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10-year logoBy Brian Van Bower

‘Anyone who runs a good business knows that day-to-day operations are so all-consuming that it’s difficult to step back and scope out where you fit within your corner of the industry.’

‘We can’t give those daily details short shrift,’ wrote Brian Van Bower in opening his Aqua Culture column in the December 2006 issue of WaterShapes.  ‘Still, it occurs to me that . . . our daily endeavors need to be protected by an understanding of the entire range of factors that influence our success.’  He continued:


‘[T]o me, understanding the Big Picture is a practical necessity, because failing to do so means I’m almost certain to miss opportunities and, just as bad, will not be prepared for conditions in the market that influence my success.’  


‘We all know that our world is extraordinarily complicated and that events take place that are well beyond our control:  We can’t do much about higher gas prices [or] the costs of worker’s compensation insurance.  . . .  What we can control is how thoroughly we evaluate those factors and position ourselves in response to them.’


‘There’s no doubt, for example, that watershaping and the overall exterior-design market has boomed since the early 1990s, exploding successively into all sorts of new areas including outdoor cooking and dining areas, landscape and exterior lighting, interactive waterfeatures, fire effects, outdoor sound systems and much, much more.  Those of us who have embraced those trends as part of our Big Picture and moved beyond the water’s edge have done well.’


‘Even in prosperous times, there’s peril in not thinking on a broader level.  . . .  I’ve rolled through tough times in the past [and] what saw me through was the conscious adjusting of my approach to business in response to what I saw around me.  . . .  My own experience in tight times has taught me in no uncertain terms that when the overall market cools, the middle ranges and especially the lower end of the market are particularly vulnerable, while the upper-middle and high ends are far more stable.’


‘The Big Picture, however, is much more complex than the low-end/high-end phenomenon I’ve just defined:  Life isn’t that simple.  To see more of what’s going on, you need to address some key questions:  Who will be leading the way in times to come?  What will make for success down the road?  What are the possible pitfalls?  Where are opportunities likely to emerge?  Finally and most important, how can my business make the most of the situation?’


‘[T]here’s a risk in remaining ignorant – the problem being that you don’t know what you don’t know until you commit to various types of personal and professional exploration of the world around you.  . . .  Consider the fact that our population is aging and that Baby Boomers as a category are more health and appearance conscious than any other generation that went before them.’


‘As these Boomers (myself included) collectively get older, it’s easy to see that the benefits of swimming, aquatic exercise and hydrotherapy are going to become increasingly powerful enticements for those considering some type of watershape in which those activities might occur.’


‘That’s a Big Picture issue,’ Brian concluded.  ‘[B]ut it’s not necessarily the only thing out there that we need to know.  Perhaps something will emerge with energy efficiency or environmental responsibility or something else I can’t anticipate as yet.  What I do know is that if I don’t keep my eyes and ears open, I’m likely to be a follower rather than a frontrunner – and these days I’m unwilling to risk letting trends move forward without me.’

Scanning back ten years, there’s a strong degree of prescience in Brian’s assessment of the way the economy and the Watershaping Industry were trending.  Has anything changed?  Are you better prepared to face possible future challenges than you were in 2006?  What do you think of stepping back and taking the long view Brian recommends?  Please share your thoughts by commenting below!


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