It’s time for another safety expert interview. Today, we’re speaking with John Ford, one of our favorite pool fence dealers.
John Ford cares deeply about pool safety and keeping kids safe. He is a husband, a Navy veteran, the owner of a righteous beard, a dog father and an entrepreneur. But most importantly, he is San Diego’s finest pool safety expert. He sat down to speak about his life, his career and so much more during this conversation with Life Saver Pool Fence‘s president, Eric Lupton. You can watch their conversation right here:
Working with John Ford
If you live in the San Diego area, and are in the market for a pool fence, John’s the water safety expert to speak with.
After being honorably discharged from the military, John wanted to giving back to the community. Mark Hinkle, the owner of Life Saver Pool Fence of Northern California, got him started in the pool fencing business. We’ve actually produced a written interview with John before, but he’s such a fascinating figure that we wanted to get it on video.
Reach John Directly:
Thanks again to John for sharing his story with us. He’s doing some really amazing work and helping to save lives. Everyone at Life Saver Pool Fence wishes him continued success!
Below is a Direct Transcript of the Child Safety Resource Interview with John Ford on Friday, 5/19:
Eric: We are, I think we are currently live. How’s it going?
John: It’s going great, another beautiful day in San Diego.
Eric: So today we have with us and I’m making sure that we are airing this on the right Facebook page. But today we have with us John Ford. John Ford is an American hero, he’s the man. He is a Navy veteran, he is the owner of a really awesome dog which I am a big fan of. He grows the best beard in all of lifesaver in my opinion.
John: We should have a contest because…
Eric: You would win.
John: I’d be happy to get another trophy that would be cool.
Eric: Yeah, John Ford was the rookie of the year for 2017, 2016?
John: 2016, yeah.
Eric: 2016, yeah. Of all of the new lifesaver dealers, it started in 2016 John was the best one. So I was really cool. So as a lifesaver pool fence owner in San Diego, he goes to people’s backyards, he assesses their pool safety situation, he gives the best recommendation on how they can safeguard their pool and make their pool safer for their children based upon their family, their needs, the layout of their backyard. He does all of these every single day and he also installs and sells lifesaver pool fencing and other different saving products, pool arms. He refers swimming lessons and he is just anything related to pool safety is within John’s will house and he’s got an awesome backstory that hopefully, he can get into and that’s it. Did I miss anything?
John: Yeah. Oh no, you pretty much hit the nail on the head every day.
Eric: I mean that’s not far off right?
John: Oh yeah, no I actually really, really enjoy it. It’s something that I didn’t even know was an option when I was thinking about what I wanted to do I was really happy that family friend kind of was involved with you guys for the last decade and got me into this and it really every day gets better and better though too. So it’s not like oh every day. It’s like every day you know. The site is in San Diego, I get to be people’s backyards, I go everywhere from La Jolla to El Cajon and North and South County and I get to see different parts of San Diego that you know, I’m not the San Diego native. So I’m always enjoying exploring different areas, different beaches that you can try and scavenge your way down to and try and find one that’s not overrun. But it’s always fun going out there and is very rewarding especially when the fence is up and I see these little kids just going up and bouncing on the fence trying to get through there and I’m like yeah, good job me.
It’s very rewarding to also have the parents go ‘oh my gosh, the peace of mind I have just standing back here after having the fence up for half an hour. ‘You can see this whole wave of relaxation especially with grandparents or someone who just occasionally watches the kid; the child excuse me who’s not used to the high energy and stress of having a toddler or young child running around and then with the danger of the swimming pool is really nice to be able to put a fence in for people who really appreciate it.
Eric: Nice. So, I always like to ask people first every superhero has a superhero origin story. So I always like to ask your origin story you know, if you were a superhero which you are kind of, what is your origin story? Where do you come from? What was the path that led you to your current superhero status?
John: So how far do you want me to go back?
Eric: All the way to the beginning.
John: All the way. So I came out screaming and crying. So I was born in Northern California, in San Jose a not so little of a town but it’s just South Bay about 40 minutes south of San Francisco.
John: We lived in a house in Abtos, which is like right on the sea clips until I was about a year and a half old and that was about the longest we had stayed anywhere until I had turned 18 and then started doing my own thing.
Eric: Why did you move a lot?
John: Well, it wasn’t like military really background. My dad was in the Army during way back in Vietnam.
Eric: Mine too.
John: Yeah, that’s awesome; salute to that.
Eric: So, I’m quite a bit older than you so your dad must have had you rather late huh?
John: Yeah, so I’m 26, my dad’s 75.
Eric: Wow, that’s impressive. So that means he was 50? Is that right?
John: Yeah, yeah or 49 or 51 one of those.
Eric: Wow, is he still around?
John: Yeah, he’s still doing pretty good. Unfortunately, he had a stroke about a year and a half ago but he’s doing really, really well. It wasn’t a major stroke, my mom was able to get him to the hospital fast enough to get the emergency shot. So that really helped out. So he has a little bit of balance issues but that’s about it. So that’s really a blessing.
Eric: So how old is your mom?
John: She is now 63.
John: Oh man you’re putting me on the spot here.
Eric: So both of your parents had you really kind of late. I mean was this their first? Are you the only child?
John: First and only and best.
Eric: And best and was this their first marriage? Did they have prior marriages?
John: It’s my mom’s first marriage, my dad second marriage or third. I don’t know, I never met the two first wives so.
Eric: Wow, it’s rare to hear people starting a family at that wise age. So I’m in a kind of a similar boat and I thought my parents started late. My mom was 37 when she had me and my dad was like 34 and they were always really grateful that they had kids later in life because they thought they were a little bit smarter and wiser, a little a more you know, don’t sweat the small stuff you know, that they were just better people because they were 37 and not 25 right? Not that there’s anything wrong with having kids at 25.
John: No, definitely.
Eric: And to their particular tastes you know, they were partiers back in their 20s so they are very glad that he kind of got that out of their system and waited to have kids. And your parents waited longer which is super impressive.
John: Yeah, I think I really benefited from that. My parents like you said, just collective wisdom you know almost collectively a hundred years of experience they had before I was born.
Eric: That’s insane.
John: The better part of the century. So I gave them a hard time about it all the time they were very calm, relaxed. Well, part of the reason that we moved around so much thought to answer your question was my dad was in the high-tech industry doing wireless network bridges which I think it’s like Wi-Fi. I’m not really sure. So he was doing that right during the ‘.com bomb’ timeframe. So just going from different small startup tech companies to different small startup tech companies. I mean after that we moved all over California. Actually, I went to three different high schools throughout my high school career and one of them was pretty much right down close to here – El Toro high school and Laguna, Lake Forest then Aleso, Nigel and Aleso and Nigel. That might just be the name of the city. I don’t remember the name of the high school. But yeah, it was cool in having that eclectic experience growing up; not only having my parents be calm and relatively wise but also around getting to meat literally hundreds if not thousands of people before you know, I struck out into the world for myself and after that I tried a myriad of retail jobs in the food service industry and pretty much just landed on you know, I think I’m going to join the Navy and you know, to see the world they say.
Eric: Right, before you get to that Stephanie Marie Robertson who is a swimming instructor she says hi and I wanted to say hi back. She says hi to Eric and John, both of us
Eric: Which I think you’ll see that in the little mini screen. See the window there?
Eric: There she is, cool. So then you joined the Navy which my uncle, I have two uncles that one was in the navy and I think the other one still is and one actually just liked our post which is kind of funny. His name is Damon; my uncle Damon Lupton and he was in the Navy and his brother, my uncle is a master chief as is his wife. So I was coming from a family who’s kind of really heavy into the Navy and my grandfather was in the Navy as well. He served in World War II and actually served in Japan on a naval ship off the coast of Japan right around the time of the bombing. So like I said I have Navy kind of in my bones so I appreciated your Navy story.
Eric: So you joined the Navy to see the world as my dad often used to say when they suckered him into the Army.
John: Exactly, so I joined the Navy to see the world and that is what happened. I did see the world so like no complaints there I guess. As promised, delivered as promised. One of the things that I really enjoyed about that was seeing different countries that I would never travel to on my own time.
Eric: Like what?
John: Like we went to the Philippines, we went to Kuwait, we went to Dubai and we stopped by a little part of Africa on our way back home. Like places I’d never go to but seeing different countries just the structure of it and you can see like Western influences in different countries-in like the touristy areas but for the most part it’s totally different everywhere else. Its way more different, you can just watch YouTube video or read a book about it and go oh yeah I kind of know how that is. It’s one of those things that you have to be immersed in it before you’re like, California is amazing. Now I kind of want to stay on the West Coast indefinitely or pretty much just the west coast because we’ll get like briefings. I’m sure that didn’t help with my opinion or my predisposal list but we’d get like briefings on okay so you’re allowed to go within 5 miles of the ship. You have to have 2 people with you at all times, you can’t do this, you can’t do that, this is dangerous and if you aren’t back to the ship by this time we’re leaving because this area is dangerous. So good luck. That was a little bit of an eye-opening experience especially with all these different experiences I was getting on the ship and just as an engineer on the ship I was getting a whole new skillset. I didn’t even consider so that was a really cool experience
Eric: So that’s what you did, you were an Engineer?
John: Yeah, so I had signed up under advanced electronics computer field. That was kind of just like anyone is watching and thinking about joining the armed forces this is some unsolicited advice for some people. If you take the ASBAB and you qualify pretty good, I’m not going to throw any numbers out there but I’ll just say I qualified relatively where I could do a lot of things. Don’t go for the most difficult thing there is. Go with what you think would be the most fun because you are going to be there for four years you might as well be having some fun, even if it’s a little bit more dangerous than you might want to do. Go have fun because otherwise, you’re just going to get over encumbered with things that are just like I said advanced electronic field. I think you probably know how long it took me to get this video working on my cell phone. I am not a computer guy you know, so.
Eric: But you’re doing it on your phone which I think is the first time we’ve done it on a phone. Someone as if asked if we could so I’m glad that you have kind of broken the barrier now that we know that it’s possible on a phone. So thank you for that.
John: always happy to break the barrier with this. Yeah, I signed up for that and I did not want to after going to school for like a year for that I was; to end a long story by the time I got to the fleet I was on undesignated fireman which means I can strike for pretty much any rate I wanted to but in the meantime I was assigned to whatever division needed hands. So that was the enginemen down in the engine room. So taking engines apart – like engines with pistons that are the size of my chest and the whole thing is the size of a school bus, they’ve got a turbocharger on it the size of a like a Camry engine. It’s insane, so that was interesting and enjoyable because I was kind of mechanically inclined before. But then I had to strike as an electrician so I spent the last year or so as an electrician and there is also a good stretch of time when I first got to my shift where I got assigned to repair division which was just bits and pieces of things all over the ship I got to work with. So that was really cool and also very handy for getting a little jack of all trades expert in a little bit of everything. But mainly this is the most valuable; again unsolicited advice for anyone thinking of joining the service. The most valuable experience you’ll get from the military is the ability and proper etiquette was just dealing with anyone. Anyone you want to talk to, especially Boot camp is such an extreme like example but you’re basically sharing a room with 100 dudes or I think they have like co-ed Boot camp divisions now. But then they spit them up at the end of the day. But anyways dealing with like a hundred different personalities, a hundred different ways of dealing with the same problem. You have to be able to communicate yourself eloquently in order to get through that for two months and then four years after that. So it’s a really good experience that I would recommend to many people want to see the world.
Eric: So real quick before we move on what was your favorite country?
John: My favorite country was Hawaii.
Eric: Okay, that makes sense.
John: obviously a joke, yes I know that’s a state but that is my favorite port for sure. I had to pick up country though I would say the little part of Africa we went to which doesn’t represent Africa as a whole. I think that country was called Dukam it was like a city-I’m not sure, I was basically in like a dark hole of the ship a month or two months at a time and we’d come out at a port like ‘oh where are we?’ Who cares, like where’s the ocean? Oh, it’s right here but you don’t want to swim next to the ship. So just kind of see the town like more interested in just going out there having experiences.
Eric: It’s funny you say Hawaii the country and you say it’s a joke but I went to Hawaii. I’ve been to Hawaii twice and the second time I went I went to Maui and the girl I went with was really concerned about not having her passport ready in time because she thought she needed her passport to go with me to Hawaii and I am not with her anymore. So there you go that might be why. That may be part of the reason is she thought Hawaii was another country. Perfect, by the way, Heather Allison is another swim instructor and she said hello as well, that’s really cool.
Eric: So, how did you transition from protecting our country in the Navy to protecting children in swimming pools?
John: Well, that is a great question.
Eric: By the way how do you like that Segway by the way? Because I was just kind of impressed with that just now.
John: Oh yeah, I awkwardly work my way through that Segway all the time on estimate and I think you did a very, very good job at it.
Eric: Thank you.
John: Better than I do on estimate.
Eric: You can use that, I don’t mind.
John: Yeah, if I’m not wearing my NWU pants
Eric: What is that?
John: It can go both ways. So those are the old-style old navy’s which has the green, cameo now. It’s like thanks a lot you got the cool uniform after I got out. When I was in, when my wife was in we were wearing the blue pajamas the whole time; camouflage blue which I never understood the logic behind because it’s like oh, if you fall in the ocean we’ll never find you, great.
Eric: And that’s important to know both you and your wife were in the Navy right?
John: Yeah that’s actually where we met.
Eric: That’s really cool.
John: And that’s probably the most about everything that I got from the Navy.
Eric: I like that you said probably.
John: Yeah she’s standing right there staring at me at all.
Eric: Thankfully is just you and I talking and no one can see this so we’re safe.
John: Yeah, good.
Eric: So you transition from protecting America to protecting babies?
John: Yeah and it was a really easy transition because we had gotten out at the same time so we really had an open schedule. We had nothing really planned, we were both thinking about hey, do you want to go back to school? Do you want to become GI build? Do you want to kind of just travel for a little while? Do you want to stay in San Diego? Do you want to go to Northern California? We’re both transplants from Northern California and we ended up going up to the south bay area; so relatively Northern California. No one ever wants to say central California but it is central California. That is what it is. So central California and stayed with 20:30 lifesaver Northern California and you know while we were there we were doing some training with them and he said hey do you want to start a franchise down in San Diego? And I was like heck yeah, I do. It sounds amazing. I always wanted to own my own business, I thought it was a really noble cause.
Eric: And let’s be clear, it’s not a franchise. He got the 20:53 wrong but it’s fine.
John: Is that always really?
Eric: No, you’re the owner of a franchise, you don’t pay franchise fees, you’re a dealer. You own your own business
John: Oh okay, cool. We’ll have to change that across the board then.
Eric: By the way, Heather, Alison who I was wrong is not an Iron shore Instructor. She is just a water safety ambassador. She said she lived in San Diego for 10 years.
John: Awesome, well I hope to see her around each. I’ll actually be at the Ipsa Chapter meeting tomorrow at Admiral Bakersfield. I think it starts at 1 or 2 PM. Allison you’re more than welcome to be invited.
Eric: Actually awesome because she has to first names. Her name is Heather and Allison. I think her first name is actually Heather.
John: Oh, awesome. Well, Heather Allison come on out to Admiral Bakersfield tomorrow. I’d be happy to talk to you about safety and free food. So not provided by me. The good people of Ipsa.
Eric: Heather do you still live in San Diego? Let’s see what she says. Anyways while she’s responding about living in San Diego so you met up with Mark Tinkle has been a life savior of Northern California for a very long time and he has been doing it successfully and he’s got employees and he’s protected hundreds if not thousands of pools. By the way Heather lives in North Carolina now so she probably will not make your Ipsa meeting.
John: Oh no, I’m sorry Heather.
Eric: Somebody will.
John: That’s all right.
Eric: So you grew up with his son, right? You’re really good friends with his son?
John: yeah, I have seen Mark doing the pool fence, being involved in pool fence since I was literally in fourth grade. So that was kind of cool experience because I never really took too much of an interest I saw all of these strange stuff floating around in his garage until I got out of the Navy and he was saying hey, do you want to open your own business? And I said heck, yes because I think I mentioned before that’s something I’ve always wanted to do and also a very stark contrast to the Navy experience or any military experience -having the command structure of you know at least 17 people directly above you and all of them have their opinions on how you should be doing your job to being your own boss, the captain of your own ship. It’s very rewarding in every way. So I spent months training with Mark and just doing fences every single day just the estimate process Logan as well as the installation process Logan, Derick, Eric his crew of people that he’s got going in and I owe a lot of the success that I have and that shiny trophy you guys gave me to Mark’s really and you’re really good mentorship that first year really helped me get going. Even though I had no idea what I was doing or an inkling of what I was getting myself into I still felt like I did a relatively good job at getting out there and keeping kids safe and that’s the goal. So that’s the mission accomplished there.
Eric: And let’s talk about this because there’s an article about it in the local San Diego news. But let’s talk about the arc your life took during your journey of being the lifesaver in San Diego. And you came out of the Navy and you had some difficulties making the transition maybe immediately and you started Lifesaver of San Diego up and like in any new business required investment and time and energy. And if I get this right you were literally homeless at one point right?
John: Oh yeah. So when we had started, after we did training with Mark; training/couch surfing which worked really well, very cohesive. So we had so pretty much everything we had and also Mark helped us out with a small loan to get some tools. He also loaned me some other tools to get a van and we came back down to San Diego with a storage unit and the mattress in the back of a van. So we would try and do estimates during the day, get people’s schedule, get all the paperwork filled out and on the calendar and just find an 25:51 and we kept 24-hour gym memberships because what a great deal for homeless people you know, $30 a month you can use the bathroom anytime you want and you can take a shower anytime you want. If anyone is interested in being homeless also 24-hour fitness got to throw that lights out there too. But yeah, it was actually kind of cool, I made it looked way better in hindsight because during the actual experience it was a little bit stressful you know, getting chased off of properties or having the cops called on you for literally no reason than just it’s illegal to be homeless which I have my own opinions on. But anyways we were standing in the back of the van and then wake up in the morning and do estimates. And we were only staying the back of the van for around three months or something. It was so long ago now.
Eric: And I mean we hear this narrative all the time of people leaving the military and both you and your wife were in the Navy and to think that after serving our country you end up homeless I mean that’s terrible. There’s no other way to put that. That’s not your business and everything but at the same time that sucks.
John: I mean it does suck. There are a lot of programs out there that would help people transition. They actually have a whole week long class about helping people transition more death by PowerPoint before they finally get their claws out of you.
Eric: But I mean one week after four year long experience; maybe that’s not enough, I don’t know. It might be but you know.
John: Well, I mean it definitely had its own valuable lesson. Being in the back of the van starting the business definitely creates drive and motivation way better than a little bit of caffeine Starbucks in the morning. So that kind of mindset of this is the only choice you know, success is the only option. I mean I’m not going to start doing an M&M monologue right now.
Eric: One chance, one opportunity.
John: Right now I can remember it but you know yeah.
Eric: I know.
John: Yeah you know.
Eric: So you are homeless living in the back of the van, you were going out to people’s homes, you were giving them safety evaluations, we were installing pool fences for them to make their homes safer for pools and what you like about safety in general?
John: Just the freedom of doing my own installs and like the satisfaction of having extremely happy customers at the end of the day or even better yet the customers who absolutely loathe the idea of putting a fence in their backyard they’re like ‘oh this is going to be so ugly.’ All I can do is smile because I hear that literally every week now. It is going to be so ugly and I direct those customers to something that’s going to be a bit more aesthetically pleasing like the copper bane or the smooth pole black or smooth pole brown or copper vein poles with black on black border and mesh. It looks fantastic. It looks totally different than any other pool fence out there; especially with the arched gate, the double trust upright system on the gate. It’s something that stands out in the yard as a benefit. It’s something that adds to the aesthetic value of their yard at the end. I’ve people literally almost like in tears. They were like oh we’re so worried about this but it looks so good. It was like surprised but also you know, happy for them that it ended up so good and I was happy to facilitate that as well.
Eric: So yeah, I guess that is a common misconception a fence around your pool is going to be ugly but a mesh pool fence is different than like a rod iron prison around their pool. Like you said there are different color combinations, it’s transparent and you can talk about this probably more than I can but it’s designed to keep children out of the pool.
John: yeah, every single aspect of the fence. I mean at the top and the bottom of the fence where we have the four rows of stitching which is nice those 4 because if you lose one you still have three more. If you lose 2 you still got two more and that’s why we have a lifetime warranty. But as well as when you pull on that border material if you’re a child. Even if you are a little Army Ranger child and can do a straight pull up a just use the putting on it. They are really isn’t any good and hold for a child to grab on. As well as I hear a lot of the time people are concerned if it’s so easily removable then how do I know my kids aren’t going to be able to do this? One of the features of the fence is that its attention-based system. So that means when you have a 15-foot long section that is another one begins, you have a double post and then a safety snap latch. You have to have not only enough manual or strength and dexterity to pull those poles together from the top you need to them from rolling as well as using your other hand to unclasp the latch and really all of that is impossible unless your shoulder is at least 3 1/2 feet off the deck. So I would say it’s around 10 to 13 would be when I would start to worry. But then we have the permalodges swimming is still an issue. I mean you can just attach the per matches and then everything is wambo, bambo good to go.
Also a key in the magna latch on the gate is another great feature of that. So a lot of peace of mind goes into that. Or a lot of little details go into this to create the piece of mind at the end including one of the things that my customers seem to be most impressed with, one of the smal