Keith Johnson is adept at assessing situations and taking action, which becomes apparent when he talks about the industry, and his role at the Florida Swimming Pool Association.
An active member of FSPA and the immediate past-president, Johnson is keenly interested in membership retention and recruitment, aiding smaller pool service companies, and limiting unlicensed activity. Indeed, they were his key goals when he was FSPA president last year.
On his watch, FSPA hired a new member development coordinator, and sought ways to provide more services and support for smaller service firms. FSPA advocates licensing for the industry statewide, and works with the construction trades to increase fines on unlicensed contractors.
“We’re aggressively pursuing stopping unlicensed activity through lobbying and education efforts,” Johnson said. For example, an FSPA delegation traveled to the state capital of Tallahassee in late 2012 to discuss many of the industry’s concerns and needs with members of the state House and Senate. “While we were not successful in getting our service bill passed,” Johnson said, “I feel confident that the proper groundwork was put in place for a much better result in the future.”
His take on today’s pool and spa industry? “I think we are turning the corner,” Johnson said. “Through the economic downturn, everyone has had to learn to be better businesspeople. Most companies have realized the value in diversifying their operations.”
That’s something he knows firsthand. He and his father founded Tri-Florida Water Treatment Inc. in 1984. The firm sells, installs and services residential and commercial water treatment systems, and their water plant operations division services 300 drinking water plants around Florida. In 1992, they started a pool division.
“We got into the pool business ... to diversify the services we could provide to our existing customer base in response to the downturn during the first Gulf war,” Johnson said. “There are a surprising number of things that are similar to the pool business with regard to water chemistry, pumps, filtration, etc.”
His Auburndale, Fla., firm has “largely been able to escape the [current] economic downturn and managed to grow over the last 20-plus years, with the exception of 2009, when we only saw a 3 percent decrease in sales,” Johnson said. They accomplished this by focusing on slow, steady growth and working diligently to become debt-free.
In addition, all of Johnson’s new hires must pass comprehensive background checks, undergo continued training through FSPA, and adhere to high standards. To further stand out, the truck fleet is clearly lettered and has vehicle wraps, and employees wear bright yellow company shirts with blue lettering.
The dedicated entrepreneur is equally devoted to his family — wife Sharon, a bank manager, and three sons. “It never hurts when your wife is your banker. She provides me with lots of insight and guidance,” he said.
Ever mindful of FSPA, Johnson concluded, “Sometimes people complain about membership fees with their trade organizations. With the returns I receive through increased knowledge, networking ... and the free exchange of ideas, it is the best money I can invest in my business. I’d gladly pay 10 times my membership fee for [these] benefits.”