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.
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.