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Aqua-Tech Pool, Spa and Whole Home Renovations

Exploring the intersection of wellness and Canadian hospitality with Aqua-Tech

In the heart of the Canadian prairies, where the winters are harsh and the summers brief, Aqua-Tech stands as a haven of relaxation and wellness. Nestled in Winnipeg, Manitoba, this hot tub retailer has been a steadfast presence for nearly five decades.

Within a few years of its 1977 founding, the owners sold Aqua-Tech to five young men, all company employees.

“The good news is they were all friends,” says Kathi Belcourt, director of sales and service at Aqua-Tech, who joined the company in 1994. “And they stayed friends, but like all relationships, you quickly realize when you have values that are not necessarily aligned.”

Two of the owners who shared the same vision — Rob Pyrz and Glen MacGillivray — bought out their companions and forged ahead. 

Fast forward to the post-pandemic world and like many businesses, Aqua-Tech experienced the initial tremors of uncertainty followed by a surge in demand as people sought comfort and solace in their homes. By September 2022, the company’s value was greater than it had ever been, prompting the owners — now in their 60s — to enact their succession plan.

In a strategic move, Aqua-Tech was sold to a private equity group. Despite apprehensions, Belcourt says the experience has been a positive one. 

“Private equity tends to get a bit of a bad rap in the industry,” Belcourt says. “My personal experience with it has been amazing. It’s all about who is purchasing and how and why and what their plans are for the business.”

Following a four-month evaluation period, the new owners picked a direction and elevated three people within the company to director positions — Belcourt, Greg Cuvelier as director of construction and Nicole Balla as director of corporate administration and finance — ushering in a new era of leadership.

“None of us were expecting [the original owners] to retire when they did, but succession planning was really important to them,” Belcourt says. “Realistically, there was no one individual within our company who could have afforded to purchase it. They were quite limited in who they could sell to.”

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For Belcourt, the transition signifies more than just a change in ownership — it’s a commitment to the community and the legacy they’ve built. 

“Every decision [we] make isn’t just about us, but it’s about something bigger than us,” she says. “It’s about our clients now.”

Belcourt also emphasizes industry collaboration as one of the keys to effectively serve customers. 

“[Other hot tub retailers] are not my competitors,” she says. “For every body of water they sell, there’s an opportunity I can sell [the client] chemicals, or I can sell them service, or we can all work collaboratively together. We’re all doing the same thing for the same people for the same reasons. We should be supporting each other and sharing great things.”

Beyond the realm of hot tubs, Aqua-Tech diversified its offerings to include home renovations and wellness products such as saunas, fostering growth and stability through seasonal ups and downs. 

“You name a thing you want in your house, and I will say yes because if we have an existing customer who bought a hot tub from us, we already have a relationship,” Belcourt says. “They understand what we’re all about, and they can trust us to make their place special.”

In any market, adaptability is key. Belcourt emphasizes the importance of being a one-stop shop, catering to the evolving needs of customers. “Let’s give them convenience because that’s really what people want,” she says.

After three decades in the industry, Belcourt has set her sights on a future grounded in innovation and consumer-centric strategies. With a critical eye on the internal workings of the business, Aqua-Tech has focused on updating its policies, procedures and systems to help its team thrive, along with solidifying the company’s infrastructure to be replicable and scalable.

“We know the importance of making our home everything that it can be,” Belcourt says. “If it’s related to a vacation in my home, I want to be the [company that] can support that.”