Bill Kent may be a practical, and successful, businessman (his company, Team Horner is now a $140 million concern), but get him talking about aquatics and he starts to sound more like a preacher, using words like “spiritual” and “passion.” That may be precisely why Kent holds such sway in both business and aquatics.
“I’m just a classic entrepreneur,” he says. “I’m never satisfied. I’m always trying to grow.”
Throughout his 30-plus years in the industry, he’s tried to apply that philosophy in various leadership roles, first as president of the National Spa & Pool Institute and most recently as president of the National Swimming Pool Foundation. His goal is simple: every American a swimmer for life. His methods are anything but.
First off, Kent says the industry must be able to guarantee the public safe water. And he has a practical, albeit controversial, method to make that happen. Just as drivers must be licensed to run a car, he wants operators licensed to run a pool.
In the meantime, he’s focusing on education. In his NSPF role, he shepherded the long-awaited new Certified Pool Operator manual. He also recently helped launch an online two-year degree pool technician program with Keiser College in Florida.
All the while, Kent’s kept his eye on his ultimate vision of finally uniting the residential side of the industry with the commercial side, an alchemy of aquatics’ spirituality and builders’ functionality.
“That dream is still possible,” he says, though he knows that the two sides have a long way to go before they meet. “Most builders aren’t really excited about swimming pools. They’re excited about building them and making money,” he says.
The aquatics side, on the other hand, is too focused on the sport itself. “Most coaches are completely disinterested in anything to do with pool maintenance. That’s like a race car driver saying, ‘I don’t want to know what’s under the hood,’” he says.
“So when you look at the two groups side by side, one has a blind spot about the joy and passion and the other has a blind spot on anything related to functionality of the product,” he adds. “If we could eliminate those blind spots, the future of the industry would be completely different. Because one plus one would equal three.”