Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery

Innovation SDI Agency A Agency B Agency C
Online Open Water  

2001 2008 2009 NO
Open Water Course with Dive Computers 

1999 2009 NO NO
Instore C-Card Printing

2008 NO 2008 NO
Public Safety Diving Agency  

2000 (Promised) 2009 NO
Online Con-Ed 2004 2008 NO NO
Technical Diving Programs 1994 2006 2007 1997
Solo or Self-Reliant Diving 2002 NO (Promised) NO

The Rule of FIRSTS ALWAYS Applies!

Who was the second person to fly the Atlantic solo?

What was the name of the second European explorer to discover America?

Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first to successfully climb Mount Everest, but who did it next?

Being first has its advantages… people remember your name! In business being first has its advantages too. Being the first to come up with a new, useful idea can give a company, and its customers, a tremendous advantage over the competition. And as any small business owner knows, sometimes even the smallest edge can mean the difference between a healthy bottom line and closing up shop!

Brian Carney, president of the SDI Group of certifying agencies, threw down the gauntlet on recently challenging the other certifying agencies to prove that they can match SDI’s record for bringing innovative ideas and products to market.

While admitting his challenge is a “little fun to add some zest to the marketplace right now,” Carney said there is a serious aspect to his rather unusual move.

“It’s a little unfair because I know we will come out on top simply because we have more innovative products and programs in place right now, and there are some things we planned for well over a year ago, and the first batch are due to come out in the very near future.”

In the dive business, several companies throw out their one-liners about being the best or doing it better than everyone else, but which one really is the innovator? Well, they say that imitation truly is the highest form of flattery, and this week once again, Scuba Diving International received some lavish flattery from one of its competitors.

Carney, made his special announcement to DiveNewsWire news service on Monday, June 22, when he discovered that the latest training bulletin from a rival agency contains several “updates” that SDI member facilities and instructors have been reaping the benefits of for many years.

“It’s about time!” Carney said in an exclusive interview for this news service. “It’s always nice to be copied by the competition!. In truth, it’s a little later than we expected – it’s taken them years to get the message – but we accept the complement implied by imitation and say thanks!”

Specifically, Carney was commenting on three separate items:

1.    The use of personal dive computers in open water training;

2.    Offering a computer nitrox course;

3.    The projected launch of an online nitrox program next month.

“It’s good to see a competitor agreeing with the way SDI does things. For example, we’ve been saying that Personal Dive Computers are the best and safest option for the open water diver since we opened for business in 1999. Through SDI we have offered computer Nitrox as a standard course for ten years. And we launched online Nitrox education to Certified Divers from all agencies through SDI facilities more than three years ago. It looks like the old guard is coming around to our way of thinking… yet again!”

And the facts bear Carney out. Since the ‘new kid on the block’ opened for business in 1999, the list of firsts is pretty impressive. (See sidebar.)

He commented that the SDI motto “Others Follow… SDI Leads” is about as accurate a statement as he can make based on the track record in the industry to date.

“We get a kick out of looking in our rear view mirrors at the competition struggling to keep up, often years after the fact. It proves to our Facilities and Instructors that the SDI, TDI, ERDI business model works in their favor,” Carney said.

Carney also mentioned stability and long-term planning help the SDI Group stay on track.

“We NEVER set our business strategy based on what our competitors do but rather, what our members need to be relevant in today’s shifting market place.  We work off a five-year plan and it works well because we are able to deliver innovative, marketable ideas before anyone else, and as a result, earn the respect of our retailers… and an ever-growing market share.”

So what’s the secret? Carney said it’s simply a question of basic customer service strategy. “We listen to our Dealers instead of dictating how they run their business or restricting what they can and cannot sell.”

The fresh ideas, he admitted, have come for the most part from SDI, TDI and ERDI dealers and senior instructors.

“In this current market, the comparison with the major auto manufactures is appropriate. They have gotten too big and as a result lost touch with what the consumer really wants.  I enjoy watching history repeat itself and watching others follow our lead.”

Carney, whose companies have seen continued growth since he took the reins several years ago, and recently opened a facility-based dive travel company, Scuba Travel International, wrapped up his interview with an invitation to the Industry to think about who really is leading the way in dive education.

“We are not the biggest, and unlike the other guys, we have not been around for 25 or 30 years often growing top-heavy and lethargic to respond to market and customer needs. But we do have this to offer. We are working harder than anyone can imagine meeting the needs of our Members and helping them move forward personally and professionally.”

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