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Working Multi-Year Relationships

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11-6 lenz art 0

Some pool builders think of a project as a one-shot deal: You install the watershape and move along. Others put in the pool, then generate longer-term revenue with service and maintenance work. But there are still others who focus on understanding the lifestyles of their clients and find ways to continue to act as their contractors, year after year, as the original project is gradually upgraded, updated and remodeled.

We at All Seasons Pools (Orland Park, Ill.) count ourselves among the third group of builders and capitalize on

our initial relationship with our clients by delivering creative solutions that meet their ongoing lifestyle needs.

Getting to know them is the key, and the best way to do so is to get into the backyard in the first place. Indeed, most of our multi-year projects start with pools we originally built and the good relationships we develop by backing up our products and keeping these pools in great shape.

All of this takes time, of course, and becomes an investment on its own. But understanding where our clients are – what their “stage in life” is – definitely gives us the inside track on additional projects.

EVOLVING NEEDS

The backyard shown here offers a good example of what’s involved in this process.

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Here’s what the pool looked like before we revisited it with our clients. It was fine when we built it for them years earlier, but their needs were changing and the whole setting needed attention.

We originally built our clients’ vinyl-liner pool 17 years ago. Back in 1996, they had teenage children and liked their 18-by-36-foot pool with a diving board the children especially enjoyed.

Ever since, we have opened and closed the pool each year and have serviced it every two weeks. After ten years passed, the clients called and said they were ready for a new liner. It wasn’t torn or leaking, they knew, but it was just starting to show some wear.

I visited the house to meet with the husband and was immediately struck by the fact that there was a blow-up plastic kiddie pool sitting on the deck, right next to his big, expensive pool. I quickly asked, “Why the little pool?”

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We replaced the diving board with a slide (made by Inter-Fab, Tucson, Ariz.) and added a big shade structure to an enlarged deck area without changing the pool’s footprint.

He explained that he was now a grandfather with a year-old granddaughter and that there was another on the way. As we talked about his pool and the need for a new liner, he also mentioned that he thought his deck was too narrow on the sides and didn’t allow good places for sunbathing – a key point because, as he explained, his daughter loved laying out in the sun.

In looking around we realized we could easily enlarge the deck space on one side of the pool and create a little extra space for lounge chairs. Now the client was getting excited about what was turning into a substantial backyard renovation.

SERIAL ACCOMMODATION

As we struggled to squeeze into the patio table and chairs he had on the deck, I asked him if he would also like to have a little more room for sitting to watch the grandchildren. This immediately blossomed into a discussion of expanding the seating area and adding a pergola to provide a bit of shade for babies without entirely blocking out the sun.

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The changes we made weren’t huge, but they completely recast the outdoor space to meet our clients changing needs and expectations. And of course, we took care of the original request and replaced the liner with a new one (made by Plastimayd of Oregon City, Ore.).

All was going well, but in the back of my mind, I couldn’t stop seeing that plastic kiddie pool and the fact that the growing crop of grandchildren would need more room to maneuver. Before long, I was incorporating a small, four-foot fountain/catch pool at the edge of the seating area that would double as a splash pool for as long as needed to accommodate infants and toddlers.

When not in use by the grandkids, it would treat the adults to the action of bubbler/foam jets and cascades set within the wall – nice water sounds for when the children weren’t around. The client loved this idea, we executed the project – and as it turned out, he immediately started running it just for its calming sound effects.

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This was the detail that started the ball rolling with this client: When I saw the kiddie pool on the deck, it triggered a flow of ideas that led to replacing it with a small fountain that doubles as a child’s splash basin.

Taking the time to sit in the backyard with clients, talking about who uses the backyard/pool area and, more important, how it is used, puts you in a position where you can offer suggestions that will help them get more (or even the most) out of their backyard. It might become one big project, but it might also emerge as budget-friendly phases that take place year by year.

However you look at that prospect, it’s a relationship that has value both ways – and all it takes is a little bit of time to get the ball rolling.

Dan Lenz is vice president of All Seasons Pools & Spas in Orland Park, Ill. An APSP Certified Building Professional and a Premier Vinyl Liner Pool Partner with Plastimayd, he has more than 26 years of experience and can be reached via email at [email protected]

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