The pool and hot tub industry is constantly evolving, from technological advances in equipment to new design trends. Although pool construction and design are often viewed as “learn-as-you-go” jobs, a more formal education can help you and your business in many ways.
“Education in any business really starts with the owner,” says Ed Gibbs, President and CEO of Gib-San Pools Ltd. in Toronto, ON. “But when the viewpoint is just coming directly from one person, the problem is that you have a very narrow idea of where your business is going to go.”
“We have some really smart people working for us, but if they’ve never received any formal training or education in this industry, it doesn’t matter how smart they are – they’ll learn by making mistakes,” explains Gordie Robinson, President of Cox Pools Service Inc. in Birmingham, AL.
“I know very little about building pools,” admits Lance Irby, sales manager at Premier Pools & Spas in Sacramento, California. “I can build and design great, beautiful pools with my team. But the nuts and bolts and the whys and the hows, all the science and math — these are things that we all have a tremendous amount to learn, even people who have been doing it for a long, long time.”
Enter GENESIS®, which has been teaching design, construction, engineering and business to swimming pool professionals since 1998. Thousands of students have taken GENESIS® courses and many have progressed through the various levels of accreditation: GENESIS® Associate, Society of Watershape Designers (SWD) Registered and SWD Master.
Robinson first met GENESIS® co-founder Brian Van Bower about 15 years ago when Van Bower was consulting on one of Robinson’s projects. After meeting Van Bower, Robinson thought to himself, “Whatever it takes, I’m going to learn what this guy knows.” Robinson began taking GENESIS® courses about eight years ago and is now SWD registered. He has been sending his employees to GENESIS® for the last few years “to educate everyone who works for us in this industry as best we can, and this is the best way I’ve found so far.”
Employees benefit just as much, if not more than employers. “It really created a positive culture,” says Robinson. “It was really good for morale. The employees think it is very good that our company is willing to invest so much money in training them.”
Photo Credit: Sarah Ramalho – Designer – Lance Irby | Premier Pools & Spas of Sacramento
Irbi agrees. Even if his employees have only been visiting GENESIS® since the beginning of 2021, he is already seeing positive effects. “It gives everyone a certain level of enthusiasm and excitement,” he says. He describes how, especially in a busy year like this, the mental and physical tanks of employees are often exhausted at the end of the day. GENESIS® actually refills your tanks and “puts a little oomph in your step because you’re excited about what you’re learning and you see things differently. It has been good for us.”
Irby has been in the pool industry since 2012. As he started hearing more about GENESIS®, he realized that the SWD Masters and the projects they run are “on a different level”. This resulted in the desire to bring himself and his employees to this level.
“The added value that is added [GENESIS®] is tremendous for both the company and the employees,” says Gibbs. “It goes back to the culture of your organization and what kind of culture you create, where the importance and investment in education is to help both of us grow – not just you to go, not just me to you to.” benefit but to help us develop a symbiotic relationship. It has to be a journey together.”
GENESIS® is a serious investment in more ways than one. Sending a student to a virtual class can cost more than $2,000, and pre-pandemic in-person classes were even more expensive when you add in airfare, room and board. It’s also an investment of time, as both virtual and face-to-face courses last 16 to 24 hours over several days.
When accreditation is the goal, that’s an even bigger investment. It can take over a year for an employee to earn the SWD registered designation, which involves 150 hours of training and the completion of seven core courses covering design, engineering and engineering. But employers agree it’s worth the time and money.
“The goal is the SWD,” says Gibbs. He has three SWD registrants on his team and two more will be completing the requirements over the next few months. “Being SWD registered adds that level of credibility and increases that level of education.”
“We focused on the build and took that build path to give them all the SWD Registered designation,” agrees Robinson. Although Cox Pools is a construction company, the required design courses help its employees better understand their day-to-day work, he says.
For newer members of the sales team, “I put them through basic engineering courses as well as basic design courses because those things go hand in hand,” Irby explains. “You can’t sell anything if you don’t understand how it should be built.”
Gibbs and Robinson, who seconded their staff to GENESIS® prior to the pandemic, agree that their staff greatly value the personal networking and connections they are able to make with other students. Gibbs explains, “That camaraderie that develops over the two or three days of class is part of the GENESIS® secret recipe.” Robinson says students learn a lot from the class itself, “but if you do it with many people who are in the same boat, you also learn a lot from those people.”
“In the world we live in today, it’s appealing to see groups of people who want to raise the bar. Wanting to be better has a magnetic pull. That’s where we want to be,” says Gibbs. “The customers smell it. Your other employees can smell it. And that really is success.”
How do these three employers summarize the benefits and importance of GENESIS®?
GENESIS® has given Robinson employees “the confidence to move a little further in their ability to function and contribute to our business. It gave them a kind of energy that there are destinations out there where they can learn more, do more and be more.”
“These courses will take you anywhere you want to go in the pool industry,” says Irby. “If you want to be in this industry long-term, this is your foundation.”
“It makes you better. It makes a better company. That’s how you build a better pool,” says Gibbs. “Year after year, GENESIS® has proven to be the true gold standard.”