Fluidra announced that Troy Franzen would be retiring and that Lennie Rhoades would be stepping up as the new president of Fluidra North America. We had the opportunity to catch up with Troy to conduct an informal exit interview on the Pool Magazine podcast.
(Pool Magazine) PM: So are congratulations in order Troy, are you officially retired right now?
(Troy Franzen) TF: I am officially retired right now as we speak. This is my first week at home where I’m not looking at my phone every five minutes. It’s a different feeling, but yes, it’s kind of official as we speak.
PM: That’s terrific. 12 years with the company was a real achievement. You’ve had a great run and some big milestones with Fluidra. You were with them a long time, can you talk to us a bit about your experience with them?
TF: It was fantastic. I look back and twelve and a half years seem like it’s flown by. The last three years, as we know, kind of put time into a different kind of context.
PM: What changed in your life while you were president of Fluidra?
TF: What changed in my life? Oh, boy. Well, when I started with this company, I had three young children. Now, twelve and a half years later, I have three adult children that are almost all through school or working in post-grad school and so that’s made me proud. That’s been a big change in my life. I’ve learned a ton about certainly the industry, our company, and the pool business. It’s been a pleasure along the way.
PM: We know you played a significant role in the transition from Zodiac to Fluidra. I mean, you were there at the very start. Can you talk to us a bit about that and some of the other acquisitions, mergers, and changes that you saw happen during your time with the company?
TF: In 2010, I would say that we were then owned by Carlyle Private Equity. We were under the label of the company name Zodiac Pool Systems. If you go back and think about what occurred leading up to that time period with the housing market and of course the great recession that took place, it was a dramatic time frame not only for the industry but for our company.
The company changed dramatically as the economy kind of took a turn for the worse. A lot of under-investment or no investment or stripping of costs was taking place when I came on board. I would say the company was a little bit rudderless and lacking in direction. It needed some investment in key areas like customer service and quality and sales. It was a difficult time, but on one hand, it was nice to come in when things were at the bottom. There was only one way to go with that.
Bruce Brooks, our current CEO, and I were of like mind having worked together in the past. We set our sights on building a great company and not thinking about the short term and not thinking about flipping the company. We started thinking about building out a brand. Building out a quality infrastructure. Putting together a sales and customer service strategy that was focused on the customer. Y’know? Really saying ‘Hey, what do we want this company to be today?’ That was twelve and a half years ago, and the results speak for themselves.
PM: You’ve had a few big milestones over the last couple of years. Taylor Technologies, SR, Smith, CMP. There are some big acquisitions there.
TF: If you can go back before that, we weren’t doing a ton of acquisition work early on because we were still building out the foundation and fundamentals. We bought a company called Savi Lights years ago. Nicheless LED technology had some early quality challenges, but that acquisition kind of put us into the lighting category. We went on to buy a small company called Grand Effects, which kind of got us into that high-end decorative fire and water feature space.
When the pandemic kicked in was when a lot of companies kind of went into hiding or thought things were going to turn really bad. Not only did the market start to turn for the good, but Fluidra doubled down. The board gave us a lot of support not only financially, but gave us the leeway to go get aggressive.
We started with CMP custom molded products out of Atlanta, which kind of got us into a different vertical of spa OEM products, which we’re excited about. We also expanded our offering with alternative sanitizers, white goods, and some other products that fit in nicely with our Jandy and Polaris bundle. Then we moved on and bought eventually bought S.R. Smith up in Oregon. That got us into a lot of the deck equipment like slides, rails, diving boards, and then also allowed us a nice baseline of business to expand the commercial portfolio. Wrapping up with Taylor Water Technologies out of Maryland. It’s been a nice little bolt onto the family.
PM: These are some tremendous milestones. Troy, now that we’re getting to the point in our conversation where we’ve got to ask you, what made you decide to take this moment to retire?
TF: Oh, boy, I don’t know that there was one AHA moment. I always said I wanted to retire early, and I was naive enough to say when I was 21 that I’m going to retire when I’m 50. In fact, I missed my goal. I’m a little bit late but I always wanted to take time to do the things that I want to do; while I could do them, on my own schedule. I love sports, so to use a sports analogy, I didn’t want to go out on a low. I didn’t want to get carried out off the field on a stretcher and I wanted to make it my decision.
Fluidra had this incredible run of success. I would lie if I didn’t say the last couple of years have been incredibly rewarding, but they also have been challenging and especially when you throw the acquisition work on top of just the day-to-day heavy lifting that took place to service our customers.
It was time to take a break. I think late last year Bruce and I started talking about succession planning. As a public company, one of our jobs is to be stewards for the future, not just for now. How do you have a successful transition of power? So I said I’m ready to take a break, let’s start thinking about a handoff. That’s kind of when this started, almost about ten months ago. I know it kind of just was recently announced, but in fact, in my mind, the plan has been going on for some time now.
PM: Lennie Rhodes is going to be moving into your role. His previous role was CEO for Big Ass Fans. I saw he was VP at Husqvarna and before that Director of Marketing for Electrolux. This kind of unexpected move of bringing in a company outsider to the role, what was the strategy behind that decision to look outside the organization?
TF: Well, some people may call that an unexpected move or unconventional move, but I actually came from outside the industry when I came on. He’s got an incredible background. I think if you look at the companies he’s worked for, he’s worked in very similar kinds of channels and industries that we’re dealing with. Working through distribution is in his background. So I think Bruce thought that that was an important aspect. We wanted someone that would bring a new perspective, and diversity of ideas if you will. I think that’s why we landed on Lennie. I’m pretty excited. I spent a lot of time with him and in fact, I think the company is going to be in fantastic hands.
PM: Usually when there’s a change at the top, there’s a lot more change coming. What does the change in leadership look like for the rest of the executive organization as well as the rank and file of Fluidra North America?
TF: People have asked what I’m proud of leaving behind. I think that’s the leadership team we have in place at Fluidra. Twelve years ago we were always kind of the green, inexperienced, kind of rudderless management team. We have turned the corner and I would say over the last seven years, there’s been kind consistent, solid leadership, and a strategic plan. We’ve been a stable group in the industry. I’m very pleased and proud of the team we have in place. We’ve got a really solid, stable, mature executive leadership team and frankly, I don’t anticipate any changes in leadership.
PM: Lennie Rhoades is stepping in at a particularly challenging time. What advice as parting president, were you able to offer Lennie about what obstacles lie ahead?
TF: I started in 2010 so I kind of started, I don’t want to say a similar time period, but because I don’t think what’s going on now is going to have the same curve or the same kind of decline that occurred in 2008. Certainly, we are in a period of softening. We can debate whether we’re in or heading toward a recession, but I think the fundamentals are sound. My advice to him has been, don’t overreact. Don’t do anything in the short term that will impact a business that’s really stable.
Of course, he’ll have his own leadership style and he’ll have his own approaches, but I advised not to let the short-term media cycle or what’s going on with the economy affect what’s a pretty good organization with a good strategy. Stay the course. Look for ways to improve. Look for ways to drive more efficiency and unique ways to go to market. But don’t overreact to a short-term economic downturn.
PM: What are your plans now? What involvement, if any, do you plan to maintain with Fluidra as you exit the organization?
TF: On a personal note, I plan on taking a break, traveling with my wife, and spending some time with my three grown children. I’d love to get involved with volunteer charity work in my community. I do intend to help Bruce and the board and the leadership team in any way possible.
If there’s any future consulting or outside work that they need help; I don’t know, maybe it’s due diligence or looking at any future acquisitions. I’ve kind of signed on to help as any special projects come along and in the very short term plus help Lennie steer the way. Any questions he has or any doors he needs to open, I’m happy to help because it’s in my and everybody’s best interest to.
Y’know, I think the best has yet to come from the company. Although there’s a little bit of a soft spot in the economy, the future is really, really bright and I think you’re going to see big things out of Fluidra in the future.
Listen to our entire conversation with Troy Franzen on the Pool Magazine podcast
Hurricane Nicole Unleashes a Second Round of Devastation on Florida
November hurricanes are rare so to say that Hurricane Nicole was unexpected would be an understatement. While most Florida residents were still recuperating from the damage caused by Hurricane Ian, Mother Nature let us know that hurricane season isn’t quite over yet. Hurricane Nicole was quickly downgraded to a tropical storm after making landfall in Florida yesterday, but not before killing two people from a downed powerline and causing a fresh round of destruction
More than 335,000 homes and businesses in Florida were without power as of early Thursday morning. Governor De Santis extended a state of emergency to all 67 counties with recommended and voluntary evacuation orders for Brevard, Clay, Seminole, St. John’s, Putnam and Franklin counties and mandatory evacuation orders for Flagler and Volusia counties. Along the west coast of Florida and from Sebastian Inlet to the South Santee River in South Carolina, a tropical storm warning has been issued.
“Given the uncertainty of the storm’s strength and path as it approaches South Carolina, residents need to have their personal emergency plans ready to go just in case we need to take safety precautions later in the week,” advised Kim Stenson, director of the state emergency management division.
Patio of Pirates Cove buckling in Daytona Beach Shores, FL where #Nicole is causing structures to collapse into the ocean that were already battered and bruised by #HurricaneIan. Live w/ @JimCantore and @TheMattSaffer on @weatherchannel pic.twitter.com/3qttL44xim— Steve Petyerak (@StevePetyerak) November 10, 2022
Through Saturday, parts of eastern, central, and northern Florida could receive up to 8 inches of rain. Also, the hurricane center predicts rainfall totals of 2–6 inches from the southeastern United States through the southern and central Appalachians and western mid-Atlantic.
The one-two punch of Hurricane Nicole coming directly on the heels of Ian was unexpected. Nicole was the first hurricane to make landfall in the United States during November in almost 40 years. Florida is no stranger to hurricanes, but only two hurricanes, the 1935 Yankee Hurricane and the 1985 Hurricane Kate, made landfall in November since official record-keeping began.
Hurricane Nicole Causing Tremendous Damage For Pool Owners
While certainly not as destructive in terms of loss of life and property damage as Ian was, a quick glance around social media this morning shows every indication that Nicole did her fair share of damage during the storm. One homeowner posted footage of her swimming pool popping out from the ground during the coastal surge.
Video Footage: @eastcoastdiy
How a Mr. Rogers Episode Featuring a Pool Helped Fight Segregation
In 1964 the Civil Rights Act outlawed segregation in public places. One person on the forefront of breaking down barriers of segregation was Fred Rogers. His children’s show, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” ran from 1968 to 2001, and he became famous for the compassion he showed on the show.
In particular, two scenes from different years (one from 1969 and the other from 1993, per NPR) have been getting a lot of attention from viewers, who have been tweeting and posting them on Instagram and Reddit. Rogers (who passed away in 2003) and Officer Clemmons (played by François Clemmons), a black actor, both dip their feet into a wading pool.
Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood Episode An Important Moment For Civil Rights
Civil unrest over U.S. pool segregation policies coincided with the airing of the first scene, and many viewers saw it as Rogers speaking out against racism. Rogers is shown in the scene inviting Officer Clemmons to join him in a wading pool for a refreshing foot soak. Rogers offers Clemmons his towel after Clemmons says he doesn’t have one.
In 1969, when this episode aired, many public pools were still segregated despite the passage of the Civil Rights Act almost five years earlier. This act of kindness from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood meant more than it seemed at the time. For tens of thousands of young viewers, it was a chance to see that there was no reason to assume that people of different races couldn’t enjoy the same activities together, such as sitting at a table or swimming in the same pool.
Mr. Rogers had a good friend in Police Officer Clemmons. It was a hot and sunny day. To ask if he wanted to take a seat and relax for a while to cool off was the humane thing to do. It’s a small thing, but it would be a great example of compassion and acceptance for the rest of humanity. What a terrific example to set for millions of children watching at home. The imagery of that moment was a canonizing footnote in television history.
The pair’s final episode together in 1993 featured a replay of the same scene from 24 years earlier. While soaking his tired feet, Rogers invites Clemmons to do the same. “Sure!” Clemmons gives his reply.
When promoting his memoir, which came out in May 2020, and in the 2018 documentary about the show, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” Clemmons discussed these powerful clips.
“They didn’t want black people to come and swim in their swimming pools, and Fred said, ‘That is absolutely ridiculous,'” Clemmons recalled in the documentary.
“He invited me to come over and to rest my feet in the water with him,” Clemmons said. “The icon Fred Rogers not only was showing my brown skin in the tub with his white skin as two friends, but as I was getting out of that tub, he was helping me dry my feet.”
They revisited the scene in their final episode together in 1993, and Clemmons says reenacting it affected him deeply.
“I think he was making a very strong statement. That was his way. I still was not convinced that Officer Clemmons could have a positive influence in the neighborhood and in the real-world neighborhood, but I think I was proven wrong,” he says.
Much has changed since the first airing of that episode but the road to a fair and caring society is long and arduous. It was five decades ago when Officer Clemmons and Mr. Rogers conveyed a message that is as powerful today as it was fifty years ago.
HTX Surf Will Be a World Class Surf Destination in Houston
HTX Surf is set to start construction in Houston,TX early 2023.
HTX Surf, a premier surf resort and destination, is set to begin development in early 2023. According to the press announcement, the new surf resort will be conveniently positioned in Generation Park, only ten minutes from Bush Intercontinental Airport, and within 60 minutes of nearly seven million people in the city of Houston.
In a press statement, HTX Surf was described as providing a “surfing experience rivaling the ocean by delivering perfect waves every time.” The technology behind HTX Surf can generate up to 1,000 waves per hour, and it can be adjusted to produce waves of varying sizes to accommodate surfers of varying abilities.
Beach Street Development’s new surf 15-acre surf resort is planned to start construction sometime in 2023. HTX Surf will draw surf enthusiasts of all ages and abilities from all corners of the globe.
Plans for the new surf complex include a six-acre surf lagoon that can accommodate more than 70 surfers per hour and allows novice and advanced surfers to surf simultaneously. A beach will be built for guests who want to watch the surfers.
“This is a special location for us as it is true to our vision of sharing great waves with everyone, everywhere in the world, specifically those who live far away from the ocean. We are looking forward to seeing HTX Surf bring our Wavegarden Cove technology to Houston,” said Fernando Odriozola, Wavegarden’s Chief Commercial Officer.
A Closer Look at HTX Surf
HTX Surf’s Wavegarden Cove lagoon will be an inland fantasy surfing destination with guaranteed waves and a tropical beach atmosphere modeled after some of the world’s best surf spots. The revolutionary method accurately reproduces the motion of water particles in ocean ground swells, without the presence of secondary waves that degrade the wave quality. Very little energy is wasted as forces are transferred from the machinery to the water, resulting in maximum efficiency. Each module in the Wavegarden Cove will be powered by its own electro-mechanical system and move in unison to create perfectly timed waves. Different modes and types of waves can be changed with the push of a button, to easily modify the wave’s form and size.
In addition to surfing, there will also be a skateboard pump track, members-only club, hot tubs, fire pits, pool, beach sections with food and drink options, and an event lawn for concerts and festivals.
According to projections made by Alex Bergman, principal partner of Beach Street Development and Operations, the opening is expected to take place in the fall of 2024.
“We plan to break ground this winter and are working with a well-known Houston-based (general contractor) that also has offices around the country,” said Bergman.
Photo Credits: HTX Surf
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