Willan Johnson identified a growing need among large commercial aquatics facilities, and it wasn’t daily pool care. Rather, operators were anxious to have someone who could offer technical expertise on an as-needed basis.
So Johnson launched VivoAquatics. The firm provides clients with 24-hour monitoring and chemical adjustments, done remotely from its newly acquired Las Vegas headquarters, plus auditing, assessment and product support services.
It’s a big leap forward for a company that was primarily in the business of skimming and brushing. VivoAquatics is an offshoot of VivoPools, a nationwide service provider based in Monrovia, Calif. While there will always be a need for boots-on-the-ground pool pros, Willan sees a shift toward automation, especially among aquatics managers at higher-end properties.
“Operators are being held to a higher and higher standard as it relates to managing the safety of their facility, the costs of their operation, and the overall quality of the guest experience,” said Johnson, CEO. “And because they’re increasingly being put on the hot seat, we’re finding that they’re very open to having folks ... provide some form of initial consultation that will eventually result in a custom solution that will meet their needs.”
VivoAquatics, which made its debut in October at the World Waterpark Association Show in Las Vegas, is working with “leading manufacturers” to customize automated chemical feeders, taking into account a property’s pool sizes, bather loads, etc. In other words, these aren’t off-the-shelf units. Not only can VivoAquatics monitor the performance of feeders from afar, they can adjust chemicals as needed.
The firm also developed “Customer Relationship Management” software, allowing operators to inventory equipment, review warranties and submit work orders. They also can gauge the expected life spans of equipment in use. That’s especially helpful from a budgeting perspective.
It’s a bit of tech-savvy service that’s a clear carryover from Johnson’s previous career in the Web arena.
“If you’re a waterpark with 10 different pump rooms, are you really keeping track of how many pumps, filters, motors and automation equipment you have?” said Johnson, a former Yahoo! executive. “We’ve really created a dashboard for that aquatic operator to understand what’s going on in their facility and how they can make decisions to extend the life of their equipment and, ultimately, save money and provide their guests with a better experience.”
A few key hires and an acquisition helped position VivoPools to launch this new division. The company acquired SC Pool & Spa Works, a southern Orange County, Calif., firm whose owners, Jack Peat and Max Koby, now are leveraging their relationships with resort managers to develop accounts for VivoAquatics. Rounding out the team is Bob Garrett, who was hired from American Pool, a major pool management firm, and Nathan Hernandez, formerly of Orenda Technologies, a water chemistry specialist with close ties to the commercial sector.
Clients include the Sheraton Waikiki and Vegas hotspots The Mirage and Wet ‘n’ Wild, among others.
VivoPools, meanwhile, is still in expansion mode. The 5-year-old service firm netted 600 accounts with the SC Pool & Spa Works acquisition. That’s a total of about 3,000 residential and 500 commercial accounts across six states.