While the 2008 economic downturn brought a host of challenges to the pool industry, Justin Bowie used the time to his advantage.
Bowie established JMax Plumbing, a swimming pool plumbing and remodeling subcontractor in Tempe, Arizona, in 2010 after working for a number of years at another local pool plumbing company. There, he started as a laborer and worked his way up the ranks until he eventually became general manager. Bowie helped run the company before deciding to go out on his own during the recession.
“The company [I previously worked for] began to slow down, and we were struggling to reorganize to keep everyone busy,” Bowie says. “I knew I wanted to have my own company and the timing felt right, so I made the jump. I haven’t looked back since, and I still have a great relationship with the president of that company.”
Bowie describes JMax Plumbing as a relatively small company. The management team consists of him as president, while Chris Cheeks helps run the daily operations as general manager and Tony Acevedo oversees the company’s nine install crews as field supervisor. JMax Plumbing also has a service division that handles everything from small remodels to heavy repairs.
The company serves both the residential and commercial sectors. This work includes installing filtration systems, upgrading in-floor systems and main drain splitting. JMax Plumbing also repairs and upgrades customers’ existing pool equipment such as filters and pumps, as well as repairs leaks and conducts pressure testing.
No matter who the company is working for, Bowie says JMax Plumbing’s best customer service strategy is communication.
“Problems are unavoidable, and the variables we can encounter are endless, but we strive to make sure everyone has as much information about what’s going on as possible,” he says. “Bad news is better than no news.”
Bowie adds that his team isn’t afraid of tough jobs, either.
“Another [customer service] strategy is to never back down from a challenge,” he says. “We are great problem solvers and, given enough latitude from our builders, we can work through anything.”
To grow the next generation of pool plumbing professionals, Bowie and his team are creating a trade program called JMax Academy that will take plumbers from their current level of knowledge to the status of master plumber.
“It was valuable to take all the experience I have and create JMax Academy,” Bowie says, “since pool plumbing is such a specialized field with little to no education built around it.”
Swimming pool plumbing on new builds, pool equipment upgrades and service
Number of employees
Number of customers served each week
20 to 25 new pool construction plumbing jobs, 3 to 6 remodel plumbing jobs and 30 to 50 service calls
For Bowie, the best part of owning JMax Plumbing is figuring out complex plumbing jobs and executing them well, and he hopes to teach more people how to do so.
“We luckily get to see many super custom, high-end jobs due to relationships we have with some of the best pool builders, and we take part in making those projects come to life,” he says. “When we get to the finish line on a big and complicated build, I really like to see all the plumbing we installed work how we intended.”
Ultimately, as a self-made businessman, Bowie holds onto humble roots and doesn’t readily sing his own praises. But Greg Villafana, co-founder of Pool Chasers Podcast who is assisting JMax with marketing, will do it for him.
“Justin has more grit than anybody I know,” Villafana says. “After many years of hard work and sacrifice, he has adopted the philosophy of ‘work hard, play hard.’ ” Villafana says Justin is a master of his trade — and is also to thank for making his colleagues look good. “Justin is humble and would not normally discuss [the success of his business],” Villafana says, “but so many people in the industry look up to him in so many ways.”