Beneath The Surface

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Jon Temple, right, with Shane Geiger, left, leads by example.

Through word of mouth alone, Tempool, a pool plastering company in Jacksonville, Fla., will have enough business to stay busy for at least the next 20 years.

And it's not just because of the incredible rate at which the housing market is currently growing in the area. Tempool owner Jon Temple has reformed and refined the image of the pool finisher, while ensuring that both his employees and those who hire him are completely satisfied.

"People look for quality, especially in this day and age," Temple says. "They look for people they can count on. People know they can count on us."

Tempool has plastered more than 20,000 swimming pools since its inception in 1996. The company uses an aggregate pebble-type finish for durability, stain resistance, warranty and appearance, according to the Tempool Web site.

With 48 employees, the company also trains other finishers from around the world, including Spain and Saudi Arabia. Temple teaches them how to use the equipment, to master the craftsmanship, to maintain proper water chemistry and how to market themselves in the industry. Temple also estimates his company is responsible for 95 percent of the pool plastering business in the Jacksonville area.

"Jon basically just took the trade, turned it up a notch and blew everyone away," says Shane Geiger, who has worked for Tempool for 10 years. "It almost seemed kind of easy to dominate the trade."

Temple, who worked for another plastering company before starting his own, attributes his success first and foremost to customer service. Tempool places itself at the service of pool builders and homeowners and never hesitates to respond to a call, Temple says.

"No matter how wrong the customer is, they're always right. If they need something, we do it. If they say this is how they need it done, we do it," Temple says. "That's what really separates us from everyone else."

It's not just the immediate response that impresses pool builders, but the thoroughness of the work, says Eric Clift, co-owner of the Jacksonville-based Clift & Company Pools & Spas, which has hired Tempool for more than 500 jobs.

"It's the way he handles getting us taken care of and the quality of the work," Clift says to explain Temple's success. "With a problem, he takes care of it, instead of just putting a Band-Aid on it."

Most of the problems the company encounters have little to do with craftsmanship, Temple says. Instead, 90 percent of the warranty issues have to do with stains. Temple and his employees have spent a significant amount of time learning about stains and how to mitigate them. On rainy days, Temple will bring in 10 to 15 service people and pool builders in the area to teach them about water chemistry and how to remove stains if they should become a problem.

Temple is so dedicated to education and advancing the profession that the National Plasterers Council elected him to its board of directors.

For those who want to learn from his success, Temple emphasizes the importance of being accountable for all projects the business undertakes. "Things will always go astray," Temple says. "You can never do something perfect. If you do something wrong, be accountable and fix it. One unhappy homeowner can turn into 50, and it can spread."

When a company does good work, however, that can spread, too. The closest thing to advertising Tempool has is business cards Temple's wife made for him two years ago, along with the phone number on the side of the trucks. The bulk of the business comes strictly from referrals.


Temple seems to have focused the same work ethic and leadership skills he uses to motivate and inspire his employees (he leads by example; Temple gets in a pool and handles a trowel every day) to lift the reputation and image of the profession. According to Geiger, Temple has reshaped the reputation of the pool finisher, making it sophisticated, professional and fun. Temple says he has consciously tried to change the image of the job itself.

"My biggest challenge is taking construction workers and turning this not just into a job, but more a profession," Temple says. Doing that involves getting input from everyone — the top guys and the bottom guys — when working on a big project or trying to solve a problem.

"I have a good vision of where the company should be, but that's my point of view and sometimes my point of view isn't 100 percent the best one," Temple says.

Those in the field say they appreciate the hard-working, pleasant and cooperative attitude of Tempool employees.

"They're friendly, they're nice and they're courteous. They take pride in what they do. Customers love them," says Heather Clift, co-owner of Clift & Company Pools & Spas. "We'd definitely be a long way away at our company without him."

Part of the Tempool image is the re.ection of self-pride, a trait Temple says is important for anyone looking to be in the business.

"When you carry self pride, everyone'll respect you more and you'll be on a more even playing field," Temple says. "You look better. The project ends up better." That's one reason that all employees who have been on the job six months or longer get a Tempool uniform: khaki work pants and a tan, buttoned shirt with the employee's name embroidered over one pocket and an American-flag patch over the other. Temple says the uniform boosts employee morale in addition to building a professional image.


Temple defines success as self-fulfillment and happiness, and his happiness is contingent on ensuring that his employees prosper, Temple says. By that measure, Temple must be pretty happy, as all of the original employee who started at Tempool a decade ago are still there and are partners in the company. His appreciation of his employees extends to even the way he refers to them — he is uncomfortable calling them "employees" and prefers to say, "the people I work with."

"He takes care of all of us," Geiger says. "You've got to do that these days to keep people around."

In the years to come, Temple says he'd like to do more international work and become more of a high-end specialty-product company. But his constant goal is to provide a stable workplace and benefits for those he hires.

"The thing I'm most proud of about my company are the people I work with," Temple says. "It's an accomplishment for me to see those people grow like they are."

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