Entrepreneurial Spirit

Phoenix pool builder Tim Murphy has adapted to dramatic market changes

Photos by: Thomas Weinstein

When Tim Murphy started his pool company in 1991, Maricopa County — which includes the Phoenix metro area — issued 8,000 pool permits. Presidential Pools and Spas at one time had 350 employees, 10 dump trucks and almost as many shotcrete rigs for its in-house crews. It built 2,200 pools in 2006 — 10 percent of the Maricopa county market, which issued 22,000 permits that year.

Over a five-year span, permits dropped from 22,000 to 3,800 — almost an 83 percent decrease. That significant drop precipitated major changes in Murphy’s business.

“It was pretty sad,” Murphy says. “We went down to 80 employees, and we cut all of our in-house crews. We got rid of everything, sold all our equipment to our subcontractors. Then we went from 10 percent market share to about 15 percent market share because pool builders were dropping like crazy…. So we just kept working hard.”

Murphy made changes in his business to increase efficiency and visibility. New scheduling software, ProEdge from Zodiac, meant it no longer needed project coordinators in the office. Murphy also decided he wanted Presidential to be a household name in the Phoenix area, so since 2013 he’s allocated $500,000 a year for advertising, which includes several radio spots, a high-production TV commercial, website improvements and an SEO company.

In 2010 and 2011, Murphy says he had to compete with so many other pool builders in his area that he knew Presidential needed different products. So Murphy became a manufacturer, investing
millions to develop an in-floor automatic cleaning system (Blue Square Manufacturing) as well as a glass-bead pebble-interior finish (Pebble Radiance). Those products are offered standard to Presidential Pool customers and are sold to other builders worldwide.

In addition, Presidential Pools purchased two L.A. Spas factory stores when the company was sold to MAAX at the end of 2014, giving Presidential a presence in Las Vegas (where it does retail sales only) and expanding its territory in Tucson, Ariz.

Almost “overnight,” Murphy says, Presidential went from selling 250 spas a year to over 600 in 2015. That’s a lot of change and upheaval in just a few years, but Murphy says that’s what makes Presidential special.

“We’re able to change for the times,” Murphy says. “We put processes in place and are willing to take a chance. That entrepreneurial-type vision is what we’re about.”

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