You’ve probably heard the joke about the two guys walking in the woods who accidentally startle a hungry bear. As the bear turns to them, one laces up his running shoes. “What are you doing?” his friend asks. “There’s no way you can outrun a bear.”

“I don’t have to outrun the bear,” the man replies. “I just have to outrun you.”

We are in a historic recession, and some of you reading these words will not be in business a year from now. Some will not outrun the bear.

The estimated number of pool and spa companies that will go under varies greatly depending on who is doing the estimating, but one thing is clear: Those that invest wisely stand the best chance of survival.

But does that always mean leaving your competitor to be mauled by wild animals? Well, yes and no.

In this issue, there’s a news story about two Texas pool builders who banded together to organize a “Got Milk” type ad campaign with the backing of subs and various suppliers. The firms are technically competitors, but were still able to join forces against a common enemy. There’s no telling how effective the ads will be in the long run, but I do know that the concept represents the kind of thinking needed in this industry.

As another example, Bruce Holmes of Pools of Fun in Indiana put together a business retreat for Midwestern pool and spa companies. Although Bruce organized the event two years ago when the economy was still strong, I have no doubt that the collective wisdom of this group will help every member as they weather these tough times. (For a more in-depth look at the Midwestern retreat, check out our “Voice of the Industry” column in the June 27 issue.)

Obviously, no one would recommend doing too much for a competitor. If this economy means your area will only support half the number of pool and spa companies that are there now, well then it’s time to lace up those running shoes.

But, by banding together whenever it makes sense, you may be able to get the bear to look the other way. I hear the RV industry is mighty tasty.