By now, everyone’s heard the announcement that the planned merger of the National Swimming Pool Foundation and the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals is not to be. Like many of you, the news caught me off guard, especially since both organizations had seemed so gung-ho to move forward, to work through the many challenges such a merger presented. The imagined possibilities of one unified group representing the needs of the entire pool industry imbued a sense of optimism during a year of uncertainty. They were going to do Great Things.

So understandably, folks are disappointed at the news that the merger is off. I am, too. But I don’t see it as a failure. Instead, I see it as progress.

To backtrack a bit, a successful marriage of two nonprofits, especially when both parties are to be equals, as NSPF and APSP proposed, is a Herculean task fraught with difficulties. The various logistics involved are complex and difficult. Even the act of merging two different kinds of nonprofits (NSPF is a 501(c)3 foundation and APSP a 501(c)(6) membership association) is a headache. The key to surmounting these challenges is the same thing every good marriage is built on — trust.

Building trust takes time.

We’re talking about two groups that were becoming increasingly competitive and hadn’t, until this point, really collaborated before. That they came together with the vision of better serving the industry as a unified group was a huge leap of faith — not just in themselves but in each other.

As the two chairmen tell it, the time is not quite right for a merger. But that’s OK, because it seems that what’s emerged from exploring the possibility is something that can only strengthen the future of the industry — a kernel of trust.

Baby steps.

So what now? Both chairmen have vowed to work in a spirit of collaboration rather than competition. Moving forward, I would encourage the two groups to explore synergies and pursue partnerships. Work together and build trust. The idea of a merger can be revisited once these tender connections become stronger.

There's still time to do Great Things.