Questar Pools and Spas
Questar Pools and Spas

Genesis, the education and design organization, has merged with the National Swimming Pool Foundation.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Genesis co-founder Skip Phillips, also president of Questar Pools and Spas in Escondido, Calif. “It just became obvious that the future of both our organizational structures would become so much stronger if we collaborated. This is now a one-stop shop for the educational needs for an entire industry on an international level.”

While details of the financial transaction were not disclosed, it is characterized as a stock acquisition and asset transfer into a nonprofit organization.

“I’ve been a big fan of Genesis for years and they, I think, have been a fan of the Foundation, so coming together is a really exciting time, and it’s just opening our imagination to many things that can happen in the future,” said NSPF CEO Thomas Lachocki, Ph.D.

Officials with both parties say the Genesis program will largely remain unchanged and that founders Skip Phillips and Brian Van Bower will stay on indefinitely with the title of ambassadors. “…They will continue to be visionaries, leaders, business partners and friends,” Lachocki said.

For Genesis, this signifies another phase of growth as it gains access to NSPF’s resources, including a long-term home that provides the founders with an exit strategy. For NSPF, known to pool and spa professionals largely for its Certified Pool Operator certification, this increases inroads into the residential side of the industry.

“This is just a fabulous, synergistic combination, and I’m delighted to be a part of it and to see how it evolves,” Lachocki said.

Genesis now will be headquartered in NSPF’s facilities in Colorado Springs, Colo. But Phillips, Van Bower and long-time staffer Lisa Bouton will continue to work remotely from their own offices in, respectively, Escondido, Calif.; Miami; and Murfreesboro, Tenn. Current officers, advisory board and other key volunteers also will retain their roles, officials said.

On the NSPF side, Mission Development Director Lauren Stack will serve as a point person for the collaboration.

Some logistics will be figured out over the next several months. At this point it is known that Genesis’ construction and design certifications — Society of Watershape Designers, Platinum and Gold — will remain as is. But both organizations walk into the deal with their own service certifications, so these will be merged somehow, though details have not been worked out yet.

In addition, Genesis’ educational slate is expected to be expanded and, in particular, venture into Web territory. While the group had aimed to offer online courses eventually, NSPF has been doing that for several years and can easily bring this component into its operations, officials said.

“A key strength that NSPF brings to the union is our online training expertise and our many existing online courses that may be offered to Genesis students to fulfill CEU requirements for the Society of Watershape Designers and Genesis Platinum Member distinctions,” Lachocki said.

At least some of the physical courses not held in conjunction with industry events will be held at NSPF’s headquarters.

All currently scheduled courses are expected to go on as planned.

A merger with a 50-year-old organization is a turn that many would not have expected when Genesis started in 1998. Founders Phillips, Van Bower and David Tisherman were quite vocal that they began the group in response to frustrations with educational offerings available at the time. As they told it then, the three decided on the spot to form their own group after an argument with fellow judges for the (APSP predecessor) National Spa & Pool Institute’s design awards.

That tone alienated some, but the founders relished it. After an insulted colleague referred to the trio as “arrogant pigs,” they proudly referred to themselves as “The Three Pigs.”

They held their first four-day design school at a resort on California’s central coast and found an immediate following with a few dozen builders and design professionals who shared their frustrations. Some of those first students remain closely affiliated with the association.

Over time, the educational offerings grew to include courses on construction, drawing, art and architectural history, hydraulics, and costing strategies. And they began to align their educational programs with other organizations, teaching at the International Pool | Spa | Patio Expo, and various other conventions and conferences held by other industry associations and organizations.

As it filled hundreds, then thousands of seats over the years, Genesis’ tone has evolved and mellowed. The “Three Pigs” moniker was largely dropped. And the most controversial of the three, Tisherman of David Tisherman’s Visuals in Manhattan Beach, Calif., left the organization. At that point, the remaining founders said they wanted their organization to center less on themselves and more on members. They increased the roles of some of their longest and most loyal members.

With this newest development, Phillips and Van Bower said they want to continue in that vein, plus create their own exit strategy from the group while assuring that it will endure.

“The sense that both Brian and I have is that we’re going into a new phase perhaps of our Genesis life,” Phillips said. “We and our volunteers have really gotten this organization up to a certain point, and while where we were at was fun and we were effective, this is going to launch us on a whole other level.

“When it’s time for us to exit, we know that the organization is going to have a solid base and it will continue well past our involvement. And the strength in Genesis is the students, instructors and the people going through our system. We are no longer a founder-based organization.”

That likely will necessitate some changes in their approach, at least from an administrative perspective, as they become part of NSPF, which celebrated its golden anniversary this year.

“Certainly the seat-of-the-pants management style that Skip and I might have been proud of at one point will change somewhat,” said Brian Van Bower, also president of Miami-based Aquatic Consultants. “But on the other hand, I think that we’ve already expressed our opinions, and we’re heading it in the direction we want it to go. … We like their organizational structure.”

And officials say the organizations share certain fundamentals and complement each other’s strengths. Both organizations are accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education & Training. Both seek to increase users of aquatic elements.

NSPF itself has had a very active decade under Lachocki’s watch. The group claims a number of firsts — introducing full-color training handbooks, CD books, Spanish and French materials, online training, metric materials, a scientific conference, scientific journal, and some of the first apps, Lachocki said. Additionally, it has invested $4 million in research and philanthropic activities promoting water activity, and it initiated and partially funded creation of the Model Aquatic Health Code, which is implemented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This year marks 12 years of consecutive growth for the organization, Lachocki said, and the group expects to educate more than 30,000 professionals this year.

Between the two organizations, officials expect the merger to ultimately translate into more bodies in pools and spas in the future. “Genesis and NSPF, working together, will create growth,” Lachocki said. “More educated builders, operators, and service professionals create demand for residential and public pools. The consequences are more pools being built, more pools being serviced, and more people using public pools.”

From a personal perspective, the Genesis founders expressed a bright outlook. “It’s just like a parent [whose child] finally grows up and goes to college,” Van Bower said. “The positive is, they’re going on and continuing and doing everything you wanted them to do all along. But on the other hand, they’re out from under, so to speak.

“… But I’m not in any way saddened by it. I don’t feel like it’s a sense of loss. What I feel is that something that Skip and I poured our heart and soul into is now going to become even better, and we’re going to remain a part of it.”