Case Studies

Burton Pools & Spas: Swimming in Respect, Courtesy, Professionalism and Quality

  • Written by: Burton Pools & Spas: Swimming in Respect, Courtesy, Professionalism and Quality
  • Produced by: Burton Pools & Spas: Swimming in Respect, Courtesy, Professionalism and Quality
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The mission of Burton Pools & Spas (BP&S) is to “create beautiful environments that bring families together.” Its unofficial slogan, which captures the company’s enthusiasm for its mission, is more like “The highest-quality pools for everyone!” David Burton, co-founder and CEO of BP&S, has had 34 years of success by adhering to that mission and specializing in providing premier pools, hot tubs and outdoor recreation equipment for folks with moderate budgets in western Arkansas, eastern Oklahoma, southwest Missouri, and everywhere in between.

Most of the work takes place in northwest Arkansas within a 150-mile radius, which includes a fair amount of commercial work in Little Rock, as well as plenty of across-state-lines work in Missouri and Oklahoma. “We have a market in the Fort Smith area that serves 250,000, and we have a market in northwest Arkansas of 350,000 to 400,000,” states Burton.

Burton and his brother (now deceased) founded the business in 1978 in Fort Smith, Ark., on a shoestring budget, working out of their parents’ home. Burton was only 22, his brother 25 – ages when sheer belief in an idea combined with hard work can make almost anything happen.

And happen it did. From its unassuming origins as a four-person team in 1978, BP&S is now an established name and is a three-time recipient of recognition from Pool & Spa News Magazine as one of the top 50 pool construction companies in the U.S.

From 1978 to 1980 the two brothers constructed in-ground pools. By 1980 they had generated enough success to move into a small retail store from which they also branched out to selling aboveground pools, spas and chemicals.

Middle Ground

“There was no place back then for people to even find things like that,” shares Burton. “Swimming pools were for the rich and famous. We brought swimming pools to middle-income people.” The brothers had realized there wasn’t anyone selling pools to regular folk. They also realized they could make the numbers work for the average family and started tapping into that segment.

Once it found its niche, BP&S couldn’t be stopped. The company grew so much that by 1981 it had to move into a new store. The company kept diversifying and expanding, and had to move again in 1987. From a crew of four, BP&S has come to need anywhere from 50 to 75 employees, depending on the season; the company operates two showrooms; and it generates $10 million to $15 million in annual revenue. The National Spa and Pool Association, as well as several other organizations and industry leaders, have recognized the company’s work in crafting backyard resorts.

Go With the Flow

While BP&S still serves the middle class, the company has reached out to higher-end clients as well with water feature designs and additions such as patio furniture and landscaping. “We do swimming pools, hot tubs, service team, retail, sport courts, barbecues, outdoor kitchens and patio furniture,” lays out Burton.

“The market has matured, and what has happened with the economy is that the middle-income person is getting squeezed out of the market,” continues Burton. “There’s a bigger market for high-income customers. So we do more custom projects and more high-end projects. But we still build a pool that’s affordable to anybody. We do pools that are half-a-million dollars, and we do pools that are $20,000.”

The company now carries the finest name brands – Hot Springs, Doughboy, Viking – alongside more affordable equipment to serve a broad range of clients. Burton says that while he is still devoted to his original mission of providing affordable pools, he had to branch out to commercial work and extras to keep up with the economy and keep the business alive.

“We’ve done quite a few large-scale luxury projects – not just the pools but we do the landscaping, the cabanas, the lighting, the fencing,” shares Burton. “If a customer can get one person to do everything, they like to do that.” The new work has established BP&S in glamorous territory, and 13 of its pools have won international design awards.

Your Source for Backyard Fun

Whether working in the upscale or affordable markets, BP&S prides itself on exemplary customer service and proudly sports an A+ Better Business Bureau rating. To that end, BP&S keeps much of what the company does in-house, including its excavation and service teams, to assure customers get the quality they’re expecting. “We have one company to create and design pools, that’s our concrete arm; our construction company is Burton Construction; and our retail arm is Burton Pools & Spas, but most people know us for all that as Burton Pools & Spas,” explains Burton, discussing the company’s divisions.

In those rare instances the company needs to augment its capabilities, BP&S draws from a small roster of trusted strategic partners. “We really only sub out specifics, some concrete and plumbing work as needed,” explains Burton.

From its years in the business, BP&S has relationships with a set network of reliable subs and rarely has challenges on the build side of things. Most of BP&S’s challenges have come from the economy and Mother Nature. Burton cites the current financing situation and the water shortage crisis in 1989 as two of his biggest hurdles. Burton responded to the water crisis by buying a store in northwest Arkansas, in Springdale, to increase his customer base. The banking and lending situation is still a burr to BP&S, as it is for many businesses, however. “A lot of financing has dried up,” laments Burton.

When the going gets tough, the smart diversify. Burton may think a lot about water, but his feet are firmly planted on solid ground, and he is positioning BP&S for continued success in a shifting marketplace. “What’s happening in our industry … because of the maturity of the pool business, we’ve been able to see that there’s a market for refurbishing,” says Burton. “So, now we’re refurbishing pools and trying to do that more.”

Based on its decades of success in installing outdoors oases and providing solid advice, Burton Pools & Spas will not only “try to do that more,” but will also do it better, and ride yet another much-earned crest of success.

Published on: March 6, 2013

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