Photography by Thao Nguyen
Hal Denbar, 36, President
Nathan White, 37, Repair manager and company integrator
Last year, INC magazine named Patriot Pool & Spa the fastest growing pool-industry company in the country. Based in Austin, Texas, it services nearly 800 pools a week and has more than 35 employees. Hal Denbar founded Patriot in 2006; he says the company had a growth spurt in 2014 and has been averaging five to 10 new employees annually since then.
But from the outset, Denbar says he struggled with the idea of bringing on outside help. “The hardest time in the history of Patriot to me was the addition of the first employee,” Denbar says. “Everything about that mentally and emotionally was harder than anything I’ve encountered. I struggled with the idea that Patriot was me and I was Patriot. Once I was attaching somebody else’s identity to that, [at first] I wasn’t handling it well.”
After some not-so-gentle coaxing from his wife, Denbar hired Nathan White in 2014, Denbar says it’s one of the best decisions he has made: “Nathan has been instrumental in the growth and success of Patriot,” Denbar says. “Without him, we would not be where we are today.”
White spent time in the pool industry before Patriot but grew to dislike it, walking away and vowing never to return. After a stint planting trees for a nonprofit, White put his resume out there. Four pool companies, including Patriot, offered him jobs.
Despite swearing off the pool industry, White met Denbar for lunch to discuss the opportunity. White was quickly won over, however, by Denbar’s approach: “This dude’s doing everything that I would do if I wanted to start a pool company here in Austin,” White recalls thinking.
Nevertheless, White initially declined the offer — but after discussing it with his wife, accepted. Since then, “It’s nonstop trying to do it cooler, trying to do it better,” he says. “And we always do.”
One of those ‘cooler’ ideas: Soon the company will be beta testing pest-control services. Denbar and White are continually brainstorming new ways to grow the company. “We’ve gotten really good at the operational playbook of professional service, and we have all these customers that love us and trust us,” Denbar says. “I think we can successfully find other ways to serve them.”