Thirty years ago, a publication produced solely for the informational needs of the pool and spa service professionals did not exist. Indeed, 30 years ago, the terms “pool and spa service technician” or “pool and spa service professional” did not exist.
Conceived to fill a hole in service specific education and raise the level of professionalism of a service sector previously referred to as pool men, Service Industry News was born in 1986, the brain child of David Dickman, former editor of Pool and Spa News, and Bob Lowry, who had recently sold Leisure time Chemicals.
They met at a party hosted by the NSPI Southern California chapter, where two had been paired for a game of Trivial Pursuit. The two strangers quickly ran the table, winning the game before anyone had a chance to spin, David remembered.
Bob said, “Wow, you seem to know a bunch of stuff,” and David responded, “Yeah and you know all of the stuff that I don’t know.
Between them, they seemed to have all the answers.
Well, maybe not all the answers, but they sure knew plenty, and they also found that their talents were well paired when it came to the dissemination of pool and spa information.
Bob had spent the last few years traveling the country speaking to pool associations about water chemistry. He had a wealth of knowledge about pool chemistry that he believed needed to be shared with pool guys.
“Bob wanted his words out, and I knew I was perfectly capable of doing that,” David said.
They decided to start their own publication, but instead of making it a general publication that appeals to everybody, they choose the specific target of pool service men.
At the time, the term “pool man” was common usage in the industry, and that was the first thing David wanted to change.
“We were trying to educate pool service men and trying to give them an identity to develop a professionalism that as far as we knew did not currently exist within the industry. So, first of all we needed to determine what we were going to call our readers, and I said ‘I think we should call them Professional Pool & Spa Service Technicians.’ “
That professional, gender-neutral term soon caught on.
“If there were one thing that we contributed to the language of the industry, it was probably that. Because within a year of our starting the publication, you never heard the term pool service men in any of the publications within the entire industry. Instead, the term Pool & Spa Service Technician became the accepted term.”
Service Industry News debuted on Jan. 9, 1986. The initial paper included an introductory story, which in part, read:
“The need for such a publication is clear. Although service firms and independent service personnel comprise one of the largest groups within the pool and spa industry, they are underrepresented by the trade press, which must cover the entire industry and cannot concentrate on the needs of a single segment.”
The first year’s issues of this publication were filled with all of the various subjects and tasks of pool service. They did “How do you fix stuff,” and, of course, lots of pool water chemistry, parlaying Bob’s chemistry knowledge and David’s writing skills.
In addition to the talents of its publishers, Service Industry News drew on a wealth of information crying out for a voice, including manufacturers and other experienced pool pros willing to share their knowledge with the industry.
The fledging publication was an immediate success. Within a short period of time the publication was up and running with major manufacturers looking to market to the important service segment of the industry. And readers across the country were signing on as subscribers in big numbers.
Lowry and Dickman recognized that a publication aimed at educating service technicians— keeping them up-to-date on repair and maintenance procedures, new developments and equipment and helping them improve their image as service professionals — would have a ready and waiting audience.
“The needs of the service segment are very specific, and their numbers are large enough that they ought not be treated as the second-class citizens of the pool and spa industry.” Dickman said.
They also saw a clear need for such a publication from a manufacturers point of view. Because each technician makes the buying decisions for at least 50 residential and commercial customers, making a sale to a service person is like making 50 retail sales. That became the guiding concept behind Service Industry News’ advertising philosophy.
Thirty years later, the publication whose germination began after a game of Trivial Pursuit has proven to be anything but trivial. We still publish 24 issues a year, and fill the paper with articles on water chemistry, equipment repair, trouble-shooting, industry news, events and trade shows — all with a vision that what we print is written and edited directly for the benefit of the pool and spa service professional.
That is not to say that everything has remained exactly the same over the years.
Books on water chemistry were published that are still used today to help train service professionals. The company bought the rights to a consumer-oriented book that after updating is still one of the most popular ever sold in the industry.
David bought out Bob’s portion of the company in the 1990s.
Five years ago, David and his wife Janice retired and appointed long-time family friend and employee, Carolyn Dibrell as publisher.
In addition to some able and largely familiar help, the publication still relies heavily on our readers to provide us with information to share with service professionals. Our Horror File appears in every issue and includes photos of some of the ugliest installations ever assembled. Our yearly survey issues provide the best indication of the health of our industry, thanks to the participation of hundreds of readers.
A new feature, begun last year, draws attention to the tragedy of backyard drownings, and encourages our readers to discuss the issue with their clients. Drowning awareness is the No. 1 way to prevent drowning tragedies and Service Industry News has made a solid effort to put this awareness in the minds of our readers to enlighten backyard pool owners.
Manufacturers and other experts in the field are still called upon to share their expertise with articles and background information to better inform our community of readers. In fact, in this issue we are debuting a new permanent column, which we are calling “Straight from the Maker.” The column will allow equipment manufacturers and other suppliers to theindustry the opportunity to discuss trouble-shooting and operational guidance on the products they manufacture. This column is in keeping with Service Industry News’ mission to deliver information from subject-matter experts.
We at Service Industry News know that we have a time-tested, quality product to produce each issue, and we take nothing for granted.
Our historical background leaves us with pages of information to share. And with new ideas such as this new column — and everyone’s continued help —we hope to be doing this for at least another 30 years!
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