In its 50th anniversary year, buying group Aquatech Corp. has
relocated its headquarters from Southern California to Las Vegas,
utilizing a detailed, point-by-point plan.
The group originated in Arizona in 1962 and moved to Orange
County, Calif., in 1982. After three decades, officials decided to
escape the Golden State’s notoriously high taxes and real
“Aquatech is a member-owned organization, so if the
corporation saves money, it’s better for the members,”
said Rob Morgan, president of Dallas-based Sunbelt Pools, who was
involved in the relocation planning. “Since the majority of
our members are not in California, it made no sense to continue
paying California taxes, fees and prices.”
The organization also had considered Texas, Florida and Arizona
before deciding on Las Vegas.
“It has all the economic advantages,” said Aquatech
President/CEO Jeff Fausett. “Nevada’s tax position is
excellent; its airlift in and out of Las Vegas is the best in the
country. You can get anywhere on a direct flight, which is a huge
advantage for us to interact with our member base, and for our
vendor base to come visit us.”
With Nevada properties selling at approximately 50 percent of
the price for comparable lots in Southern California, Aquatech was
able to pay cash for a property nearly 30 percent larger. The new
space was organized in part to house more educational sessions,
with one large room and two smaller conference areas.
The new hometown proved strategic on a personnel level as well
because the organization hoped to retain as much of its staff as
possible. A year before the move, Aquatech notified its employees,
inviting all 30 to relocate. Exactly half accepted, including
management and most of the IT staff. The others, largely
customer-service and accounting personnel, had to be replaced.
As the group sought new hires, one of Nevada’s benefits
came into stark relief: When Aquatech participated in a job fair,
about 450 people applied for 15 open slots. “We weren’t
just finding people on the bottom end of the spectrum,”
Fausett said. “We were getting lawyers, MBAs, engineers and
degreed accountants, all the way across the scale of experience. So
there was a tremendous pool of great employees to pick
With such strong candidates on the market, Aquatech could bring
on employees with more qualifications than before. “We had no
degreed staff in the accounting department [in California],”
Fausett said. “They’re all degreed here now. In
California, if you wanted to hire someone with an accounting degree
... it would be unaffordable.”
While Fausett is quick to say his California staff was more than
capable, he hopes the new crew will be able to help develop systems
to build upon and improve the company’s performance.
The Nevada personnel were hired by spring and Aquatech paid to
train them in California, with customer-service personnel training
throughout the busy season. Las Vegas-based employees commuted to
the California office during the week to work alongside their
predecessors. “People on the California side were starting to
leave gradually — a person a month here, a couple of people
there — but more or less, we were running with double
staff,” Fausett said.
The organization paid for employees to fly to California, stay
in hotel rooms during the work week, and travel home for the
weekends. Fausett estimates this cost $300,000 to $400,000.
“But when you consider that you’re training people and
you were also creating experience in the season, so it was worth
the investment,” Fausett said.
Because the existing staff had been given the option of staying,
morale remained high during the training period.
Management also arranged more team-building lunches to not only
integrate new employees into the corporate culture, but to show the
previous staff their appreciation.
The organization devised a strategy to minimize disruption,
moving employees from California to Nevada in three phases, one
department at a time. The information technology system was moved
first so it could be firmly in place before the rest of the company
followed. The organization’s most important function is
accepting and fulfilling orders, Fausett said, so that capability
needed to be preserved with the least disruption.
Aquatech officials chose to virtualize their computer system, or
put it on “the cloud,” rather than hosting a server
platform. “[This creates] a more efficient system with higher
reliability and redundancy,” Fausett explained. “The
servers will never be down in a virtual environment.”
Next, Aquatech sent the accounting department to its new home.
The organization figured that because accounting tasks don’t
require an in-depth understanding of the pool and spa industry and
its products, this staff could more easily step in and replace
The customer service department was the last to move because
those employees would need to learn more about the industry, its
products and Aquatech members. Keeping this function in California
longer gave the new employees more time to work in tandem with
their predecessors during the busy season. When things slowed down
in the fall, this final piece of the puzzle was put in place.
This was the third time in his career that Fausett has relocated
a company. The key, he said, is to plan and manage every small
detail. “From a CEO’s standpoint,” he said,
“if there’s one valuable lesson in that, it’s
that you have to have a very strong person in your employ
who’s helping you plan it on a detailed level.”