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Swimming Pool Scene POOL PEOPLE


POOL PEOPLE: Simon Whittingham Managing Director at F T Leisure


Simon Whittingham has been in the pool industry for more than 23 years. He joined Thermelek Engineering Services straight after doing his A Levels, working on their quality systems. After the company went into liquidation in 2003, Simon formed F T Leisure Limited, with a group of experienced engineers from Thermelek. 14 years later, most of the founders have now retired or moved on, so Simon now runs the business with Martin Elvin.


What’s the best part of your job? The best part of my job is visiting a completed project. To see the


engineering systems we’ve installed, fi nished to such as high standard is just so satisfying. I lead the company’s design process, so I start things off with a blank piece of paper; to see this transform into a community swimming pool, with people enjoying themselves, is amazing. Finally, winning a new project also motivates me. I’m a salesman at heart!


What projects are you currently working on?


At various stages between design and commissioning, we have 26 new build projects running, ten refurbishments and we maintain over 200 sites throughout the UK. We’re currently working on an underwater escape survival training facility for the MOD, with our wave machine and various oceanic storm simulation features. Really exciting and a break from the norm!


What are the main challenges facing the pool industry at the moment? The principal contractors are looking for the competitive edge, usually commercial gain through value engineering, or cutting corners as I like to refer it. I have lost projects to lower prices and visited them once complete. The installation standards have been very low and in a lot of cases, best industry practices and design regulations have been bypassed. The client is then left with a legacy of problems. We’re too far down the food chain to do anything about this; we will just continue to try and sell our services based on high quality and hope that our clients recognise the value in this.


What have been the landmark moments in your career?


One project that stands out was securing Dundee Olympia 50m pool project. We were up against tough competition and it was to be our highest contract value. We were offering our complete portfolio of products. The negotiations were tough, but the win was a Champagne moment.


I was also very complimented to be invited to be the UK representative on the European Standards taskforce for swimming pool design (moveable fl oors and bulkheads).


What’s the best piece of advice you have been given?


I’ve been very lucky when it comes to advice. My father has been in the swimming pool industry for nearly 50 years. A brilliant engineer and a well-respected successful businessman. Every single time I speak with him, he gives me sound advice worth listening to. He taught me everything I know.


What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?


I’m not sure what ‘outside of work’ means - I never leave work! I have three beautiful young daughters, so any time I get away from work is spent with them. I am a fi tness fanatic and when time permits, I love the occasional round of golf.


Is there anything else you’d like to add? I would like to thank my team at F T Leisure. Every single person in the


company infl uences our success as a business. Collectively, we are a dominant force in the swimming pool industry. Long may it continue.


Swimming Pool Scene POOL PEOPLE 71


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