Many of us gain satisfaction from sharing our knowledge and experience with others. But one husband and wife team are taking that further than most by helping professionals on the other side of the world.
Tommy and Penny Johnson have always been engaged in promoting their industries. Penny served as president of the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals in 2007-2008. Tommy built the first vinyl-liner vanishing-edge pool and was recognized as APSP’s Certified Pool Builder of the Year in 2010.
They attribute their accomplishments in part to those who taught them, and now are preparing to embark on a four-year journey to share their knowledge by teaching a business course to company owners in Vietnam.
“A lot of people have mentored me in the pool business, and are the reason that I am successful today,” said Tommy Johnson, president of Huntsville, Ala.-based Johnson Pools & Spas. “So why not go and share with somebody if people shared with you. Because what you get back, I found, is just a whole lot more than you’ll ever give.”
They will teach a continuing-education business program in four subject modules – marketing, human resources, finance and strategic management. Students attend approximately once a week and receive classroom instruction as well as consultations at their own businesses. At the end of the two-year school, students earn a degree similar to an associate degree in business. The Johnson’s have committed to seeing two classes graduate.
They are not going into this cold. They have been participating to a lesser degree since 2008, when they first served as guest lecturers for the program. “We didn’t realize that in the midst of all this we would fall in love with it,” Penny Johnson says.
They also have hosted the students when they made trips to the U.S. to visit American businesses.
As a husband and wife who work together, the Johnsons make especially attractive candidates. “One of the reasons they wanted Tommy and I to go together is that the culture in Vietnam is many husbands and wives work together,” Penny Johnson said. “In our industry, we probably have more husbands and wives who work together than many other industries, so it was a natural fit for us.”
The pair will live in Da Nang during the school season, with a break in the States during the holidays. Johnson Pools & Spas’ management team will be running the day-to-day business, and the Johnsons will be available for meetings via Skype.
The Johnsons admit that not all their industry colleagues completely understand this new venture. Why go out of the country when there’s a successful business to run, or when you could take it easy and spend time with the grandkids, they ask. For Penny Johnson, she views it as both partial retirement and a chance to make a difference.
“We love the country, the food, and the interaction with the people, and we like seeing them learn. We have been in business 38 years, and this is an opportunity to give back.”
To read more stories about the industry giving back, click here.