Making a splash
Business View Magazine interviews Mark Reed, President of Memphis Pool, for our focus on Best Practices in the Pool & Spa Industry
“Staycationing” is something many people and families traditionally thought of as boring, or a way to save money, but 2020 changed all those notions and made the staycation the safest, most viable, and most convenient thing to do during the COVID-19 pandemic. The year was dotted with stay-at-home orders and in some places strict curfews and stiff fines for those who didn’t comply. This year, although some restrictions have lifted or eased the virus is still an ever-present threat, and despite many people receiving vaccinations, travel is still limited and vacation destinations in other countries are not open.
Through all these concerning and unfamiliar times people stared at their walls, walked around their homes, sat in their yards… and finally decided, if they couldn’t get out to see the world, they would make their homes and yards into the oasis they sought. Memphis Pool was right there to help make their outdoor/backyard dreams a reality. The company didn’t close their doors once throughout the pandemic and continued to help people enjoy their pools, spas, hot tubs, and water features or to construct new pools and outdoor spaces for clients stuck at home or essential workers who still craved a relaxing dip in the pool to recharge.
Despite the many challenges the pandemic brought with it, the company used it as an opportunity to explore their ability to quickly pivot and continue offering the best service they could to existing and new customers. Mark Reed, President of Memphis Pool shares, “It seemed as though everyday brought a new challenge, although some of that’s easing off now. With the exception of masks and social distancing, restrictions are loosening up somewhat, so we’re feeling at least like we can have some limited in-person meetings, but it was a tough year. A constant get up and pivot. It didn’t matter what you planned, it just kind of fell apart at the last minute and you had to go in another direction.”
Although supply and demand were challenges for the company, they managed to work with suppliers and manufacturers to get those pools and backyard paradises together in a way that both Reed – and more importantly his customers – were ecstatic about.
Memphis Pool opened its doors for the first time in 1952 and has become the area’s premiere pool builder and retailer – a one-stop-shop for everything to do with water and outdoor living. The company is an award-winning gunite (concrete) pool builder that specializes in customized outdoor living solutions. Their in-house designers will meet with customers (outside and socially distanced) to get the best idea of the clients’ dream scenario and they will design and redesign until that customer is satisfied.
The firm is proud of the fact that it has been managed and owned by the same family for almost 60 years. Roy Reed, who was a schoolteacher at the time, took a job at the company during the summer and eventually purchased it in the early 1960s, when the previous owner retired. He continued to teach, but started in the business full-time before he opened the first retail store in the late ’60s.
Roy and his son Mark shared the same philosophy when it comes to creating loyal customers and building long-term customers, loyalty begets loyalty. The company enjoys many long-term customers in their pool maintenance and repair divisions and once the lockdowns started, orders started flowing in from those loyal existing customers and from new ones. Mark reports, “We saw some significant increases. It was like once everyone got over the shock of working from home and whatever, within a couple months we started seeing an uptick. The challenge is getting suppliers to ship and getting customers in the store to shop. With new pool construction, it’s not nearly as difficult… but in a retail setting it was a challenge. It was hard to know what to do.”
Being part of a seasonal industry, Memphis Pool works year-round but about 15 of their 70 employees are seasonal. The high season can run from early March or April to anywhere between October and December.
One of the great things about the company’s Memphis location is they are right in the middle of Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi giving them the ability to travel into other areas and gain invaluable experience in different geographical settings, like the Ozark Mountains, which provides a different challenge to the relatively flat Memphis landscape. Reed explains, “It’s an engineering challenge as much as a jobsite challenge, when you’re working on the side of a hill with a sheer drop off. A lot of other companies in other places do that every day and it gets to be old hat for them but, for us, every time we take one of those on it’s a new challenge.” He says those pools are some of the most gratifying to create. “We’ve done some really nice, what we call vanishing edge or infinity edge pools, where the back of the pool looks like it falls off into a lake or river. We’ve created really neat features with waterfalls and just the natural terrain and stone. We like to use the natural stone to tie it all together.”
Tying it all together takes a team effort and, as a member of the Master Pool Guild, Reed has worldwide knowledge and experience at his fingertips. He acknowledges, “It’s probably the best thing we’ve ever done. Master Pools is a big part of our inhouse education and it’s also a big part of our innovation. The Master Pools Guild is a world wide organization, but there are no members in competing markets, so that allows us to meet two to three times a year (pre-COVID-19) with members and manufacturers and it gives us a leg up on the competition. We see what’s happening out west or wherever a trend started. We see new technology – in a lot of cases they will tap the Guild membership to a form a blue ribbon committee to test out new products, and the focus of the meetings are education all the way through.”
He adds, “You’re not in the room with any of your competition, so you can speak freely. We have some very good roundtable discussions and people are very open to sharing things they’ve done wrong, what they lost money on, what mistakes they made and it prevents us from making the same mistake. They also talk about things they’re trying that are coming down the pipe – things we would never have thought of that are being done in bigger markets, where they build thousands of pools a year. We meet and it’s kind of like a big family sharing information. They have an app that dings six to eight times a day with membership asking questions – the interesting thing is that the answers just roll in. I mean people just love to help each other in this Guild.”
Reed also values the relationship with Guild members who are manufacturers. He relates, “It is wonderful. They know us through the Master Pools Guild and we have an opportunity to network where we never would otherwise and they are just a great resource for us. If we have a problem, there’s a good chance somebody has already dealt with it in the Guild and we reach out and we get answers. It’s strictly a group that’s about sharing information and technology and education – and it’s invitation only. They seek you out in your market. It’s a pretty rigorous process to get in the Guild, so it’s a very valued membership if you’re lucky enough to be invited to be in it.”
Reed doesn’t know what the future holds, but he’s hopeful the manufacturing and shipping side of the business will improve. He notes, “There are so many variables as it is. The pool industry as a whole is very good at stocking up through the winter and getting ready for spring but they didn’t have that opportunity because of the pandemic. And then manufacturing got behind and while they were running behind our business was increasing, so all the sudden we’ve got a supply and demand problem.”
Current situations being what they are, Memphis Pool and its hard-working team are definitely thinking positive and looking ahead to a very bright and sunny future.
AT A GLANCE
What: A leading swimming pool manufacturer and outdoor living specialist
Where: Memphis, Tennessee
Master Pools Guild – www.masterpoolsguild.com
The Master Pools Guild is a global network of over 100 elite custom residential and commercial pool builders. Founded in 1962, the Guild is the only exclusive, invitation-only group of its kind in the pool industry.
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