Terrific trio: The 2014 Pleatco honorees are (L-R) Mark Mulder, Tricia Manley and David Wright.
Terrific trio: The 2014 Pleatco honorees are (L-R) Mark Mulder, Tricia Manley and David Wright.

You might say it’s the Oscars for service professionals. Each year, Pleatco announces the recipients of its Perfect Pool Guy/Gal and Spa Guy awards at the PSP Expo; later, at a gala dinner, industry friends celebrate with the winners. So it was again this year. Now, without further ado, let’s meet the 2014 winners.

Before becoming a service professional, Perfect Pool Guy Mark Mulder was a real estate broker in Madison, Wis. After 10 years, he was ready for a change and returned to Florida, where he had grown up. As he put it, he wanted to focus on one piece of a home instead of needing to know a little bit about every part of the home. He decided to focus on pools, and his clients couldn’t be happier about that choice.

In 2008, he became co-owner of Ocean Blue Pool Supply & Services in Bradenton, Fla., along with his wife Erica and mother Lyn. They’ve grown the company from a maintenance-only business to a full-service pool company with a retail store and an 11-truck fleet. The company’s technicians and repairers handle more than 700 accounts.

What Mulder likes most about the service business is the fact that every day is different. “One day, I’ll be working on an automatic system,” he said. “The next day, I’m out at a house overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, installing a pump. Nice!”

Perfect Pool Gal Tricia Manley is a 22-year industry veteran who’s worked in construction, repair, renovation and service. She’s been office manager at builder Custom Pools of Naples in Florida for a month; just prior to that, she was a renovator and service technician at Dabco Pool Service & Repair.

Originally from West Virginia, she moved to Florida in 1990. When she was on the route, she handled 90 pools a week. For Manley, the best thing about the service business is meeting people and getting to know them over time. “I even bought a car from a customer!” she said.

Perfect Spa Guy David Wright is the first Pleatco winner from overseas. He became a spa professional in 1999, after 14 years in the hospitality industry. Also known as Hot Tub Dave, he’s personally sold more than 3,000 hot tubs in the U.K.

He started Passion4Spas in late 2013 in the town of Alton, England. “At present, I look after 20 customers with spa valeting,” he said. “I’m hoping to grow this side of the business when my store opens.” Indeed, in the next five months, his first showroom and e-commerce site will be up and running. He wants Passion4spas to be a one-stop store for hot tub, sauna and pool products, as well as skin-care products for the home spa experience. His part-time engineer helps out with service work and Wright also does minor spa repair work. Anything he can’t fix, he subs out to Spafix, a top repair firm in the UK.

Wright decided to go into the spa business because, he said, it was “an opportunity not to be missed. It’s the best decision I ever made.” He also really enjoys solving people’s problems and getting them back into their spas. “As we say at Passion4spas, stress less, hot tub more.”

As part of their winnings, the Pleatco honorees got trips for two to the Expo in Orlando, Fla., in November. Additionally, Mulder and Manley were able to take advantage of scholarships to attend courses by the design and education group Genesis.