Pool Builder Leverages Pool-Design And Web-Conferencing Software In Sales Pitches

photo of finished pool project based on computer design
Today's computer-generated renderings bridge the gap between the artist's vision and the client's ability to visualize it.(photo courtesy Mary Vail, OSG Publicist for Paragon Pools)
rendering of pool project

Joe Vassallo, owner of Paragon Pools in Las Vegas, has been building pools long enough to remember designing pools on old CAD programs. In fact, he remembers further back than that.

"I remember when we drew these things by hand with basically a compass, some templates, a mechanical pencil and a T-square on a drafting board," he recalls.

This method produced beautiful renderings, Vassallo's signature rockwork drawn in around the pools and spas he'd created to cater to his customers' specifications. Like designers everywhere, he'd show these designs to clients with a mixture of pride and apprehension.

"I'd do the design, show it to the customer and he'd say, 'Wow! I really like it. But can you move it back three feet?'

"So now you have to redraw the whole thing again."

The early AutoCAD programs solved this problem, allowing him to easily move pieces of the puzzle around to accommodate both broad and fine-detail design changes. The program was long on functionality, allowing him to create libraries and tweak designs easily, but short on the artistry he'd grown accustomed to presenting to clients with his hand-drawn work.

"Then I got into the Structure Studios software, where you had this three-dimensional aspect," he says. "We call it a virtual tour, where people can walk around the pool, go inside the house and see what it looks like through a certain window. You can see exactly what the pool is going to look like before we stick a shovel into the ground.

"What an incredible asset that is."

Leaving Las Vegas

While the software had eliminated the gap between the artist's imagination and the client's ability to visualize it, Vassallo still found himself with a hurdle to clear when dealing with a busy customer who'd contacted him about building a pool in his new desert backyard.

"We had a building boom going on here, and a lot of people were coming from out of state," he says. "One of my customers came here for the weekend, went around looking for a home, found one, then met with us wanting to see some designs before leaving the next day."

Now, pool design software is a timesaver, and it allows for a quick turnaround after initial conceptual decisions are made, but 24 hours simply wasn't long enough to put something worthwhile together. He needed more time.

Knowing the couple wasn't returning for another three months — too long to let a hot lead cool — Vassallo signed up for a service called GoToMeeting, which allowed him to present the computer renderings on the clients' home computer via a secure Internet connection. And just like that, Vassallo had stumbled into the future.

"It was just like we had them in the office," Vassallo says. "They were looking at a computer, seeing what we were showing them, and we were able to talk to them on a speakerphone.

photo of finished pool project based on computer design
Paragon’s Joe Vassallo took a daytime shot of the same project pictured on the opener. Both show how closely the final project matches the design.(photo courtesy Mary Vail, OSG Publicist for Paragon Pools)

"We walked them right through the design as if I were sitting next to them, then we went though all the pricing and specifications and so on."

The initial experiment worked so well, he used it to present plans to other out-of-town and out-of-state homeowners when an idea struck him: Why not do the same thing to customers living in Las Vegas?

"We'd have a customer on the other side of town, maybe 30 minutes or an hour away, and they'd come to us for an initial meeting," Vassallo says. "Then we'd tell them, 'Hey, rather than having to drive across town again, I'll just give you a call, get you on the computer and we'll go through everything. Save you a drive.' It's pretty neat. You can even acknowledge the acceptance of a contract right on the computer."

While on the conference call, Vassallo can take customers on a virtual tour of the property, just like he can on a traditional in-office visit.

Maybe the homeowner wants to see what the view out of the dining room window will be. Couple of clicks and it's done. Or perhaps they'd like to "walk" around the perimeter of the pool. Also easy.

"Maybe they're wondering, Gee, if I'm sitting in the kitchen, will I be able to see that waterfall? You can do that," he says. "You can put them into the kitchen and show them just what they're going to be able to see."

In the end, however, the software and 21st Century connectivity are merely tools; they can't take a dull-witted designer and turn him into a backyard artiste any more than a fancy set of colored pencils and paper can.

"If you design the right product, it doesn't matter if the client is in front of you or not."

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail [email protected].

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