Pool and wellness equipment manufacturer Fluidra has named Lennie Rhoades as president of Fluidra North America. In October, Rhoades took over the position from Troy Franzen, who retired after a 12-year tenure with the company. With its purchase of CMP in 2021 Fluidra entered the spa market.
Franzen lead the North American group through several big changes, including merging Zodiac/Jandy with Fluidra; guiding the company through the process of removing many products from online channels to trade-only programs; moving the company’s headquarters; and acquiring four companies in 2021. But Franzen says COVID was the toughest test.
“As I reflect, probably the hardest stretch, and also the most rewarding, has been through the pandemic,” Franzen says. “It became exceptionally challenging on the organization just trying to service our customers, and trying to meet the demands and needs. Although we think we performed pretty well and did better than most, you’re hard on yourselves and you keep pushing. We made incredible sacrifices of time. We invested in capacity and tooling, and ran really hard. But had great business results.”
Rhoades spent the pandemic as the CEO of Big Ass Fans, a Kentucky-based manufacturer of residential and commercial ceiling fans. Rhoades left the company after successfully leading it through an ownership change. As he looked for his next position, there were several things about Fluidra and the pool industry that aligned with his experience and desires.
“This is not a broken business where you come in to fix it,” Rhoades says. “I am a product lover. I’ve been a product marketer, designer and developer for the vast majority of my career, and I love all the products around the pool space. I love the innovation that’s going on. I like some of the challenges with respect to ESG (environmental, social and governance) and energy efficiency, automation and IoT and the cloud. How do we provide value to the pool pro versus the consumer versus the distributor? I like that puzzle.”
Rhoades was also looking for a space where the margins were good enough that the company could actually make investments to solve some of those issues. Also, unlike at Big Ass Fans, he didn’t want to have to start building a company from the ground up. “[I wanted] to come into a well-functioning team,” he says.
Franzen and Rhoades both say there is still lots of work to be done to integrate the recent acquisitions of S.R. Smith, CMP, Taylor Technologies and Built Right.
“Business was so crazy that we didn’t spend a lot of time making people feel like they were fully integrated and part of the family,” Rhoades says. “We’ve got some systems work to do.”
Even though he knows it’s what every leader says when they retire, Franzen says he’s the most proud of the culture, values and people he’s leaving behind: “It’s really real at Fluidra, and it’s really what makes the company special. I think if you were to talk to many employees here, they would say the same thing,” he says.
Even In his short time with Fluidra, Rhoades has come to agree that the company doesn’t just pay lip service to its principles.
“Every company I know talks about its values,” he says. “You don’t always see a strong alignment between what people actually do and how they actually behave. I’ve been very pleased to see that [its values] are not just posters on the wall.”