Covid may be largely behind us, but enhanced outdoor living spaces are still in demand. In the sunshine state, for example, one news channel has gone so far as to announce a “pool pandemic.”
But there’s a caveat. Two related labor trends — The Great Resignation and so-called “quiet quitting” — have disproportionately affected the construction business. Many poolmakers are having a hard time keeping up with demand; just getting a custom pool designed can now take months, or longer.
According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are close to 500,000 openings in the construction business, up from the industry’s previous high of 438,000 recorded during the early months of the pandemic. Moreover, the Associated Builders and Contractors calculates that one in every five construction workers are at least 55 years old — just six years from the average retirement age. Experts say that the labor shortage will soon be exacerbated by the millions of new workers who will be needed to execute on the federal infrastructure law recently signed by President Biden.
Developers and builders are scrambling to hire and retain workers, but one builder is plowing ahead, in part by focusing on employee retention as well as growth. Bellareed is a vertically-integrated luxury pool design and building company currently operating in Atlanta and Nashville, and will soon enter Texas — three of the hottest markets in the country.
Bellareed, which was founded during the early days of the pandemic, has held annual company trips and barbecues for employees and their families since day one. As a result, the company itself has felt like family for many. “This is the best place I have ever had the pleasure to work,” according to Bernie Barac, the company’s director of digital production. “I’m literally grateful every day for the opportunities being here has given myself and my kids.”
“To me, it’s beyond the company picnic days or the weekend retreat,” observes Rita Botner, Bellareed’s permitting manager. “It’s the feel of being part of a big family. It’s the fun, laughter, and ease of communication between peers — not to mention the open-door policy to Eddie’s office — whether it’s a job problem that needs to be solved or a need for advice on a personal matter.”
The “Eddie” Botner refers to is Eddie Karr, Bellareed’s founder. Competitors know Karr as a triple threat: a serial entrepreneur, public speaker, and sales coach. Although he has owned multiple businesses, Karr says what motivates him is not the money. Rather, it’s being the most reliable company in whatever industry he pursues. Now, with Bellareed, he’s become a disruptor of the luxury pool industry.
“We’ve accomplished more than other builders in just two years,” Karr observes. “It’s been a team effort to deliver on time and on budget, as well as design and build the luxury pool of our clients’ dreams, all while taking care of one another every day. We’ve benefited from a clear vision.”
One of Karr’s priorities has been ensuring that every worker benefits from the company’s drive and successes—a mentality that one is more likely to find at a tech startup or a giant, established company.
“The one thing I love about Bellareed is that we have the mentality of a Fortune 500 Company, but with the feel of a ‘mom-and-pop’,” says Steven Rossy, Bellareed’s senior outdoor specialist. “We have a business model that is disrupting the pool industry and which looks outside the box to make the changes that need to be made to be successful. Because of that, we haven’t forgotten our roots.”
Bellareed’s inclusive philosophy extends all the way from the finished product, where Rossy says employees sit “knee-to-knee” with clients as they design and build their dream pools, to the farthest corners of its logistics centers.
“What I enjoy most about Bellareed are the people, the friendliness of everyone, and that, at the end of the day, we all have the same goal to get the job done,” says Ricky Blitzer, Bellareed’s warehouse manager. Since Bellareed does everything in-house, he says that everyone on their team is considered a vital part of the process, even otherwise invisible warehouse workers. The result has been delivering pools in weeks rather than months, setting a new standard for the industry.
Karr says that Bellareed’s customers often cannot believe a pool company can deliver so much so fast, especially a newcomer. But despite being only two years old, Bellareed’s management has more than three decades of experience in the industry. That experience has come in handy recently, as has Karr’s competitive background.
“When you’re an entrepreneur,” Karr says, “you realize immediately that people make or break the company. In the construction industry, that’s doubly true these days.”
About the Author: James D Scurlock is a non-fiction author and filmmaker. His latest book, Welcome to the Investing Class, A Tale of Markets, Mayhem, Misdirection, and Murder, will be released by Potomac Press next spring.