. Although I had never lived in the Lone Star State, I’ve been there many times and always enjoyed the experience. I went to basic training there in the USAF in 1980, attended several technical schools along with various other trips through the state. I know a number of people in the industry based in Texas, many whom I admire; and, for a host of well-known reasons, the state has become a magnate for people looking to make a positive change. So, I thought, okay, let’s explore this idea.
Of course, relocating is a huge decision and not something anyone should ever make without due consideration, but the idea of exploring the possibility had immediate appeal. So, we started looking east.
TIME TO GO
While I have nothing negative to say about Phoenix, there’s no question that I had found myself in a rut, especially in my professional life. Working as an independent designer, I was involved with various builders who didn’t share my passion for creativity and precise attention to detail. I had become frustrated by a lack of progress on projects and the overall lack of forward motion. I was ready for a change.
I still maintain and continue to have positive relationships with my colleagues in the area; but, by the same token, I couldn’t deny the feeling of stagnation that had started to consume my purpose and passion for an industry that had given so much to me and my family. More than anything, I felt the absence of people who shared my value system for professionalism and the vision I’ve always held for this industry and its tremendous potential.
Exploring the Texas market was fascinating. The economic growth and the suburbs swelling with migration from out of state has created a large and multi-faceted watershaping market with some of the fastest growing companies in the industry. There was plenty of opportunity to consider.
One of my long-time friends, legendary pool builder and industry pioneer, Lew Akins, knew about a company in Houston that might be a good fit. At his suggestion, I packed some stuff in my truck and headed east for a couple weeks to do some exploration. I checked out this company and several others while spending some quality time in the area. While there’s no question the nation’s fourth largest city is ripe with opportunity, and the people I met seemed great, it just didn’t feel right, especially given the humidity and traffic. I have had to learn to give things a minute to settle and trust my gut. In the end Houston was a hard pass.
Because an interstate move is such an all-encompassing decision, both Heather and I knew that it had to feel perfect. While it’s impossible to predict the future and there’s always an element of risk, choosing a place to call home is not a place to compromise. We also knew that Texas is an enormous place and there would be other markets worth considering, so I continued along the wide-open trail while she kept things in check at home.
Heather has always enjoyed the Austin area as have I when visiting. We have friends that love it there, as well. The economy is booming, and many big corporations are relocating to the region.
This placed Austin as the next target on the map. Again, a wonderful city and a strong market, but once more, I just didn’t see the right opportunity. So, after a few weeks of scouting, I decided to fly Heather out to meet me and spend a little time with her in the Austin area and get her take on things. Nothing better than having a co-pilot! I told her to fly to Dallas and I would pick her up there so I could visit an old friend.
This now turned into a sightseeing adventure: a trip to the Ft. Worth stockyards, Waco to Magnolia, a lot of driving, talking, and discussing a game plan. Eventually heading back to Phoenix via New Mexico, and a “bucket list item” of stopping in Roswell. (What we didn’t know is that weekend was the “International UFO Festival”, and it was packed with thousands of visitors. Needless to say, some things are better left as bucket list items.)
Once we got back to Phoenix, I realized we had become enamored with the friendly people and the general feel of the 28th state and were even more determined to find a way that made sense to get us there. My “old” friend, whom I visited in the Dallas area, Jeff Moreland, someone I’ve known for years since my early days taking Genesis 3 courses, suggested we reconnoiter the Dallas area. He said, “Kevin, if you’re going to move to Texas take a long look at Dallas. This may be a great fit for you and your wife.”
Once back in Phoenix, I started calling and setting up interviews while trying to coordinate them for a single trip back to the huge Metroplex area. I spent time on the phone talking to a few companies but truly had yet to be inspired by any of those communications. I set up a handful of interviews with leading companies and planned yet another trip.
What I didn’t know is that Jeff had called Brian Claffey and told him I was considering a move to Texas. Claffey called me immediately and we spent a good 30-minute chat. Heather and I were on a plane within the week and arrived with the intention of visiting Claffey and a half-dozen other companies I had been talking to. We arrived without any big expectations.
WHEN YOU KNOW
Right from hello, everything clicked. Brian, Charlie Claffey, and their staff spent the better part of an entire day with us, treating Heather and I like honored guests. It was frankly a little surreal, a wonderful day and more than anything, it was abundantly clear that they were on the exact same page as me and more in all aspects of the profession. We could not have been more impressed or inspired. Our timing was perfect as they had just completely a massive remodel and expansion of their design center and sales offices. It is remarkable. You walk in and ask yourself, “this is a workplace?”
Claffey Pools is deeply committed to achieving an extremely high level of excellence in all aspects of company performance, from design through all phases of construction, and especially creating positive client experience start to finish. Every project phase is treated with care, open communication, and painstaking attention to detail. The level of professionalism we experienced was truly mind blowing.
As a result, the company has built a stellar reputation, won countless awards, and has attracted a number of top-flight professionals, it’s easy to see why. One name I’m sure that’s familiar to WaterShapes readers, Mike Farley, is one of the company’s marquee designers, and a truly wonderful colleague. Though Mike and I had run into each other here and there over the years I only knew him from a distance. He really is one of the best in the business and I have enjoyed getting to know him since coming onboard.
Claffey Pools spoke my language and I felt at home immediately. As far as I could tell, based on all my many years of experience, good and bad, this was a perfect fit for us. I cancelled all further appointments as I knew this was where I wanted to be, no doubt about it.
AWAY WE WENT
So, we played in Dallas for a couple days and headed home. Brian had told me to let him know if I was interested, he would send an offer to us. An Offer? Again, this company operates like few others I have ever been associated with.
In many cases, I felt as though past organizations mentality was “You are lucky to even be here.” In the case of Claffey, this got turned on its head. They made it seem as though they were lucky I was considering the move.
Within days, we sealed a deal, and made plans to make a run at this. I found temporary housing, packed up the truck for a much longer stay, and again headed east ready for a permanent relocation should it manifest the way we were hoping. We were both ready to dive into a new chapter, and I was excited to design and sell pools and outdoor living projects for the company’s burgeoning list of clients and potential clients.
From the very start, they have treated me as though I’ve been here for years. I’ve stepped almost effortlessly into my role creating environments designed to make client dreams come true. It’s the same work I’ve done for years, but now my almost obsessive insistence on excellence and quality at every turn is embraced and rewarded. Where once it was an obstacle, if not an annoyance for some, it’s now accepted as “the” standard operating procedure.
I wouldn’t go so far to say that my work has improved, because frankly I’ve always strived to achieve my best regardless of the situation; but, the work I’m doing now unfolds in a professional setting that is in perfect sync with my approach and performance.
I know my designs will be executed to perfection, on time, every time; and, when challenges do arise, which is inevitable in this business, those situations are handled expediently with care and integrity.
THE VALUE OF CHANGE
Several years ago, I made a similarly big change in direction, going from design and construction working for builders, to life as an independent designer. It was a risky move that took courage and faith in the future and my own abilities. I also wanted to prove yet again something that many said would not work in Phoenix. Honestly, I simply get inspired from things others say can’t be done, or that won’t work or we have tried. Give me a challenge, I will likely take you up on it!
In a sense, it’s somewhat ironic that this most recent change has brought me back to working for a builder with an incredible team. But that’s the nature of change. We never know exactly what the future holds and a big part of success is riding the waves of ever-shifting circumstance, carving a path based on the lessons of experience.
Life is much like this, you just don’t know until you know and often you have to work through the process and do the work in order to experience the changes in perception. It’s like you are not going to see over the summit until you experience the views from a few ascents up the mountain passes — each time gaining a new perspective.
Time and again, I’ve found that as a professional and, indeed, as a person, when you live life with an open mind and an open heart, you can become more of who you are. I believe that’s what’s happened here.
So many times, we find ourselves laboring over the past rather than keeping our faces in the wind experiencing the possibilities of what is before us. My wife and I have a saying, it’s simple but profound and I give her credit for this one. “Give it a minute.”
Now that minute might actually be a minute or a couple of years. The point is when you try and force anything it is likely to break. Giving things a minute so you can be exposed to possibilities does a couple of amazing things. One, most everything works itself out on its own; two, the answers come together in order to make better decisions; and three, it didn’t matter in the first place.
Because Heather and I had the courage and foresight to make a life-altering change, we’ve found a new home, and indeed, a renewed sense of purpose. We’re in a new place, making new friends, living in a different place with a different landscape, climate and in some ways, a different culture. It’s all fresh. In our lives we have learned to embrace change as a good thing and something to be embraced.
ALWAYS IN MOTION
It is true, the old cliché that change is the only constant. It’s a condition dictated by human nature and the laws of the physical universe. Those who resist change are inevitably destined to succumb to it.
I’ve been involved in this profession for more than three decades and have seen the industry from a variety of perspectives. I know that there’s a restless nature at the heart of watershaping. It can be a tough business that can require every ounce of effort, problem-solving and patience.
It’s a dynamic industry that can be as frustrating as it is rewarding. Experience has taught me that to make the most of it, you have to remain in motion, and sometimes be willing to take a big chance on a better tomorrow – and the promise of growth.
Kevin Woodhurst is a design consultant for Claffey Pools in Southlake, TX. He has been in the pool industry for over 25 years. He has been responsible directly and indirectly for the design and or construction of thousands of new swimming pool projects and remodels during this time.