Group Dynamics

Facebook groups with varying focus are connecting pool pros across the globe

Jump into any one of the many pool industry Facebook groups, and you’ll find hundreds of professionals across North America and abroad sharing the good, bad and the ugly in the pool industry, motivated by a desire to connect and learn from each other.

Jason Broswell, owner of Pool Service by Jason in Northridge, California, saw a need within the industry when he started the Facebook group Swimming Pool Industry Workers & Pool Pros Only in May 2018. In less than two years, the group has grown to more than 4,800 members.

Broswell wanted a place for industry professionals to swap ideas, ask for help, and share work experiences and educational opportunities — as he puts it, “To grow together as an industry and stop pointing fingers and thinking of everyone as competition.”

While other groups were active before Broswell’s, he noticed many of the existing online communities were targeted toward pool pros with specific certifications and credentials, leaving out a large portion of industry workers. “I wanted to have a broader reach to an entire industry within a group: tech, retail, sales, service, construction, supply, insurance, trainers, owners, office personnel, warranty centers,” he says. “We even have a lot of spouses of industry workers in the group, and it has helped them understand more and become more valuable to their spouse’s company.”

One member of Swimming Pool Industry Workers & Pool Pros, Rudy Stankowitz, is the owner of Aquatic Facility Training & Consultants in Gainesville, Florida. And as of last year, Stankowitz also helms two industry-specific groups on Facebook: Talking Pools and H2O Blogger Support. He also helps moderate two other groups and is a member of the rest.

Stankowitz’s goal for Talking Pools — which has grown to more than 1,100 members since it started in September 2019 — is to have a group that “bucked the status quo when it came to methods of treatment and repair,” he says. “I wanted our group to challenge our members. I thought it could be a forum that would promote out-of-the-box thinking. I encourage individuals to look up, down, left and right; to consider the impact of natural and man-made factors and to determine how to either head off potential problems or to work with those things we cannot control. My goal is to encourage individuals not to accept the status quo approach, because if we don’t challenge the industry, the industry won’t grow.”

The Ask the Masters group launched in February 2019 to coincide with the inaugural episode of the eponymous podcast the next month. David Penton, principle at Fluid Dynamics Pool & Spa in Fullerton, California, says the four founding members of Ask the Masters, who all also host the podcast, realized they were all regularly contributing to other groups and being tagged in comments of post threads when complex issues arose. So for Penton, Rick Chafey, Paolo Benedetti and Grant Smith, launching their own group made sense.

Penton says the idea is to focus on the design, construction and engineering side of outdoor living. The group does not discuss maintenance or service issues as they maintain there are many other great groups that cover those areas. “We are all construction and design professionals,” Penton says, “so that is our primary focus.”

Come Together

Broswell says one benefit of his Swimming Pool Industry Workers group is the access to manufacturer staff. “Instead of calling and waiting on hold for tech support, members can come to the group, ask a question and get answers immediately,” he says. “It seems like someone is always there to help or answer. A lot of time, it’s directly from a manufacturer tech support staff member or territory sales manager.”

The mentorship the Talking Pools group provides is important to Stankowitz. “I am a firm believer that the greatest thing anyone in this industry can do is to assume the role of mentor,” he says. “This is how we make the industry better. There is an unimaginable willingness to help in our group.”

Broswell says he’s seen the members in his group come to each other’s aid in times of need, raising funds to help purchase equipment, helping each other on service-route coverage and even on vehicle repairs. Manufacturer reps have helped members with warranties, training and promotional items. He’s also seen members help each other with online marketing tips.

On numerous occasions, Penton has even received help himself. “I have had some tricky questions or construction nuances that I was unsure about,” he says, “and I have been able to present to the group and get valuable input.” He has also met manufacturer reps he says he wouldn’t normally have access to since he’s not in their territory.

Erik Taylor, owner of Chlorine King Pool Service in Seminole, Florida, is an admin for Broswell’s group. He says it has made him more knowledgeable about the industry. “I’ve always said these groups add years of experience in a very short time because you see posts from all over the country, sometimes the world, that would take you years to run across out in the field,” he says. “For instance, we don’t close or open pools down here in Florida. However, through the group, I have a pretty good understanding of how the process works.”

The posts in the groups aren’t always about construction issues, business questions or technical know-how. Sometimes the posts help foster an appreciation for the industry as a whole.

“One of my favorite posts was one that started with the sharing of a historically significant pool,” Penton recalls. “This morphed into about a week of independent posts about different pools around the world and why they were significant. We covered the Thomas Church pool, the first infinity pool in the U.S. (Silvertop in Los Angeles), the pools at Angkor Wat, pools in Israel and Turkey… We must have had more than 20 posts from professionals who had been to a particular site and explained with their own photos why that pool was significant. That was a lot of fun.”

Anytime the subject of bather safety comes up, especially when concerning children, Stankowitz says it’s an area where everyone in the group — in all of the industry groups — comes together to offer suggestions and support. “No one wants anyone to drown,” he says.

Not Without Conflict

Despite the numerous benefits of industry-specific Facebook groups, they are not without challenges. Penton says keeping post topics relevant can be arduous for Ask the Masters, given the group has such a specific focus. The group admins regularly delete posts that include blatant self-promotion. Foreign manufacturers are often posting advertisements in the group, which are not permitted. 

“We work to assure that when our members log in, they are getting quality educational information,” Penton says, “and they don’t have to weed through countless posts about client complaints or blatant sales pitches.”

It’s also inevitable that in a group with so many members, people get out of line from time to time or say something offensive. “With over 4,000 different personalities and lifestyles in one place,” Penton says, “someone is going to take something posted the wrong way.” Stankowitz says often it’s a clash of egos: “There are a lot of folks that are used to being a big fish in a little pond,” he adds. “We have to be more accepting that there is more than one way to skin a cat.”

Talking Pools takes an unusual approach to resolving group drama: The two members involved in a conflict must compete in a knowledge-based duel, with the subject determined by group admins. “The winner is the winner, end of story,” Stankowitz says. “If a designated member does not participate in the scheduled challenge, they are removed from the group. Talking Pools is not going to be a group that ignores dysfunctional arguments or bullying that risks becoming metastatic.”

The Members

Ken Thompson, owner of Clarity Pool & Patio in Auburn, Indiana, was away from the pool industry for 20 years and says the groups benefited him as he ventured back into the industry. “The amount of knowledge in the groups is amazing,” he says. “You can get an answer on a problem pump or suggestions on routing software in minutes instead of being on hold with tech support for a long time. With the individuals from all over the world in some groups, there are so many tips and tricks I have learned. The best part is everyone wants to help everyone else succeed.”

Beau DeRohan, owner of Great White Pool & Spa in Boise, Idaho, says the groups have been a great resource for problems he’s never run into before, leading him the try different approaches to his business and the equipment he uses.

“Where I live, the industry is pretty rigid,” he says. “No one really wants to explore new options as far as equipment or sanitation.” Due to encouragement from the group, however, this year he installed two UV systems, a tactic he wouldn’t have considered before joining the groups. He even used to vacuum pools the old-fashioned way, “but after seeing all the posts about power vacs, I decided to invest in a Riptide — and it honestly changed my business,” DeRohan says.

He also invested in a LaMotte WaterLink Spin Touch last year after he posted in one of the groups asking who was using the brand and what they liked about it.

Despite the bevy of helpful guidance, the posts can get repetitive for members of multiple industry Facebook groups, says Josh McCarthy, owner of McPools in Bradenton, Florida. “Often the same post is made in all the groups, like that graffiti pool that I’ve seen more than relatives,” he says. “Anytime a news story hits about a truck or gator going into a pool, it will be spammed all over. But many members of the groups post awesome and valuable information. I joined almost all the groups, but I utilize the snooze button on individuals who frequently post about topics that don’t interest me.”

April Hasan, owner of Backyard Resorts in Ontario, Canada, says she’s grateful for the comradery the groups provide because members are dealing with many of the same concerns. “The most benefit for me is reading stories that I completely relate to — be it the difficult customer or challenging employee — and recognizing you are not alone,” she says.

Seeing the increasing comradery, Stankowitz says, gives him hope these Facebook groups will continue to evolve. “We are not often the decision makers on matters that affect what we do,” he says. “A handful of small businesses bringing attention to a subject is not going to command much regard. However, 600 to several thousand small businesses in a unified and organized effort with a goal in mind is a powerful force.”

Want to join one or more of the Facebook groups? When you submit a request to join, be sure to answer the questions from admins, as they may not approve members who don’t respond.

4,800+ MEMBERS
A closed group for swimming pool industry workers and pool professionals. Share your knowledge and experience, ask questions, meet or talk to manufacturer reps, or others in your region or across the globe. Be nice and give back to the industry. Let’s raise the standard and better the industry together. [We all] started out green at one time knowing less than we do now. Never stop learning and never stop contributing to the next generation coming in.

1,100+ MEMBERS
Talking Pools is a drama-free group that focuses on recreational water as a whole. The goal is broadening the knowledge base. People who work with pools working together to find solutions to challenges we all face. Join us!

1,700+ MEMBERS
This group invites professional builders from around the world and from all types of industries related to watershape, landscaping, design and construction. We welcome open, constructive criticism and answers to questions from industry professionals. The admin masters have years of experience with award-winning work and have completed hours of certified training in architecture, construction and design. We are here to guide you with best practices to help everyone grow as professional builders and designers.

2,000+ MEMBERS
This is a {positive energy} pool industry mastermind for all members of the pool industry to help make the world a better place, share ideas, and create and grow great relationships.

2,400+ MEMBERS
Pool Industry is THE ultimate group of pool industry professionals who are looking to upgrade the standards of business, and get [stuff] done efficiently and effectively!

2,400+ MEMBERS
Group for Certified Pool Operators everywhere to chat, share tips, ask questions, etc.

2,200+ MEMBERS
If you are now or have been involved in any aspect of the swimming pool industry, this group is for you. Welcome aboard.

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