Forget stilettoes, white handbags and Gemma Collins. The often-maligned county of Essex has much to offer – particularly if you’re in the swimming pool industry. We begin our tour, as we do on any trip in the South East: on the M25. But our stay there won’t last long. We soon arrive in in the town of Nazeing, the home of one of the South East’s longest established pool companies, Howard’s Hydrocare. The family-run business was formed in 1983 by father and son team Philip and Roy Howard. The experienced engineers set up the business when the industry was first emerging… and times were certainly very different.
“We started out by purchasing a warehouse in Nazeing, where we created a retail outlet with plenty of storage, recalls Roy. “But, as the business grew, it was clear we needed more space. “As part of a major refit 20 years ago, we purchased an additional warehouse for storing stock – allowing us to make the shop much bigger.”
Alongside its busy retail shop, the family-run business offers a wide range of swimming pool services. The company provides new build, maintenance or refurbishment for everything from hydrotherapy and school pools, private sector and municipal leisure complexes to the Royal Household. Howard’s Hydrocare’s expertise is extensive, covering full swimming pool design and installation, maintenance and chemical supplies to computer-controlled dosing equipment for domestic or commercial pools.
The company invests heavily in that engineering expertise. Roy explains: “We take pride in the quality of our workmanship. That is why our team is fully qualified and experienced to respond to your needs. “Over the years, we have completed many projects and understand the importance of working with clients to deliver what they want, as well as what they need. “For example, we’ve seen some big changes in plant room equipment in recent years. Rather than simply buy on price, people are really thinking about how their decision will impact the environment, as well as running costs. “We are seeing an increase in customers selecting eco-friendly products, such as inverter heat pumps, variable speed pumps and LED lights.
“Alongside this, customers are looking for user-friendly and easy-access technologies. Wi-Fi controlled plant does just that – giving them the possibility of controlling systems off-site.” To meet specialist needs like this, Howards works with a number of suppliers specialising in different project areas. “Partnerships like these allow us to keep continuity throughout builds, however, none of this would be possible without our great team, who have become that bit greater, thanks to completing our ISO-9002-2015 upgrade.”
After escaping the M25, our journey takes us down the A12, the trunk road to the sea. Our destination? Danbury: the home of National Pool Company, which is run by husband-and-wife team Craig and Sharon White. The business started in October 2012, with a few domestic and commercial clients. “Prior to this, Sharon and I had been working very hard within the industry and, when we were given the chance to start our own business within the pool industry, we didn’t hesitate to grab it.”
“Over the years, we’ve worked with companies and haven’t always agreed with their approach or customer service. He continues: “Everyone – no matter how much money they have – likes the nicer things in life. And we wanted to provide them with this service. “As the summers are getting warmer, more and more people are now realising they can get a pool for their budget.”
From its base in Essex, National Pool Company covers all of Essex and London. In addition, the business works alongside a pool company in the north of England – ensuring national coverage. Partnerships like these are not unusual, as Craig explains. “We are primarily a service and maintenance company. We do carry out pool refurbishments for those who want a change from their original design. “However, when it comes to building a pool, we pool our resources, by working alongside Gunton Swimming Pools, who are based in Maldon Essex. “Over the years, Jeremy, who runs things there, and I have become very good friends and work colleagues. We have carried out many projects together.
“Many of these are very high spec and having both companies involved is the best the customer can get.” While technology is always changing in the pool market, Craig has noticed big changes in terms of design. He explains: “Most pools are either a liner or tiled finish, with coping stones along the top edge of the pool then slabbed beyond to complete the surround. “Right now, the popular most modern look is natural stone on all surrounds -built right to the edge of pool. Being bull-nosed, it gives a smoother, softer finish, with modern straight lines. The most popular colour is grey, which is a very nice finish.” National Pool Company uses a range of suppliers across the UK to ensure they get the best products and prices for their clients.
“Our main supplier is SCP Pools, which is based in Basildon and Gatwick. We have a very good relationship with them and have used them for many years.” Other favoured suppliers include Certikin International, IPS, Flowsystems and Astral Pool, who are used on a daily basis. “We are not always the cheapest,” adds Craig, “however, we do our utmost to make sure our customers are getting the best deal.” It’s an ethos which is clearly paying dividends for National Pool Company. The company currently services more than 100 domestic pools. While some are solely for the summer season, many indoor pools are looked after all year long.
In addition, the company works on council swimming pools across the UK providing service and maintenance, as well as schools, hotels, spas and leisure centres. “In the seven years we have been trading, the company has grown beyond all expectations. And much of this is down to our team. Craig continues: “The team we have working for us now are the best we have ever had. With the support of our engineers and our office team, we fit in as many clients as we can each week. “Sharon and I manage refurbishment projects from start to finish and, when it comes to new installations, we have Gunton Swimming Pools working alongside us, with Sharon as project manager.” With so much knowledge and experience between them, there’s not much they don’t know about building, servicing or maintenance. As our tour of Essex winds to a close, it’s clear that – by listening to and working with your customers – great things can happen. At Howard’s Hydrocare, it’s an approach which has kept them in business for nearly 50 years. For younger businesses, such as National Pool Company, it can deliver the edge you need in a crowded market. That’s better still when you have expert partners on board to support your endeavours and share in your success.
National Pool Company