Dick Abare embodies the "love what you do" mentality — even after an impressive 45 years in the pool and spa industry, he's nowhere near ready to quit. Abare owns Algae Busters, a Tampa, Fla.,-based service company with only three employees on the payroll: his wife, his brother and himself. While the company may be modest, Abare's reputation in the industry is anything but. He prides himself on an extensive body of product knowledge acquired from years in the field as well as time beta testing products for major industry manufacturers — in that respect, he's helped shape the service field on a global scale.

Abare's passion for the industry wowed Pleatco, which named him the 2018 Pleatco Perfect Pool Guy. Here, he shares more about his career and what helped him to become one the best of the best in the service field.

AQUA: How did you join the industry?

DICK ABARE: I was in high school and some friends of mine said, "Hey, somebody's looking for a helper." It was a nasty, dirty job back in the day; we used gunite and they needed somebody to shovel the rebound out of the pool. And I'm 15 years old thinking, "This is great, I'm going to be outside and it's good money." And I hate to say it, but it kind of got in my blood.

AQ: Florida is a competitive state for service work — what would you say Algae Busters does differently?

DA: We pride ourselves in product knowledge. We try very hard to keep up with all the latest technology, so when we walk into a backyard, we might be there for, let's say, a motor, and the customer may say, "Oh, are you familiar with this salt system?" Or "Can you help me with this automation?" And we can. We are predominantly a referral-based company and have been for most of my career. We're small, I know in today's society people don't always look at that in a favorable light, but we are small, we're very hands on, customer friendly. You're only going to see two of us. But I really feel like when we walk into a backyard, and I say this with great pride, you'll be hard-pressed to find a company in your backyard as knowledgeable as we are.

AQ: How do you develop that extensive body of knowledge?

DA: A big part of what Algae Busters does is beta testing. So we have gotten ourselves into a niche where people will contact us from various parts of the country and say, "Hey, we've got this new product, we'll hire you to test it for us." So we're basically dealing with products other people have not seen yet. I think that's what really helps us stay on the cutting edge. We're also pretty much in tune with builders. We have a couple of very large builder accounts that we work behind, so we see their new products, we see what's coming out the pipe, and we have this core group of people that trust us to test their products.

AQ: What do you like most about working in this industry?

DA: The people. And I know that may sound cliche. We have got one of the most diverse, and greatest groups of people you ever want to deal with. And everybody kind of becomes friends.

My wife likes to laugh and tell people, "I've never known anybody that gets up everyday and enjoys going to work." And I do. It's a pleasure. I love meeting new people, people who have a different outlook. It keeps it fresh for me.

And I always come back to technology. I'm kind of a high-octane guy, even though I'm an old guy, and I want to be challenged. I can't get stagnant. I have to be taxed, I have to be challenged.

A Round of Applause

In addition to the Perfect Pool Guy and Gal accolades, Pleatco honored five other pool and spa techs for their contributions to the industry:

2018 Industry Leadership Award: Steve Goodale

2018 Big Heart Award: Chris Richards

2018 Community Leader Award: Eric Honeyman

2018 Customer Service Award: Libby McKennon

2018 Future Leadership Award: Lamar Jeantinoble