The Pool Pros Story
The Pool Pros story started back in the late 90's. It was the summer of 1997 and Mike Bowers founder and owner of Pool Pros was looking for a summer job to earn some money to pay for college in the fall. Mike was headed to NWTC in Green Bay for a degree in Police Science. Mike's goal at the time was to become a Police Officer. Little did he know that was all about to change.
That all changed quickly when a friend told him of a pool company that was hiring for the summer. Mike met with the owner of a local above-ground pool installation company and was hired on the spot. A few days later would be a pivotal point in his life.
THE DAY I BECAME A POOL GUY
I will never forget that day as long as I live. Coming from a background with very little construction experience I was excited and nervous to try something new. The morning of my first day we met at Tony's shop loaded up our gear for the day and headed out to the job site. We were packed 4 deep in a tiny Durango manual pickup truck that only had 2 seats and a small trailer with holding tanks on the back. Looking back it was less than safe but luckily no one ever got hurt. We were going to be replacing a pool liner on a 21' round Aqua Leader Concerto Above Ground Pool in Ashwaubenon. When we arrived at the house it was owned by an elderly couple that had their family over to watch the process. The yard and home was beautifully manicured and the pool was in great shape minus a few holes in the faded 10-year-old liner. I could feel the anticipation in the atmosphere. It was electric. I was so excited to learn and to get this job done quickly to keep the excitement of the family going. I had never been in a situation like that where something brought so much joy and anticipation to an entire family. I could feel the excitement in the air as the pool owner's grandchildren scurried around and were anxious for us to complete the liner installation so they could get in the pool and swim on that hot June day.
Just seeing the excitement on the kid's faces when we were done was worth the experience. The facelift that the new brightly colored liner gave the 10-year-old pool was amazing as well. The comradery of working with a crew of guys my own age under the watchful eye of a middle-aged "bossman" was something I missed since playing football in high school. It was fun and exciting to be part of something that got people that excited. I was hooked, and from that point on my life was forever changed. I was now a "Pool Guy". Its in my blood its who I am.
I had worked for Tony building above-ground pools for 2 seasons while still attending NWTC in the fall. I then moved on to work for a few other pool companies over the next few seasons and expanded my knowledge by working on and servicing inground pools and hot tubs. I took everything I learned from those experiences and developed my own set of best practices which turned into the Tundra Loc Above Ground Pool Installation Process. At that time I made the choice as a naive 23-year-old with no money, a rusty truck, and a bucket full of hand tools to strike out on my own. In January of 2003, I started Pool Pros.
One of the first projects I landed as Pool Pros was to replace a liner on a 28' Doughboy Above Ground Pool in Howard for Chris Hopp and his family. Little did I know how one project could change the course of my life. For this project, I was on my own and it was a tough one. I set up my holding tanks in the yard and started filling them so they would be ready when I need to fill the pool. After a short time, I noticed what sounded like squealing puppes. I didn't think much of it at first and just turned the radio up and kept working.
That sound grew louder and louder until a distant voice asked me if I wanted a burger. Turns out the daughter of the pool owner and her friends were upstairs in her room awaiting the pool repair to be finished so they could swim. They were kind enough to ask me if I would like a burger and I kindly declined. Later I was asked if I could use a "cool refreshment" by one of the girls. After a few exchanges one of the girls finally came down onto the pool deck and we began talking. She was very attractive but she was also the friend of the client's daughter so I kept it professional.
A few days later this young lady tracked down my company phone number and called me. After talking over the phone several times I finally asked her to see a movie. Flash forward almost 20 years and that squawky girl in the window is the mother of 4 beautiful children, 2 dogs, 25 chickens, and a small homestead not too far from where we met that fateful day. So not only has the pool industry given me the gift of making a living doing something that I love, but it also blessed me with a beautiful wife and a growing family.
TRIAL BY FIRE
While I had a solid grasp of installing pools, I had little experience running a business. Boy was that first year a learning experience. While working for my previous employers we were getting all of the "easy" projects because it was a well-known pool company. Since we were a startup and not widely known we had to take all of the projects we could get and for the first couple of years we dealt with some of the toughest installs, service projects, and renovations around. We earned my stripes those first few years. We were getting the scraps left over after the bigger companies cherry-picked the easiest projects. While it was miserable at times we wouldn't have it any other way. We learned more during those challenging projects than we ever could have getting all the gravy jobs. Being able to handle and excel at the toughest jobs helped Pool Pros earn its name and reputation as a company that could get the job done. Early on Pool Pros was a referral contractor for all of the pool stores in town. Believe it or not none of the pool stores in town did their own service or installation at the time. This is still true today.
After years of installing above-ground pools and servicing those pools along with vinyl and concrete in-ground pools, we began noticing most pool stores transition to selling lower-quality pools that were not easy to install and in my opinion would not last long. After a lot of lost sleep, we decided to take a big leap and stop working for all the pool stores and offer our own pools and equipment. We wanted to keep all of the projects we worked on under one house. This way if something did go wrong the client could come directly to us and the problem would be addressed. Prior to this, if a client experienced an issue it would be a battle between the pool store, the manufacturer, the installer, and the client to get something resolved. No pool owner wants to deal with that, nor should they have to. So with fingers crossed Pool Pros took what was a big step at that time and set off on our own completely independent from any Pool Store. We were now a one-stop shop for above-ground pools. As time moved on things really took off. We then started offering vinyl in-ground pools, hot tubs, and then fiberglass pools.
While they weren't big or pretty for that matter Pool Pros transitioned through several shop locations early on as we grew. Early on I worked out of my 2 stall garage in Allouez WI. Within weeks we knew this would not last long. We outgrew that very quickly and then moved into a lease with Square One Restoration on Bellevue St in Bellevue WI. We operated out of that location for a few years. Again we outgrew that building and had to lease another unit to keep up. In a quick fashion, we outgrew both of those units and moved to the location on Brookfield Dr in Howard where we found a large enough space and outdoor parking to accommodate all of our equipment. Pool Pros has been operating out of our location in Howard going on 13 years now.
Early on we were taking any pool projects we could get to stay busy. Since no one knew who we were we had to do anything and everything we could to keep moving forward. As time went on we slowly reduced our offerings to better focus on the quality of our core services. The phrase jack of all trades master of none couldn't be more true. So we scaled back our services to Above Ground Pools and Fiberglass Pools along with pool openings, closings, and service to those clients that we built pools for. Then the great product shortage of 2020 happened. We just could not get a steady supply of above-ground pools to be able to keep us busy installing them due to the shortages. This went on into the next season as well and we finally had enough. Since we could not let our clients know when pools would be available due to the short supply we simply shifted gears and adopted the HedgeHog Principle and have focused on one core product which is Fiberglass In-Ground Pools. We chose to solely focus on fiberglass pools and be the absolute best we can be at them. This shift has allowed us to scale up the number of pools we build by increasing our efficiencies. We do still offer pool equipment repair and openings and closings for all the pools we have built but only for our clients. We no longer service pools that we haven't built.
Over the years we have employed quite a few great people. We have been blessed over the years but right now as of my writing this I don't think we have had a better group of workers or better people working for us. Currently, our Team consists of Mike, Lysti, Tony, Brandon, and Sam. We are so happy to have them as part of our team and are excited to see how they develop as workers and people.
While it is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day struggle to keep a business running on all cylinders it is important to take time to reflect on how fortunate we are to do what we love, to live free in the greatest country in the world. God has truly blessed us. It's also a good time to reflect back on those times when we started out and no one said we could do it. No way in the world could a 23-year-old kid with a few hand tools and a rusty truck start and run a successful business, right!. Only 1 person had faith and believed we could do it. That was my mom. Without her support, none of this would be possible. So a big thank you to my mom for the support when everyone else said we couldn't do it. We are also thankful to all of the mentors and colleagues we have met along the way that have helped lead us in the right direction. A Special thank you to Don Handen Heuvel (RIP)who taught us how to service major pool equipment and the ins and outs of how to run a pool store. PoolWorks in De Pere for giving us a giant to chase, Eric King (Blue Hawaiian Fiberglass Pools) for sticking with us in those early years when we didn't sell many pools and the many years after when he was no longer our sales rep. He was always a phone call away and ready to help. Next would be Jason Hughes and the crew at River Pools. These guys set the standard for not only building pools but how a business should be run. There are countless others That I most surely forgot to mention but appreciate non the less. Lastly, we are thankful for all of our clients over the last 20 years that invited us into their yards and homes and trusted us with providing them the best service around. Without you, Pool Pros would be nothing. Although we may have lost touch over the years just know that we will always remember and appreciate each and every one of you.
2023 AND THE FUTURE
It has been a wild journey learning the ins and outs of being a business owner over the last 2 decades. In the beginning, as a naive 23-year old I never thought I would be building elaborate in-ground pools but here we are. It's funny where the world takes us. Now as an old worn-out pool builder I have a laser-like focus on what the future will hold for this constantly growing company. That focus is on one thing and that is fiberglass pools. Pool Pros is prepped and poised to be the largest fiberglass pool builder in Northeast WI. With expanded capacities to stage, prep, and load an entire season worth of fiberglass pool shells, a new design center, and an outdoor showroom coming soon. the future looks bright. When Quality Counts, Count on Pool Pros.