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10-year logoBy Brian Van Bower

‘During a presentation to a recent conference for the swimming pool and spa industry, I tossed this nugget to the audience:  “By a show of hands, how many of you in this room believe that most people think highly of our industry?  Please be honest.” ’

That’s how Brian Van Bower began his Aqua Culture column in the May 2003 edition of WaterShapes.  He continued:  ‘It was a mixed group of more than 160 people representing manufacturers, distributors, manufacturer’s representatives, retailers, service/maintenance firms and, in the majority, pool and spa builders.  Even with all of these different segments of the industry in the room, not a single hand went up.  As one who often criticizes the industry, even I was surprised by the response.  So I asked if they thought that most people had a generally negative view of the pool industry – and nearly every hand shot up.’

***

‘This diverse group of industry professionals was united in the belief that most of the public thinks poorly of professionals on the pool/spa side of the watershaping trade.  Looking around the seminar hall, somewhat amazed by the group’s apparently unanimous low opinion of the industry’s image, I posed what I believe was the next logical question:  “How can we do better?’

***

‘For years now, I’ve been among those who support the idea that the first and most potent answer to that question has to do with assigning far greater value to quality education.  I wish I could say otherwise, but this position is now so common that it’s becoming somewhat of a cliché.’  

***

‘To indulge a daydream for a moment, try to visualize an industry where watershaping is a field of formal, academic study with full-time instructors, a rigorous curriculum and high standards.  . . .  Over time, I think, the legitimacy that flows from such programs will translate into an improved self-image among all segments of the watershaping trades – to a better way of doing business, and, finally, to greater acceptance among consumers.’

***

‘Certainly, this sort of prospective discussion leaves little for us to grasp in the industry we see today.  As a result, I believe we still need to press on and ask ourselves how we can do better right away, beyond anything that might develop on the educational front.  The most immediate thing we can do, I think, is to begin by improving the way we treat our customers.’

***

‘Here’s a specific example of how something could have been better:  A long-time friend . . .  hired me to design a pool for his family.  . . .  The design phase was easy, but when it came time to recommend contractors, things became tougher because, quite honestly, I don’t have a great deal of confidence in many of south Florida’s pool-construction companies.’  

***

‘In this case, unfortunately, my client ran into a couple of truly rude people who almost immediately soured him on the process.  . . .   [T]his rubbed me the wrong way, partly because it was a friend who was being treated so rudely, but also because this is far too typical of what I hear from clients and potential clients all the time.’

***

‘[M]y friend moved forward – and he did so because our products are so attractive and desirable that people are willing to tolerate, with noses held, the process of dealing with our industry.   Put another way, our products are so cool that they sell despite our best efforts to ruin customers’ good moods during the sales and construction processes.’

***

‘To my mind,’ Brian concluded, ‘this is not difficult to fix.  All it takes is a concerted effort to be nicer, more considerate and more professional in demeanor – a pathway to immediate rewards.’
 
When this column first appeared, the industry was riding a wave of prosperity that gave many watershapers the liberty to be less than considerate in working with prospective clients.  Assuming that the situation has changed in the past ten years, do you see current validity in Brian’s point about education?  Please share your thoughts by commenting below!   

 

Brian Van Bower runs Aquatic Consultants 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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