Continuing education, communication aid transition to complex modern pools
By Andrew Lisa
If maintaining regular backyard pools is all you know, entering the high-end luxury segment may seem risky. As pools get more complex, margins for error get smaller and the cost of mistakes heads skyward. The good news is, any person or team competent in the fundamentals can learn to service even the most complicated and cutting-edge pools.
Specialty pools require specialty training and education
Andrew Kaner, president of Aquatic Consultants Inc., in Miami, knows a thing or two about building pools that require a level of service beyond keeping the average backyard swimming pool running. He says there are many design aspects the average service professional may not be aware of, mainly found in the hydraulics.
“Some of our systems have very complex automation and controls, variable-speed pumps, valve actuators that rotate in different directions and spas with more than 40 jets that need auxiliary jet pumps,” says Kaner, who has a master’s degree in landscape architecture. “Our vanishing-edge pools have dual systems that require specialized vacuum breakers and loops and check valves to keep water from equalizing and draining out down to lower basins.”
So, how does an average service team maintain a pool that is anything but average? The answer always starts with continuing education, like the kind offered by Genesis, a continuing education program for the industry. If you go through the whole Genesis program, you’ll emerge as one of the few people in the industry who hold the elite title of Society of Watershape Designers Master. While the average service tech doesn’t have to go all-in, Kaner did just that.
Genesis University puts on programs and seminars throughout the year, such as an upcoming two-day advanced hydraulics course in New Orleans. Manufacturers have training programs, too, and there are Certified Pool Operator courses you can take through The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance, says Brian Van Bower co-founder of Genesis and CEO of Aquatic Consultants.
Rudy Stankowitz, a 30-year veteran of the industry, is a CPO instructor and the owner of Aquatic Facility Training & Consultants in Gainsville, Florida.
“Look at maintaining a luxury pool like a specialty field within a specialty field,” Stankowitz says. “In many cases, it does require expertise in a whole different skill set, and of course, you want to match the qualifications of your team to the job.” He advises to pay attention to what sessions are available at trade shows: “There is no reason you have to tackle training your staff on your own,” he says.
One of the most important things a pool pro can do is make sure this kind of specialty training is a team-wide affair.
“You will want to be mindful of succession planning within your organization,” Stankowitz says. “Things happen. People leave for one reason or another, and you don’t want to get caught with no one who can maintain your high-end accounts. Even ballplayers who never get off the bench still have to go to practice.”
A simple phone call can offer the keys to the kingdom
Kaner and his team keep detailed plans of each project that show all the involved specs, including valves, pipe sizes, pumps, filters, sanitizers, heaters and lighting. With a simple call to the builder, service professionals can get the blueprints that detail exactly what it is you’ll be walking into.
“If a service team can read and understand the plans, they can come prepared with all the right equipment,” Kaner says.
For example, on a front-entry reflecting pool that uses the same water but runs on overflow systems that forbid the installation of vacuum lines, Kaner’s plans would indicate the need for a portable vacuum. You’re not intruding by calling the builder. In fact, they’ll probably be happy to hear from you, Stankowitz says.
“Builders don’t want to leave the care of their creation in the hands of someone who is unqualified or does not appreciate what has gone into their project,” Stankowitz says. “Most would be thrilled to have a reliable company well-versed in their work to deal with and, besides, who better to train you on how to care for the centerpiece of that home than the folks who designed and brought the backyard oasis to life?”
Kaner says he would likewise be thrilled if a service provider called and asked questions. As with anything, the best results are achieved by those who prepare and know their limitations.
“The tech should not attempt anything they’re not qualified to do,” Stankowitz says. “A high-end luxury pool is not the place for baptism by fire or winging it, nor is any swimming pool for that matter. A mistake made in maintaining an expensive pool will be a costly one.”