Finding Flow

Reece Jackson is all about flow. Flow dictates the design of every pool he builds. He practices flow as part of his business philosophy. And he admires flow in the work of architecture's greatest artists.

In short, flow seems to be the key to how Jackson has run his successful pool company, Austin Waterscape Design, since September 2001. With seven to 14 residential pools a year bringing in a gross revenue of $2.5 million, Jackson has struck the right balance between taking care of his clients, striving to challenge himself and everyone he works with, and overseeing every project his company takes on.

It all begins with the client, Jackson says. When Jackson meets with potential clients, he wants to know what they are looking for and what qualities in a pool they dislike. But he will spend only about 10 minutes of a two-hour conversation talking about the actual pool they want built.

"Every job starts with your interface with the client while you're doing the design," says Jackson, who did contract design work for two other companies before starting his own. "I'm sizing clients up, whether I want to work for them, and clients are sizing me up, if I'm the best contractor for them. Most of that hour or two is about me getting to know that person or that couple and spending quality time with them."

When Jackson walks away from that first appointment, he says, he has such a clear sense of his client's lifestyle and personality that he can clearly envision the perfect transformation of their backyard. And within 45 minutes he can draw the pool with just a pencil and that vision.

"Most of the time I hear something to the effect of 'I never had any clue you would draw something like this, but I love it,'" Jackson says.

This was the case last February when Jackson worked on David Wylie's backyard. Wylie says he had drawn a single-level, kidney-shaped pool with a 7-foot circular spa raised 12 inches with a spillway, a diving rock and a little waterfall. Once Jackson got involved, however, Wylie ended up with a 12-person spa with a negative edge on three sides, collection pools on each side, a fantastic waterfall, a stone deck with customcut stone and inlays and a 6- to 8-foot change in elevation from the upper deck to the bottom patio.

"Our spa is just unbelievable," Wylie says. "The view that we have of the spa is probably 100 percent better than what it would have been. Our backyard is now our showcase of the house."

Jackson, who says he was always artistically inclined as a child, approaches every project as a piece of art β€” and expects his clients to do the same.

"If [the clients] look at it as an art form, then they're going to be very pleased with the end product," Jackson says. "If they look at it as something to get wet in and a way to get the kids out of the house, then they're knocking on the wrong door."

This doesn't mean, however, that Jackson strives for the most elaborate, showy design.

"I like things to be seamless," Jackson says. "I like things to just flow. You can get fancy with a design and not convolute it and still have a nice flow to it."

A few months after Jackson started to work on Wylie's backyard, he and Wylie became business partners. Between the two of them, someone is always on the site of a project supervising every step of the way. They also charge the client to bring in the appropriate engineers – who they also supervise closely.

"Any time the [company] owner is there, things get done and they're better quality," says Jim Field, Jackson's very first client. "[Jackson] was very sensitive to making sure the job was done extremely well. I'm just very impressed with a man who has taken a vision β€” a dream I had in my head β€” and made it a reality in my backyard."

Jackson attributes this unusually high level of supervision to the fact that he never overwhelms his five-person company with too many jobs at one time.

"We don't take every customer," Jackson says. "We're very steady yearround with business, but we don't get overwhelmed. You'd start to have friction loss and your .ow starts to slow down. If you force too much water through a pipe, you lose too much efficiency. And that's what happens when you get greedy."

Wylie says approaching business this way allows the company to be more upscale.

"We don't build Chevrolets, we build Lexuses and Mercedes," Wylie says.

NEVER SATISFIED

Despite the accomplishments of the company, Jackson says success comes from constantly striving to challenge himself, his employees and his clients.

"Just because a client is happy with your pool and just because you sold the pool you didn't think you could sell and it turned out OK and you made some money, doesn't mean you're a good builder," Jackson says.

He suggests learning as much as possible about architecture, lighting and plants. He also recommends being able to talk to clients on their level, both about what you're going to be able to provide for them and about their lifestyle. Jackson himself says he seeks the expertise of his Genesis 3 Design Group mentors to help him strengthen these skills.

"These guys are at the top of the game," Jackson says. "Could I do my job without them. Sure. But with the things that I do pick up with them, it's probably sold four or five pools for me that I would probably not have been able to do before."

Jackson says Austin Waterscape Design recently opened a commercial division and soon hopes to start doing public water projects. In the end, it seems, it's about being the best at what he loves doing.

"I don't care if it's a 22-foot circle pool or a swim spa in a courtyard or a fountain in the front yard or it's a $2 million project for a billionaire," Jackson says. "It doesn't matter. When you love what you're doing and you're good at it, you always wake up with the mission of discovering what you can do today to improve your game to make you the best."

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