by Patrick Hammer
President, Scuba Emporium
It may be an odd way to start out a letter, but I needed to get your attention. For many years, clubs have come and gone. Today they have dropped in size and some are barley hanging on. A lot of dive store owners do not believe in the DIVE club nor do they want to support any club. As a store owner, I believe we all need to embrace and support them in any way we can.
Store owners are very busy and have a lot on their plates; most have lost sight of even why they are in the business. As an owner myself, I know how hard it is to find time to get out and enjoy a dive. It seems that every time I head to the lake I am taking students, but what got me into the business is not what I am doing today. I have a store to clean, inventory to check in, and merchandise to price out and stock. I need to update my web site and Facebook page. I need to meet with sales reps and work on marketing my business. Trust me, the list goes on and on. So where do I find the time to DIVE for FUN? First I want to say, I still make time for fun. If you lose sight of that you have lost the vision needed to make your business successful.
So why support the DIVE clubs? All clubs are full of divers, old and new, that have time and energy to DIVE. These people want to socialize and go on local trips. The more we can keep people diving in any local market the better off we all are. So if a club has 10 members or 100 and meets monthly, or quarterly, you are injecting excitement into your local market and taking people out diving, just what they want to do. Clubs need to work close with the DIVE center and the DIVE center with them. I look at it as a marriage and we both need each other. Once you split up, it is a lonely place. I understand and hope the club DOES NOT try to go against the store that supported them and helped them get to where they are. I see the value in a club and understand the importance. I also believe ALL staff members should show their support and be members as well as make a few meetings and go on some of the fun dives. If the club tries to teach classes or run their own trips, this will not be a healthy relationship. Again it must be a strong marriage, and working together is the only way to grow and/or survive.
I love the clubs and I like how they keep DIVERS diving and taking classes as well as the local divers spend money in our store, and that is a good thing. I also enjoy going to the meetings and having fun, and I learn what interests the members, like new products or new dive sites. I look forward to the club meetings and local trips, like a weekend escape to the country to have fun and DIVE. NO CLASSES.
So stores need to look at clubs and do what they can to support them. I suggest the owners stay off the board and let the members vote in who is president and so on. BUT I also suggest you meet with the president to be sure you are all on the same page. A well run DIVE club can only help the local SCUBA market. If you do not have a club in your area, I suggest you speak to the local store and see what you can do. DIVE clubs should not expect a screaming deal from the store that is supporting them, however, in some cases DIVE centers have offered club members something, even a free air fill would be nice.
Where to meet? We found that meeting away from the store works very well. We checked with a few local places and found a nice restaurant that is glad to have us, no matter how many show up for the meeting. We send out an email the day before to the members and ask they RSVP, then the restaurant sets up a table or room for us depending how many are coming. We hold the meeting first and take care of business, then order food and drinks and socialize with the group.
With trends today and the economy in some locations being down the club can be a huge benefit. I say we all support our local club and work with them.