Many in the industry accredit their success and achievements to the education they received attending the Genesis program. Genesis is one of the leading instructional training systems dedicated to higher education in pool construction and design. The program, first started back in 1998 by Skip Phillips, Brian Van Bower and David Tisherman, quickly became an important resource for builders who were looking to further their education in pool engineering and design.
We had the opportunity to catch up with Skip Phillips & Brian Van Bower while they were recently attending a meeting at the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance headquarters in Alexandria, VA. They were there for a 2 day strategy session with PHTA, discussing new refinements to the Genesis program.
During the course of our conversation with the two founders, we learned how they first got their start in the pool industry. We also found out the origin of this seminal instruction program that has been responsible for producing some of the most talented minds in luxury pools today.
How The Founders of Genesis Got Their Start
Van Bower first got his start in the pool industry back in the 70’s. Like many other stars in the pool industry, Van Bower had humble origins that first began as a tech performing pool service for other companies. A quick study, he eventually decided to start his own pool service company. After building up the business to around 600 accounts, Van Bower decided to change direction.
To Van Bower, the evolution of his career meant building instead of servicing pools. Setting out to educate himself, Van Bower started off small at first. He began building spas before eventually moving on to pools.
The year 1989 would prove to be a pivotal one for Van Bower as he progressed further into designing pools. He would eventually sell his first company in 1991.
Today, Van Bower’s current company Aquatic Consultants works on high end luxury pool projects all over the world. Their clientele includes a who’s who list of celebrities from Sir Richard Branson, to a certain quarterback for Tampa Bay whom shall remain nameless. “I am a product of the Genesis system,” said Van Bower.
Van Bower & Phillips Share Similar Origins
Co-Founder, Skip Phillips also started in pool service back in 1975 and over the next few years built the company up to 3 retail outlets servicing roughly 1,100 pools a week. In 1979 he decided he wanted to start building pools so he began studying for his contractors license.
“My second pool won a design award which is frankly an indictment on the pool industry more so than it is an endorsement of me, ” said Phillips, who would eventually become an NSPI instructor along with Van Bower.
“Our process for starting the Genesis system was actually a knee jerk reaction to invalid certifications and invalid educational processes that kept the industry dumbed down,” said Phillips.
The Origins of Genesis
“Back in early 1998, Skip and I had been teaching programs for what was then NSPI,” said Van Bower, “Skip had approached them, because we decided that even though we were teaching programs, they weren’t programs that interested us that much.”
“We wanted them to go outside of the industry instead of having thinly veiled product demonstrations as education and actually bring in instructors who were credible.” said Van Bower.
It was Phillips that first spoke up to program directors. He asked them to bring in architects and landscape architects. Phillips said he and others wanted credible experts from outside the pool industry who could provide instruction in design theory as well as cover topics outside the normal realm of curriculum being taught at the time.
Upon hearing his suggestions, Phillips said that NSPI program directors shut him down cold. “They told me there was no market for an advanced program.” said Phillips, “In fact, they said if we held a venue like that, they would give us $100 per person that attended.”
Phillips said that the incredulous nature of those remarks planted the seeds for starting the Genesis program in that very moment.
I found it so offensive, that I got up and said: ‘That’s alright I’ll do it myself’, and Brian was in the room and stood up and said ‘No, he isn’t going to do it himself, we’re going to do it together.’ David Tisherman was also a partner in the venture at that time.Skip Phillips – Genesis Co-Founder
“When we put on our first school, we actually hadn’t thought it out any further than that,” said Phillips. “One of the students came into the Morro Bay location we were at and asked ‘Are you the Genesis guys?’, and I was almost hesitant to say yes, because I didn’t know what would follow,” explained Phillips.
“Twenty out of twenty two attendees called the following week and said, ‘What are we doing next?’, and I said, ‘What’s this we thing?'” said Phillips. “We hadn’t really thought it out that far, but it became obvious that there were like minded people that knew that this industry didn’t have any valid education, ” explained Phillips.
“Initially there were a lot of obstacles as we moved Genesis ahead just trying to find venues,” said Phillips. As it often does in the pool industry, word of mouth quickly began to spread about the Genesis program. Interest rapidly began to grow as more and more people who had heard good things about the program, wanted to experience what others had conveyed had been a life changing experience for them.
Much of the initial buzz about Genesis 3 was generated by word of mouth from a variety of people who had taken the program. They were discovering that Genesis offered something fresh and original the industry hadn’t seen; expert instructors without a hidden agenda to disguise a product pitch as credible education. David Tisherman, who was closely connected to the Genesis 3 program and was one of the original founders, would eventually sell his shares and depart from the organization in 2012.
Over the next decade, Phillips and Van Bower continued to grow the Genesis program into what it is today. Their legacy on the pool industry has left an indelible mark on the face of modern luxury inground pools. Over 6,000 people have gone through the Genesis program since its inception.
“All you have to do is flip through the pages of a magazine to see our impact on the pool industry,” said Phillips. “If you look at the vessels now versus twenty two, twenty three years ago, they’re not built the same, they’re not designed the same, and that’s really because of the Genesis system,” explained Phillips.
Without question, many builders credit the Genesis program with advancing standards in education. Dave Penton of Ask The Masters, said attending the program made him a better builder. As did Benjamin Lasseter as have many other well known designers, architects and landscape architects. Those who have attended the program credit Genesis with dramatically advancing the quality of higher education in swimming pool construction.
Van Bower explained that it has been a long evolution for the program that he and Phillips started over twenty three years ago. Both founders felt that if they wanted to continue to grow Genesis they would have to involve core attendees and sponsors which would eventually comprise a board of advisors. The close affiliation of this board of advisors with the National Swimming Pool Foundation led to an eventual partnership. Eventually the NSPF, wished to take control over the program, which later merged with the APSP to form the PHTA.
Today, the program is managed by the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance. Van Bower explained how this will be a game changer for Genesis. “Now we have great resources both financially and knowledge wise because instead of 2 pool guys and a couple of helpers putting together programs, we now have staff and training and people that are knowledgeable in marketing.”
There has been some reported turbulence, so we asked how things have changed since the PHTA took over the program. Van Bower remarked “We feel today we are stronger than we’ve ever been. We have better faculty and have been pleased with the outcome of our programs as of late”.
During our discussion with founders, Phillips and Van Bower, we asked about some of the major distinctions between Genesis and other emerging instructional programs to which Phillips replied, “Genesis is obviously the origin of really any of the advanced educational systems on the planet. We’ve been global for some time. We’ve had IACET approval, multiple schools in Europe and Australia. Genesis with its curriculum has really set the stage to launch careers. Frankly almost anyone you see or talk to who has reached some level of status in this industry came through our program. To our credit, the real value is in the success of the people that came through our program.”
Competition Emerges in wake of merger
We asked some pointed questions that have puzzled many in the pool industry. Point of fact, we wanted to know what the primary distinctions were between Genesis and other highly acclaimed programs like Watershape University.
Watershape U was recently started by Dave Peterson and Bill Drakeley. Other former notable supporters of the Genesis program including Dave Penton, Grant Smith, Ryan Oakes, Rick Chafey, Kevin Cobabe, and one of Pool Magazine’s own featured Op-Editorialists Paolo Benedetti, have also joined to support the new education program. All were closely connected to, had gone through or taught for Genesis in years previous before splintering off to start Watershape University.
Phillips replied, “Obviously the depth in Genesis is significant. We have a very deep staff on the design side working with Kate Wiseman who has her Masters in Landscape Architecture. Great designers… Feras Irikat, Kirk Bianchi are just a couple of names. On the engineering side, Terry Brannon is a great instructor – very knowledgeable. We now have 3 engineers to work with.”
When trying to characterize the distinctions between the two programs, Phillips said, “I really can’t speak to how these other programs are structured (Watershape University), but we do know that the basis for that and the basis for their credibility in their certifications is really based on what was learned in Genesis.”
Cause of the split
Shedding some light on why the founders of Watershape University may have felt a sudden compulsion to splinter off, Phillips said, “They were concerned (referring to Peterson and Drakeley), as we were that the merger (between APSP and NSPF) would result in some sort of challenge with our program. That turned out not to be the case,” he continued, “but they wanted their own program and wanted to do things their own way. There are some talented people there and I actually credit Genesis for that success.”
What it takes to graduate from Genesis
Van Bower outlined the specific requirements necessary in order to become a Genesis Associate. “You have to have taken our basic pool construction course, and engineering 211, and basic fluid engineering or hydraulic program and then you can use the title Genesis Associate.” said Van Bower.
Van Bower explained the process of matriculating to become SWD Registered. “When you move on to the registered level,” said Van Bower, “you step up to a requirement for over 150 hours in order to achieve the title SWD Registered. There are several principle courses required along with some electives.”
The next and highest level of the Genesis system, Van Bower explained, is that of SWD Master; which is currently only achievable through project submittal and an evaluation by the Genesis advisory board.
Recalibrating to Covid
In comparing Genesis to going to college for pool construction, Van Bower agreed with the analogy. He explained how Genesis was adapting to distance learning in a virtual environment as have many universities and vocational training programs since Covid-19 began.
Traditionally, tradeshows and expos have been the primary method in which Genesis disseminates and reaches much of the pool industry. The recent events of last years pandemic have caused them to focus on refining and recalibrating much of the content to be consumable via online learning courses. “We approached it with some trepidation about how well it was going to be received.” said Van Bower, “The exit surveys and comments of our attendees were of the highest level. We were shocked at how highly regarded the virtual program was. We have quotes from the builders that attended, where we feel really good about what we are doing.”
Phillips broke down the pool construction program at Genesis “Our construction program is something that every single builder, regardless of perceived experience should take. We get down to basics and cover issues that are so effective, that even 20 years ago – people would come out of our class during the first break and call their office and say ‘Don’t dig another pool, don’t shoot another shell, don’t put another stick of plumbing in til I get home. We’re doing this all different.'”
One of the programs that has become incredibly popular with designers is the color theory and application course which Phillips elaborated on “What’s interesting is going back over a decade, we saw the value of incorporating color theory and learning some of the vocabulary and the influences of all these various design features.”
“Color influences everything we do,” continued Phillips, “from the clothes we wear, to the cars we purchase to how we decorate our houses. It also influences the materials and color palettes of the pools. Frankly, if you don’t understand and haven’t been to a class with Feras (Irikat) then it’s almost the equivalent of going into design blind.”
We have spoken with many designers and builders here at Pool Magazine, and one of the major aspects attendees seem to enjoy the most seems to be the events that Genesis puts on. Elaborating on what those are like; Phillips said, “In some cases these are events that are specifically structured around travel to a destination with architectural references. Our very first schools were in Morro Bay for a reason, and it was because of its proximity to Hearst Castle which has two of the most iconic pools in the world. We worked out an agreement with the state of California to have special focused tours.”
Since those very first tours, Genesis has taken the lead on creating destination events all over the world. Setting up architecture based events that are strategically tied in with teachable design references throughout Germany, Italy, France, and Australia.
These tours have as much to do about food and wine as they do about pool construction. This lifestyle destination trip combined with an educational tour that delivers a premium experience; has been closely interwoven into the events and tours participants attend.
Van Bower said that the power of PHTA to help propel the program to an even wider audience means incredible things are on the horizon for Genesis. “Skip and I continue to work with Genesis because we believe it’s important. We are really thrilled to see what the merger of the two organizations (NSPF & APSP to form PHTA) will bring to the table.”
The outlook for the future of the program is something that Phillips and Van Bower are incredibly optimistic about. “We’re fortunate that the leadership of PHTA, particularly the head Sabeena Hickman recognizes Genesis for the benefit that it is,” said Van Bower, “doesn’t want to degrade it any way, and is strongly in favor of keeping it in the forefront.”
“Of course now we have the power of the PHTA behind Genesis, so we have chapters and members spread all over the country that will be interested and are interested in our programs.” said Van Bower “Right now the future is bright. Skip and I are in a meeting in Alexandria, VA at the headquarters of PHTA, in a room with 20 people sitting around a table doing nothing but working on Genesis programs and future events. It’s an amazing team that we have and we’re stronger than ever”.
Las Vegas Losing Classic Fire & Water Feature – Mirage Volcano Set to Close
Hard Rock confirms iconic Las Vegas fire feature, Mirage Volcano will close.
Since MGM Resorts International sold the property to Hard Rock International last year, the resort has been undergoing a rebranding process, and the resort’s iconic volcano will not play a role in the new resort plan.
The time of the final eruption for the Mirage Volcano is unknown, and neither Hard Rock nor MGM officials would confirm exactly when the volcano would be dismantled. They plan to build another one of Hard Rocks guitar-shaped hotels in the space.
About The Mirage Volcano
When the resort opened on November 22, 1989, the volcano quickly became a fan favorite. A modeled three-acre paradise resembling the South Seas is routinely jolted awake by the ominous rumbles of the Mirage Volcano throughout the night. Rapid movement of water along with creative lighting resembles lava.
Exciting flames shoot over 60 feet into the air. If you’ve ever watched the show from the street, you can literally feel the searing heat. With music composed by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, more than 150 Fireshooters, developed by WET Design (who also created the Fountains of Bellagio), propel fireballs in a dramatic choreographed display.
The volcano was one of the first free attractions paving the way for others like the pirate battle at Treasure Island, the light shows and concerts at the Fremont Street Experience, and the Bellagio fountains.
From 8 p.m. until 11 p.m., the volcano at the Mirage continues its hourly eruptions. We took the opportunity to see this fiery spectacle, perhaps for the last time, while exhibiting at the PSP Deck Expo recently. The street was packed with onlookers watching the show on the street.
Elaine Wynn, who was married to casino magnate Steve Wynn at the time, first came up with the idea for the volcano as a great way to differentiate the Mirage from the competition.
In recent years, however, Las Vegas has been shifting away from a transparently thematic approach with its newest resorts, including the Cosmopolitan (2010), Circa (2020), and Resorts World (2021), and its reliance on free attractions and loss leaders, such as buffets and poker rooms, to bring in the bustling crowds.
Las Vegas Residents Eager To Keep Attraction
There has been a running sentiment amongst casino insiders that free attractions such as the Mirage Volcano have turned into a drain on profits. In light of the news that the Volcano is slated to be removed, many Las Vegas residents have expressed they do not want to see the attraction go.
“When I heard the news, I remember just wondering why this was going to happen,” Alden Gillespy, a longtime resident of Las Vegas and critic of removing the volcano, told the Las Vegas Sun. “The fact that they were going to tear down the volcano, that hit me personally.”
Every time it goes off, the Volcano in Las Vegas draws in hundreds of people, both young and old, to the Strip. The idea of tearing it down has been met with pushback. A group of passionate residents in Las Vegas has banded together to compel Hard Rock International and the city government to stop the new owner from demolishing what they say is a historic landmark. A petition to protect the volcano has over 9,000 signatures of support.
Among those who think the volcano should be preserved is UNLV history professor Michael Green.
“We lost a lot of hotels on the Strip because of the understandable need to build better, more modern hotels,” Green told the Sun. “The volcano is a reminder of how it helped trigger the modern Las Vegas boom.”
Congratulations Pool Nation Award Winners!
Popular pool podcast hosts award show focused on inclusion
Pool Nation held its second annual awards show in Las Vegas, NV at the International Pool Spa Expo. “Our favorite thing about these award shows is it’s like a high school reunion, only with people you want to hang out with. To us, it’s a place where we celebrate each other’s accomplishments and successes; where we build each other up instead of tearing each other down,” said John Chakalis. The award show presented by the popular Pool Nation Podcast in collaboration with PoolPro recognizes achievement in a variety of different categories.
Award Winners by Category:
- Variable Speed Pump of the Year: Hayward TriStar VS
- Best Residential Pool Filter: AquaStar Pipeline Filter
- Automation of the Year: Jandy Aqualink RS
- Innovative Product of the Year: AquaStar Pipeline Filter
- Salt System of the Year: Hayward Aquarite
- Best Value Automation: Jandy iAquaLink IQ904
- Favorite Net: Pirhana Net
- Favorite Test Kit: Taylor K2005 Test Kit
- Best Truck Wrap: Big Family Pools
- Builder of the Year: Element Pool Company
- Sales Rep of the Year: Korey Wax – Alpha West Marketing Group
- Favorite Pool Vac System: Hammer Head Pool Vac
- Heater of the Year: Jandy JXI Heater
- Pool Guy of the Year: Chris Mele
- Pool Girl of the Year: Michelle Watson
- Lifetime Achievement Award: Wayne Ivusich
- Zac, John, & Edgar Award: Janey Flawless
- 30 Under 40 Male: Alexander Jacobs
- 30 Under 40 Female: Alisa Gotay
- Pool Company of the Year 250 Pools or less: Round Rock Pool Pros
- Pool Cleaner Suction Side: The Pool Cleaner, Hayward
- Heat Pump of the Year: Hayward Heat Pro
The Pool Nation award show has become quite popular among pool professionals and is supported by the pool & spa community. The awards are unique in that nominees are voted on by peers from within the pool industry. With a focus on inclusion, Pool Nation host Edgar De Jesus said, “It’s clear that we all want a better industry but in order to do that, we all belong in the same room and the key to success is collaboration.”
Having had close interaction with a number of the winners, I can certainly attest to the validity of the awards being given out. Korey Wax is a phenomenal sales rep. Wayne Ivusich certainly deserved a lifetime achievement award for his 30-plus years with Taylor Technologies. Element Pool Company is a young and thriving pool builder in the San Antonio market, that we’ve written about here at Pool Magazine. To see a young up-and-coming pool company recognized as Builder of the Year is absolutely refreshing. Round Rock Pool Pros is also a pool company that has fast become recognized as a service industry leader and again, great to see some of these terrific companies getting the recognition they richly deserve.
The 30 Under 40 category recognized two young professionals that will undoubtedly remain a force in the industry, Alexander Jacobs of United Aqua Group and Alisa Gotay of 787 Serrano Construction LLC. Again, these are folks who you may have already encountered in the pool industry that are rapidly making a name for themselves.
In all of the product categories, this year each of the winners delivered an exciting product that helped propel the industry forward. Many of the best pool product category winners had products we’ve highlighted right here in Pool Magazine. Congratulations to all of the winners who deserve all the credit in the world for having a tremendous year. We wish all of them continued success moving forward into 2023.
Pool & Hot Tub Alliance Celebrates National Apprenticeship Week
One year into its national apprenticeship program, the association shares successes
The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA) is celebrating National Apprenticeship Week, November 14-20. National Apprenticeship Week showcases the value of Registered Apprenticeship programs and how they provide a critical talent pipeline to help our nation’s economy. During this week, PHTA is sharing updates on the PHTA Registered Pool Maintenance and Service Technician Apprenticeship Program™, which launched in August 2021.
The PHTA Apprenticeship Program is the only nationwide program registered with the U.S. Department of Labor for the pool, spa, and hot tub industry. It allows the pool profession to be more competitive with other industries that are also struggling for entry-level talent. This program is free for PHTA members and combines on-the-job training with classroom instruction and skills-based education.
Having a registered apprenticeship program means that pool maintenance and service is now considered a skilled trade, opening the doors with high school guidance counselors, veterans, and community workforce boards.
PHTA is pleased to announce that there are currently 23 companies across 15 states enrolled in the apprenticeship program, and nearly 30 apprentices have begun their on-the-job training. Apprentices receive 182 hours of online education through the PHTA online education portal.
The companies currently enrolled are:
- Anderson Poolworks, Wilsonville, OR
- Aquatic Dynamics Inc, Mt. Sinai, NY
- Atlantic Solutions, Chapel Hill, NC
- B&B Pool and Spa Center, Chestnut Ridge, NY
- Gold Medal Pools, Lewisville, TX
- Goodall Pools & Spas, Camp Hill, PA
- Gorlin Pools, Lakehurst, NJ
- Great Valley Pool Service, Frazer, PA
- Idaho Pool Remodeling, Meridian, ID
- Lehmann Pools and Spas, Mahwah, NJ
- Luke Pool Service, Inc, Cumming, GA
- NW Arkansas Pool & Spa, Rogers, AR
- Penguin Pools, Waukesha, WI
- Pool Doctor NM, LLC, Traverse City, MI
- Poolwerx – Forest Lane, Dallas, TX
- Preserve Pools, Summerville, SC
- Pure Swim, Van Nuys, CA
- Rin Robyn Pools, Hackettstown, NJ
- Strong Refuge Pools, Wilsonville, OR
- Swimming Pool Services, Waukesha, WI
- The Better Pool Guy and Home Solutions, Inc, Clemont, FL
- The Pool People, Inc, Eldersburg, MD
- Vue Custom Pools, Greensboro, NC
“We consistently hear from PHTA members that workforce development and employee recruitment and retention are top business concerns,” says Sabeena Hickman, CAE, President & CEO of PHTA. “The pool and hot tub industry has so many wonderful career opportunities. We’re focused on not only delivering that message, but actively developing these apprentices into skilled, qualified workers who will become valued industry professionals. We are proud to be able to offer the PHTA Registered Pool Maintenance and Service Technician Apprenticeship Program and hope that more members take advantage of this opportunity in the coming year.”
In addition, PHTA and its Apprenticeship Task Force are currently developing a second apprenticeship program for pool construction laborers. PHTA is looking forward to launching this new program in early 2023.
To learn more about the PHTA Apprenticeship Program, visit https://apprenticeship.phta.org/ or contact Seth Ewing, PHTA Senior Director of Member Programs and Services, at [email protected] or 703-838-0083, ext. 159.
About the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance
The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA), a non-profit organization with over 3,600 members from around the world, was established in 1956 to support, promote, and protect the common interests of the $36.5B pool, hot tub, and spa industry. PHTA provides education, advocacy, standards development, research, and market growth to increase our members’ professionalism, knowledge, and profitability. Additionally, PHTA facilitates the expansion of swimming, water safety, and related research and outreach activities aimed at introducing more people to swimming, making swimming environments safer, and keeping pools open to serve communities. For more information, visit www.phta.org.
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