The Industry Is What It Is
by Gene Muchanski
Editor, The Dive Industry Professional
I’ve always seen the dive industry for what it is. That is, what it is, according to Gene Muchanski. How about you? As a Diver, I didn’t really think about “the industry” per say. I went scuba diving with my High School friends on the weekends and we had fun. When it came time to serve my country, for me, becoming a Navy Scuba Diver on Submarines was exciting, fun and yes, cool! Up until that time, if the water was deeper than knee high, I dove in it. If I didn’t have a buddy to go with, I taught one. It wasn’t until I applied to Fred Calhoun’s NAUI Instructor’s Certification Course (ICC) did I even think about diving as an industry or my future involvement in the Business of Diving. With the help of Fred’s guidance and the encouragement of NAUI Instructors from the Northeast Branch, I developed a love for teaching scuba diving, going to Dive Shows and Film Reviews, and for the business side of this great recreation. In just a few years, I left active duty to pursue a Marketing Degree from the University of Connecticut, where I taught scuba diving, headed up a 200 member scuba club, directed the Connecticut Underwater Symposium & Film Review, directed an Instructor Certification Course, and went diving just about every weekend. I transferred to the U.S. Naval Reserves, completed Hard Hat and Mixed Gas Hard Hat Training, got qualified as a Diving Supervisor and Navy Diving Instructor and had the time of my life diving with my Navy Dive Buddies throughout my years as an undergrad.
I tell you all this because seeing the world through my own limited perspective is not unique to just me. I am pretty sure that everyone in the diving industry has had, or is having, the same exact experience. Different view points, based on different perspectives, that are based on the environment, education, and experience of the individual. So the industry is what it is, and it all depends on what your definition of is, is.
In my high school, military, and college years, I was an active diver and an Independent Instructor. I hung around with the same type of Divers and Instructors and developed opinions and habits based on my environment, education and experience. It’s no wonder I never went to the DEMA Show when it first came to Miami. I never hear about it and neither did anyone I knew. I wasn’t a vendor who exhibited at shows and I didn’t have a dive store that would likely go to DEMA to buy inventory. Beneath the Sea also began around that time. Never heard about it. Maybe because I wasn’t on anyone’s Exhibitor List or Speakers’ list. Or maybe, BTS didn’t have a good mailing list of certified divers and Instructors. Why didn’t I know about the Boston Sea Rovers? I was probably too busy diving more than most people in New England, with my own boat, the Navy Reserves and the UCONN Scuba Club, or just maybe the Sea Rovers didn’t have a mailing list of active divers in New England. Honestly, to be fair with DEMA, Beneath the Sea and the Boston Sea Rovers – They probably never heard of the UCONN Scuba Club either. Forty years later I see it all for what it is – many small, individual groups, preaching to their own choir of like-minded individuals. A fragmented industry that has limited ability or desire to cross-market their recreation to other groups. We hang around people who are like us and we preach, boy do we preach, to our own choir.
My world-view of the diving industry expanded rapidly when I graduated from college and accepted a job at NAUI Headquarters as their very first Marketing Director. What got me in the door was my 7 years experience as a NAUI Instructor and Course Director. I’d have to be honest and say that having a degree in Marketing was appreciated by many but not all of the membership. Some thought that having a business professional at HQ was the best thing to happen to NAUI in its 21 year history, but there were those who were opposed to bringing business expertise into a diving company. I was fortunate to be able to reach out to the Leaders at NAUI, PADI, LA COUNTY and NASDS to compare notes and discuss current training standards and business philosophy. At NAUI I was able to work with Instructors from all backgrounds of teaching, especially the Instructors affiliated with University Programs, Retail Dive Centers and Resort Destinations. Irregardless, the time I spent at NAUI HQ opened my eyes to the loyalty and persuasive power that certification agencies have on the diving industry. The Certification Agencies, Retail Dive Centers, and the Resort Diving Operations all seemed to have different definitions of what the industry is, or should I say, what it is to them.
I got very close to the Retail Sector of the Diving Industry when I helped create the Association of Diving Retailers and then went on to owning a dive store. For the first time since becoming an Instructor, I saw a complex social and business interaction between the Retail Dive Centers, the Independent Instructors and the Certification Agencies. Again, my world-view of the diving industry was stretched, if not exploded. During my ten years as a Retail Dive Store employee, manager and owner, I experienced first hand, the challenges, setbacks and channel friction of the supply side of our industry. My industry world-view now included the fact that Retailers, Reps and Instructors are the hardest working, yet most under-valued and under-recognized industry professionals in our community.
My world-view of What the industry is came almost full circle when I spent eight years in the manufacturing sector of the industry. I now had a managerial perspective of the various relationships between Original Equipment Manufacturers vs Brand Marketers & Distributors, Manufacturers vs Sales Reps, Sales Reps vs Retail Dive Centers, Retail Dive Centers vs Instructors, and Instructors vs their Students. Believe it or not, this is not where channel friction comes into play. It’s not where industry fragmentation comes in either. All of these groups share a common Channel of Distribution. All of these groups can, and should work together. They may have different goals and motives, but they are all moving programs, products and services through the pipeline from product conception to consumption, and without them, there would be no industry.
The last twenty years of my career has been spent in the Association, Media, Consulting, and Travel sectors of the industry. I believe that I now have a balanced world-view of the diving industry, and I am reasonably sure that I can see the individual components of the industry for what they are and what they mean for the different stakeholders. I can still honestly say that The Industry is what it is, but it still depends on what your definition of is, is. It could be a common or collective “is” but it isn’t. The industry is not there yet and it is questionable if it ever will. What has changed in the 21st Century is that we are working with dive businesses who are serious about the Business of Diving. Our definition of the Business of Diving is for dive companies to manufacturer, sell and resell the best products, competitively priced, and readily available, to the best customers possible, who need, want and can afford your products. We expect them to be professional, productive and profitable in the way they do business and by using 21st Century marketing tools and technologies to get their message to their prospective customers. They must be honest and ethical and professional. They have to realize that while we are producing the best diving equipment, dive training and dive travel experiences for the world, we are serving Divers who may think of diving as a recreation, a hobby, a collateral duty, a job, a profession or a career. Not only is the world-view of the diving industry different for different industry professionals, it is different and unique to our very diversified customer base. So our mission to Build a Better Industry should not only include learning about and defining the Supply Side of our Business, it needs to include defining and understanding our customers who make up the Demand Side of our Industry equation.
What we are learning from our DIVE LOCAL campaign is that local diving communities are the heartbeat of the world-wide industry. Each local diving community is made up of Retail Dive Centers, Dive Operators, Dive Clubs and Instructors who are our front line Ambassadors of the Industry. They are the Industry Professionals who are working daily in the diving business on a full time or part time basis. We know that the Local Diving Community has to focus on teaching people how to dive, selling them diving equipment, taking them diving and keeping them active in the recreation. Therefore, the Business of Diving is all about selling Diving Equipment, Training and Travel.
The Business of Diving must be looked upon as a very positive factor in our industry. The certification agencies certify their Instructors and keep them current through program updates and refreshers. The Trade Associations need to do the same thing when it comes to business subjects and business tools. We promote professional businesses and industry professionals who want to be professional, productive and profitable. We want them to use current, 21st century marketing tools and technologies to be able to successfully start, grow, and succeed in their respective businesses. We want them to be professional, ethical, and honest in their dealings with their suppliers, employees and customers. We want them to subscribe to a Professional Code of Conduct that identifies them as a Diving Business Professional. We want to acknowledge them for the part they play in our local and world-wide communities as a Diving Business Professional. We want them to be as successful as they have the potential to be and we want them to be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor and enjoy this great recreation.
The Dive Industry Foundation is dedicated to Promoting Economic Development in Watersports. Our Mission is to bring Buyers and Sellers together and grow this industry. We are serious about The Business of Diving and the important part it plays. The Foundation was set up as a Non-profit, 501(c)(3) tax exempt, Educational and Charitable Organization. Donations are tax deductible and welcomed to help us achieve our mission. The Dive Industry Foundation has a booth at the DEMA Show this November 14-17, in Las Vegas. Stop by our Booth # 2620 and drop off your Business Card. Let’s have a discussion about growing the diving industry and your participation in it.
For more information, contact:
Gene Muchanski, Executive Director
Dive Industry Foundation