Longserving employee Lenny Maffei retires from Poolcorp
Lenny Maffei, one of Poolcorp’s first-ever hires and a major contributor to its staying power, retired March 1. Since Maffei joined the company, it has grown to over 400 branches nationwide.
Maffei credits his drive and focus to his faith in God and his family, who have given his hard work a purpose. “I call it an American success story,” says Maffei, adding that he remembers when there were only three branches and the company was still private. “I’m so blessed and proud to be a part of it.”
In 1984, he started working in the counter sales department of Poolcorp, then called South Central Pool Supply, after receiving a call about a job opening from longtime friend Nelfie Alfonso, who is still with the company. “I didn’t know what a skimmer was from a pool pump,” he says. “I learned from day one — asking questions, trying to help customers.”
After interviewing with founder Frank St. Romain, Maffei started working at the same branch as Alfonso in Metairie, Louisiana.
St. Romain had a knack for finding great people. “Frank used to hire people, not locations,” explains Maffei. “If you lived in Texas and you were good, he’d say ‘OK, well, I can open a branch in Texas because I have a good person to run the branch.’ ”
Shortly after his first position in Metairie, in 1988 Maffei was relocated to Poolcorp’s first Texas branch to be operations manager. It wasn’t long before Poolcorp was opening one to two branches a year, taking Maffei from Houston to the new Nashville store in 1990, where he worked as branch manager.
“I remember a dinner with St. Romain,” Maffei says. “The Nashville branch lost $85,000 the year before I got there, and he handed me the profit-and-loss statement written in red, circled the negative 85K loss and said, ‘Never again.’ The next year, 1991, we turned that into a quarter-million profit.”
That accomplishment set the tone for Maffei’s career. Over the next 10 years, he relocated several times to help run new Poolcorp branches. In 1994, he worked in Ft. Worth, Texas, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, as branch manager and zone manager. In 1996, he moved to Las Vegas to serve as branch manager after Poolcorp bought a swimming pool product wholesale company called Allied. Under Maffei’s management, the Vegas branch’s sales doubled in two years, earning him Employee of the Year as well as Branch of the Year, and a promotion to regional manager in 2002.
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With that promotion, once again Maffei relocated. Moving to San Diego over 4th of July weekend in 2002, he ran one of the Southern California regions for the next 10 years before shifting gears once again. This time, he went from managing people to products, working with vice president and chief marketing officer Donna Williams and national sales director Scott Tanner in the building materials group.
“The great thing about Lenny was that anytime anyone in the company was looking for anything — particularly a product or vendor we did not carry — Lenny was the go-to guy for the entire company,” Tanner says.
His colleagues say Maffei knew every aspect of the business, not just the parts of it where he most often worked. Maffei made a point to build relationships with employees and customers, believing that serving customers better than competitors would always result in greater success.
“Lenny is the epitome of not only a team player but also someone who truly loves Poolcorp,” Tanner says. “He was a tremendous asset to the organization.”
Williams says she considered it a privilege to work with someone who had so many years of experience. She says Maffei moved through many roles — over a dozen through the years — always adding to his vast knowledge. “Lenny truly cared about the company,” she says. “He believed in one-on-one contact and doing whatever it took to take care of [the customers]. He did it over and over again in any role he was in.”
Over the last year, Maffei has helped the company transition in preparation for his retirement, with different teams absorbing each aspect of his role. Maffei says he believes a company’s reputation is staked on the success and wealth of its employees. He’s especially proud to have gone from two branches to a public company, then becoming an S&P 500 company.
And he credits St. Romain, who Maffei says was like a “business father” to him, with much of his success, as well as wonderful employees. “That’s the biggest fun thing for me,” Maffei says. “They’re still with the company, still being effective.” Despite his retirement, Maffei plans to remain involved in the industry, and also travel, train his dog, spend time with his grandkids and maybe start another business. He’s on the board of the APSP San Diego chapter, a position he will continue to hold, he says, because he loves the industry. “The local guys and gals around here gave me a really great send-off,” he says. “The company has been phenomenal with all of the transition. You feel like you ended a career but are at the beginning of a new journey.”