One of the industry’s major trade associations is updating its mission to better reflect the changing nature of its members’ businesses. Based on discussions at a strategic planning retreat this spring, the National Plasterers Council plans to drop references to the “plastering industry” from its mission statement.
“Most plasterers these days are doing service. They’re doing remodels. They’re building pools,” explained Mitch Brooks, executive director of NPC. “They’re doing a lot more than plastering.”
The organization, founded in 1986 and based in Port Charlotte, Fla., does not plan to change its name. “We are the National Plasterers Council,” Brooks said, emphasizing that the group’s core educational focus on plastering and pool surface application would continue. “This just gives us the ability to focus on a lot more than that.”
As NPC becomes more inclusive, many hope the group’s numbers will grow. The organization currently has 580 members, Brooks said, and eventually it would like to hit the 1,000-member mark. Those who do join tend to stay: NPC has a member retention rate of 90 percent, according to Brooks.
NPC members and others interviewed for this story said they approved of the decision to revise the mission statement, which they believe will better serve the membership. “I think it’s wise because everybody in this business has diversified so much,” said Alan Smith, a charter member of NPC and owner of Alan Smith Pools in Orange, Calif. “I now run seven different trades,” he added, which range from plastering to landscaping.
Michael Kohlhas, another charter member who currently serves as NPC treasurer, has seen his company evolve in similar ways. “We were essentially a plaster and tile company,” said Kohlhas, president of Leisure Craft Pools in Lancaster, N.Y., who remembers when pool plastering involved “bags of white sand” and pool tile was “always blue and always 6-by-6.” That’s changed dramatically. “We do over 100 different types of plaster now, and the tile is more than that,” said Kohlhas, whose company has expanded into pool service.
Pool surfacing manufacturers also noted the increased diversification within the plastering industry. “I think [the decision] speaks to the complexity of what this industry is,” said Darrell Eckstein, who attended the NPC strategic meeting as president/CEO of Pebble Technology, a pool aggregate surface company based in Scottsdale, Ariz. “Way back, there were not that many choices. … Now there are many types of aggregate. There are glass beads. There is a variety of things that these guys have to be proficient in to serve the pool builder community and homeowners and compete effectively.”
This decision will help NPC members do that, according to Smith. “By reaching out, this gives us more information to make our businesses stronger,” he said.
There will likely be overlap between a broader NPC and other associations that focus on pool service, specific pool and spa materials, or the pool industry in general, but NPC members say that’s OK. “We want to be more intertwined with them,” Smith said. “We’re the plastering experts, but we want to stand on their shoulders and learn from them.”
Will these other industry associations agree? Smith predicts they will, thanks to NPC’s strong reputation and general economic pressures.
“I don’t think there will be any challenge in getting other organizations to partner with us because everyone’s looking to partner right now,” he said.