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My Observations from the 2009 IPSPE

(A New Sense Of Hope…)

By Brett Lloyd Abbott, MYM Austin Inc.

Am I the only one who struggles to get back into the swing of things after a business trip? Last week’s International Pool, Spa & Patio Expo was no exception. After five full days at the convention, I found myself immersed in “administrivia and follow-up” from the show as well as from all the business activities that occur at the office whether I’m there or not.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone went to the show? That way, we could all just agree to put everyone’s business operations on hold for five days, and then we could all get caught up together.

Yeah, that’s not going to happen.

But here’s what is going to happen.  I think a lot of us returning from the show are coming back with a renewed sense of spirit, enthusiasm and excitement for the industry. That’s a surprise, because odds were against it.  There were 40 fewer booths at the show this year. Several major players pulled out, and several other large exhibitors, I noticed, downsized their booths. I haven’t seen the attendance numbers for the show, but my guess is we had fewer attendees as well. So from whence comes this sense of enthusiasm and excitement?

I don’t know how to describe this without a cliché, so I won’t try.  Just pick your favorite: We’ve rounded the corner.  We’ve reached the bottom. We’ve come through it together. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  There’s nowhere to go but up.  We’re the Few; the Proud; the Survivors.

Corny, I know. But I spoke with a lot of different people, and when I asked them how they felt about the show, the feeling was essentially universal: People were upbeat, enjoying the Expo, and feeling good about the future.

I noticed something else too – there was an undeniable sense of camaraderie and friendliness throughout the show. It was as though we were all part of a closer-knit family that had all survived or accomplished something together.  We all seemed to be thinking: <insert your preferred cheesy cliché here>.

I met a pool builder from Nigeria who is already the best in his market, but wanted to get even better.  (He sat in the front of the room during every session.)  I met three competing pool builders from Australia who traveled as a trio and had pleasant conversations with anyone who wanted to talk. I noticed all the classes, in fact, appeared to be at or near capacity. In some cases, it was standing-room only.

And then there was the Power Panel. I had the esteemed honor of sitting on the Pool Builder’s Power Panel, sharing the stage with Greg Howard of Carecraft and Brian Van Bower of Aquatic Consultants Inc. & Genesis 3. Together, we took questions from the audience about pool business, pool designs, and of course pool marketing.

Power Panel Photo (NOV 2009).jpg

In our rehearsal the day before, we fully expected the session to be dominated with questions along the lines of “How do we survive this downturn…?” To be sure, that was part of the conversation, but by no means did it dominate the session. Everyone seemed to be looking forward with optimism and hope.

As a writer, I should be careful not to re-use the cliché I used two weeks ago, about “reasons to be thankful.” But I must admit, the timing and outcome of the 2009 IPSPE was perfect. You couldn’t ask for a better attitude as we go into this great American holiday known as Thanksgiving.

Personally, I’m thankful for the renewed industry confidence, and what turned out to be a fantastic expo. (I’m also thankful for the upcoming four-day weekend, which will secretly give me the chance to get caught up from last week’s trip!)

Have yourself a great Holiday. And keep looking up!

2009 Brett Lloyd Abbott / MYM Austin Inc.  May not be used without permission.

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