Dive Careers – Dive shop operations
A friend of mine once told me that many scuba instructors have another job. He said even he had another job. He ran the dive shop, so how could that be? Other than scuba, his other job was in retail—that’d be the shop.
Do you need to be a dive instructor to work in a dive shop? Do you need to be a divemaster? Nope, but it does help. On the flip side, if you’re looking for a job as a dive instructor, being able to work retail definitely helps. But instruction and retail are only part of the picture. What else goes on in a dive shop? Let’s take a look.
In the Business of Diving presentations I use for the PADI Instructor Development Course, we talk about the four “E”’s of scuba: Education, Experience, Equipment and Environment. These are the four essential parts of a career in dive shop operations.
* Education: divers need, at a minimum, some level of training to be able to dive safely. Even for a Discover Scuba experience in a pool, there is a minimum of a thorough briefing and some basic skills. For divers that want to go beyond that, certification is required. This is where being both part of the instructional staff and the shop staff are key.
* Experience: with the exception of scuba instructors, most divers don’t live to dive in a pool. A major appeal for scuba is the adventure factor, so good experiences in a variety of locations, seeing cool stuff and exploring are essential. Successful dive shops run trips for their divers. Beyond that, as shop staff, divers will ask you about where to go, what to see and things to do.
* Equipment: Scuba is an equipment-intensive sport. To get the most out of it, you need to have the right toys. While renting is a great way to start, and is good for some things when you travel, having your own kit can make you a better & safer diver. How’s that? Equipment you select, use often and maintain translates into equipment you’re familiar with. That familiarity eliminates the fumbling, can’t-find-it frustration that you encounter with rental gear. In a dive shop, we have the equipment for people to purchase. As a member of the shop team, you’re job isn’t to sell everyone the $10K rebreather. Rather, it’s to find out what the diver needs and help them make a good choice on gear.
* Environment: If our dive environment is threatened, there goes our playground. Don’t dump your trash in my office. Dive professionals (educators, retail, etc) are on the front lines to educate divers and to help maintain our aquatic playground.
So there’s some of the high-level stuff. Let’s drill-down to the nitty-gritty with an example day.
* Arrive at the shop before opening hours. Check that the facilities are clean and clean what isn’t. In the winter, you might also need to shovel snow.
* Start the compressor and start filling the tanks that were used the night before.
* Make sure any equipment used in the pool is hung-up or put away.
* Once everything is ship-shape, unlock the door and flip on the OPEN sign.
* Check through notes and emails. Do you need to place any special orders for gear?
* The phone rings. Someone wants to take the Open Water Diver course. You ask them a few questions and give them some options for scheduling. They opt for the weekend class and will come in later that afternoon to pick up books.
* Customer walks in, looking for a new dive light. You direct them to the display and start asking them a few questions. Is it for night diving, or just a bit of extra light during the day? Are they looking for a primary or backup light? Do they need a backup light, too? After assessing what they need, you show them a few options to choose from. Head back to the counter and ring up the sale.
* Things get quiet, so you head back to fill a few more tanks. On your way back to the sales floor, you check the stock room to see if you’re low on anything.
* You’ve some paperwork to take care of and some certifications to process, so you sit at the desk and work on the computer for a bit.
* Another phone call. Any upcoming trips?
* Customer walks in—the one that called earlier about Open Water. You take a deposit and, while they wait, you login to your computer and send them the links for the PADI Open Water Touch app for their iPad’s. They check their email on their iPhone and see that it’s there. Satisfied, you shake their hand and remind them to be to class early Saturday morning.
* A handful of people come in over the next couple of hours. Questions on gear, travel and classes abound.
* Things quiet down enough you can start placing orders for more equipment from your suppliers. Then you move on and do a bit of work on your website—making sure the latest trip is posted and polishing off a blog entry about the last trip.
* As things wind down in the later afternoon, you start getting ready for your evening Rescue Diver class tonight. You grab some rescue equipment, like ropes and floats, to discuss in class.
* The evening shop staff start to come in. You tell them how the day has gone and turn over the sales floor. Time to make sure the classroom is ready to go.
* Your students start to arrive. You greet them and usher them towards the classroom.
A lot goes on in a day at a dive shop. Being able to transition between customers and the behind-the-scenes shop operations is the name of the game.
Here’s a short list of skills that can really feed your diving career:
* computer skills: working the sales system as well as doing website updates, inventory management, etc.
* customer relationship management: this can be a specialized computer system to help you track your customers and their interests or it can just be stuff stuck in your head. Mary Joe likes to visit Bonaire every year. Sam hates cold water. Bob likes live aboard boats and just finished his Master Scuba Diver rating.
* fill station operations: being able to safely fill scuba cylinders
* scuba cylinder inspection: formal training here can be a great benefit, both for your career and dive safety.
* instructional experience: Specialty Instructors can teach courses beyond the core of Open Water, Advanced, Rescue and Divemaster. Being able to teach a diverse range of courses also helps you stay fresh and avoid burnout.
* inventory control, compressor maintenance, basic carpentry, cleaning skills
* If you’re at a resort or just if your shop owns a boat, having a boat captain’s license can be a tremendous asset.
In a nutshell, there’s a lot you can do to advance your scuba career. Don’t be overwhelmed, though. It’s like eating an elephant: you do it one bite at a time. Pick one thing and focus on it. Once mastered, move on to something else.
Want to learn more? Walk into your favorite PADI Dive Center and watch what goes on.
Best of Success!