Top 7 Mistakes New Dive Center Owners Make

dive shop owner

As a new or aspiring dive center owner, here are some things to keep in mind before solidifying your game plan.

Choosing the Wrong Location
Finding the right balance between affordable rent and a location in a high-income area is a struggle for many new dive shop owners. Generally speaking, it’s better to pay a little more for a location in a high-income area near a reliable pool. Cheap rent is often a double-edged sword. If getting to the shop is inconvenient, customers may choose to pursue a different recreational activity.

Carrying Too Many Product Lines
By limiting the number of product lines, a shop owner shop can maximize their financial resources. Buying “deep and narrow” is a safer, more economical choice than carrying too many brands. This doesn’t mean signing an exclusivity contract, but it does mean saying, “no,” or “not right now” to manufacturer reps.

Not Understanding Business Strategy
“One of the biggest mistakes people make is not spending the time to make a decent business plan and get advice about costs, profits, turnover overhead, etc.,” notes PADI EMEA Regional Manager (RM) Matt Clements.

Christian Ambrosi, a PADI Americas RM echoes Clements’ sentiments, “Everyone should understand how to analyze an income statement, balance sheet, and statement of cash flow. Without this knowledge, you can’t measure the health of your company.”

Pricing is another common struggle, “Some dive centers price everything based upon what the dive centre down the road is charging rather than costs, or what the product is actually worth. Other dive shops mistakenly focus on having the greatest number of customers rather than being profitable.” said Tosh Tanner, Territory Director at PADI Asia Pacific.

Sporadic Business Hours
When a dive shop publishes its hours to Google, Facebook, etc. it’s important to adhere to the posted hours. Regional Manager Ambrosi asks, “How many times would you stop at a store with a sign that reads ‘be back in 30 min’ before you find a shop that provides that service when you want?”

Fernando Martins, RM for PADI Latin American notes, “I’ve seen excellent dive pros open a store that later fails because they have another job and try to run the shop too, so the business becomes like a hobby.”

Poor Hiring Choices
“Hire for personality, not skill set,” recommends RM Nick Jenny. “You can teach skills, but a million-watt personality is something you’re born with. The next time you’re shopping and someone goes out of their way to help you, or adds special something to the experience, consider whether this person might want to sell travel and adventure instead of clothing or electronics.”

Not hiring individuals with a sales-oriented mindset is another big mistake. “I repeatedly see instructors who are afraid to close a sale as they are afraid of being pushy. The people who work in your shop should be both eager to sell and provide great customer service,” said Clements.

Insufficient Marketing
The number one mistake new shop owners make is failing to invest in marketing efforts. “I’ve seen people open a shop thinking their personal dive associates will keep them in business,” said PADI Americas Regional Manager LeRoy Wickham.

“They overlook the fact that the majority of these friends already have most of their gear and only bring in small business like air fills and maybe some repairs. It’s not enough to keep the doors open,” Wickham explained.

Successful dive business owners spend as much time developing their web presence as they spend building out their physical location. A dive shop’s website is typically a new customer’s first impression of the business. It should be designed by a professional and feature inviting photos of smiling divers on a mobile-friendly platform.

For outdoor signage, a simple design with a dive flag and “Scuba and Snorkel” is an effective choice. As supplementary tactic, business owners should allocate capital to online search advertising such and Facebook ads targeting local users interested in scuba diving (not post boosting).

Not Asking for Help

If you’re interested in opening a dive business, involve your PADI Regional Manager early on. Your RM can help you choose a good location, conduct staff training, and take advantage of PADI’s marketing resources.
Attend PADI Business Academy to strengthen your business with pricing and fraud avoidance workshops plus hands-on experience with web and social media marketing tools.

Further Reading:
Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill
PADI Business Academy information and schedule
Does Your Business Project a Professional Image?

Junior Scientists in the Sea Inspires Young People to Get Certified, Stay Involved

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Photo: Junior Scientists in the Sea

Junior Scientists in the Sea (JSIS) is a year-round program that helps young people gain real-world job skills while fostering an interest in scuba diving, science, engineering, and the underwater world. Any student age 12 or older is welcome to participate. Founder Les Burke explains:

“Whether or not you are certified does not matter. If you cannot swim, we will teach you. If you want to stay on shore or in the boat, we still want you to join us. In addition to scuba diving, we have drones, remote operated submersibles and remote camera equipment. We have something for everyone.”

Les Burke became a PADI Instructor in 1983. Les spent 33 years in the Navy, including 28 as a Navy diver, and worked as a Navy diving instructor at the Naval Diving & Salvage Training Center in Florida. Altogether, Les has certified more than 2,000 divers at all levels of diving.

Les founded JSIS with the goal of creating new divers, scientists, and engineers with the skills and passion to protect the ocean. “JSIS is designed to expose kids to a meaningful, educational program combined with on-the-job training, hard work, and opportunities to solve real-world problems right in their own backyards. The new experiences, new places, new people, and new approach will create new hope, new ideas, and new attitudes. Instead of choosing from well-traveled, often-overcrowded trails, JSIS is blazing new ones,” Les explained.

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Photo: Junior Scientists in the Sea

JSIS activities can include:

Coral reef surveys and restoration initiatives
Fish and invertebrate identification
Invasive species surveys
Maritime heritage and underwater archaeology activities
Safe Boating and navigation classes
Public Speaking, communications, and “writing for a purpose” workshops


JSIS Partnerships

“Our programming is used by high school activity clubs and other after school programs, County Parks and Recreation, and as a stand-alone program at dive centers,” Les said.

Teresa McKinna VP/CFO Key Largo Undersea Park home of Jules’ Undersea Lodge said, “We love Les here at Jules’ Lagoon and his work with Junior Scientists. Les is one of the hardest working advocates for the education and betterment of our youth I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. His mind is always working and looking for new interest for his students.”

Why Become a JSIS Chapter?
“Training the next generation of aquatic stewards is key to the future of our industry and a great way for dive shops to give back to their community.” Les said. “If we don’t take care of the rivers, lakes and oceans, that source of livelihood could go away, and teaching SCUBA to under-represented and low-income youth can generate more return on the investment than is imagined. This kind of work is rewarding and can open other doors if done with passion and honor.”

“For the bottom-liners, JSIS is good for business. Junior Scientists are very active and as they improve their diving competency and level, they’ll need gear as things are lost or worn out,” Les explained. “JSIS can also complement community service requirements and attract more college-age divers.”

“We have empirical data showing parents will invest in their kids when they see them in an active program with educational and ecological benefits,” Les said. “And JSIS delivers results. We monitor our students’ grades (where allowed) and have found an across the board increase in 95% of our students. We also have 8 students now attending post-secondary programs.”

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Photo: Junior Scientists in the Sea

How PADI Dive Shops Can Become a JSIS Chapter

Many JSIS chapters started when dive center owners realized they had passionate young dive students and not enough for them to do. Whether you have an existing group of divers, or are looking to grow your business with youth programs, here’s what you need to know about starting a JSIS chapter:

– The first step is to contact Les to create a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between JSIS and the dive organization

– Monthly meetings are required (more frequent meetings are encouraged, but monthly is the minimum)
– All programs must be safe, ethical and legal
– JSIS encourages diversity among students and chapter leaders

JSIS recommends need-based free or reduced rate SCUBA instruction, but does not mandate it. JSIS partners with various organizations for activities and fundraising to support its chapters, and shares any grant money received. “The more kids we are serving, the more funding we are eligible for, so growth begets growth,” said Les.
For more information on becoming a JSIS chapter, contact Les Burke at les@jsisinc.org. Read more about JSIS on PADI’s blog and connect with Junior Scientists in the Sea via their website or on Facebook.

How to Get the Divemaster Job of Your Dreams (Part 1)

how to get the best divemaster job

Your PADI Divemaster certification can open the door to a fun and rewarding career anywhere in the world, but landing a great job takes work. You can’t be like a sea anemone and wait for the perfect job to drift by. Use the strategies below to outmaneuver the competition and snatch up your dream job.

Do You Have the Skills Employers Expect?
For the most part, business owners would rather hire someone with experience rather than train a newbie. Review the list below to ensure when a potential employer asks if you have experience filling tanks, working on a boat, etc. – you can answer yes!

  • DSD Leader credential – By completing the PADI Discover Scuba Diving Leader internship, a Divemaster can conduct PADI Discover Scuba® (DSD) programs in a pool or confined water. This skill makes you a valuable asset to any dive operation and, because it is an optional part of the Divemaster course, gives you an advantage over other job applicants.
  • Boat Basics – PADI Divemasters, especially those hoping to work in resort areas, need to know their way around a boat. Familiarize yourself with boat terminology, local laws, and make sure you remember those knot tying skills. If you don’t have a lot of boat diving knowledge, consider taking the PADI Boat Diver Speciality course.
  • Minor Equipment Repairs – Divemasters spend a lot of time helping divers with their gear. If you don’t know how to handle minor gear issues, enroll in the PADI Equipment Specialist course and/or purchase the PADI Equipment Specialist Touch
  • Emergency Oxygen Administration – Every dive leader should be familiar with how to administer oxygen in the event of a diving emergency. Most dive operations will expect you to have this skill – in addition to current first aid and CPR training.  Learn more about the PADI Emergency Oxygen Provider Specialty. If you already have this certification, talk to a PADI Course Director about getting trained to teach this course.
  • Ability to Fill Tanks – The ability to fill scuba tanks is an essential skill for Divemasters. To distinguish yourself from other candidates, you may want to get a visual cylinder inspection certification.

Tank-Fill

What Makes You Better Than the Rest?

Why are you the best candidate for a Divemaster job? What can you do better than anyone else? If you don’t have an answer to these questions, consider picking up one of the specialized skills below:

  1. Boat Skills – Resort and liveaboard operators need staff members who can do more than just lead dives. If you can drive a skiff, have a boat handling certification, know basic boat engine or compressor maintenance, or have a captain’s license, you will be twice as valuable as a Divemaster who does not have these skills.
  2. Equipment Service Technician –  Enroll in manufacturer-sponsored courses such as regulator repair, BCD maintenance and repair, etc. Though you may find yourself at a workbench more often than a dive boat, this can be your foot in the door.
  3. Know Your Local Marine Life – Most Divemasters have a good (but not great) knowledge of local marine life. By learning about the behaviors and habitats of your local critters, you’ll be able to help divers get more from their dive experience (and hopefully show their gratitude in tips). PADI’s Fish ID and Underwater Naturalist Specialty courses are a good place to start.
  4. Photo/Video Expertise – Capturing great images of marine life and divers having fun is a huge asset to any dive business. Photos and video are an essential part of any businesses’ marketing strategy, yet many dive operators don’t have time to get them. Divemasters can also teach the PADI Digital Underwater Photographer Specialty Course(under the direction of a PADI Instructor) after receiving training from a PADI Course Director.
  5. Adaptive Techniques – PADI Divemasters can become a certified PADI Adaptive Techniques Support Diver (English only) and learn techniques to apply when training and diving with physically and mentally challenged divers.

Adaptive

Retail Recommendations – A Divemaster looking for work in a non-resort location should learn everything they can about the major manufacturer’s product lines. Knowing the features and benefits of popular BCDs, regulators and computers makes you a valuable employee to retailers.

Resorts – Divemasters looking for work in resort areas should be familiar with local places to eat, drink and have fun – easy right? Another thing DM’s should know is how to drive a large passenger van. Many dive operators in resort areas have a 15+ passenger van to pick up guests at their hotel(s) and to shuttle divers to/from the dive boat. Check local licensing requirements, some areas require a special driver’s license endorsement.

Knowing more than one language is also advantageous for Divemasters working in resort areas. The “best” second language to learn will depend on the area. Visit the Employment Board area of the PADI Pros Site to learn which languages are in demand.

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Check in next month for Part 2 and find out about those extras that can put you in the winning seat.

Tips for a Profitable Pro Night

Andre SIngle Tank

Written by Megan Denny

A PADI Pro Night is a proven way for PADI Dive Centers and Resorts to increase class and equipment sales. In this article, we’ll share proven tactics from top producers to help your PADI Pro Night be as successful as possible.

First, decide on an event date with your PADI Regional Manager. Avoid hosting the event at the same time as a major sporting event or school holiday.

4-6 Weeks Prior
Announce your Pro Night in your newsletter, on social media and blog (if applicable). Visit the PADI Pros’ Site for free graphics, an email template, a poster for your classroom, and customizable Pro Night invitations.

Tips for a Profitable Pro Night

Ask divers to RSVP via eVite or email. As part of the RSVP process, ask about their diving certifications and experience so you have an idea who your audience is. This will also help ensure you have plenty of drinks and snacks for everyone.

Identify at least two, ideally three members of your staff to speak at the Pro Night. If possible, choose people with different ages and backgrounds.

Video testimonials from graduates who may not be present but send them in from exciting places they are working helps build excitement and build relevance to your programs for the attendees.

2-3 Weeks Out
Ask your PADI Regional Training Consultant about raffle prize donations, Go PRO DVDs, and any special dispensation on a Pro Night order for crew-paks.

Promote your event at the register and in your scuba classes. Include flyers in crew-paks and shopping bags.

Continue posting reminders to social media.

Collect or buy raffle prizes. These could be gift cards, airfill vouchers, hats, t-shirts, or scuba accessories.

A slideshow to play in the background while divers and staff mingle before and after the presentation is nice to have. The slideshow can include staff photos, images from dive trips, and slides promoting upcoming dive travel opportunities.

Create your Pro Night specials:
– Tiered training packages (basic package, mid-range and platinum) are the ideal way to go as most consumers will choose the middle way. You can create bundles of just classes, or packages that include gear as well.

Create packages to lead a student from whatever certification level they are at currently up to DM or Instructor.

Train all your staff in these packages and ensure they fully understand and are able to answer questions about each offer.
– If you have an active travel program, have information available on your upcoming trips. Some attendees may want to complete their training in warm-water destinations.

– Consider offering a Master Scuba Diver special in addition to Divemaster and IDC specials. If you get a lot of MSD sign-ups, consider having a Master Scuba Diver night later in the year.

– Include a calendar, as a slide in your presentation and/or as a handout, showing your class schedule for the year. Help students see the path to Divemaster, Instructor, Master Scuba Diver, etc.

Require instructors to create a target list of at least five students who “have what it takes.” Compare the lists to ensure the same student isn’t on the same list twice, then have instructors phone or email students a personal invite.

Run a pre-mortem with key staff. Imagine worst-case scenarios (a presenter is sick, it snows, there aren’t enough snacks or chairs, etc.) and identify how you’ll prevent and handle these problems.

1 Week Before
Send out a Pro Night email reminder, and tease your one-night only specials.

Ask your presenters if they have any photos or videos they’d like to share and load those files on your presentation computer.

Have instructors make follow up calls to students who expressed interest but haven’t RSVP’d.

Prepare a list of interview questions for your Pros in the spotlight. Example questions:
– What do you love about being a PADI Divemaster/Instructor?
– When did you know you wanted to go pro?
– What’s a common misconception people have about working as a Divemaster/Instructor?

The Day Before:
Post your specials to social media and emphasize they are one-night-only, no exceptions.

At the Event:
Prepare a sign-in sheet to capture diver names, highest level and contact info (phone/email). Assign a staff member to ensure guests fill out their information legibly and completely so you can add them to your database.

Train all staff how to sign up customers for each package, and explain any financing options you may offer.

Plan for 30 minutes of mingle time/happy hour before the presentation. Play a slideshow/video playlist showcasing your travel adventures and smiling staff having fun with students.

During mingle-time, Invite divers to ‘Like’ your Facebook page (or check in on Facebook if they’ve already Liked your page) to earn extra raffle entries.

Kick the presentation off by asking the audience a few questions (raise your hand if you’re an Open Water Diver, Advanced, Rescue, etc). Ask a few people to share why they decided to attend.

Limit your presentation to one hour – any longer and you risk draining – rather than building – energy.

If lighting conditions are good, record your staff member’s presentations for YouTube and/or social media.

Keep the excitement up with a raffling prize drawing between presenters.

After the presentation is over, allow time for divers and staff to socialize. This interaction is a powerful sales tool.

Assign ‘golden egg’ customers to specific instructors who can close the sale with the diver in a personalized way, perhaps catering to their interest in a retirement job, or as a way to travel the world.

Finalize as many sales as possible. Capitalize on the excitement of the presentation to sell training, trips and equipment.

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After the event:

Meet with your staff to designate a follow-up plan for each attendee – and then follow-up!

Evaluate the event and take notes about what worked well and what could be improved for future events.

Conclusion/Top Tips
This article is designed as a checklist to help you build a successful Pro Night. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed, the most important tips are:

  1. Promote your event early and often.
  2. Require instructors to extend personal invitations to select students. Don’t count on email and social media to bring in a crowd.
  3. Create three tiers of specials and don’t compromise on the one-night-only deadline.

Additional tips and marketing resources are available on the PADI Pros’ Site.

Announcing the 2017 Retail and Resort Master Scuba Diver Challenge Winners

In 2017, we challenged our Retail and Resorts to a friendly competition to see who could show the most percentage growth in Master Scuba Diver™ certifications. The following dive centers came out on top, certifying more divers the past six months than they did during the same six-month period the previous year!  Congratulations to all the winners and thank you to all that participated in the challenge. Your amazing achievements and dedication in certifying Master Scuba Divers continues to create loyal customers, confident and competent divers, and more stewards for the underwater world.

In no particular order, here are your 2017 first place Retail and Resort Master Scuba Diver Challenge Winners:

Gene's Aqua Pro

Gene’s Aqua Pro

Gore, OK

“Gene’s Aqua Pro has been proud to serve Oklahoma since 1971.  The Master Scuba Diver Challenge gave our divers a fun mission to accomplish this summer at beautiful Lake Tenkiller.”-Gene’s Aqua Pro

Chattahoochee Scuba

Chattahoochee Scuba

Columbus, GA

“We challenge our customers to become Master Scuba Divers to help hone their skills, gain new experience, and stay engaged as divers and students.” –Chattahoochee Scuba

SeaVentures

SeaVentures

Alpharetta, GA

“We enjoy offering the Master Scuba Diver Challenge at SeaVentures because it gets our divers even more excited about different kinds of diving.” –SeaVentures

Florida Underwater Sports

Florida Underwater Sports

Sarasota, FL

“Creating divers, that is the MSD challenge for our instructors and staff. The students are challenged to become better divers but also to be outstanding representatives of the diving community.” –Florida Underwater Sports

The Scuba Shop

The Scuba Shop

Ontario, Canada

“Northern Ontario’s only PADI Dive Center, the Scuba Shop is proud to congratulate our new PADI Master Scuba Divers and their commitment to safe diving and training.” –The Scuba Shop

Ready to ramp up your Master Scuba Diver Program? Check out tips on how to put your master scuba diver program to work here.

PADI Inducted into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame

The PADI® organization joined the ranks of the most honored game-changers in the diving world as a 2017 inductee into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame (ISDHF). Founded in 2000 by the Ministry of Tourism of the Cayman Islands, the ISDHF recognizes individuals and groups who have contributed to the watersports industry, especially in the Cayman Islands. This year’s induction ceremony for PADI and fellow inductees was hosted at the Marriott Grand Cayman Beach Resort on 29 September 2017.

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PADI was honored as an “ISDHF Pioneer” that set the foundation for standardized scuba training programs. From PADI’s humble start in 1966, the organization has grown to be the world’s largest diver training organization of more than 133,000 dive professionals and 6,400 dive centers and resorts spread across 186 countries. PADI Members make diving accessible globally while putting a strong focus on conservation, community, underwater adventure and exploration through the Four Pillars of Change.

“On behalf of the entire PADI organization, we’re honored to have our work and continuing efforts recognized by the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame. PADI’s mission is to be a force for good – to be the best in and for the world,” says President and CEO, Dr. Drew Richardson. “By empowering divers and engaging them more effectively at the local level globally, global change is inevitable. With every diver certification issued, PADI creates a growing number of ocean advocates to help defend and preserve the marine environment for generations to come.”

Be Best. Be PADITM. The Way the World Learns to Dive®.

Aligning with the Global Ghost Gear Initiative

The Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI) is the first global alliance working to solve the worldwide problem of lost and abandoned fishing gear, known as ghost gear. Founded by World Animal Protection in 2015, the GGGI works to reduce the volume of ghost gear, remove and recycle it, and rescue entangled animals. By aligning with the GGGI, the PADI® family can help mobilize divers to look for and report harmful ghost gear that annually entangles and kills marine life including hundreds of thousands of whales, seals, turtles and birds.

27Sep17_PADI_GGGI BeachNet

PADI joins GGGI as a member of its global solutions group to help develop new ways of mitigating the ghost gear problem. This complements the efforts of Project AWARE®, which actively works as a GGGI member to build evidence through its Dive Against Debris® program. Working together, the goal is to develop and implement projects to reduce and remove ghost gear from the ocean. This includes equipping PADI Divers with the knowledge and techniques to identify, report and, with proper training, safely remove ghost gear from waters, creating a global movement of millions of underwater eyes on the lookout for ghost gear.

More than 640,000 tons of fishing equipment is left in the world’s oceans each year, with reports showing that this debris affects more than 800 species of marine life. Many nets lost in global waters are enormous – often far bigger than football fields – trapping and killing marine life under the surface. Mostly made of plastic, ghost gear is also highly durable and can persist in the oceans for up to 600 years.

“We are happy to team up with the Global Ghost Gear Initiative,” says Drew Richardson, PADI Worldwide President and CEO. “PADI is committed to protecting the ocean planet and, with our unique underwater vantage, the dive community can play a significant role in locating marine debris. Along with Project AWARE, we look forward to working with the GGGI to empower and mobilize PADI Divers to join the fight against ghost gear.”

“We are proud to welcome PADI, with its millions of underwater eyes around the world looking out for ghost gear, as a pivotal new member for the GGGI,” says Elizabeth Hogan, U.S. Oceans and Wildlife Campaign Manager at World Animal Protection, the GGGI’s founding participant. “Ghost gear is a true global problem that knows no borders, and PADI will surely play a crucial role in helping us to locate, remove and recycle ghost gear, which causes such immense suffering for marine animals.”

To learn more about ghost gear and the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, visit www.ghostgear.org.

Be Best. Be PADITM. The Way the World Learns to Dive®.