Getting your business in order

 

There are only two times in the year when visitors to my office are able to negotiate the space from the door to my desk without stepping over at least one but possibly many more piles of files and assorted paperwork “ready for filing.”
 
It’s not that I dislike filing more than you or the next person, or that I am particularly disorganized, it’s just that there are more important things to occupy the 9 to 5 workday – which in the realm of small business, the mythical 9 to 5 workday should be translated into “waking hours.”
 
My business is small; much smaller than yours in all likelihood, and easier to operate I expect. I do not have more than a handful of inventory items to manage and my customer list can be handled with the simplest CMS on the market. The list of vendors I deal with is also short enough that I have their phone numbers and other contact details committed to memory, and my weekly To-Do List fits on a small whiteboard mounted on the wall beside my workdesk.
 
However, keeping up to date on the little things like filing and sorting through the occasional back order or course agendas, as well as juggling my commitments to Brian and the team here at SDI/TDI/ERDI can be a challenge. Hence, the messy office floor except at tax time and just before the end of year break (my traditional time of clean sweeping).
 
I cannot image how it would be to operate a full-scale dive business out there in the real world. Seriously, how do you do it? Last year we published a short business article about dive store owners having to wear many hats, from bookkeeping and warehouse manager to HR specialist and marketing guru. Some of you contacted us to tell us about the jobs we’d left off the list!
 
So here is my question: How do you do it?
 
We’re lucky enough at International Training HQ to have some real dive industry talent walking the corridors and willing to answer that sort of question. Last week I posed it to two guys whose input I respect greatly: Ed Christini and Nestor Palmero.
 
They both said essentially the same thing: “impossible without modern technology.” What they listed included things like smart phones, cloud computing, and customized business apps specific to the dive industry. Now, in case you do not know Ed and Nestor, please understand, neither of these guys are computer geeks or techno freaks; just the opposite in many respects. They are both very solidly grounded and comfortable with tried and true business practices; and neither is… well how to be diplomatic here… neither is a member of the wired generation. However, their take on the best ways to succeed in the dive business today revolve around taking advantage of the ALL the tools available including the hi-tech ones.
 
“There is no substitute for the very fundamentals of customer service,” said Palmero, whose CV includes heading up Oceanic before joining our organization as board representative. “But there is also no point in ignoring the potential market impact offered by things like social networking and smart email software to stay connected to your customers!”
 
The one problem area where they both agreed technology is king, is in organizing the day-to-day business that revolves around sales, inventory control, classroom scheduling and bookkeeping (both general business and the bookkeeping specific to student records management).
 
One answer to that challenge according to Christini is a POS system.
 
“I cannot imagine running a dive operation today without the help of some kind of integrated merchant service system with at very least a pretty sophisticated point of sale / service solution,” Christini said.
 
But Christini admits a bias. “I have to say that my viewpoint is very pro POS systems in the dive business and that is one of the reasons I spearheaded SDI/TDI’s initiative to work with a vendor (EnCorp) to develop a customized and affordable system for our members.”
 
Ask him why and the reasons tumble out of his mouth. “Tracking sales on items that lose money and that make money, keeping the essentials in stock and on the shelves, knowing how many spots are open in the next dive class, having student records available at the click of a button, projections for sales and promotions…” His list goes on.
 
However, the real kicker for me at least was Christini’s final remark. “Steve, dive store owners who invest in a POS system and who use its full potential avoid having an office that looks like yours!”
 
My final word is this: I would like to find out how you keep your business affairs in order. Drop me an email enews@tdisdi.com. If you are interested in finding out more about POS or if the floor in YOUR office looks similar to mine, just ask and include a phone number, and I’ll get Ed to give you a call.
 
Next Month Business Tips will focus on Training and the role of prerequisites in risk management.

 

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