Your Purpose in Business
by Gene Muchanski, Editor
The Dive Industry Professional.
We all have a purpose in life. A reason we are here. A job that was assigned to us from the beginning of time. What’s yours?
I believe those of us who were called to go into business also have a purpose. A purpose to do something with our lives using the God given talents we were born with. Using the experience we’ve gained along the way to help our fellow man. Yes, we are all given time, talents and human resources to do good things for ourselves and the people of the world. Are you doing what you were called to do? And more importantly, are you being truthful to your calling?
We see people in the diving industry start their careers because of one thing and somehow get on the wrong path because of lack of insight or just plain bad mentorship. As an example. I started scuba diving when I was fifteen. To me, that was the coolest thing I had ever done. I loved to dive and would do it every chance I got. How many of you wanted to be a Diver when you grew up? Well, anyway, it became my life’s ambition to be a Diver. When it was time to serve my Country, I chose to be a Navy Diver. I loved the running, swimming, and working out, and the diving opportunities were out of this world. Diving from Submarines was an awesome experience. My number one passion was being satisfied. Being in the Supply Corps, while serving as a Diver, was fulfilling because I was working in the business side of diving, my second passion. I even became a Scuba Instructor while on active duty and was able to engage in my life’s third passion, teaching. I was diving, teaching and working in the business side of diving. Life couldn’t get any better.
When my four years in the Navy were up, it was time to move on and continue my diving career. My passion for Business brought me to the University of Connecticut where I majored in Marketing. I was passionate about diving so I stayed in the Navy Reserves and rose through the ranks as a Hard Hat Diver, Mixed Gas Diver, Chamber Operator and Diving Supervisor. I also had the opportunity to teach scuba classes at the University of Connecticut. Teaching classes of 25 students with 14 TA’s assisting was very rewarding indeed.
Life in the active duty Navy was fun, no question about it. Young diver, traveling the world, not a lot of responsibility. Life was good. Life at the University was sobering. More knowledge, more responsibility, and more focus of purpose. Life was still fun, in an adult kind of way. Because of my continuing work in the Diving & Salvage Navy, I realized that no one pays you to be a Diver. They pay you to do work while you’re diving. I could weld good enough in practice but not good enough if the ship’s integrity depended on it. And my demolition skills were dangerous to be around, to say the least. I knew a little about det-cord and time fuse. One is black and one is white. I get the two mixed up. I can remember an EOD Tech saying, “Chief, put the explosives down and back away from the table, slowly.” For me demolition was all or nothing. If using a pound of C4 was required for the job, then 2 pounds should be twice as good. Right? Obviously, I could blow things up, but you wouldn’t want me in charge of blowing the screw (propeller) off of an aircraft carrier. In short, I was not destined to be a Commercial Diver.
OK, so I realized that I was passionate about diving, but not about working diving. I’ve been happy to leave the working diving to the professional commercial divers while I continued my passion for recreational diving, for fun. And that brings up an excellent point. If you are passionate about diving, then go diving. I know too many people in our industry that became scuba instructors and dive store owners because they love diving, only to find out that they were so busy teaching classes or working in the store, they didn’t get much opportunity to go fun diving. Were they being true to their Life’s Passion? I think not.
My passion for teaching continued throughout my career. I made the distinction between scuba instruction and teaching business classes but it was the passion for teaching that motivated me to teach both. While I taught scuba classes, I felt that my purpose was to train people to become active divers. I always believed, and still do today, that scuba instructors should teach people how to dive, buy their gear, go diving and stay active. Too many times I see Instructors teaching classes and specialty courses because they like teaching and not because their students need the classes. I guess if you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail to you. (No, I was not referring to you Patrick!)
I am glad I realized that one of my passions was teaching and not just teaching scuba. We all know, or will know soon enough, that teaching diving is very physical. It’s a great job for a young diver in good shape but is challenging for older, less physically active individuals. It takes a certain amount of physical ability to carry the gear, swim the distance and have the physical ability to perform rescue techniques if needed. As we get older, or succumb to illness, like arthritis, teaching diving becomes more difficult and demanding, and even dangerous for our students. At some point, every Instructor has to hang up their fins. What will you do with your passion for teaching when that day comes? Will you have something to fall back on?
Because I have been involved in scuba diving retailing for many years, it’s a subject that is close to my heart. As I’ve said, I have always been passionate about diving, teaching and business, so opening a Dive Store was a natural progression for me. But it is not a natural progression for many Dive Industry Professionals today. How many times have you heard a retailer say they opened a dive store so they could go diving more? Without a clear plan that takes your passion and purpose into account, you could be spending 80 – 100 hours a weeks in the store and teaching. Not much time for fun diving with that kind of schedule.
I don’t think all dive retailers are being true to their passion and purpose. I know that many have not even thought about it. When I look at the Retail Industry in the United States, I think about the training and commitment of the owners, directors and executives of the large Retail Sporting Goods Stores, a subcategory of the Retail Industry. They usually have a degree in business and their professional development training is usually in sales, marketing, accounting, finance and law. When I look at the retail stores that specialize in diving I see a lot of diver training and course director training but little if any business training. I have also seen thousands of business cards from Dive Retailers in the past 50 years and I see that most owners and managers identify themselves as Instructor, Course Director, or some other type of training agency title. A number of successful store owners identify themselves as Owner, President, or CEO. It’s all a matter of perspective, not a case of right or wrong. But what you think of yourself as, is a good indication where your passion and purpose lay.
This article wasn’t meant to pick on Scuba Instructors or Professional Retailers. It’s just what I have observed in the industry because of my own personal preferences and passion. As a Professional Educator and Business Person, I see what is happening in the industry and I relate it to my personal experience. I have seen Dive Industry Professionals in many of the other sectors of the Industry make the same mistakes in not realizing their purpose or not living up to their passion.
One of my interests is trade and consumer shows. For over 40 years I have been attending and exhibiting at dive shows. Running a show takes a lot of focus and hard work. It is not something you do part time while pursuing another interest as a consultant or trying to become a government lobbyist. There are NGO’s who specialize in lobbying the government on behalf of your industry. They are paid by organizations who raise funds specifically for that purpose. Again, we are talking about honesty, transparency, and integrity.
Our industry has two critical needs in this post-pandemic era. We need to start a trade show company who’s sole purpose is to organize six Regional Trade Shows and one National Buying Show. The funding for the organization and the shows will be supported by the revenue generated by the shows. A second, and separate company our industry desperately needs is a non-profit, non-government organization, who’s purpose is to lobby the U.S. Government, and International Organizations if successful, on matters that pertain to our recreation profession, the marine environment and the flora and fauna of the marine environment. To fund an organization with this mandate would be enormous and will take major international fund raising events. I know the interest is there. And we can do this.
By creating new organizations that are guided by their purpose in the industry, it would be a worthwhile challenge to form a team of advisors who’s own purposes in life are used to create a better industry and a better recreational environment for everyone. It can be done. Who’s ready?