Starting Your Own Business – Your First Year

Starting Your Own Business Series
The First Year in Business
by Gene Muchanski, Executive Director
Dive Industry Association, Inc.

Your first year in business may be your most difficult part of going into business for yourself.  In fact, it is going to be harder than all of your business planning up to this point.  If you think that doing a personal assessment, feasibility study or business plan was hard, think again.  You may even think that creating an action plan and going through the start-up process was more difficult than you could have imagined.  I grant you; it probably was not easy and I know it was a lot of work, but it is nothing compared to the first year in business.   Think of your journey so far.  Getting to this point is like climbing Mt. Everest.  You may be on top of the world now, but you have only completed half of your journey.  To underestimate what comes next and not bothering to plan for it can result in failure and financial ruin. 

Planning a business takes a lot of research, study, and SWAG (Scientific Wild A_ _ Guessing).  But when you finish your planning, all you have invested at that point is a lot of time and manpower.  That’s a good thing.  You probably learned a lot about starting a business.  When you went through the actual start-up phase, you put your resources to work and hopefully built your business according to your plan.  At that point you have not lost anything yet either.  Your investment is intact and is waiting to bring you a return on investment (ROI).  What’s it waiting for?  You.  Now it’s time to get to work, but don’t stop your planning.  Remember, this may be all new to you because you have not been here before.  With each passing day, you will be building a history and that is something you want to record and learn from.

Dropping the ball on planning after a successful retail store grand opening happens all the time.  I worked with a sporting goods retail start-up not too long ago.  We went through the entire business planning process and the entrepreneur excelled at it.  His research was through, and all his assumptions were complete, well thought out, and realistic.  The Business Plan was textbook perfect.  All bases seemed to be covered and he was ready to open.  His start-up period was short and complete.  On opening day his store looked fantastic, was well stocked with the correct amount of inventory, represented by the best brands in his industry, and his hardware and business software programs were installed, online and ready to go.  I congratulated him on his achievement and told him we should proceed with the next phase of his start up, the first year of operation.  You could imagine my disappointment when he said, “That won’t be necessary, Gene, I’ve got it from here.

A year later I got a call from that same entrepreneur.  He needed to raise $4,000 by the end of the weekend to pay his rent or face eviction.  When we reviewed his past year of operation, we found out that he had not recorded any of his sales history, did not have a database of his current customers and did not keep adequate records of his income and expenses.  Basically, he did not use any of the professional business programs he purchased and installed during the start-up.  With a beautiful store, an excellent inventory that was paid for, and the best legal, accounting and marketing programs that money could buy (with no useful data in them), there was little he could do except hang a GOING OUT OF BUSINESS sign in his window and move out on Monday.  Don’t let that happen to you.

Now do you believe me that going into business for yourself is for reals?  That’s why you don’t open a store on Monday and put up a “GONE DIVING” sign on your door on Tuesday.  After you open your doors to the public you have a big responsibility to make it work for you, your family, your local diving community and to the industry.  Learning how to operate your business will be easier and more enjoyable if you develop a Board of Advisors that you can casually meet with from time to time.  Remember, you are in the recreational diving business, and you will undoubtably have customers that work in the various professions, like marketing, accounting, law, and business.  If they patronage your dive store or dive business, I am sure they will want you to succeed.  Get to know them on a personal basis and recruit them as volunteer advisors.  I am not saying that you should get them to give you professional services for fee.  I firmly believe that you should pay for your legal, accounting and tax services using professional companies that do that for a living.   Keep your professional services and your advisors separate.  An advisor to me is someone I can socialize with, as a friend, who lets me pick their brain for ideas.  Sometimes they may even give you constructive criticism on different aspects of your operation.  Your Accountant, Lawyer, and Banker provide services that you pay them for.

Some of the things you want to do during your first year is record your history of customers, sales, students certified, and everything to do with income, expenses, and cash flow.  It will help you create your own seasonality curve which will give you a competitive advantage the following year. Until then you are really operating on assumptions and realistic estimates.

Customer Database:  Starting on day one, you need to create a customer database.  Every time someone walks into your store and every time you meet a scuba diver, get their full contact information and record it in a useable CRM (customer relationship management) program that could be integrated into your point-of-sale software program.  This will be your potential customer list.  Every time you make a sale, make sure you capture the customer’s contact information.  People who have made a purchase from you in the past 12 months are considered your current customers.  Get in the habit of frequently marketing to your current customer base.  This collective group of people is referred to as your circle of influence.   When a current customer has not purchased from you in 12 months, they become your former customer.  Knowing who they are is important but contacting them again is more important.

Sales History:  Knowing your sales history is important.  You will want to know how you are doing this year and how it compares to last year.  After the first 12 months in business, you will have a one-year history that shows your first seasonality curve.  From that point on you can start to see trends in your sales.  I have always maintained a simple Xcel spreadsheet for sales.  At the end of every day, I enter the daily sales.  The spreadsheet gives me the total for the year, the daily average, and the projected total for the year.  Those four columns are compared to last year daily sales and at a glance I can tell if we are up or down compared to last year, by the daily amount, total amount, average daily sales, and projected annual total.  My spreadsheet gives me the answers in dollars and percentage.  Once you set up the spreadsheet, all you have to do is put in one number per day.  Easy.

Point of Sale System:  I can’t recommend enough having a good point of sale software program.  I used Scuba Prophet in my dive store back in 1988, when it was first introduced.  A good point of sale program will help you control ordering, inventory, sales, customer data, marketing and merchandising. Knowing what you sell, how much you sell, and to whom is invaluable information.  Knowing the revenue, current selling price, cost, and profit per unit sold is priceless.  Being able to accurately forecast sales is a skill you need to develop as a professional dive retailer or dive equipment manufacturer.

Accounting Software:  Most small businesses use an accounting software program like QuickBooks.   You want to be able to track the flow of your income, expenses, and cash flow.  Your software will also keep track of your vendors, customers, and employees.  You will always want to be current with your invoices, bills, payments, deposits, payables, receivables, taxes, and payroll.  Accounting software is necessary to manage your day-to-day operations and for accountability and government compliance. 

Office, Marketing & Graphic Software:    Business tools are designed to make your job of operating your business easier, more accurate, and more manageable.  Using an integrated system of programs like Microsoft Office 365 and the Adobe Graphic Suite will make getting your daily tasks done quicker, easier, and end up looking more professional.  The key to getting the most out of your computer software programs is to purchase a book or a course on each software program, read the book, complete the course, and keep the textbook on-hand for future reference.

Staying Current with The Diving Industry:  During your first year of operation, it is important that you refine your business model and make any changes or adjustments to your original business plan as you think necessary.  What you should be trying to achieve at this point is to develop a business model that works for you as you iron out any bugs in your current assumptions.  Your goals should be to utilize the current business tools you have and do the best you can within your current market.  We will address shifting to a grow strategy in future articles.  For the present time, you may want to keep yourself current with what your competitors and the rest of the industry are doing.  Don’t just focus on your local market but start noticing what other vendors in the equipment, training, travel and lifestyle sectors are doing.  If you haven’t joined your industry trade association yet, now would be a good time.  The Dive Industry Association has a book on  how to stay connected as a Dive Industry Professional, and it’s free as part of your membership.

Congratulations on getting this far in your own business.  Keep going.  For more information on getting through your first year in business, as it relates to a Dive Industry Professional Business, contact Gene Muchanski, Executive Director, Dive Industry Association.  Phone 321-914-3778.   eMail: gene@diveindustry.net

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Editorial – September 2022

EDITORIAL – SEPTEMBER 2022

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The Market Is Big Enough For Now
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
The Dive Industry Professional

Welcome to the September 2022 Editorial of The Dive Industry Professional.  For many years now, September has been the month when the major suppliers in the diving industry launch their marketing programs for the next season.  The logic behind a September Launch is sound and has paid off handsomely for many companies for at least the last twenty-five years, maybe even longer.  A September Industry Launch works well for the supply side of diving equipment channels of distribution.  For the diving equipment manufacturers, equipment sales agents, and retail dive stores, September is the best month to introduce, sell, and order new lines for the next diving season.    Let’s review a few of the reasons why you need to be in sync with this particular seasonality curve.

The traditional recreational season for scuba diving and watersports in the United States is generally Memorial Day through Labor Day.  So, while scuba instructors, dive stores and charter boats are busy teaching classes, selling diving equipment and taking divers on dive boat charters, their manufacturing vendors are putting together their new line of equipment for the next season.  By August, their samples have arrived from their OEM’s and these Manufacturers & Distributors are conducting their annual sales meetings.  On the day after Labor Day, while the dive stores are still active and hopefully blessed with a generous open-to-buy budget from the current season, the major manufacturing Reps begin calling on their accounts to show their new lines and take orders for the upcoming season.  For the Retailers, this allows them to put their current inventory on sale (clearance) and begin merchandising and selling next-years line for the Holiday Shopping Season.  For the Manufacturers, a September Launch gives them important sales forecasting data for the next season and ties up their Dealers open-to-buy budgets.  This allows the equipment manufacturers and Sales Reps to focus on seminars, workshops and social events at the annual industry trade show, two months later.

As we enter the post-pandemic era in our industry, the concept of a September Industry Launch is more important than ever.  The number one reason is a declining market coupled with increased competition to capture market share.  Twenty years ago, our industry had 2,400 dive stores.  This year we are lucky if we have 1,200 viable dive stores in the U.S.  So, the wholesale market has been cut in half.  Secondly, the number of divers has to be significantly less, considering the number of baby boom divers who don’t dive anymore because of age or health reasons.  Also, in the post-pandemic era, our recreation is being challenged by government restrictions, travel restrictions and staffing challenges, resort destination closures, and supply chain shortages.  People are diving less.  So, with a declining market and increasing challenges, Dive Industry Professionals have their work cut out for them.  But there is a silver lining in the clouds.

Back in the days of John Cronin, Dick Bonin, and Bob Gray, we had Dive Industry Leaders who knew that unity would create a more manageable small niche market within the larger sporting goods market.  They were Entrepreneurs and they knew that the industry had to be united to develop a large concentration of qualified retail buyers so they could meet in one place, at one time, to maximize sales and communications.  They knew that having a smaller number of exhibitors at a trade show with a higher percentage of divers would be more successful for them than having a larger number of non-diving exhibitors and a lower percentage of divers at a National Sporting Goods Trade Show.    They were spot on.  I remember my first DEMA Show in 1982 in San Antonio, Texas.  With only 182 Exhibitors but a high concentration of qualified retail buyers, the market was big enough and the show was successful for both exhibitors and buyers.  We can do that again if our industry leaders would embrace the concept of unity.

Now I’m going to tell you about the mistakes that are happening in our industry today.  Our industry is more fragmented than it has ever been.  Some of our manufacturers have broken away from our united niche market and have tried to isolate a small sub-niche market for themselves.  This tactic actually costs them more and brings them smaller returns.  Some have even cut services and communications to their dealer base in hopes of selling directly to the consumer.  To justify a larger marketing expenditure for diminishing returns from a declining niche market, these companies are giving up on more profitable trade shows, consumer dive shows, regional sales events, and most importantly, loyalty from their dealer base.   As face-to-face marketing events try to make a come-back after the pandemic, we must not fall into the trap of spreading our marketing budget too thin, in hopes of picking up a small percentage of a non-diving events total market share.  This is another mistake being made by companies who are conducting marketing efforts in unfamiliar markets.  These critical errors in judgement may very well stem from the hiring of recent company management, who are not entrepreneurial in their thinking, but rather hired employees with little to no knowledge of the recreational diving market. 

So, the silver lining in the clouds of uncertainty is that unity works and isolation marketing doesn’t.  It’s easy to see what some companies are doing and realize that many will either fail to attract a sufficient market share, or they will go broke trying.  For you, that is a good thing.  For them, not so much.  The market is big enough for now and we can capture a sufficient market share to succeed and grow.  Yes, in this post-pandemic period, our advice is to circle our wagons and go after the bulk of the market that is centering around our common recreational activities.  The best thing we can do at this point is to recommend that each dive business focus on marketing to their active current customers.  This should bring in the most results from the least efforts and resources.  If you are in need of additional market share, we recommend you next focus on recapturing your former customers, who have not purchased from you in the past 12 months.  Find out why, and then create a strategy to reactivate them into current customers.

The third part of our plan is to prospect for new customers.  Prospecting for new customers is the most costly and time consuming marketing.  This is the part that is best done in unison with your regional diving community or your diving trade association.  Our industry must encourage regional consumer dive shows again and support them.  Regional dive shows have a higher concentration of divers per attendee.  The cost to participate is small in comparison to the possible returns.  Non-diving shows such as travel shows, boating shows, and outdoor shows are not cost effective for individual companies due to high booth prices and low diver concentration of attendees.  They may be cost effective on a shared basis when your trade association represents your local diving community on your behalf.  That is where the concept of unity will pay off for our industry.

And a final word of advice from our forty years of marketing at trade and consumer shows.  A face-to-face show or event is a market that is temporarily created to bring buyers and sellers together.  It is the responsibility of the show producer to do everything possible to bring as many buyers and sellers together as possible.  It is not the responsibility of the sellers to bring their current customers to the event.  If they could do that, they would not need the venue producer, they would simply invite their customers to visit them at their location.    Trade and consumer shows are where we meet new customers.  We vote (support) with our time, money and manpower where there is an opportunity to increase our revenue and our market share.  The Surf Expo has two full-time staff members whose job is to visit Watersports Dealers and encourage them to attend the Surf Expos.  Attendance at Surf Expo for qualified Retail Buyers incidentally, is free.

So, as we enter into the beginning of a new recreational diving season, let us focus on serving our current customers, recapturing our former customers and actively prospecting for new customers.  The size of the industry’s current market is sufficient for now, to make many of our Dive Industry Professionals very successful.  How many?  That remains to be seen, but the likelihood will get increasingly better as we learn to prospect for new customers to add to the total market, as we learn to compete to capture a larger market share for ourselves.  I’ve always said that it is easier to increase the size of a market then it is to compete over a declining market.

For more information on attracting and selling to Dive Industry Professionals, contact Gene Muchanski, Executive Director, Dive Industry Association, Inc., at gene@diveindustry.net or call me at 321-914-3778.

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Editorial – August 2022

EDITORIAL – AUGUST 2022

We Need A Better Reason To Go Diving.
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
The Dive Industry Professional

Welcome to the August 2022 Editorial of The Dive Industry Professional.  I’m in the process of getting ready for another dive trip and thought I would take a break from my packing to get our August Editorial finished before we go.  Hopefully by the time you read this, our team will either be still diving the Sea of Cortez or have just recently returned home.  Like any other dive trip, our reasons for going on this trip were varied.  We wanted to dive someplace we never dove before.  We heard great things about Dora Sierra’s Liveaboard, the Rocio Del Mar, and we heard about the great diving in the Sea of Cortez.   The thought of diving with Sea Lions and Whale Sharks again was enough to make us look forward to the trip, but what got us most excited was photographing and videotaping the experience ourselves.  After seeing Dora’s video on Diving the Sea of Cortez – Midriff Islands, Dana and I both said, “We Have to Go!”

Within a week’s time, we were all booked and scheduled for the trip.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized the importance of deciding what we were going to do on the trip.  The big question that millions of scuba divers ask themselves all the time, is Why are we doing this?  Why do we dive?  Being a certified diver for 55 years now, I have always actively worked at keeping my diving activity fun and meaningful.  For many years, just diving and exploring was good enough.  Diving new sites and seeing new things was always fun and gratifying.  Then, teaching classes at all levels and focusing on giving my students good diving experiences occupied 20 years of my career.  That was rewarding too.  And speaking of rewarding, the diving I did in the U.S. Navy and the Naval Reserves for 24 years, was very special and memorable.  The twenty years I spent diving and testing new equipment after that, got me into tinkering and experiencing new types of diving and new diving equipment.  I have to say, I always had a reason to go diving then.  But for me, when I started capturing my experiences on film and video and then writing about and publishing my diving adventures, it gave me new meaning and purpose to go back again and again.  Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s the educator in me, but going out and capturing a diving adventure and then sharing it with my diving and non-diving friends, is very rewarding.  And the search for new content is never ending.  I guess that is my new purpose.  My new reason for diving.  And it’s insatiable. 

So, how do you take this concept and make it work for you?  If you are a Dive Industry Professional, it may put a spark, or maybe even a new direction in your diving career.  If you are a certified diver and enjoy diving as a hobby, it will definitely give you more reasons to get back in the water as often as you can.  Keep in mind that your reason to dive is a personal one.  Every person has their own reasons to dive.  Find your reasons based on what makes you happy.

For some people, diving is an end in itself.  They get certified, buy their gear and go diving.  It’s a recreation.  It’s fun.  For some people, diving is a means to an end.  They love to take underwater pictures or video.  To do that you need diving equipment. Same thing with Wreck Diving and Cave Diving.  If we put on our thinking-caps, I’m sure we can come up with a slew of other underwater activities that require the use of scuba diving equipment.  Marine Conservation, Mermaiding, Underwater Modeling?

I bring this topic up for a few reasons.  A few years ago, I spoke with a person in the Yachting business.  He told me that if fishing ever became illegal, the boating industry would cease to exist.  Whether he was right or wrong, his opinion was that not enough people buy expensive boats to just go boating.  Most big yachts like Viking and Hatteras are purchased by people to go fishing.  Think about that.  My question is if underwater photography and videography became illegal, would the scuba diving industry die?  How about if Dive Travel became outlawed permanently, how would that affect our industry?  To put it into a clearer perspective, instead of thinking about activities becoming illegal, what if just the number of participants decreased by a significant number?  If divers lost their interest in underwater photography and travel, how would that affect our industry and specifically, your business?

So, ask yourself, Is underwater photography to the diving industry what fishing is to the boating industry?   If it is, then it would make sense to expand the Image Resource Centers at trade and consumer dive shows many times over.  If a large percentage of activity is concentrated in a specific interest of our recreation, that means it has meaningful economic potential for the industry.  For our industry to grow in a meaningful way, we have to look at the reasons people go diving, what they spend their money on and whether they think of diving, equipment, training, travel, and interests as a means to an end or as an end to itself.

In my opinion, the image making professionals need to get re-engaged in the international diving community and definitely in the Global Diving Business Network. Focusing on select clusters of current customers is safe, but it doesn’t grow the market. On average, businesses lose about 25% of their market share every year through attrition. The customers you lose every year needs to be replaced by new customers. If the diving industry is certifying 100,000 new divers every years, that’s a good place to start your prospecting. I believe you can increase consumer demand significantly by designing a campaign that retains your current customers, recaptures your former customers and acquires new customers. If dive businesses would only use their own expertise in creating and marketing the power of underwater images to inspire divers to take up underwater photography and video making, I believe they will experience business and diver growth like never before. Just think about it. If watching Dora’s video on the Sea of Cortez got us to spend another $10,000 on a dive trip, and more dive equipment and photography equipment (and that’s just 2 people), what would marketing to 100,000 new divers do for your business?

For more information on being a Dive Industry Professional and growing your business, contact Gene Muchanski, Executive Director, Dive Industry Association, Inc., at gene@diveindustry.net or call me at 321-914-3778.

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Editorial – July 2022

What It Means To Be A Volunteer.
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
The Dive Industry Professional

Welcome to the July 2022 Editorial of The Dive Industry Professional.  We are so fortunate to be involved in a recreation that attracts some of the most adventurous, kind, considerate, intelligent, and generous people on the planet.  I have been a water sports person all my life and it has brought me great joy and appreciation.  Appreciation for a healthy environment.  Appreciation for our plant and animal population.  And yes, appreciation for the enviro-friendly recreation businesses I deal with on a daily basis. 

As a lifelong scuba diver, I know that, as a group, we are an adventurous lot.  That’s a given.  You have to have an adventurous streak in you, in order to put on life support equipment and enter a strange and sometimes hostile environment we know very little about.  Just for the sake of exploring and learning something new.  So, we are adventurous, courageous, and curious.

Scuba diving is an outdoor recreation, so we have developed an appreciation for clean air, clean water, and abundant and healthy plant and animal life.  Whether I am hiking on land or exploring underwater, I get that feeling we were designed to be more than custodians of our environment.  We were meant to be good stewards of all the gifts that were entrusted to us.  That means, we don’t just get to enjoy and appreciate a healthy environment, we have to use our abilities and talents to create and maintain a healthy environment for all to enjoy.

Being good stewards of the earth and everything in it means that everyone has a duty and a responsibility to do their part.  Since we were all born with unique talents and abilities, it means that we can volunteer our time, talent, and treasure according to our gifts.  Regardless of your ability, you have something of value that can be used for the greater good.

Volunteering your time, talents and treasures is not just for a few non-profit organizations.  The diving industry has many non-profit organizations that focus on a multitude of needs.  We have environmental groups that work for clean water, healthy reefs, and marine life.  We have organizations that work with people who have physical and emotional challenges.  Some specialize in working with Veterans.  A number of non-profits work with children, or specific minority groups.  Some non-profits are designed to assist small businesses to help them start, grow, and succeed in their calling.  The types of non-profit, charitable organizations are almost limitless.  Finding an organization to volunteer your time, talent and treasures should be easy.  In today’s world, the need is great, but the volunteer workers are few.

Many people don’t realize this, but becoming a volunteer is actually a part of our life cycle.  In his book Start, Jon Acuff tells us that everyone goes through the same five stages in life, and the stages appear to correspond to our age groups.  According to Acuff, the five stages of life are Learning, Editing, Mastering, Harvesting, and Guiding.  See if any of these apply to you.  In our 20’s we are focused on learning.  In our 30’s we are taking what we’ve learned and refining it in order to better serve our purpose.  We edit and use what works for us and we discard what doesn’t.  In our 40’s we spend our time mastering our trade and really digging into the details that makes us more competitive in the workplace and in our profession.  By the time we are in our 50’s we are at a point in our life where we can enjoy the fruits of our labor and reap the rewards of the hard work we’ve done in our lives.   When we arrive at our 60’s, it’s time to guide the younger generation and become the mentors they need.  That’s why volunteering is so important.  Over your lifetime you have developed talents that other people need and can use.  Hopefully you will now have the time to spare, working for a good cause.

To me, volunteering is donating your time, talent or treasures to an organization that does good work.  Work that benefits people, companies, governments, or the environment.  I’ve seen three types of volunteering in the diving industry and other industries as well.  Some organizations recruit general volunteers to do general tasks.  These organizations need bodies.  Lots of them.  Good examples are beach clean ups for the environment and parking or clean-up crews at the local church.  The tasks are general in nature and can be on a one-time basis or on a recurring schedule.  The second type of volunteering is one that uses a volunteer’s specific talent for a specific purpose.  Recruiting a Medical Doctor or Dentist for a doctors without borders program is a good example.  The mission of the organization is specific, and the volunteers have to be qualified and experienced to perform the work. The third type of volunteering is simply giving financial support to an organization.  If you look at the non-profit industry closely, you will see why this type of volunteering is essential for building roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, and libraries.  Without your financial support, many non-profits would not be able to carry on doing the work they do for their community or the world.

The diving industry needs all three types of volunteers.  We need the masses for beach clean-ups and environmental projects.  We need generous donations of equipment, travel accommodations, and dollars to keep these organizations solvent.  But most of all, we need the education and experience of the generation of Dive Industry Professionals that came before us, to volunteer their talents and expertise to small businesses so they can start, grow and succeed in the Global Diving Business Network.  Now, I want to distinguish the difference between a volunteer and an advisor with a special talent, because I have had experience as both.  Volunteers get things done.  Organizations ask for volunteers with various professional expertise, like law, accounting, marketing, graphic design, etc.  These organizations know what they want and are looking for talent that is willing to help them on a volunteer basis.  Advisors, on the other hand, lend their expertise on an as-needed basis to help an organization clarify an issue or help make a decision.  An Advisor’s recommendation is not always implemented and sometimes is not even valued by the paid employees of a company.  If you are asked to be an Advisor or a Volunteer, to sit on a committee that doesn’t have the authority to implement their recommendations, don’t just walk away from that situation, run.  Volunteering is a two-way street.  Companies must utilize and appreciate the work performed by the volunteer and the volunteer must be made to feel that the work they do is important, has meaning and is respected and appreciated by the company. 

I’ll close with this suggestion for the diving industry.  We need to recruit volunteers for our organizations, both non-profit and for-profit.  Until we can afford to bring on a paid employee or paid consultant for a specific task, brining on volunteers to help us grow will benefit our companies greatly.  Not only will it help your company, it will give Dive Industry Professionals worldwide, an opportunity to use their talents (or practice their talents) to help make a diving company better at serving its customers.

As we promote non-profit organizations of the diving industry in the pages of The Dive Industry Professional, let us think about ways we can promote and praise the volunteer work of divers and water sports people who work with us for the betterment of the industry.  We look forward to writing articles about organizations and their staff who do good work for the industry as well as the non-paid volunteers who donate their time, talent and treasures to make this a better world.

For more information on being a Dive Industry Professional Volunteer, contact Gene Muchanski, Executive Director, Dive Industry Association, Inc., at gene@diveindustry.net or call me at 321-914-3778.

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Dive Editorial – June 2022

DIVE EDITORIAL – JUNE 2022

What Is A Dive Industry Professional?
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
The Dive Industry Professional

Welcome to the June 2022 Editorial of The Dive Industry Professional.  Being this is our third issue in a magazine format, after twenty-two years as a Newsletter, it is a justifiable question to ask the International Diving Community “What is a Dive Industry Professional?”  I admit, we have skirted the issue, as has the entire diving industry, on defining what a Dive Industry Professional is.  We’ll do our best to give you our best definition of what we think the title implies as well as the roles and responsibilities of being a Dive Industry Professional.  Of course, this is in our humble opinion based on fifty years in the business.

Dive applies to all of the different types of diving in the many different markets.  It applies to snorkeling, free diving, scuba diving, surface-supplied diving, rebreather diving, and the like.  Dive includes recreational diving, public safety, military, commercial, occupational, scientific, and technical.  Basically, if you go underwater with equipment you are participating in dive.

Industry is a little more tricky.  Technically, an industry is a group of like-minded businesses, producing similar products or services, that collectively make up an industry.  Industries are based on how programs, products and services are made or sold.  The United States Government organizes industries in their North American Industry Classification System.  Industries include Manufacturing, Distribution, Retail, Service, Recreational Education, Travel, etc.  There are many industries that have a number of businesses that specialize in dive.  We currently track 18 of them.

Technically, a market is where stuff is bought & sold and is made up of buyers & sellers.  The Diving Industry, as we affectionately and wrongfully call it, is not an industry at all, but a niche market.  But that’s OK.  We will continue to call it an industry anyway, with a wink and a nod.

Now we get to the Professional part.  While there are many definitions of the word professional, word phrases that apply to us include; engaged in high standards of a profession, requiring advanced education, earning ones living from an activity, and engaged in a specific occupation for pay rather than a hobby. We acknowledge that all Scuba Diving Instructors can still be considered Professional even if some of them don’t teach diving for compensation.  Our purpose in the industry is to work with all water sports professionals who make a living, part time or full time, in the business of diving.

 So, we will define a Dive Industry Professional as anyone who works in the Global Diving Business Network for pay, either on a full time or part time basis.  If you work in the diving community and you make money at it, we consider you to be an Industry Trade Professional.  A Dive Industry Professional to be exact.  The good news is that you now have a monthly trade publication to call your own, regardless of your certification affiliation or your dive equipment preference. 

As we said before, The Dive Industry Association has been publishing The Dive Industry Professional for 22 years.  We started out as a printed bi-monthly newsletter.  Then we eventually began publishing every month.  As our membership and circulation grew, we turned the newsletter into a monthly digital publication.  The power of a 4-color publication with digital hot links to active websites was a big plus for us and our members.  The problem with using a digital format was getting our subscribers to scroll down past the fold, never mind for 30 pages.  With advanced graphics, adobe software programs, and a flip-page format, we now have the best of both worlds with longer content length and good graphic capability.  I believe we are heading into a new age of monthly trade communications.

Welcome to the new monthly, digital trade news publication, The Dive Industry Professional.  Our vision is to reach the entire Global Diving Business Network with a free trade publication that covers every diving topic imaginable, brought to the International Diving Community every month. Our goal is to bring you an industry insider’s perspective into the modern-day business of diving topics and issues.

In future issues of The Dive Industry Professional, we will present a monthly Editorial, a Feature Article as part of a series, an Industry Profile, a Shows & Events Calendar, and information about Membership in the Dive Industry Association.  We will include articles about businesses that specialize in diving, that are in the manufacturing, retailing, training, and the travel industries.   We hope to report on diving equipment tests and dive resort visits.  We will feature dive operators and their dive operation crews.  We will feature Scuba Instructors, Dive Clubs, Dive Boats, and Non-Profit Organizations and report on their diving activities.  We will publish articles about the business of diving and how using modern marketing tools and technologies can improve your business operation and your bottom line.

Our Monthly Trade Magazine will be all about the sales of diving equipment, training programs, travel services and lifestyle products that meet our customers’ needs and grows the recreational diving industry.  Our goal is to get The Dive Industry Professional into the hands of every Dive Industry Professional across the globe, every month.  Subscription is FREE to all in the International Diving Community by opting in at our Constant Contact Safe Subscribe site at:

https://visitor.r20.constantcontact.com/manage/optin?v=0016DNjNiidDhTPnQ5-9C-DOEg4XEpKmyxn

When you subscribe to our monthly trade publication, you can also opt-in to our Weekly Dive News, published every Tuesday, and our General Mailing list. You can also unsubscribe or change your profile any time you wish. We are all about keeping happy and informed divers.

For more information on being a Dive Industry Professional, contact Gene Muchanski, Executive Director, Dive Industry Association, Inc., at gene@diveindustry.net or call me at 321-914-3778.

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DIA Members to Exhibit at Scuba Show 2022

SCUBA SHOW_WYLAND_whiteDive Industry Association Members at Scuba Show
by Gene Muchanski, Executive Director
Dive Industry Association, Inc.

The following Dive Industry Association Members are exhibiting at Scuba Show on May 14-15, 2022 at the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, CA.  Make it a point to visit our DIA Members for Great Show Specials.

Local Dive Media

Manufacturers

Dive Travel Wholesalers

Travel Businesses, Destinations, Resorts, & Dive Operators

Non-Profit & Training Organizations

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Editorial – May 2022

EDITORIAL – MAY 2022

cropped-gene-roatan-1.jpgThe Power of Now
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
The Dive Industry Professional

Welcome to the May 2022 Editorial of The Dive Industry Professional.  There is no time like the present.  Yesterday is already gone.  You can’t get it back.  Tomorrow hasn’t happened yet and the best thing you can do is plan for it.  Today is where it’s at.  Lived right today, it will make a good yesterday memory, tomorrow.  So, to make good yesterdays, we need to plan our tomorrows and engage in our todays.  Are you engaged?  I wrote about that last month.

I believe in power of now.  I didn’t always.  As an Industry Planner, my job was to plan for successful tomorrows by strategically planning a company’s course of action based on their historical core competencies and their track record history.  It was always up to the sales force or the operational staff to take my plans and achieve the company’s planned outcomes.  It didn’t always work out that way.  Sometimes, the plans got put into a nice binder and sat on the shelf for the rest of the year.  Sometimes the plans were studied, and then changed to meet the needs of the sales force or operations, which did not always work as originally planned.  Some got off to a good start and then lost steam and the will to continue with an organized, step-by-step plan.  I would be lying if I said that no one ever just took our plans and tossed them.  Why do you think that would happen?  Mostly because it wasn’t their plan.  It was about their company’s successful tomorrows, and they were living in the today.  Living in the now.

Today, I’ve had a change of heart, based on over forty years of experience in the recreational diving industry.  I’ve changed my definition of marketing and now consider my profession as the progressive movement of goods and services from conception to consumption.  That means I start with a marketing audit to figure out where the company is at the beginning of a project.  I meet with the decision makers, and we document where the company wants to be.  It’s their company, it should be their decision.  Then we figure out what needs to be done to achieve our outcomes to complete the mission at hand.  Then we assign tasks and responsibilities, and we launch.  All the way through the mission, our team is following up on the company progress.  Are they following the plan?  Are they making progress?  Do we need to tweak the plan?  Just like a good dive guide, I stay with the team until the mission is complete.

In this pandemic era (that’s what they are calling it now), dive companies cannot afford to be in the market and not be engaged.  Dive companies are leaner and hungrier.  The organizational structure and integrity of companies and the market has changed.  A Business Audit is a MUST for serious companies.  A Marketing Audit is the smartest, most cost-effective thing you can do to analyze the current total market size and your market share of it.  It’s a smart thing to review your core competencies and capabilities.  Needles to say, without a strong vision, purpose, mission and focus you are likely to be less competitive.  But even if you are 100% ready to roll, it will do you no good at all if you are not engaged, now.  It’s good to remember that “He who hesitates, is lost.”    Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t have anything against people who can’t make a decision or procrastinate about doing the things that needs to be done to succeed in today’s market.  It’s just that it is a frustrating experience for me as I watch a potentially successful company, with a good program, product, or service, spin their wheels and go nowhere.  My best advice is, Please call me when you are ready to engage.

For more information on moving your company forward, contact Gene Muchanski, Executive Director, Dive Industry Association, Inc., at gene@diveindustry.net or call me at 321-914-3778.

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Editorial – April 2022

cropped-gene-roatan-1.jpgAre You Ready to Engage?
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
The Dive Industry Professional

Welcome to the April 2022 Editorial of The Dive Industry Professional.  As an Industry Planner I am frequently asked to help companies organize their thoughts into a well laid-out, step-by-step, strategic plan, that can be used to guide their company from conception to completion, whether they are dealing with programs, products, or an organizational direction.  I love a good challenge, but I only accept an invitation if I can deal with the task in a holistic manner.  For me, no detail or component is too small to address, if it is considered as a part of the big picture.   Like a puzzle, all the pieces have a place in the sum total, and usually every piece is somehow interrelated to the other pieces.  When dealing with an organizational challenge, I first like to look at the current situation and then ask where the company would like to go from there before we start suggesting potential solutions to the situation. Once we have our priorities straight, the next step is to design a plan of action that includes the tasks we will work on to achieve our planned outcomes.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  Once you have your Action Plan, you have to start working on it.  You have to engage.  Today.  Now.

Two days ago I worked on a Hall of Fame project with a group of dive industry philanthropists.   We started by stating our purpose for the project.  Why were we doing this and what were we trying to accomplish?  Once we knew why, we were able to clearly see the type of organizational structure that was needed.  The rest were details, and section by section, it all fell into place.  The vision became clear.  The roadmap is being written now and is a work in process.  We would not have gotten this far had we not engaged.

That brings us to the situation at hand.  You are reading an editorial from the Dive Industry Association’s monthly marketing communique, The Dive Industry Professional.  Except, it is not in a newsletter format anymore but has evolved into a magazine format.  That took a combination of decisions made, advanced planning, and engagement.  At the Dive Industry Association, our Vision is to “Build a Better Industry, One Member at a Time.”  Our Mission is to bring buyers and sellers together, to facilitate business success and industry growth.  Our Focus is to concentrate on the sales of diving equipment, training, travel, and lifestyle products.  Our Purpose is to build a cohesive and functional Global Diving Business Network.

With a 21-year history of successfully building and operating a member-centric organization, Dive Industry Association is on track to become the diving industry’s Premier Marketing and Trade Association.  We focus only on marketing and trade programs, products and services.  We work for our Members so they can become more professional, productive, and profitable.  Our past accomplishments and future projects are spelled out, in writing, in our Members Guide, available to DIA members and non-members alike.

Staying engaged in the Global Diving Business Network has allowed us to actively bring our industry trade programs, products, and services to life, for the benefit of all Dive Industry Professionals Worldwide.  Our Weekly Dive News has been reaching Dive Industry Professionals, across the global for over four years.  Our third Trade Directory and Industry Publication brings the Worldwide Diving Community an Industry Trade Directory, Buyers Guide, and Shows and Events Calendar.  As of this month, our Monthly Trade Magazine, The Dive Industry Professional, is available to the entire international Diving Community, on a monthly basis, as the organ for diving news worldwide.

Being engaged means you are an active participant in the direction of your business.   When a company is large and many people are involved in various aspects of a program, at least one person needs to be actively engaged from conception to completion.  This way, nothing falls through the cracks during handoff from one section to another, or from one person to another.  In a perfect world, a company should always be in a state of forward progression.  To ensure that you are continually moving in a forward direction, adopt these easy-to-follow concepts.  1) Conduct an Audit.  It should be a complete Business Audit, but if you are not up to the task, start with a department audit.  A Marketing Audit is a good one to start with.  2) Sit down with your senior staff and define where you want your company to be in one year, two years, or three years from now.  Commit to it in writing and call it “Desired Outcomes.”   3) Brainstorm ideas on things you have to do to achieve each planned outcome.  Prioritize each possible solution as to their likely merit.  4) Create a campaign to try your best possible solution for each desired outcome.  5) Create a “Playbook” that tracts each campaign and monitors your progress.  This way you know where you are, know where you want to be, know what you are doing about it, and you can see if it’s working.  The big thing is to keep your eyes on your progress and you will surely see the need to adjust your inputs as you see successes or setbacks.

The only thing I advise against is the desire to look for quick-fixes.  Don’t look for a silver bullet.  They do not exist.  There are no short-term fixes to long-term problems.  In today’s post pandemic economy we are in the process of reinventing many business procedures, business models, and paradigms.  There is no such thing as doing things the way we used to and leaving the process in automatic mode.  We now have to do things in a new way and monitor the progress as we go.

For more information, contact Gene Muchanski, Executive Director, Dive Industry Association, Inc., at gene@diveindustry.net

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Editorial – March 2022

cropped-gene-roatan-1.jpg

Where Are You Today?
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
The Dive Industry Professional

Welcome to the March 2022 Editorial of The Dive Industry Professional.  This month has to be that moment in time where we dedicate ourselves to the business of what we do. With so much chaos in the world, it’s time we find our place in the world and move forward doing what we do best. We are all in the business of diving here, even though we may not all be specializing in the same thing. As part of the International Diving Business Community, we are participating as dive equipment manufacturers, dive equipment sales reps, retail store owners and operators, dive boat operators, scuba diving instructors, dive resort operators, dive travel specialists, etc, etc, etc. With an unlimited opportunity to specialize in what makes us happy, and employed, it’s up to us to choose what we do with our 24 hours each day.

I am currently working with a company that is looking to improve their marketing efforts. When asked if I had any ideas on how to improve their marketing, I took a step back and asked if they could tell me a little about themselves first. Where were they currently in their marketing efforts? Did they have a current Business Plan? Marketing Plan? 2022 Marketing Budget? Did they already have a written agenda for this year and were they making sufficient progress in that plan? I didn’t want to just jump in with my “Gene Saves The World” book and reinvent the wheel for them. Especially if they already had a good plan and were working on it now.

I also wanted to know more about where they were financially. You see, sales and marketing go hand-in-hand. I wonder about the programs, products and services a company sells and how well they do. After all, what you sell is the reason you are in business. You can tell a lot about a company by looking at their sales; in units, in dollars, and cost of units sold. It’s a Product Managers responsibility to keep track of the company’s most profitable products and continually come up with new ones.

The next thing I asked was about their customers. How many customers did they have? Has the number of customers increased or decreased over the past few years? Not all customers are good customers. Some cost more to service than they bring into the company. How much deadwood does this company have and who are their better customers? A good Customer Manager specializes in customer relationships and works with current, former and future customers. It’s their job to acquire, retain, and recapture a sufficient pool of profitable customers for the company.

With good product management and good customer management, in a well-oiled operation, putting a strategy together to improve a company just got a lot easier. Knowing where you currently are is the first step. Now all you have to do is tell me where you want to go from here and we can put a plan together to get you there.

A Marketing Audit is a good thing for every company to do. It’s a Deep Dive in product management, customer management and marketing communication. I have always looked at business in a very simplistic way. To stay in business, you have to sell a sufficient number of profitable products, to a sufficient number of profitable customers, by communicating what you sell to the people who need, want, and can afford to buy what you sell. But don’t make the mistake of looking at a marketing audit as an isolated project. Marketing is only one piece of the puzzle, and it is interconnected to everything the company does. Think of marketing as the flow of goods and services, from conception to consumption. If your marketing department is healthy but your company is rotten, you won’t have the support you need to continue. That’s why a good marketing audit includes information about the operational, financial, and human resource aspects of a company. A healthy tree produces healthy fruit.

Start your new dive season off on the right foot. Conduct a Marketing Audit to see where you are. Plan a strategy meeting with your Management Team to discuss where you want to go this year. Agree on a plan of action. Commit your Action Plan to writing and get to work. I am more confident that you will have a better year now.

For more information on conducting a Marketing Audit, contact Gene Muchanski, Executive Director, Dive Industry Association, Inc., at gene@diveindustry.net

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Linda Lugone Remembered

Linda Braymanby Bob Brayman

It is with a heavy heart I announce that after a long battle with cancer Linda Lugone (formally known as Linda Brayman) passed away on February 25th, 2022 at 1:00 in the afternoon.

Services for Linda will be conducted on Friday March 4th at Seawinds Funeral Home at 735 S. Fleming Street, Sebastian, FL 32958.  Seawinds’ phone is 772-589-1933 for details.

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