The Master Pools Guild is a network of over 100 elite custom pool builders from across the globe, brought together to consult, inspire and support each other. Dick Covert has served as Executive Director of the organization since 1997. He will be retiring this year and passing on the role to Teri Wiltshire. To celebrate his storied career connecting pool builders, we asked his thoughts on the industry's evolution and what it means to pass the baton.
P&S PRO: How has the industry has evolved over your career?
In the last 25 years, the major manufacturers have consolidated. When I started, there would be separate companies that produced filters, heaters, pumps, etc. Companies like Pentair, ProTerra and Hayward have bought smaller companies and now address the pool as a whole. Previously, builders had to deal with many different manufacturers to get all the products they needed for a pool. A similar trend occurred on the distribution end. There used to be a lot of small, local distributors, and even POOLCORP was local back then. Now, POOLCORP is everywhere, and they, along with Florida Water Products, own a large number of distributors.
P&S PRO: How did the 2008 Great Recession impact the industry’s management of business demands stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic?
In 2008, the higher-end pool builders growing by leaps and bounds in the early 2000s found themselves stuck with a lot of equipment and personnel rosters that had grown beyond what they could control. They remembered this when COVID-19 came along. While builders recognized that it would be a boon for them, they also knew they couldn't afford to assume it would last forever.
Many companies manage current demand by staying the same size but taking on much more future construction. They may tell customers, “You know, it will be two years before I can build your pool. If you'd like to wait, we'll put you in line for when we can get to it.” Reacting to what they experienced in 2008, companies didn't add equipment or staff to deal with this demand and overall didn't grow tremendously.
P&S PRO: What upcoming challenges should pool professionals prepare for in 2022?
When the market slows down, it will slow down considerably. There will also be a massive industry for remodeling and refurbishing pools that were not constructed well and will need rebuilding. Because the pool industry was one of the few that grew during the pandemic, many people saw it as an opportunity to get in, and these weren’t always quality additions. Clients will also want upgrades that they couldn’t get previously due to supply.
P&S PRO: As you look to pass the torch to the next generation of pool professionals, what advice do you have for excelling in this industry?
Through the Master Pools Guild, we started a group called Generation Next, which allows our younger members to get their questions answered. We also created a mentor program for younger builders. Our group is willing to let the second generation of one of the members go out and work with another builder to see how they work and learn different management styles. These builders are going to be the future.
I would recommend a builder join an industry organization—whether ours or others like PHTA—that focuses on member development and creates communication and education for its members.
It's been a great 25 years for me. There are so many wonderful people in this industry that I would encourage anyone who wants to be in a sector with terrific people and is family-oriented to look at the pool industry.