For as long as I’ve worked in the aquatics industry, there’s always been a tremendous amount of talk about “education.” The basic patter is that our industry lacks formal educational opportunities, and if we want to be successful, both individually and as an industry, we have to up our game.
While I generally agree with that, I also believe the key to elevating our knowledge begins at home, so to speak, with each of us individually and within our own companies. Ultimately, education is a self-determined process. Those who seek it will find it, those who don’t, never will. The plain fact is, you can sit in a class taught by the world’s greatest instructor, but if you don’t pay attention, you might as well be playing solitaire. By contrast, someone with seemingly little opportunity but who is determined to learn will almost always find a way.
The irony is, however, that while education does start with a personal decision to learn, it is also very much a process of collaboration, and that’s especially true inside a company culture. I’ve always taken great pride in the fact that our company has an intense focus on learning and that our staff is populated by people who have been trained and educated in great detail about the nuances of building and servicing beautiful bodies of water. They are the ones who, through their talent and skill sets, ultimately create the client experience; and that’s a fact that we actively promote as a benefit of doing business with our company.
What I find fascinating and inspiring about the educational process is how it creates balance in our organization. In our staff of 12 full-time, year-round employees, each one brings different strengths to the formula. We have people who are great at solving technical problems, those who are better at customer relations, some are better at developing reliable procedures, some are wildly creative while others are more cautious. When you combine those differing attributes with established bodies of knowledge, that is, education, then you start to unlock both the potential of the individual and the alchemy of organizational success.
As the head honcho of our company, I’ve embraced the concept that education starts with me personally. After all, you can’t teach what you don’t know and by way of my own efforts to educate myself, I am then able to cull resources and develop specific protocols that can be taught and reinforced in the workplace. In other words, because I’ve empowered myself with knowledge, I am now able to do the same for others.
I know from experience working with other organizations and getting to know people in all walks of life that collaboration and empowerment through education are not as common as they should be. There are companies that limit what they teach employees, sometimes out of fear of training future competition, or perhaps for not wanting to give up the power that comes with being the only source of knowledge.
What I see in those cultures is more centralized authority and decision-making, all of which breeds reluctance to assume responsibility, intellectual stagnation and, sometimes, even paranoia. Autocratic business leaders, especially those who see potential limits or even threats in educating others, miss opportunities to create efficiencies, a positive work environment, positive customer relations, and ultimately effective problem solving.
For my part, I’m thrilled that my most experienced people, both on the service and building sides, know as much as I do. Because we’ve invested in their acumen, they can take ownership of issues in the field, develop solutions to problems, and deal directly with our clients.
Nowadays, that store of information is pretty darn impressive. We have specific procedures and info on a galaxy of topics such as calculating hydraulics, water balance, doing plaster start ups, how to close a pool for winter and open one in spring, and dozens of other specifics that ultimately enable us to make all the pieces of a system work together. And even though we have literally volumes of information in our company library, we also recognize that we don’t know everything and that education is always an ongoing process.
Ease of Confidence
In effect, a well-trained staff becomes an extension of your hand and one that ultimately thinks for himself or herself. There’s a kind of chain reaction that starts with education. Information leads to competence, competence leads to success, success leads to confidence, and confidence leads to a sense of purpose and comfort. Put another way, education is the nutrient that drives the entire food chain of achievement.
Yes, education starts with the individual, but it also encompasses the power to touch everyone around us, from our best employees and co-workers to the customers themselves. Education is truly the grandest of collaborations!
About the Author
Steve Kenny is an aquatic designer, builder, and service technician with more than 25 years of experience. Based in Long Island, New York, he specializes in designing, building, and maintaining commercial and residential pools and spas that feature the highest possible water quality.
He is a passionate advocate of creating a new class of aquatic professionals devoted to the science, methods, and art of ensuring pristine water conditions. Steve was formally trained in the culinary arts and has a passion for fine dining. He is an accomplished photographer and sailing enthusiast. He is also a passionate advocate of the benefits of hydrotherapy.
A devoted family man, Steve lives in East Hampton with his bride of 20 years and their three children.