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15yearsagoBy Brian Van Bower

‘Last month,’ wrote Brian Van Bower to open his Aqua Culture column in the February 2004 issue of WaterShapes, ‘I jumped into the New Year with a discussion of how the trends we face these days are influencing our recent experiences in business, society and life in general.  

‘All that was intended to set up this column’s discussion of where we, as the watershaping industry, might be going in the months and years to come.  . . .  Rather than get into the aimless game of offering predictions, I’ll delve instead into some strategies that I’m currently employing to maximize positive outcomes based on what we know about where we are at this moment.’  He continued:


‘The simple fact is that most watershapers are now quite busy.  . . .  I believe that’s so because we offer our clientele the opportunity to get away from a topsy-turvy world and the life issues that confront them daily.  The respite our products offer from the rigors of this crazy world is now, more than ever, at the heart of what we’re selling.  . . .  And the industry has responded well, taking success not just in stride but stepping up to new levels and into new areas as consumer expectations have risen.’


‘By moving beyond the water’s edge to incorporate such things as hardscape, plantings and entertainment areas, for example, and by learning to integrate exterior spaces with interior ones, today’s “complete” watershapers are overtaking and surpassing those who operate in a traditional way and focus strictly inside the coping.’     


‘The first part of improving current conditions is to recognize them for what they are, and I believe we’ve begun identifying our educational shortcomings – particularly in the pool and spa industry, where barriers to entry are low and there are no legitimate, enforceable requirements for education or continuing education.’


‘I think the time has come . . . that we should abandon the simplistic belief that any education is better than no education.  We need instead to focus on quality and step away from the practice at trade shows and elsewhere where seminars are delivered by people who really have no business doing so.  This will be a hard one to face because it’s awkward to undermine the generous spirit and good intentions of those who volunteer to teach.  That said, the mere desire to teach does not necessarily qualify one to do so.’


‘Until we have quality education, those who merely put holes in the ground and fill them with water will remain and all of us will continue to be perceived as being part of a low-end, low-brow profession.  That, I think, is in nobody’s best interest.’


‘The Information Age gives us all a great opportunity to learn, communicate and promote ourselves.  If you type in your name or your firm’s name and nothing comes up, perhaps you’re missing an opportunity to spread the word about your business or about yourself.  By contrast, if you perform this quick exercise and are surprised by some of the things you see, perhaps you’ll begin to understand more fully the value and expansive nature of the Information Superhighway.’


‘In facing the present in all of its details,’ Brian concluded, ‘we are also embracing the future – but only if we are persistent and apply what we learn.  There’s hard work involved in assessing where you are today and planning for tomorrow, but I’m confident that if you engage that process, important ideas and plans of action will emerge in ways that none of us can ever predict.’

Brian’s points about expanded focus, education imperatives and fast-moving information may lack some of the punch they had back in 2004, but do you think what he had to say speaks to a post-recession need for renewed ambition and meaningful self-assessment?  Please share your thoughts in the comment space below!


Brian Van Bower runs Aquatic Consultants, a design firm based in Miami, Fla., and is a co-founder of Genesis 3, A 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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