EXPERT INSIGHT BY CHUCK BAUMANN
Why communication is so important during the development and building of a luxury pool project
Let’s face it: developing a luxury project can be a bit intimidating for most homeowners. But, when every member of the team responsible for designing and building the planned space communicates not only with each other but also with the client, the process can be accomplished with as little stress as possible. With a large number of craftsmen and sub-contractors involved, projects can easily dissolve into a bundle of confusion. By taking the time, talking things through, and empowering everyone, however, complete success is guaranteed.
Most luxury projects have a number of professionals involved in their development: landscape architects, engineers, plumbing experts, and general contractors to name a few.
When I started my business in 1979, I quickly realized that an open dialogue was the only way to ensure that the project was finished on time and within the allotted budget. I learned along the way that straightforward communication is the key to creating a fabulous pool that not only looks good, but also runs well. Today, pool projects are more complex than ever: it is no longer the norm to install pool after pool from a template and then leave the rest of the backyard to chance. Now, every project is an all-inclusive concept that includes not only the pool, but other elements such as a pool house, outdoor room, outdoor kitchen, and in some cases, waterslides and lazy rivers. Homeowners want custom fireplaces, dining alcoves, and cozy spots for conversation. They also want the space fully landscaped and to have lighting installed for ambiance and safety. To complete a multifaceted project takes the talents of many people—and it takes one person to make sure it all happens without a hitch. In my opinion, that person must be the owner of your chosen design or construction firm.
It is critical that an owner maintains a close personal relationship with clients and team members—I am proof that this works because this type of business model has helped me grow and sustain my company through a number of ups and downs over the past 35 years. Clients should feel confident that the company’s owner will be there for them every step of the way and that he or she will communicate with them on a daily basis during construction. Personally, I give special instructions to both clients and team members that they can never deviate from the plans unless I give the direction to do so. That way, everyone stays on the same page and misunderstandings are kept to a minimum.
When I start a project, I make sure everyone on the team—from the lead architect to the person who is installing the landscaping—knows how the final outcome is envisioned. Egos have no place on a construction site. Everyone is a specialist, an artist if you will, in their own right, which means no one’s part on a project is too small or inconsequential. These projects are like a game of dominos: if even one person does not take their job seriously, then the other parts of the project will topple and fail. It is up to the leader to make sure that this does not happen.
Knowledge Is King
The homeowner should demand a constant flow of information as their job progresses. To take away some of the mystery, I believe in sharing the day’s events with the client. I think it is a good practice to shoot daily photos of the construction process and email them along with a description of what is going on in the images. That way, the homeowner understands why certain things are happening in the order they are happening. I also make it a habit of outlining what the client can expect on the next day. It takes a little time to stay organized, but it all works to create something special. I like to say we are making magic in a client’s backyard.
We all must take pride in what we do, and when a person recognizes that they are an important part of a project’s success, then they take ownership. I like to say the company owner’s energy and passion must be contagious—only then will everyone on the team exhibit the same excitement for a job that the owner does, and, thus, provide a platinum level of craftsmanship.
Another thing I noticed during the course of my career is that clients appreciate honest communication. By knowing that every member of the team working on their project takes pride in what they do, and that the owner gives personal assurance that the work being done is of the highest possible quality, the homeowner can relax and enjoy the process. Sure, the bar is elevated, but in the end the client wins and the pool industry wins. And, the key to making this happen: communication. I always say, ask me questions and I will give you my opinion. You may not agree with what I am saying, but at least it opens the channels for discussion, which may ultimately produce a better solution to a problem. Besides, the construction team and any outside contractors will appreciate that those in charge of the project are receptive to their suggestions, and that the owner values their skills, knowledge, and expertise. As the owner, I may be the leader, but that does not mean I know it all!
Photo courtesy of Creative Environments
Chuck Baumann is CEO of Creative Environments, a custom swimming pool design and construction firm that he started in 1979 in Alamo, California, Creative Environments is a member of the Golden Circle Club and Baumann has studied with Genesis 3, the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals, and SPEC. Additionally, Baumann has been a member of the Carecraft pool professional group for over 22 years and has served on its board of directors.