Younger Than 40? Check Out the Wave Young Professionals Network

The San Diego chapter of PHTA held its first local meeting of WAVE Young Professionals Network on Aug. 1, drawing 12 participants to a bowling outing. They included: (kneeling, left to right) Matt Vedenoff, Clear Expectations Pools; Dustin Anderson, Precision Aquatics; Joey Busic, Precision Aquatics; (standing, left to right) Daniel Nicholas, Jandy; Paul Cubbison, Diamond Pool & Spa Care; Soly Thomson, Phenomepool; Dan Schreiber, H20 So Clean Pool & Spa Services; Robert Swank, Precision Aquatics; Travis Hetzner, Oreq; Donny Rocovits, Precision Aquatics; Jeff Simon, Portside Pool & Spa; and Terry Clason, Coral Pool and Spa.
The San Diego chapter of PHTA held its first local meeting of WAVE Young Professionals Network on Aug. 1, drawing 12 participants to a bowling outing. They included: (kneeling, left to right) Matt Vedenoff, Clear Expectations Pools; Dustin Anderson, Precision Aquatics; Joey Busic, Precision Aquatics; (standing, left to right) Daniel Nicholas, Jandy; Paul Cubbison, Diamond Pool & Spa Care; Soly Thomson, Phenomepool; Dan Schreiber, H20 So Clean Pool & Spa Services; Robert Swank, Precision Aquatics; Travis Hetzner, Oreq; Donny Rocovits, Precision Aquatics; Jeff Simon, Portside Pool & Spa; and Terry Clason, Coral Pool and Spa.

Many industries are struggling to recruit young, talented individuals who are willing to carry the torch left burning by retiring baby boomers. The swimming pool and hot tub business is no different. With so many experts departing, the industry needs a way to engage young professionals and prepare them for leadership roles. That’s why the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance created the WAVE Young Professionals Network.

Although WAVE launched in 2012, 2020 is shaping up to be the program’s most productive year yet, with more social, networking and educational opportunities than ever before.

Designed for PHTA members between the ages of 20 and 40, WAVE aims to recruit and develop the next generation of members, leaders and volunteers. Upon joining, members become part of a nationwide networking group that meets during national and regional trade shows and conferences, such as the International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo. A steering committee, which any member has an opportunity to join, sets the group’s direction and plans events, including networking receptions and educational seminars. PHTA also looks to WAVE participants when choosing its Young Professionals of the Year.

“WAVE is one way PHTA is trying to generate enthusiasm among young professionals looking to build a career within the pool and hot tub industry,” says 38-year-old Rick Harvey, co-chair of WAVE and director of sales for BioLab’s Pro Dealer Division, based in Lawrenceville, Ga. “WAVE also plays a key role in inspiring a new generation of industry leaders,” he adds. In fact, WAVE members who “age out” of the group often transition to leadership roles on PHTA councils and committees."

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“Our goal is to provide WAVE participants with networking opportunities that will enrich their overall experience in the industry and at events and shows,” adds fellow co-chair Caley Gibbs, 25, marketing director and design consultant for Gib-San Pool & Landscape Creations in Toronto. “WAVE aims to provide a social aspect paired with educational opportunities for the ‘next gen’ within the pool and spa industry. It is inevitable that this industry must cultivate the next generation to effectively establish succession plans for continued growth and success.”

Indeed, the networking has been valuable, Harvey says. “As a young professional, it’s important that we meet others who are in the same age group and share similar interests. We are the future of our industry and we need to continue to develop opportunities that will make us as successful as possible in protecting that future.”

Gibbs says that she has benefited in several ways from her involvement in WAVE. One benefit has been the relationships she’s developed with other young industry professionals from across North America.

“Due to being in the same industry, we face both similar and different challenges and can provide insight on how we overcame specific situations,” she says.

Another benefit has been the educational opportunities that provide useful advice she brings back to her workplace. “Lastly, actively participating in an industry association provides a well-rounded approach to professional development and growth, showing vendors, colleagues and your clients your commitment and dedication to your career.”

WAVE GETS LOCAL

In addition to the nationwide network of WAVE participants, some PHTA chapters have formed local WAVE committees, allowing members to socialize and network with other young colleagues in their area. Currently, PHTA chapters in San Diego, Austin, the Midwest and Georgia have WAVE programs.

“I am excited and proud to be a part of the WAVE group, as I see many opportunities for the young members of our industry,” says 34-year-old Dustin Anderson, owner of Precision Aquatics, a pool and hot tub service company based in San Diego. He helped to organize his PHTA chapter’s first WAVE meeting last summer, which was a bowling outing that
drew a dozen participants. Anderson plans to organize meetings at least quarterly and says he’s excited about the opportunity WAVE provides “to promote professionalism, education and best business practices amongst the up-and-coming industry leaders.”

“Networking is the biggest advantage of participating in WAVE,” agrees 33-year-old T.J. Thompson, vice president of sales and operations for Cascade Custom Pools in Austin, Texas. He says it’s important for young owners and managers within his market to know each other on a personal level.

“There are so many things we can do to help each other,” Thompson says. For example, when his sales team is overwhelmed with new prospects, he’ll refer business to local competitors he’s bonded with through WAVE. “There are many times we have a waiting list for sales calls, and clients don’t want to wait two months to meet with us. So, I will refer them to two or three credible builders I know personally. I know their construction practices, the material manufacturers they use, even the subs they employ in some cases.”

TANGIBLE BENEFITS

“WAVE is also a great place to learn new techniques and ways of doing things,” Thompson says. “I enjoy the discussions with people close to my age dealing with the same issues I do.”

For example, through WAVE, Thompson befriended a pool builder in Houston, with whom he’d been discussing a shared challenge finding good management software. Just a couple of months ago, this friend told Thompson about a new software solution he found that he and his team liked. “We gave the software a try, and we love it,” Thompson says. “So, my Houston builder buddy did the beta testing for me. If it hadn’t been for me networking and being a part of WAVE, I wouldn’t know my Houston friend, and I would still be pulling my hair out testing different management software.”

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Thompson has been involved in WAVE for about four years, but this has been his first year as the group’s leader. The Austin PHTA chapter has about 25 WAVE participants, who get together for happy hours before regular chapter meetings.

“In our market, most of our builders are slammed all year, so it can be challenging at times fitting everyone’s schedule,” Thompson says. “Getting together for an hour or so before our monthly chapter meetings works well. Plus, having a beer or two before our chapter meeting appears to help some of our younger members interact a bit more.”

In 2020, Thompson plans to have quarterly meetings with a few select WAVE members who are business owners or upper management. “These meetings will be a round table setting where we can discuss the future of our industry on a small local level,” he says. “Our happy hour meetings are great, but they can seem to get almost too social and loose at times, so these meetings will be a bit more structured with specific topics planned.”

MIXING BUSINESS WITH PLEASURE

“In Georgia, WAVE has been active since November 2017 and currently draws about 45–50 people to each event,” says Ben White, regional manager of Pool Builders Supply in Norcross, Ga., and chairman of the Georgia chapter’s WAVE committee.

Each year, the Georgia WAVE committee holds at least two training events that are followed by a social activity. Typically, the program begins with lunch, followed by workshops. “The sessions contain all types of subjects pertinent to the industry,” White says. “We have hosted training on proper closing techniques, basic water chemistry, sizing and measuring for gas heaters, automation, variable speed laws and sales techniques — anything that can help the younger employees of our member companies become more familiar with certain tasks.”

After the training session, there is a social event that lasts a few hours. In the past, the group has raced go karts and played Whirlyball. (Whirlyball is a team sport that combines elements of basketball and jai alai with players riding Whirlybugs, small electric vehicles similar to bumper cars.) There is also an end-of-summer celebration that isn’t tied to a training program but offers an opportunity for young professionals “to get together, unwind, and catch up after a busy summer,” White says.

RELATED: Finding the Next Generation

“The Georgia chapter recruits manufacturers and distributors to help sponsor these events and pay for the food before the training sessions,” White adds.

The Georgia chapter’s first training event of 2020 was held in February and included a local county inspector speaking about new signage laws that Georgia implemented this year. In addition, a rep from NC Brands spoke about pool water analysis and proper water balance procedures when opening a pool after it’s been closed all winter.

“The best benefit of WAVE is for the next generation to get out, network with other young people in the industry, and meet manufacturers and manufacturer reps,” White says. “Many business owners become the point-of-contact in the field and the younger staff seem to be kept on the backburner. WAVE is a tool for them to learn and grow within their respective companies.”

In January, WAVE held events at the Northeast Pool & Spa Show, as well as the Southwest Pool & Spa Show. To experience WAVE firsthand, young PHTA members should mark their calendar for this year’s biggest networking event at the International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo (Nov. 8–13 at Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas). Meanwhile, local chapters will be hosting their own events throughout the year.

PHTA’s WAVE Program Explores Apprenticeship Opportunities

“The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance is looking to launch an industry wide apprenticeship program, beginning with occupations in the service segment. Although the project is not officially approved, PHTA is currently going through the registration process with the State of California,” says Jennifer Farwell, PHTA’s director of the western office.

“Designed to provide an educational and on-the-job training vehicle with pathways into the pool and spa industry, the program would recruit high school graduates, junior college students, military veterans, and others,” Farwell says. “Once the program is officially approved and registered, PHTA will launch a marketing and communications campaign for apprentices.”

The apprenticeship program is tied closely to the WAVE Young Professionals Network because both programs share the goal of preparing the next generation of industry professionals and leaders.

“Much of the industry’s workforce is getting older and closer to retirement, and there is a need to recruit additional generations of skilled workers into the industry,” Farwell says. “We are hopeful that our apprenticeship program will help to recruit, train, and retain our future workforce.” 

 

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