The news that the National Swimming Pool Foundation and the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals are merging is arguably the biggest organizational advancement the pool industry has ever seen.

The whys of this merger are fairly obvious. Generally speaking, trade association mergers are a good thing, particularly when there are overlapping interests and members, because it saves the industry time, money and effort. And while these two groups certainly have had a number of duplicative efforts, primarily in certification and educational programs, this merger has the added benefit of having complementary interests: APSP brings its many industry members, along with its lobbying and advocacy experience to the table, while NSPF has a long and successful track record of growth in carrying out its myriad programs to promote aquatics, in addition to Genesis’ unique educational offerings.

But to me, the most interesting and important part of this merger is in answering the question: How? The answer to that, I think, will serve as an early predictor of how successful and/or effective the combined entity will be.

A few considerations came to mind as I thought of how the groups will move forward.

Leadership — Organizations and Individuals: Historically, one of the keys to a successful merger of associations is to decide which organization survives and which is dissolved. A merger of true equals is rare. Though APSP and NSPF have described this union as such, it will be interesting to see how it unfolds, especially given their disparate strengths. APSP is certainly the larger organization, but it’s been roundly criticized for being unwieldy and slow to accomplish its goals. NSPF, on the other hand, is known for getting things done, but it’s new to the residential pool and spa market.

Another vital component to watch for will be in how they define key leadership roles and establish a hierarchy for the new organization. Most importantly, a leader with a proven track record of growth to champion the success of the merger must be chosen. And, for members of both parties to accept the new entity, creating a new cultural identity is critical. This can be accomplished by looking to the future while recognizing the past. In other words, forge a unifying mission and vision for the future, but respect and retain certain traditional elements from each group’s past.

Time Frame: Change, though inevitable, is hard, and staffs can become entrenched in their ways. A large transition such as this will require time, not just for the necessary due diligence, but to build relationships and trust between both parties to sufficiently establish processes for all details of the merger, the importance of which cannot be overstressed.

That being the case, I wouldn’t be surprised if full integration takes a year or more.

All that said, I’m truly optimistic about this merger. The potential for building an association that marries the goals of both commercial and residential pool markets is exciting. What are your thoughts? Drop me a line and let me know.