In 1999, Buzz Ghiz established the Paramount Advisory Committee Enterprise. Buzz’s mission was to assist his fellow pool companies with business practices to grow our industry.

Buzz accomplished what he set out to do. Any PACE attendee of the past 10 years will tell you that the gathering has proven exceptionally valuable.

PACE continues to meet for its annual business conference. While attending in 2007, I realized it would be beneficial to establish a similar retreat concept in the Midwest. Using the strategies I already knew were successful, I focused my efforts on firms closer in size and volume to my own, Pools of Fun. After all, we are all dealing with the same market trends.

I also decided to include various levels of company personnel. I strongly feel that a firm is only as good as its employees, and that includes hard workers in addition to managers and owners. It’s important to recognize all your assets, especially in tough economic times.

For my group, I focused on inviting department heads in sales, marketing, retail, service and financing. While high-level executives are invaluable in the business world, they are often so busy that they might not be aware of the smaller efforts that have been successful in their companies. With those added voices, we are able to share any ideas we have tried. For instance, financing has been almost impossible to get recently, but when one person in our group is able to find even a small solution to that issue, we all benefit.

When people from different companies and different job descriptions work together, a cross-section of issues emerges. Only then can we begin to share real solutions.

Including those folks turned out to be the best decision I could have made. After that first gathering at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (which I dubbed “Racing Toward Success”), the participants told me it was one of the most worthwhile conferences they’d ever attended. They felt there were very few times in our business that individual companies could get together and work toward the same goal without competing.

It’s been two years since the Midwest retreat came to be, and the areas we cover have morphed to reflect the concerns of the entire industry. In our second gathering last year, topics included compliance with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, strategies for Websites, alternative revenue sources, customer retention and a range of other important subjects.

Often in this industry, we see our neighboring firms only as competition. But when we band together, our whole market can improve. When that happens, everyone wins.