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Southlake Style

Built on Quality, Destined for Success

Jun 04, 2015 02:09PM ● By Dia

By Gina Tagliarino

The American dream is alive and well in Southlake. Just take a look at Claffey Pools, the brand behind backyard transformations throughout North Texas, and you’ll see why. Recognized as the fifth largest pool company in the country, Claffey Pools may sound familiar to you for a variety of reasons. For more than 25 years, the family-owned business has served Southlake and beyond as the go-to experts for not only pools but the entire outdoor living experience—from functional patio kitchens to elaborate water features. But behind this success story is a family who worked hard to make it happen, and who continues to build on their father’s original motto, “Quality is our commitment to you,” in everything they do.

Family Affair

  Shelly Claffey was only in 8th grade when her uncle Bobby returned to their home in Wisconsin with a plan. He was moving to Texas and believed there was great opportunity there as well for Shelly’s father, Paul, who was a fellow stonemason. “That was a brave move for my dad,” Shelly recalls. “He did everything he could for work at the time.”

With little resources to his name, Paul booked a one-way ticket to Dallas, landed a job as a brick mason for a hotel in Arlington and began working odd jobs for swimming pool builders during his free time. Throughout the next five years, Paul found that quality residential swimming pools were in great demand in Texas. Why not start a business of his own, putting to use his attention to detail and talents as a mason? And so, Pools by Paul Claffey, later renamed Claffey Pools, was born.

Not to say it was an overnight success. Paul established his business simply, designing pools on napkins and exchanging deals over a handshake rather than a formal written contract. Despite these humble beginnings, word spread about his craftsmanship and dedication to quality, and soon Shelly and her two brothers, Brian and Charlie, joined in to help their father’s small business blossom into a full-blown corporation.

“My dad asked me if I wanted to help him out in the office,” Shelly remembers. “I had just finished my associate’s degree in fashion merchandising and didn’t really want to go into the retail world. So I started doing payroll and office work.”

Next Paul approached his sons. Shelly’s younger brother Brian joined first, taking on the construction and artistic aspect of the business. Then Shelly’s older brother Charlie, who already had established a corporate career in finance, left his job to help manage the overall vision of the business. Next, their mother joined the business, leaving her career as a successful real estate agent.

“About three or four years into it, I decided I wanted to learn the entire construction process,” Shelly says. “It put to use my design skills, and I’ve been selling and designing ever since. I love it.”

And sell they have. In 2014 alone, Claffey Pools sold 468 projects—269 of those being new pools, 140 remodels and 59 new outdoor living spaces like fireplaces, bars and built-in seating. Now with a retail store and corporate office in Southlake and 79 employees, a lot has changed since Claffey Pools’ first “official” office was created by adding a small screened-in porch to the family’s master bedroom. And you probably won’t find them sketching out plans on napkins anymore, and certainly not finalizing them there.

“Back in the early 90s there were more basic pools, so we sold a lot but we could get them done a lot quicker,” Shelly explains. “Today, we are building resorts in people’s backyards, which takes a lot longer.”The backyard has become an extension of the home; it’s where people want to be year round. 

Today, Shelly and her brothers have transitioned into co-owners of the company following a 10-year buyout plan from their parents, who have since retired and opened a retreat center. “My children have done a stellar job of following what we started,” Paul Claffey says. “From the very start I knew they were up to the challenge. If you look at the projects being done today, their know-how and experience shows a total commitment to excellent workmanship and a long-lasting relationship with the customer.”

With bigger projects and more employees also came the need to make changes in the way the company was structured.

“Where we’ve changed most is in our process, in our plans for building and in our training,” Shelly says.

“When you have this many people, you can’t just wing it. It’s critical to have everything perfect, even before we start to build. Years ago we didn’t even worry about it, we’d say that we’d figure it out as we go. But we can’t work like that anymore.”

Of course, advancements in technology have completely redefined Claffey Pools’ daily 

 operations, but there are some things that never change. For one, the family-owned business is still a family-operated one, with 13 family members currently working in some facet within the company.

“My wife and I see brothers and sister working together for a common good,” Paul says. “We see how many employees they have helped and employed through the years. We see they care for their employees. Claffey Pools is their company; we see how hard they work to maintain their status and reputation in the community.

Their wishes and dreams are ours, so with that I’m sure the Good Lord will continue to guide them.”

Blood-related or not, the same standards still hold true for all of Claffey Pools’ employees, and have since the very beginning. “Whether or not you’re a family member, we have our core values, and at the end of the day we want the best people possible while focusing on integrity, teamwork and leadership,” Shelly says.

Committed to Quality

Another key focus is ensuring Paul’s original motto continues to remain true for each and every project, no matter how large the company grows to become.

“We always say, when you’re in a backyard and you’re designing or building or servicing, think of it as your own backyard and ask if you’re happy with it,” Shelly explains. “If the answer is no, then you make it right. That’s why getting our plans so detailed and perfect in the beginning is so important, because this is a product that they’ve paid for, and we’re going to deliver.”

But it isn’t just quality that has made Claffey Pools a trusted custom pool partner. It has been recognized nationally year after year for its extraordinary designs, and were invited to join the Masters Pool Guild, a network of luxury pool designers from across the country that share ideas and challenge one another to take designs to the next level.

“We’ve been doing this for the past 28 years now, and I think we’re now known for not only great quality, but also great design,” Shelly notes. “There are a lot of people that wait to see us and want us to put our ideas down to really transform their backyard.”

This means with Claffey Pools there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all tyle. Shelly said the team gets to know client personalities and talks over ideas with them prior to making any solid plans to ensure every possibility has been considered.

“We over-engineer things, and include elements that a lot of companies don’t in their builds,” Shelly says. “It’s just how we do things and how we build our pools. Every job is always built the same, with a focus on quality and doing the job right.”

Sounds like that’s just the Claffey way, from one generation to the next.