Norfolk may conjure up images of unspoilt beaches, sleepy seaside resorts and boats lazily navigating abundant water ways. With its proximity to London and the South East, there’s a thriving market for swimming pool companies… if they can keep up with the pace. While Norfolk is most famous for its man-made broads, the same kind of inspired thinking – backed by outstanding engineering – is changing the face of Norfolk’s swimming pool industry. We headed to the picturesque village of Roughton, some 20 miles north of Norwich to find out more. It’s the home of Swimtek, a family run business which has been in operation for more than 40 years, specialising in one-piece fibreglass pools and latterly timber kit pools. Robert Howells, who began with the company in the Eighties now leads the business. He greets us warmly before sharing his story. “When Swimtek first began, we specialised in the manufacture of swimming pools – shipping them all around the globe,” explains Rob. “But, as your readers will be aware, you can import them in from Australia far more cheaply – even with the freight costs. “That isn’t a great situation for a manufacturer. Fortunately, we were able to move into the installation side early on. But it certainly kept us busy…” At the company’s peak, Robert would typically drive 40,000 miles a year. Even travelling at 60 mph, that’s more than 27 days of solid driving… and he longed for more time with his family. When the market began to dip, finding business became more challenging. Luckily, he could rely on more general contracting work, thanks to his skills set.
However, Rob, who surfs in his spare time, knew his venture from pools would be brief. “It’s like a hobby for me,” he enthuses. “I love to help people find the best installation they can. However, I knew that if I went back there needed to be a better work-life balance.” Recognising that Swimtek needed a new approach if it was to be a success, Robert made the decision to focus its attention on the South East. He adds: “There are thousands of pools here and, using Google Earth, I was able to see them all. Mainly they’re concrete and aging, so there was certainly a market for refurbishments and plant rooms.”
While this helped him be closer to his family, Robert faced a new obstacle. “Refurbishment is a big market for us, but internet pricing was making it impossible to compete. “And, on top of this, we knew we needed to keep our overheads as low as possible. It was clear that something needed to change.” The company moved away from supplying parts – acting instead as a consultant and project manager on swimming pool projects, alongside service and maintenance. Working this way allows the company, Robert believes, to work with key suppliers to recommend the best solution for a customer’s specific needs. “By letting customers buy the parts they need directly from supplier, they’re getting the best price, while shrinking our overheads,” he says. “And, further to this, just as we recommend parts, we now recommend the best workforce to deliver it. Focusing now on timber build kits and flying the Niveko one-piece pools, when the project begins Robert liaises with all parties and is a regular face on site. As someone who has built thousands of pools, his expertise is relied upon for orchestrating tricky installations and complex pipework. Robert maintains a strong network of more than 4,000 trusted contacts and customers by getting to know them as individuals, adding: “There’s so much trust there that I’d go as far as to say I’d feel confident leaving my kids with them.” That trust appears to not just be shared, but well-placed. Swimtek says it has completed 60 pool projects in 2019 alone – astounding when you consider the size of the business.
Operating across Norfolk and East Anglia, Newson Swimming Pools specialises in all aspects of pool construction and maintenance from servicing and refurbishment, to the installation of pools, spas, saunas and steam rooms. The Norwich-based company offers an extensive range of products and services for both domestic and commercial clients. Founded by managing director Shaun in 1987, the company has grown significantly and it’s all to the thanks to help from family. Quite literally. Newson Pools’ showroom floor area, for example, has trebled in size since it first opened. While wife Maxine is the financial director, son Matt is a senior technician. Most recently, daughter Jess has joined the team. As the office manager, she oversees the business’ dedicated administration staff to ensure smooth day-to-day working. The company prides itself in delivering customers with the great service they deserve. Service manager Andrew Payne ensures that works are delivered to the highest standards. This year’s been a busy one for Newson Pools, with many projects completed. But, there’s little time for a break. With several projects already confirmed for 2020, there’s still much work to be done.
Established in 1977, Wensum Pools Ltd is an award-winning family run business based in South Raynham near Fakenham. Dedicated to giving customers their dream pool, every Wensum pool is completely bespoke: designed to the customer’s specifications. In addition, the company renovates pools to make them look brand new, as well as being more efficient and safer. Wensum Pools’ strong reputation providing outstanding standards of design, workmanship and customer service means that a high proportion of the business comes through customer referral. Wensum Pools is a proud dealer of Endless Pools; these unique pools offer all the benefits of traditional swimming pools but at a fraction of the space. Proud members of SPATA (Swimming Pool and Allied Trades Association) and BISHTA (British and Irish Hot Tub Association), Wensum covers all of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire. The Wensum Pools team have the expertise to take customers through everything: from the initial site survey and planning stage to the installation, construction and landscaping of the garden. A team of experienced and skilled in-house, service engineers means Wensum can offer anything from a one-off breakdown service to a regular pool maintenance service tailored to your needs. As our journey to Norfolk draws to a close, it’s clear that the inspired and innovative thinking and engineering which made the Broads possible, is still strong there today. By examining their customers and marketplace, they’ve transformed the customer experience. From new ways of working with customers and the environment to collaborating with industry contacts to deliver pools smartly and efficiently, these companies have gone above and beyond to ensure customers enjoy the best levels of service. And it’s thinking like that which helps a thriving market to grow.
Newson Swimming Pools
Tel. +44 (0)1603 417472
Tel. 07769 815311
Wensum Pools Ltd