As many of you know, the next edition of Pool & Spa News is our 50th Anniversary Issue, and we’ve all been working overtime preparing for it.
Part of that preparation entailed poring over old issues of the magazine. During the past few months, I spent many days squinting at tiny black and white photos of industry members with skinny neck ties and Buddy Holly glasses.
Hundreds and hundreds of pages needed to be reviewed, so I vowed to never read the articles unless they reported on major events in industry history.
But it didn’t always work.
In the 1960s, Pool & Spa News (then called Pool News) had a columnist named E. Kenny Euler, who I really enjoyed getting to know. Euler was a unique combination of business expert, evangelist and curmudgeon, and he wrote about old-fashioned values before they were … well … old-fashioned.
A number of his columns have stuck with me, but this one in particular stood out enough that I thought I would excerpt it here. In the piece, Euler recounted the story of pump manufacturer Virgil Kelly. In 1967, about a year after Euler’s column was published, Kelly’s firm was acquired by Purex, one of the dominant industry players at the time.
Here is what Euler had to say:
“‘Why be tired and hungry at the same time?’ asks VM Kelly, president of East Side Manufacturing. ‘I learned my lesson back in 1935, when three of us came west during the Depression and the only job we could get was picking olives. After working like dogs all day, we managed to earn $1.40 among the three of us.
Having gone all day with nothing to eat, we were famished, yet all we could afford was mincemeat and bread. The third day, I quit. I didn’t mind being tired, but to be tired and hungry at the same time was too much. From then on, I decided to use my head as well as my hands. I went to work for A.O. Smith, and in 1949 founded East Side Manufacturing.’
“A book could be written about those in the pool industry who are both tired and hungry, who continue to eke out their existence day by day. Why? Because they are still working only with their hands. They justify their situation by blaming everyone but themselves, and seem to get satisfaction from criticizing those who are successful. …
“Those in the industry who are successful didn’t get there by wasting time worrying about their competition, the discount houses, poor location or price-cutting. They got where they are today by concentrating on how to succeed. They know that the greatest emphasis must be placed on their ability to sell, and that each sale must be profitable. …
“Last year, the laws of economics took a big bite [out] of the construction and service field, and supply exceeded demand. As a result, many contractors, in fact too many, took the path of least resistance and cut prices. … The epitaph of those who take this route will be continually read in the record of the bankruptcy courts.…“
It might be profitable to take a page out of Kelly’s book. Instead of criticizing successful people, try to emulate them. Not all will be Bill Bakers [SwimQuip], Jack Bergs [Blue Haven] or Virgil Kellys. But why be tired and hungry at the same time?”