Hilliard, Ohio-based Hidden Creek Landscaping, No. 148 on the 2022 LM150 list, purchased a Columbus, Ohio-based pool installation company at the end of 2020. Co-owner Jason Cromley estimates this move added about $3.5 million to the company’s revenue in 2021.
Hidden Creek provides 25 percent landscape maintenance and snow removal and 75 percent design/build and pool installation services to a 25 percent commercial and 75 percent residential clientele.
Adding pool installation under the Hidden Creek umbrella was a no-brainer, Cromley says, because projects are never just a pool installation.
Not just an easy project
Cromley decided to purchase a pool installation contractor Hidden Creek had worked with for five years. He says there’s so much more to a pool installation than a paver patio installation, and having the insight and knowledge from the pool installation owner was a tremendous asset. A $100,000 patio might take about three weeks to complete and need gravel, pavers, weed mat, concrete and more. A pool takes even more time and requires more permits and inspections. A standard pool installation could take between three to six months, he says.
“When you’re putting a light in a pool, you’re throwing electricity into water, and it’s a structural thing as well. Anytime you put a footer in, you have to go down three feet, and you have to have an inspector to come out to make sure you dug down (properly),” he says. “You have to put your rebar in the right way so that it could be a solid structure. You have permits at three different stages throughout the project.”
The COVID-19 pandemic and the explosion of interest in outdoor spaces accelerated Cromley’s interest in adding pool installation to his business. While most landscape businesses are booked out four months in advance, many pool contractors are booked six months to a year in advance.
“We developed a really strong partnership years ago where he was always referring me,” Cromley says. “But every time I would go to refer him, he’s like, ‘Sorry, I’m already booked out two years.’ I decided to buy the best company in town that had the best reputation and had the biggest backlog.”
Daring to be different
Cromley says he hopes to create a unique outdoor experience for Hidden Creek clients.
“We wanted to create a whole different kind of pool experience for our clients,” he says. “We don’t want to do just the 20-by-40 (foot pool), like everybody else. … Some of our core values are ‘dare to be different’ and ‘lead with intent.’”
He says 2021, despite the $3.5 million in growth, was a challenging year for his operation. Cromley says the Hidden Creek team could have integrated the financials of the pool operation better and done a better job explaining the purchase to clients.
In 2024 the company will officially go by Hidden Creek, dropping the “Landscaping” part of its name.
“When you say landscaping, people say, ‘Oh, you cut grass, right?’” he says. “Not everybody does the design/build side. We like the design/build part because that’s the most visually rewarding. The pool (service) really adds to that.”