Minimizing Mistakes

Eric Herman Headshot
photo of broken pool tile | tutuvi

Sometimes, working as a writer for a trade magazine feels a little bit like being a counselor. A great many people I talk to want to share their thoughts and feelings about the work they do. For my part, I find that kind of trust and disclosure enormously gratifying, and quite often informative.

That’s certainly been the case for the past year or so. For any number of reasons, my friends and acquaintances in the industry have shared a wide range of anecdotes about significant project failures.

I’ve heard horror stories about structural failures, massive leaks, delaminating tile, failed vanishing edge systems, bad plaster and screwy hydraulic problems, among many, many others. In fact, in all my long years covering this industry, 25 this coming October to be exact, I can’t recall a time when I’ve been clued in on so many nasty situations. Although the information is entirely anecdotal, I’ve been around long enough to know that where there’s smoke there’s also the proverbial fire.

Certainly hearing these tales of incompetence is fascinating, but it’s also worrisome. I’m concerned that this spate of negative scenarios is happening at a time when our industry is busier than it’s been since the onset of the recession. I can’t help but wonder if all these negative situations are happening at a time when we should be reinforcing the joys of pool and spa ownership to the general public.

In other words, just when we should be getting well, we also may be giving ourselves a nasty collective black eye.

So, what’s behind this season of ineptitude?

My very good friend Scott Cohen, owner of the Green Scene – who happens to have a feature in this issue all about project management and quality control – describes it as “wheel wobble.” Scott’s always good at tossing out those kinds of pithy remarks and in this case, he makes a great point that as organizations start moving too fast, mistakes happen. Certainly, that’s part of it.

Another of my most trusted friends, Steve Swanson of The Pool Company, recently shared his view that as companies fought their way through the recession, many started trying to be all things to all people and moved into areas in which they have little or no expertise. As industry activity expands, those deficiencies in knowledge and skill are resulting in more and more missteps.

I’ve heard others point to a lack of skilled labor or black market contracting as the big bugaboos while still others point to what amounts to a basic failing of professionalism on the part of lesser firms.

Whatever the reason, costly mistakes are bad for everyone. And the frustrating thing: In almost all cases, the problems were avoidable.

I recently shared these observations with my colleague and executive editor, Scott Webb who challenged me to at least try to do something about it. In so far as published material can make a difference, we’re going to try.

In last month’s edition of AQUA Architecture, we ran a prosaic little piece from Paolo Benedetti about proper testing of electrical bonding. This month, we’re running the aforementioned piece by Cohen on project management, and in coming months you’ll be seeing more articles aimed at avoiding problems in specific aspects of construction.

With that in mind, I’d like to invite builders to share what you know about avoiding mistakes or scenarios that cause them. My email is at the bottom of this column. I can’t promise that we’ll publish each and every account, but we’ll do our best to shine a light on as many key issues as possible.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with an important thought from another of my good friends, Brian Van Bower, who is fond of saying that as an industry, our No. 1 priority should always be to not ruin the client’s good mood. I’ve always loved that idea because in an industry where the end product is all about the good life, we really should do our best to accentuate the positive vibes that accompany pool and spa ownership. And that means doing everything possible to avoid the avoidable.

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail [email protected].

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