Today, APSP and NSPF surprised the industry by announcing the two organizations would merge into one, The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance, with a single CEO and a single board of directors. Such a merger was attempted three years ago, but ultimately failed as the two organizations began to contemplate the difficult details that would be required.

This time the approach is different. Both CEOs, Tom Lachocki of NSPF and Larry Caniglia of APSP, are leaving, making way for a single new executive. The two boards are merging into one, with five members each from NSPF and APSP, which is important, says APSP Board Chairman Donna Williams, but the crux of the change “is that this merged board is united in its vision for the industry.

“We learned a lot the last time around, and that really laid the groundwork that we were able to build on. But also because of the past and all the people that were involved and disappointed that we weren’t able to come together in 2016, we want to make clear that this time we really have figured this thing out,” she added.

Rob Butcher, NSPF board chair, went through the merger attempt of 2016, and believes the lessons learned and the enormous amount of work that was done at the time has been instrumental in clearing the obstacles for the two groups to become The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance. “After that experience,” he says, “I could probably write a book on the thought process of merging a 501(c)(6) and a 501(3).”

Changes in leadership at NSPF and APSP helped pave the way for the Alliance, Butcher adds.

“I came in as our board chair in the fall, and I thought my No. 1 job was going to be to find a successor to Tom Lachoki. So I needed to call Donna Williams, the APSP board chair, and introduce myself, and on that phone call, I said, ‘You know, we tried the merger in 2016, and we talked about the stumbling blocks,’ but I said, ‘I’m willing to put our search for a new CEO on hold if you want to meet again on what it would take to merge the organizations,’ and she agreed. She said, ‘Yes, that would be great. Let’s do it.’ And so we did.

“And as we got together and reviewed the documents from 2016, between the two groups, we just found a lot of camaraderie and trust. And it came together from there.”

The two industry groups will come together to form the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance, an umbrella organization leading industrywide advocacy, alliances and promotions. Trade and foundation activities will be conducted separately for procedural and legal purposes under the banners of The Pool & Hot Tub Professionals Association and The Pool & Hot Tub Foundation, respectively.

All three groups will be governed by a single board of directors to ensure sustained unity of mission and vision and will be initially composed of five members each from the current boards of NSPF and APSP. Those members are: from APSP, Chris Curcio, Scott Frost, Rich Garbee, Andrew Levinson and Donna Williams; and from NSPF, Rob Butcher, Karl Frykman, Franceen Gonzalez, James R. Mock and Anita Sayed, Ph.D.

The new unified board of directors plans to hold its first organizational meeting in mid-March to begin the longer term process of integration, with the goal of beginning the search for a permanent CEO, determining staffing requirements and locations for core services and programs. Integration efforts are expected to continue through 2019.

The leaders of both NSPF and APSP agreed that the new structure, with its “Celebrate the Water” mission, will offer greater community benefits by facilitating 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.

By speaking with a single, united advocacy voice, The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance will be better positioned to protect the interests of the industry through an unprecedented and expanded network that includes both nationwide and international alliances and relationships.

The Pool & Hot Tub Professionals Association will be the 501(c)(6) trade organization to manage certifications, standards, volunteer workforce opportunities, awards and member services, while The Pool & Hot Tub Foundation will be the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization to manage education, publications, research, fundraising and grantmaking.

To assist the new board of directors with the integration process, APSP and NSPF have established a unification working group task force, comprised of leaders from both organizations to finalize governing documents, develop branding and logos, appoint officers and begin developing enterprise-wide business strategies and plans that will include early communications with all members and stakeholders.

The two groups have agreed there will be no immediate changes to programming, including scheduled activities of chapters, councils, and 2019 events and trade shows, and services will continue to be provided by both staffs, which will remain in place at their current locations throughout the integration process.

“We recognize this is no small task we have set for ourselves,” Caniglia says, “But we also believe APSP and NSPF have extraordinarily talented staffs, with extensive industry experience, and with their help we will move forward to pool our strengths for the benefit of all our stakeholders.”

“These two industry groups, they should not be competing; their missions are the same. There should be more pools, more people swimming, we’re both working for that — we should be working together,” says Larry Caniglia, outgoing CEO of APSP. “I’m so thrilled to be part of this before I leave.”

Scott Webb is Executive Editor of AQUA Magazine.