A Wise Succession Decision

Cailley Hammel Headshot
photo of Jonathan Carroll and Charles Wise of Wise Pools

For Merry and Charles Wise, it was a pool build like many others. The duo behind Wise Pools in The Woodlands, Texas, have been in the industry for decades, and building a pool has become second nature — by their estimation, there are more than 1,200 Wise pools in existence. However, what began as a typical pool build wouldn’t end that way.

“Charles came and built my pool,” says Bob Carroll, the client on this particular project. “And he’s only a few miles from me, so he stopped by a lot, and we became friends over time. I knew his business, and one day I just asked him, ‘Since your children are not interested, what is your long-term plan?’

That must have started the wheels turning, because two days later the Wises approached Carroll and said, “We’d really like to talk.”

After some discussion, it was decided: Bob Carroll would purchase Wise pools for his son, Jonathan Carroll, to run and operate.

“Some Customers are Special”

Most small business owners are protective of their company, and rightfully so after the countless hours and dollars invested. While Merry and Charles have built Wise Pools from the ground up, they’re not at all worried about leaving the business to the Carrolls.

“When Charles was building Bob’s pool, he would come home every day and say, ‘You’ve got to meet these people. They’re great, and I just love working with them.’” Merry says. “And of course Charles is such a good person that he gets along with everybody, but some customers are special, and the Carrolls were right from the get-go.”

photo of Charles Wise and Jonathan Carroll of Wise Pools
Charles Wise, right, will mentor Jonathan Carroll, left, for two years before fully leaving the company.

Bob Carroll, who had been searching for a business to purchase for his son, didn’t expect he’d land on a pool building company. But as a man who has made a career in business, he knows something special when he sees it.

“The key to buying a business is to find a good business,” he says. “I’ve been in business a long time. I have never, ever seen anybody who loves what they do as much as Charles. He lives and breathes pools,” he adds.

The Fine Print

While the Wises were interested in a deal with the Carrolls, they did have their concerns, namely, design work already contracted with Charles and the procedure for passing off the retail portion of the business. The resolution: Charles would stay on for two years, advising Jonathan and showing him the ropes.

Of course, it was still all talk up to this point. Lawyers would be needed to examine the deal from all angles and provide hefty piles of papers to sign.

photo of Jonathan Carroll of Wise Pools
While the Wises have set the bar high, Carroll hopes to continue their legacy of stellar customer service.

“One hundred years ago, Charles and I would have shaken hands and filled out just a couple papers and that’d be it. But you can’t function like that anymore,” Bob says.

Throughout this period of legal documentation and final negotiation, a solid foundation of mutual respect kept the process positive and moving forward.

Another issue in the transition: current employees. The Wises have a handful of staff on the payroll responsible for everything from retail to building, and no one knew how they would react to their new boss. Luckily, the news was taken well.

“The staff has had no objection or problem with everything that’s happened at all. It just flowed,” Charles says.

“They accepted the whole thing, and you know, they’re all a lot older than Jonathan, but they’ve been able to accept him just great,” Merry says.

“That speaks to Jonathan’s confidence. He’s a confident person,” Charles adds.

While the Wises will eventually step away from the company, their name will remain.

“It’s not a fancy name — it’s his last name on the business, and it’s important to me to continue that legacy,” Jonathan says.

A New Start

Jonathan Carroll is 24 years old. The new president of Wise Pools as of May 2013, he’s the first to admit he has a lot to learn about the art of building pools.

“I knew nothing coming in. I was as green as you could be,” he says. To ease him into the business, the Wises started off by bringing Jonathan out for consultations. Now, he’s the first to grab the phone and goes out for appointments solo. When a potential client is interested in a design, he or she explains the vision to Jonathan, who then talks it over with Charles.

“It works where I take all that load off of him. He doesn’t have to worry about going out and doing that, he doesn’t have to worry about paying the bills,” Jonathan says. “And people are learning that I’m the point of contact. If you have problems, anything that’s going on with subcontractors or anything like that, they need to talk to me. We’ll get it figured out.”

At the PSP Expo in Las Vegas, Jonathan completed the three-day Genesis 3 training for basic pool construction.

“I learn something new probably every hour, not just every day,” he says with a laugh.

Now that he has some training under his belt, Jonathan is excited to put it to practice with Charles and carry on the Wise tradition.

“It’s my goal to not only have the same quality of service he had, but to even try and exceed it,” Jonathan says. “I want to get to that level of ‘this is the product, this is how they deliver it, there’s no compromises, there’s no cutting corners, and they over deliver on what we’re expecting.’ That’s what I want to do.”

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

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