Recently, I saw a film called “Winter’s Bone” that made me think, in a strange way, of the pool and spa industry.
The movie — which I highly recommend — is about a 17-year-old girl named Ree who lives in a very poor, desolate area of the Ozarks. Her father, a local meth dealer, put up the family’s home as a bail bond, then disappeared before his court date. If Ree doesn’t find him, the house will be forfeited and her two young siblings will have nowhere to go.
She spends most of the movie searching, with increasing desperation, for her dad. As Ree grinds out her journey in the bleak backwoods, she is pitted against some of the grittiest, most menacing and hard-bitten characters I’ve even seen in films — or life, for that matter.
So what could people who live on squirrel stew possibly have to do with people who sell a product that is nearly synonymous with luxury?
Well, one of the things that struck me about “Winter’s Bone” was Ree’s absolute refusal to give up the house. Even when faced with real danger, rather than capitulate, she digs down inside herself to find a wellspring of strength and stubbornness, which allows her to continue fighting.
Our cover story this issue concerns the fact that many pool and spa companies are surviving the recession in spite of multiple dire predictions that there would be massive failures. In the piece, we discuss the reasons they’ve stayed afloat — an ability to cut costs, diversify and rely on savings.
However, to my mind that doesn’t quite get at the heart of it. I believe a number of firms in our industry have hung on for the same reason that Ree continues knocking on doors long after everyone has told her to quit.
It’s resiliency. It’s determination. It’s tough shoes for a tough trip.
About a year ago, a pool builder whose market had been completely devastated told me, “We will survive this. As a company, we may have to cut off every limb, but even if we’re just a torso, when the economy turns around we will be here.” I believe it.
And I also believe that steadfast vision will pay off before too much longer. Currently, the stock market is looking good; many think the new balance of power in Washington will help small businesses; and spa sales and new-pool permits have either stabilized or are increasing.
So, here’s wishing you a strong, stubborn and ultimately joyous 2011.