Waterfront: September 2003

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Letter From The Front

Soldiers get their swimming orders.

"It was just a matter of time before the military put me to work on pools," writes Maj. James F. Stearns, III. "Stearns Pools & Spas has officially opened a branch office in Baghdad." Stearns, a reservist with the 450th CML BN, is spending the summer — and perhaps the rest of the year — at Camp Slayer in Baghdad as part of the 1,500-member Iraq Survey Group (ISG).

Charged with opening one, possibly two, pools for the enjoyment and morale of all personnel assigned to the ISG, Stearns rallied a group of volunteers and got to work on one of the five pools within the compound. "The first pool we tackled is right next to a building that the locals have told us was Saddam's personal residence at this compound," writes Stearns. "It's safe to assume that Saddam himself used this pool, because he reportedly liked to take a morning swim almost every day."

Stearns and his crew had to contend with a host of challenges. They figured out and mapped the plumbing system and cleaned filters that contained more rocks than sand. They worked in a subterranean tunnel system where the pool equipment was located, and then wired the system for electrical power from a generator. "I failed to ask Ray Arouesty if my IPSSA insurance has a war clause or would even cover a project of this magnitude," writes Stearns.

Once the technical challenges were squared away, Stearns had to create a "Pool Operations" manual covering everything from certification of lifeguards to hours of operation, maintenance, pool rules, safety equipment, schedule of unit swims and a policy letter. "One of the safety issues was a fence around the pool," he writes. "We took care of this by using good-ole Army concertina wire around the pool as our fence." The grand opening was the 4th of July, and the pool has been a welcome oasis for the troops.

Stearns is grateful to Occidental Chemical, AquaChek, Zodiac and General Pool Supply, companies that have already donated needed supplies. "I am sure this list will get longer," writes Stearns. To donate to the Camp Slayer pool project, contact Stearns at [email protected] .

Hot Tub Debut

The happy swimmer in the Winnie The Pooh suit who graced these pages two months ago was none other than assistant editor Emily Fuger.

But because so many of you guessed that the bathing beauty featured in July's Splashback was AQUA's editor, Kirstin Pires, we thought we'd show you what she really looked like in her formative years.

This snapshot captures her first "hot tub" experience. Now, can you guess what year the photo was taken? A free AQUA t-shirt goes to the first reader who emails the correct answer to editors@aqua magazine.com.

Business Valuation: A Basic Explanation

Do you know what your business is worth? You should.

Owners of small businesses, which make up the vast majority of spa and pool dealerships and service companies, don't usually take the time to find out what their companies are worth. They're busy selling pools, products and services and often don't realize the potential value of a business valuation.

But that's often a mistake, say the authors of What Every Business Owner Should Know About Valuing Their Business, a new book written by three experts in the field in language it doesn't take an MBA or CPA to decipher. In fact, it made sense to this magazine editor.

The process of business valuation is covered step by step, beginning with answers to the questions, "Who should have their business valued." and, perhaps more importantly, "What is business valuation."

A business valuation is simply a process for estimating the price a willing buyer would pay for a business and a seller would accept. While many spa and pool dealerships will never be sold, the information can be crucial when the owner is going through a divorce, is placing the business into a family trust, or when an owner dies and the family needs to know the value for estate tax purposes. And businesses with more than one owner need to be valued in the event one partner wants to buy out another. In each of these cases a valuation can be mandatory.

But if a valuation isn't mandatory, how does one know if it's worth paying the $5,000 to $25,000 a valuation can cost? Simply put, a business that's very small and doesn't generate more income than it pays in expenses has a value of $0, making a valuation a waste of money. But if the business takes in more than it pays out in expenses, including a "normal" salary compensation to the owner or owners, a valuation might be a good idea.

Still not sure whether valuation would be valuable to you. Well, for a relatively modest investment in a paperback book, you can find the answer to that question and learn enough to successfully manage a valuation should you choose to have one done.

Authors Tim Sullivan and Stanley Feldman are professors of finance at Bentley College in Waltham, Mass. Roger Winsby is president of bizownerHQ, and has served as directed several major market research studies for financial service companies.

What Every Business Owner Should Know About Valuing Their Business by Dr. Stanley Feldman, Dr. Timothy Sullivan and Roger Winsby is published by McGraw-Hill, ISBN 0-07-140992-0.

–B.K. Splashes Of Color

Houston artist known for lively art and philanthropy.

Like others before him who've been captivated by the ebb and flow of tides and water's unique translucence, Houston artist Kermit Eisenhut has also found water a worthy subject. These colorful and whimsical paintings of pools and swimmers exemplify his vibrant style.

Eisenhut is best known for his paintings of farmhouses, pools and animals — cats, dogs and even chickens — and for creating palette-knife renderings of abstract, realistic and surrealistic subjects. The versatile artist has done everything from painting murals to designing stationery.

According to an article in OutSmart magazine, Eisenhut says his inspiration comes from a variety of sources in contemporary culture: "I'm constantly perusing different art and design magazines, TV and movies to see what's new and exciting. Sometimes, just looking through at the view across the city will spark an idea. So often, though, my paintings evolve from my sketches. Or, I may just jump onto a painting to see where it will lead me."

Eisenhut is also known for his charitable contributions. In recent years, fundraising events in Houston are seldom held without a donated Eisenhut, and he teaches free art classes for people with terminal illnesses at area hospitals and the Art League of Houston.

Eisenhut says he donates so much of his time and art because by doing that, he's able to raise more than he could give. "A painting of mine may raise $1,000 or more and that is so much more fulfilling for me than just writing a check."

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