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15yearsagoBy Brian Van Bower

‘If you work hard,’ wrote Brian Van Bower to open his Aqua Culture column for September 2001, ‘you should get to enjoy the fruits of your labor.’

‘For all of the obvious truth of that idea, I wonder how many of us hard-working folks in the watershaping trades take the time for those things that bring us enjoyment and a sense of reward.  . . .  [M]y guess is that far too many of us let the hard work get in the way of keeping promises we’ve made to ourselves to stop and smell the roses every now and then.’  He continued:


‘I could go into detail here, but suffice it to say that the consumption of good food and wine have been a big part of my life.  . . .  I’ve met many great chefs and enjoyed meals in wonderful restaurants all over the world – and it’s not that I consider myself an expert by any means, but as with anything that you truly enjoy, the more time you spend with it, the more you come to know.’


‘I’ve [also] come to realize how relevant the good life is in all aspects of my life, including my career designing and building quality custom watershapes.  . . .  It’s interesting how many times conversations that I have with clients turn to the subject of food and wine.  In fact, I’m so accustomed to it that it just seems like part of the process.’


‘On the surface, this all may seem like fairly frivolous chitchat, but I’ve come to regard these discussions as something far more important:  It sends a message to my clients that I enjoy the good life – as they do.’  


‘For reasons that are quite fundamental to the human species, sharing food and beverages with clients always has a positive influence on the situation. After all, breaking bread is all about making friends, and it’s been that way since shortly after our species dragged itself up from the primordial ooze.’


‘In my own business, I’ve been in situations where a disagreement about a point of design or a problem with construction has brought progress to a standstill.  I’ve found almost without fail that if we take a break and concerned parties all go to lunch together, somehow a solution to the problem seems to emerge.’  


‘I [also] look at sharing food and wine with clients as a natural and easy way to bond and make friends.  The benefits to my business flow naturally from time spent together at the table.’


‘These observations bring me to my main point:  I’m not saying that you should go out and try to become an overnight connoisseur of fine wines and foods as a way to impress your clients.  Instead, I’m saying simply that if you find you enjoy a good meal and a good glass of wine, you’ll discover great rewards in simply taking the time to explore the vast world of culinary art.’


‘Food and wine are like anything else:  You can never know what you like until you try it.  . . .   If you take the time to try new things and pay attention to what you like, you’re sure to make some wonderful discoveries.’


‘It’s also worth noting that there are abundant ways to enjoy the good life.  Food and wine have certainly worked for me, [or y]ou can express your passion through a love of great cars or boats or art.' 

‘However you choose to reward yourself,’ Brian concluded, ‘it’s useful to remember that the lifestyle that goes along with success is an important part of that success.  It influences the way we think about ourselves – and as I said above, it defines and celebrates our ability to relate to our clients’ desire for the good life.’

Do you agree with Brian that relating to clients on a level at which they appreciate your sense of the good life has value in building business relationships?  Or is it something that makes you uncomfortable?  Please share your own perspective and experience by commenting in the space below!


Brian Van Bower runs Aquatic Consultants, a design firm based in Miami, Fla., and is a co-founder of the Genesis 3 Design Group; dedicated to top-of-the-line performance in aquatic design and construction, this organization conducts schools for like-minded pool designers and builders.  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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