Customer Service on a new scale: What we can learn at the fish market


It’s one of the oldest messages in retail staff management, but it remains one of the most important for anybody who plans to stay in business: Treat your employees with respect and your customers with benefit. And in the past 12 or 14 months, I have heard a lot of lip service given to this old chestnut. However, how many of us have really explored its meaning; or implemented creative company policies and practices to MAKE IT HAPPEN in our workplace?
I came across an old notebook during a semi-annual filing cabinet clean-up last week and was reminded of one of the most graphic examples of this policy at work; a practical application way above the rank and file. And although it is not fresh news, I believe it’s worth sharing because it still has several lessons to teach us.
Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle made its way into the news, and carved itself a place in the minds of business consultants across the country, because of the company’s unique approach to employee motivation and customer service.
Pike’s sells fish, no surprises there! The work is hard, less than glamorous, and the hours are long. But Pike’s sells a lot of fish and regular customers travel across town, by-passing other fish stores, to buy at Pike’s. Tourists to the Seattle area, make special trips to visit Pike’s for pete’s sake. Why?

Shopping at Pike Place Fish Market is an experience. The folks who work there don’t just fill orders, they add something extra that customers love. The extra is fun, a friendly smile, an attentive nature, and most important of all, enthusiasm. Pike’s employees choose to bring a special commitment to work every day. They stay connected to their work, to their co-workers and of course to the customers. And it pays off.

Four Pillars for Pike’s Success

The management philosophy at Pike’s, and the secret sauce that management consultants use as an example for their clients, comprises of four elements and these are:
  • Play
  • Make Their Day
  • Be There
  • Choose Your Attitude
In a nutshell these translate into: Enjoy the work. Make if fun and make it playful. One of the standouts at Pike’s is the way employees go about their business. The classic example is the way whole fish, big fish are thrown from one end of the counter to the other. It is like a circus show. It adds an element of surprise and makes the sale of a piece of fish a real event. Even customers are invited to get in on the ‘game.’
Make Their Day is specific to the customer. When someone comes into the market, employees work at making them feel special and making them welcome, listening to their questions, being courteous, and being helpful. The aim is for a customer to leave with a smile on their face. The aim is for the customer to be delighted. Now that’s not a bad goal for any retailer. You may not be able to sell them something THIS time, but make sure they feel comfortable coming back another time.
Be There is about, well, being available and being present. When employees give off the feeling that they are at work and ready to work, the feeling is catching. Have you ever walked into a store and felt as though you had to interrupt an employee day-dreaming or texting a friend to get served? Most of us have and it did not make any of us feel good; did it? DO you encourage your staff to Be There?
Choose Your Attitude really sums everything up. None of us feels up for the challenge EVERY day. We all have bad days and some days we’d rather be anywhere but in the store. But guess what, there really is no alternative so we may as well make the effort and BE POSITIVE. We have a personal choice how big a piece of personal responsibility we take on to help maintain our company’s vision of service, passion and fun. It can be a little or a lot. But it is worth remembering that all your staff have a vested interest in your company’s success.
Obviously, the nuts and bolts of selling fish and selling the adventure of diving are not 100 percent compatible. But what works, works.
Invite your employees to Commit to your company’s philosophy and share your vision for the future so that they have a choice to buy in.
Be the person you want your employees to be. Live the rules, and be an example.
Help your employees “get it.” Give them feedback and encouragement, listen to their ideas and suggestions, and open yourself up to the creativity of others.
The chances are that you will not see dramatic changes overnight regardless of how smart you are and how open your staff is, but think about all the ways that your business and your customers can benefit from a fresh approach based on four simple elements: Play, Make Their Day, Be There, and Choose Your Attitude.



Aquaworld Creates a World of Opportunity…


For SDI & TDI Members Visiting Mexico’s HOT ADVENTURE  SPOTS!
aquaworld cancunIn an on-going effort to present as many diving adventure opportunities to its members as possible, Scuba Diving International (SDI) and Technical Diving International (TDI) are proud to announce the launch of a NEW working relationship with one of Mexico’s premier adventure operations: Aquaworld, with locations in Cancun, Cozumel and the Mayan Riviera.
Working closely with Aquaworld will create opportunities for Scuba Diving International and Technical Diving International Members for all kinds of adventures in and out of the water! With widely varied locations Aquaworld can of course offer premier diving regardless of the diver’s level of experience in a wide variety of settings. If you have a non scuba diver with you that is OK! Your travel companion can earn their SDI certification while visiting, it’s made easy with SDI onLine curriculum allowing new divers to complete academics before they head off for their international vacation.
If your travel companion is not sure if scuba diving is for them, well Aquaworld has much more to offer. Aquaworld offers a huge variety of outings in addition to scuba diving. You and yours can book a fishing adventure, plan a jungle tour, island tour, and snorkel over the reefs or with dolphins or even over an underwater museum!
When your adventure takes you to Cancun make sure to make the UW Museum a “must see”. The Cancun Underwater Museum will eventually consist of over 400 permanent life-size sculptures, becoming one of the largest and most ambitious underwater artificial attractions in the world. So as you visit you will be able to record its progress in the coming years as the ocean adds its own beauty to the statues and they become “living” works of art adorned by corals, fans and aquatic organisms.
When the evening comes the adventure is not yet over, the team at Aquaworld can help you arrange dinner cruises and if the clear night sky and warm breezes move you, they can even make the wedding arrangements!
To learn more about Aquaworld you may contact them at toll-free from the USA & Canada: 1-877-730-4054  or e-mail them at or visit:
For information on SDI & TDI e-mail or call toll Free 888-778-9073. Ask for the Scuba Travel International desk to arrange your next adventure.



Workshops: a different approach to selling diver education


Let me ask you a simple question: How many diver workshops did you run last winter… or whenever your low season is?

It’s OK, you don’t have to answer out loud. And in fact if your answer is something like: “As many as we could schedule!” you really don’t have to read any more; you already get it.

Workshops are one of the most productive brand-building exercises for a small, medium or state-wide dive retailer. A workshop is a hands-on, one-on-one opportunity for our customers to get to know us and for us to make a lasting impression on them as their personal mentor and a reliable source of information about their sport.

A workshop can take just about any format and be on almost any topic. It can cover something directly connected with an SDI or TDI (or ERDI) courses, but certainly does not have to. It can instead deal with something indirectly connected to training, or seemingly unrelated to the business of training at all. A workshop can be a casual mid-week evening get together or a weekend boot camp with an hour-by-hour agenda followed to the letter. The choices are up to you and what your customers would be interested in.

One of the first questions asked by a dive retailer who has never run a workshop has to do with how a workshop is different to a formal dive class. There are several ways to answer that question because a workshop can include an actual certification and a formal course, or it might be a pre-cursor to a formal course, or it may supplement a formal course. Overall though, a workshop should promote at least one of your dive store’s revenue streams.

For example, a really popular workshop especially as we approach the winter dive travel season is “Packing for Dive Travel.” This workshop is not directly related to a formal course but it can sell a multitude of products from dive bags to spare mask straps.

Probably one of the key things to consider is that workshops have to be fun, packed with information and relevant to your customers to be effective. Here are some pointers that may help you to design your own workshop events.

  • Build a workshop around a topic on which you are an expert
  • If you are not the expert, parachute the expertise in by using a ringer. For example contact STI for help with anything relating to dive travel
  • Charge a fee to add the perception of value to the workshop
  • Design around a fixed number of bums in seats
  • Invite special customers personally… and think of all your customers as special
  • Give incentives for your customers to bring dive buddies into your workshops
  • Start off small for your first few workshops… a two-hour evening event works fine
  • Take small bites. Design a workshop around a specific aspect of a complex topic, rather than trying to present definitive answers to everything
  • Workshops should be a part of your marketing strategy, use them as such
  • Design the Workshop to promote the future sale of a product or service you sell
  • Make it easy for participants to “buy the T-shirt” during or after  the workshop is finished… sign-up sheets for related courses, a course schedule or a product display front and center
  • Work with suppliers to provide hand-outs, promotional materials, free samples etc.
  • Make the format relaxed and provide snacks and beverages
  • Run workshops in your store, at local dive sites, in local shopping malls and service clubs… think global
  • Promote like blazes and follow up with a letter and satisfaction survey if possible
  • Get a video clip of one of the fun portions of the workshop and post it on your store’s social networking site
  • Make a habit of running workshops… doing so WILL build your shop’s profile in your customer’s eyes

Ok, so the obvious  next step is to decide what topics to cover in this season’s workshops. Here are some suggestions, and some examples of subjects that have been successful for other SDI, TDI facilities over the years. Look these over and recycle those that appeal or you can add your own input to make up your own titles. The simple rule is that the most successful workshops are those that the consumer can immediately see some value in. What they want is information that promises to save them time, money and grief.

  • Advanced dive planning: How we dive the {LOCAL SITE A LITTLE BEYOND OPEN WATER SCOPE}
  • How do you get there from here? The pathway to technical diving
  • Dive Computers: The A to Z of personal dive computers and how to pick the one that suits your dive profiles
  • Staying Warm and Dry: The benefits of drysuit diving in local waters
  • Travel with Dive Gear
  • The Ultimate Save a Dive Kit
  • Sidemount Diving 101: The basic facts about diving doubles a different way entirely
  • DPV Diving: is there a scooter in your future
  • Wreck Appreciation
  • Expedition Diving: Planning the logistics and dynamics of remote diving operations


And of course the list goes on. As an experienced diver you have made mistakes and learned from them. Running a workshop gives you the opportunity to help your customers avoid making the same mistakes you did!

Attending DEMA this year. SDI, TDI, ERDI staffers are running several professional level presentations during the show including ones addressing workshop design, structure and promotion. Sign up for your spots using our ONLINE registration form




Discover Scuba Program – Is it a Loss Leader?


Whether your shop promotes the Scuba Discovery, Discover Scuba or Try Scuba Diving – Passport Diving Program, the concept and goals are essentially the same. These are inexpensive introductory programs intended to generate new divers and hopefully long-term customers. While not an actual scuba certification, these programs are designed to offer the individual an experience using scuba equipment in shallow water, and get a quick and easy introduction of what will be involved to explore the underwater world without making the time and financial commitment of a full certification course. But do they work, and if so, how well? Are we actually turning our prospects into divers?
In the world of retail a “loss leader” refers to a product that is sold at a low price, usually at or below cost to stimulate or lead to subsequent sale of profitable sales, the sales of which will be made in greater numbers, or greater profits, or both. It is a time-honored practice that has been met with much success, especially by large discount retailers. The intent of this sales promotion or pricing strategy is to not only have the customer buy the (loss leader) sale item, but other products that are not discounted. A great example of this practice is cell phone industry. Cell phones are almost routinely offered for free or at a low cost to subscribers who enter into a contract that is typically between one or two years. The providers profit by retaining customers for a longer period of time, and this offsets the cost of the actual phone device.
In brief, at Adventure Scuba Company (Chantilly, Virginia) we conduct our introductory course in an indoor pool no deeper than five feet of water. Class sizes are limited to no more than eight participants. We offer the program once per month on Sunday afternoons. We provide the prospective diver with everything (BCD, tanks, weights, personal gear, etc.) except a towel and a good attitude! We charge a nominal $35 fee to participate, and have each student complete the required medical and liability forms. The session lasts about an hour and half, with a thirty minute introduction and briefing on the gear, some diving physiology and safe diving practices. Topics presented are kept very simplified, to avoid overwhelming the students. Students then get to experience the sport for an hour in the water, and afterwards we debrief them and discuss what is involved in becoming a certified diver.
So is our introductory scuba program that we offer at Adventure Scuba Company paying off, do we get a return on our investment (ROI), or is it just a loss leader? To answer the question, I did some number crunching. I took the time to cull through our customer database and pull out all the individuals that have participated in our introductory scuba program in year 2008 and 2009.  I then reviewed each individual’s customer history to see if they actually enrolled in a full certification course and took note of their purchase histories, if any, and ran the numbers. Retrospectively, I also noted how we conducted the program over the past two years, and noted any differences or changes. Lastly, I interviewed the instructors responsible for teaching the class.
So what happened?
In 2008 we had 39 students participate in our discover scuba program. This included a group of eight individuals from the local volunteer fire department, and a group of six participants from a high school scuba club. We grossed $1365 in fees. Of the 39 students, only two were repeat customers, and subsequently obtained full scuba certification. On average, each of these students spent approximately $800 on their course and personal gear.  After factoring our cost to conduct the program which included the pool rental time, instructor pay, air fills, gas for the shop van to transport the gear (remember it ALL adds up), a few minor gear repairs, etc.,  it was evident that the program itself was not a money maker. In fact, we ended up negative when we considered the program as an overall standalone. It only took one significant gear repair to blow our whopping $62 profit.  However, it did help yield revenue downstream from their class tuitions and gear sales to help cover our expenses, and of course generate two new divers! Keep in mind the success rate in generating new divers was only approximately 5%.
In 2009 we had 36 students participate in our discover scuba program. We grossed $1260 in course fees. However, in this past year six out of the 36 students were repeat customers, and subsequently obtained full scuba certification. Our success rate increased to nearly 16%. As before each student spent on average approximately $800 on their course and personal gear for their certifications. One student even purchased a full gear package, approximating $2500! Not too shabby!
So what changed, and how did we improve?
In 2009, we changed the format of how we conduct our program in three areas. First, we decided to relocate and extend the academic portion of the program, and second we awarded each person with a certificate and small incentive package immediately following the conclusion of program. Lastly, we became more diligent with our follow up. In light of the current economy, we refused to alter our course fee. We continued to charge a nominal fee of $35 for an individual to participate in the program. Again, we provided everything for the student to participate in the class including personal gear.
Change #1. Rather than meeting directly on the pool deck about thirty minutes before getting in the water as we did in the previous year (2008), students met at our shop for an hour long orientation at least two hours prior to their in-water experience. While it could have inconvenienced the student with additional commuting (we are in Northern Virginia!), and risk creating a feeling as if they were going to get roped into something resembling a “sneaky timeshare sales tactic,” it did not. It had a very positive outcome with several benefits.  First, it presented students with a chance to see our business and meet our staff, if they have not already when they registered for the program. Second, they had the opportunity to see and touch the gear they were going to be using during their session.  This helped address many questions and eliminate many preconceived ideas about what a scuba diver requires to be underwater. It also provided us with a chance to better fit them for the gear they were going to be utilizing during their session. Body types and shapes vary incredibly and being comfortable underwater is very important as we know. Finally, and most importantly, they could address any of their fears and concerns with their instructor without any time constraints. They actually get to meet the instructor as a person, in plain clothes, see him or her as a real human being as opposed to showing up on the pool deck all geared up like a pro ready to jump in the water. That can be quite intimidating to someone who has some reservations about doing this. Remember, in many cases these students aren’t sure if this is something that is going to be “fun” yet, and/or they are lacking confidence. This is a great opportunity for them to meet the person who is directing them to do the unnatural…shove their heads underwater and breathe! I believe this opportunity lowers their inhibitions, defenses and stress. It puts them at ease and really helps create the necessary rapport and trust between the students and the instructor, and thus our business.
Change #2. After the students get out of the water, smiling, the instructor congratulates each individual and awards them with a certificate of completion with the student’s name on it. It looks professional and is printed on quality paper. It makes them feel good and proud of their accomplishment and it gives them something tangible to remember the experience. Additionally, it is a good marketing piece when they show it to their friends and colleagues. We also include an incentive coupon for them to register for a full certification course at a reduced fee. Additionally, we include other marketing goodies such as stickers, pens, and plenty of business cards to hand out. Yes, this now eats into our cost too, but they are excellent opportunities to promote the shop.
Change #3. A successful discovers scuba program doesn’t end after the students leave the water. It requires follow up in a timely manner from two different avenues, the store manager and the instructor. As the shop manager it is my responsibility to follow up with the instructor to see how the program finished, address any concerns or issues, solve any problems, and make sure things are ready for the next session to run efficiently. Of course I also want to know who had a good time, why, and when do they want to take a class I find that the best response results from the instructor contacting the students directly, while these students are still excited and energized from their experience. This happens within the next week. It is equally important to find out who did not have a good time and why. Is there something we missed, did the student develop some apprehension during the session, or are there concerns regarding finances and time commitments? There could be a number of reasons why some do not want to continue and obtain a full certification, and we need to know them if we want to improve.
It was evident that our number of participants in the program did not increase from year 2008 to 2009. In fact, there were fewer students in 2009. What did change though was the quality of our program and how we conduct it. I believe this made the difference.
What’s next?
Seeing an almost three-fold increase in our turnover after we implemented these changes has our business excited about conducting more of these programs, and making them quality experiences. We have done the analysis and realize that the program, as we currently have it structured and priced, is not revenue generating machine on its own, but is rather indeed a loss leader. We are okay with this though. Knowing this and the potential that this program can afford our business resulting from subsequent purchases makes it worth while.
This year we decided to create a “free discover scuba card”. It is simply a business card which serves as a coupon and entitles the person to a free Discover Scuba session. The entire staff carries them, we give them to instructors, customers and fellow divers to disseminate, and we hand them out like candy!


Effective Business Management is about balance


I was asked yesterday to give some thought to exactly what it takes to run a successful retail operation. Any retail operation, even a candy store at the main gates of the largest public school in the state, takes a special mix of skills, but I have to think that running a retail store in the dive industry is a special case.
One disadvantage for me is that I have owned a share of a retail store, but never worked in one, so my list is probably going to be short a skill or two. But after less than two minutes, I had come up with a list of close to 20 hats that the average dive retailer may be asked to wear from day-to-day! See how it compares to yours.
·  Product Buyer
·  Merchandiser
·  Human Resources Professional + Baby-sitter
·  Marketing Guru
·  Salesperson
·  Customer Relations Manager
·  Bookkeeper
·  Cleaner and Coffee Boy/Girl
·  Motivational Speaker
·  Community Advocate
·  Underwater Photographer
·  Travel Advisor
·  Equipment Specialist and Service Technician
·  Educator and Mentor
·  General Contractor
·  Welder and Metal Fabricator
·  Mechanic
·  Website Designer and IT manager
·  Father Confessor
Now the majority of those are self-explanatory; and some less so. But for the record, here’s my take on each of them.


hatsClean.jpgProduct Buyer / Merchandiser


Making the right choices about what gear to sell, has to be right up there with how to display it and how much of it to have sitting around gathering dust out in the stock room; so savvy buyer and display artist is right up there as hats one and two.


Human Resources Professional + Baby-sitter


Opening a shop and keeping it open to suit customers needs, translates into hiring staff in most cases, hence the HR hat. The mention of baby-sitting may simply be a product of my past and experience, and your mileage may vary so we can take that as an optional extra under consideration. At very least, hiring staff, training staff, motivating staff, retaining staff can eat a serious hole into a work week. At worst it can be a bona fide full-time ticket to despair. Certainly it deserves a place on the list.


Marketing Guru / Salesperson


Marketing and Sales are probably two listings that would get the greatest buy-in from anyone in retail. The process of building a marketing plan and the art of closing a sale, are essential to remaining in business… any business! In truth, many would argue that marketing includes sales, but I vote for listing them individually.


Customer Relations Manager


According to most of the textbooks, marketing also includes customer relations since one of the five P’s of marketing is People. Most business people subscribe to the adage that it is easier and more cost effective to keep an old customer than find a new one, and retention is mostly about managing the personal relationship we have with our customers, and since this skill is key to building a loyal following and growing a business, it deserves its own listing.


Well, it’s late April as I write this and the after-effects of the panic to get tax returns in on deadline is still fresh. With all that in mind, bookkeeping and its attendant filing, paper work, basic knowledge of federal tax law, state or provincial tax regulations and local fees and licensing , is a strong enough incentive to add it to the list.



Cleaner and Coffee Boy/Girl


Small to medium-sized business: cleaner (decorator) provider of coffee, hot tea, doughnuts and other refreshments… yep, sounds about right. Even the divisional head of IBM Europe used to arrive with a couple of boxes of muffins for “the team” most Friday mornings. Perhaps a trivial touch but a little boost for morale which can never be a bad thing, so this ‘skill’ is absolutely on the list.


Motivational Speaker / Community Advocate


Including Motivational Speaker and Community Advocate may be a bit of a stretch but I put them in the listing because both are important aspects of growing a business in any sized town or city. Both offer great opportunities to recruit new customers and to increase community awareness of diving; the adventure sport and tech diving represents, as well as the commitment to serve that is part of Public Safety Diving. Presentation made to service clubs, social groups, schools and colleges and the like are hugely effective marketing tools. Because of this, they are on the list.


Underwater Photographer / Travel Advisor


One of the real joys of diving is the visual impact of what is down there under the waves. I’ve read poems about coral reefs and read stories about marine wildlife, wreck diving, exploring caves and lots of other underwater activities, but they all pale beside the photograph that’s on the wall behind my computer. (It’s a picture of a diving flying a scooter over the second breakdown at Jackson Blue Springs.) Photography sells diving.
And while local diving were you are is probably stellar, travel to prime dive destinations, is part and parcel of closing the sale for many dive ops. Actually, the travel advisor hat should really be two; one for being an out-bound operator (sending groups to remote destinations); and one for acting as an in-bound operator welcoming groups to your area. So one hat but it has to be big enough to cover a lot of territory.

Equipment Specialist and Service Technician

Since diving is an equipment-intensive pastime, the next item on the list is a given. Equipment set-up and maintenance is, or should be, a big item on the year-end revenue statement for a successful dive store, and so we have one more hat to wear.


Educator and Mentor

Does your store offer diver education? Of course you do. Formal education and less formal mentoring are part and parcel of being a member of SDI, TDI and ERDI so now issues with this list item.



General Contractor / Welder and Metal Fabricator / Mechanic


I added general contractor because when I owned a share of a retail store, I spent countless hours building stuff and then repairing it. This ran the gamut from replacing slate roof tiles to insulating a crawl space, building a display case, plumbing in a shower and washtub, and converting a Harry Potter sized broom cupboard into an oxygen clean workroom.
I threw in welder and metal worker just in case there was a boat involved in the operations. Same goes for mechanic. Strike these two off the list if they do not apply, but leave them in if there is a charter boat in your future.


Website Designer and IT manager


Probably most of you do some degree of your business over the Internet. Internal networks, public websites, commercial secure servers and generally being wired have all become woven into the fabric of doing business in the 21st Century, so much so that I included website designer and IT manager in the list.

Father Confessor.

I mentioned earlier I’ve never working over the counter in a retail business, but my grandfather owned and ran a couple of pubs and one of many “life lessons” he passed on was about having a willingness to listen to customers and staff when they had to get something off their chest. Never sure why the service industries seem to extend to being asked to comment on everything from finding a suitable university for Junior, to tips on training a new puppy not to pee in the house; but it happens apparently. In a recent study in small businesses operating in the Euro Zone by the Chartered Management Institute, an average of close to an hour of management time each day is spent dealing with personnel issues that fall way outside the purview of business. Add one more hat.

I suspect that if we took apart the required skill set for running almost any business, the listing would be as long as the one above. There is no secret to being successful in business, it takes adaptability and a willingness to roll up your sleeves and try something new. However, there are a couple of things that business people have to face up to if they want their business to truly grow.
Firstly, and probably most importantly, as the business owner, you cannot hope to be good at every skill. You have to balance your core strengths with what your business needs and leave the rest to someone else.
This is one of the most difficult truths for business owners to accept. Getting a small business off the ground often requires its owner to be a jack of all trades. New business owners have to wear a lot of hats and have to present a convincing picture with every one of them on their head. But the really smart entrepreneurs learn to delegate as many tasks as possible as soon as possible, and then stand back and not get in the way.
Perhaps the primary failure point of growing any business is the owner’s inability to hand responsibility AND authority to his managers. Staff who thrive on responsibility (and do not shirk from accountability) are a company’s most valuable asset. Owners who decide which hats they like to wear and “look best wearing,” and who can then delegate responsibility and authority for all the others to others, grow themselves and their business.
But, the best way to mess up this scenario is to miss the second half of the equation; Authority. Giving staff the responsibility to undertake a task but leaving out the part about authority, defeats the object.
Not giving authority is the same as saying “I don’t trust you with this hat… you can wear it but it is mine when I want it back.”  This message is loud and clear to your staff, and to your customers too. Once they understand that you don’t trust your staff, and they will find that out, they will not trust them either.
Most small business owners are skeptical about giving authority. They know there will be mistakes, outright failures, and retrenching periods. The seed change is letting these events pass and writing them off as part of the process of moving the company forward.
The second point is that as the person managing the business from the highest seat in the house – president, CEO, Chairman, call it what you will – you do not need to be an expert in anything; you simply need to recognize one when you see one.
But human nature being what it is we all want to know which skill is the most important for a senior manager / business owner and which hat is the most prestigious. When the head of a large industrial manufacturer was asked to name his most important job, he did not hesitate for a second in answering: “I only have one job, the ability to listen and actually hear what was being told to me. Everything else I leave to the team I work with.”
Now that is a fine looking hat!


Value of Using the Online Leadership Training Programs

 By Dennis Pulley


In 2009 SDI completely revised the divemaster, assistant instructor and open water scuba diver instructor leadership training programs. In addition to updating all of the information presented in each program, SDI achieved another industry first by offering online academics for each of these leadership courses.
The use of online training has been used extensively in many various training settings such as higher education, employment training as well as recreational areas. Attending a class and sitting for hours on end to learn the required information is not always the best option for many students these days. Using the online system, candidates can complete all the pre-course studies online and as such, they will be better prepared to participate in the class.
Some instructors see online training as a potential threat that diminishes the quality of the candidates’ skills and abilities. The reality is that online training simply trades printed material for digital material.
For each of the programs listed above, candidates can sign up anytime and begin their training at their leisure thereafter. Depending on the course structure, the instructor may assign specific sections — or the entire program, to be completed before the first face-to-face academic session. After a candidate has begun a course the instructor can track the student’s progress and detect if he is having difficulties with any of the information. This allows the instructor to target his one-on-one time with the candidate to help improve the student’s knowledge in the areas identified as below average.
Another benefit of using the tracking system is that the instructor can determine if a candidate has any weak areas. Should the instructor determine that a candidate does have a weak area, the instructor may have the candidate prepare a short presentation covering that information. This will require the candidate to learn more about that subject and be able to explain it in terms they are comfortable with.
Since the instructor will not need to spend countless hours in the classroom, more time is available for the practical application, skill training, classroom and water presentations and the “how-to” of working with students and divers.
Trading time normally spent in the classroom for practical time with the students allows the instructor to focus more his attention on helping the students develop their leadership skills. The consequence of this is new dive leaders that are better prepared to lead and train divers.
Dive stores that pre-purchase online training codes have the flexibility to package and price the entire course to meet their needs. For instance, if a candidate is to be hired as an employee, or already is an employee of the facility, the package can be minimal. This may be applied as an employment benefit on contracted based on a specific amount of work after the candidate has completed the course. In comparison, the package for a non-affiliated candidate may include the fees for online training, printed materials, water use fees, gas, training fees and any additional fee. In this scenario, candidates get a single, upfront cost for the entire program.
Dive leaders that enroll in the online academic training also receive a copy of the printed  SDI training materials for the program they are completing that can be used for  future reference.
“The SDI Online Divemaster program revolutionized the way I teach the DM course!  The candidates come to the first session fully prepared, and we spend our time together developing leadership skills and abilities rather than delivering lectures on background knowledge and dive theory.  In the past, I commonly spent 3-4 days in the classroom with a candidate before getting them to the pool.  With the online course, we spent about 6 hours in the classroom, then off to the pool. Best of all, it seems the candidates really learned the material, rather than studying it simply to pass a test.
Brian Shreve
SDI IT-9016
Heartland Scuba
Lincoln, NE

“The online program allowed me to work at my own pace and review the information without someone looking over my shoulder. I especially liked the way the program allowed me to work on my own time schedule vs a typical classroom setting. I was able to complete the pre-course studies according to my personal schedule whether it was two hours a day or six hours a day. The quizzes at the end of each chapter confirmed I understood the material and could not just can skip through it.”


Dan Erickson
Divemaster Candidate
Heartland Scuba

Lincoln, NE


Remember, by using the online training programs an instructor has more tools available to help them follow the academic progress of each student which allows them to tailor the training program to each candidate’s specific needs.


More With Less!


Now there is a question that can conjure up a myriad of emotions!
What if we told you we are talking about MORE PROFITS?
Here you are at the beginning of yet another year, winter surrounds you (if you are one of our many members in North America) and you are thinking to yourself: “How am I going to do a better job at managing my business and making more money this year?”
Here is a quick read intended to generate some thought and to get you started towards increased profitability.
Look around your business, how many brands do you support? Pick any category, how many Dive suits? Gear bags? Ask yourself: “Can I do more with less?”  And: “Why would I want to?
  • 1.    Fewer vendors means easier to hit higher buying levels, therefore more gross profit.
  • 2.    You and your business become more important to the brands you do support.
  • 3.    FFA is now more obtainable
  • 4.    Less paperwork to process, easier faster receiving, faster bill pay, less bookkeeping
  • 5.    Narrower selection means greater depth, helps avoid “out of stock” situations.
  • 6.    Helps avoid extra charges for “expedited freight” to remedy stock shortages.
  • 7.    Permits greater focus to “specialized equipment” that fits your geographic region and your training philosophy.
Think it through thoroughly and do not react emotionally, as the saying goes “sleep on it”. Before you make a major adjustment to your business, inventory or approaches discuss it with fellow staff, key customers. Time is on your side because if you choose to take this course of action it will take some time to “profitably” make inventory adjustments. After all this IS NOT the market to “blow out inventory” it is crucial you maximize your cash flow and yes your gross profit from each and every sale.
Want to test the concept out of doing more with less? Start with your diver training. You already have access to one of our three Agencies, Scuba Diving International™, Technical Diving International™ and Emergency Response Diving International™ ask yourself the question “Am I maximizing my opportunity, am I taking advantage of teaching all the classes I and my fellow staff qualify for? Am I meeting market demand for instruction?”
If you have any doubt that you are not getting the most from the training you offer reach out and contact us. Let us share with you what other successful facilities are doing with their training! Here is a hint…what are you doing with Intro to Tech? How about Solo Diver? As we undertake the most aggressive travel schedule ever doing more consumer shows then ever we are quickly learning that when we offer these seminars to the general diving public the room is filling up with interested divers!
Why not offer an Intro to Tech or a Solo Diver presentation in your store? You’ll find that the Q&A that follows will scream of opportunity!
Yes you can do more with less! Just look around and figure out to do more with what you have! Be they brands, agencies and most important of all …your customers!
Contact your Regional manager today or reach out to Cris Merz at and let us help you get the most out of the training you offer!


How does the Online Divemaster Benefit Me?


Information about the newest educational innovation from SDI™, TDI™

1.    Q: I’m sold on the benefits of SDI™ online training for open water and specialties like nitrox, wreck, deep, navigation and so on, but why Divemaster?


A: Often, the instructor who is best suited to develop dive leaders is the one person who has the least time available. The perfect solution is blended learning through SDI’s online training. The proven online system moves your divemaster candidates through their academics freeing up valuable instructor time to work hands-on with them to refine their leadership qualities as well as diving, risk-management, and dive business skills.


2.    Q: Do all my DM candidates have to do all the academics online now?


A: No, you can still teach a DM course the way you have always done with traditional classroom.  However, we believe you will find that your candidates come to class much more prepared if they do the program online first.


3.    Q: How do I get my dive center signed up for this program?


A: Simply contact either your local Regional Manager, or HQ and both can assist in setting up your facility to do the program.


4.    Q: If am already using the online program to do Open Water or Specialties is my facility already set up?


A: Yes and no.  Yes your facility is listed in the new website as an active online facility, but no you have to use a different link for this course.  www.sdi-onlinetraining.comleadership

5.    Q: If I have a link off of my own website to the online program for my own students, do I have to create another link to give access to my students for the DM program?


A: Yes, you can get the unique link using your username and password as a login in on  www.sdi-onlinetraining.comleadership


6.    Q: If a student signs up on the website and pays with a credit card directly on the site, what is the amount my facility gets?

A: The facility is issued a $225 credit and HQ takes care of shipping all the materials they need directly to the dive facility, including a DM manual, Knowledge Quest, and other items.


7.    Q: Can I buy access codes at a discounted rate as I do for the other online courses?


A: Yes, the amount of the discount depends on the facility current buying level.

8.    Q: Are all DM candidates required to choose a dive center to be affiliated with when signing up? 

A: Yes, all SDI courses must be taught through a recognized dive center. 


9.    Q: If I purchase codes for a DM candidate, is my dive center automatically chosen and locked in as the facility as it is with the other online courses?

A: Yes, DM candidates that sign up using an access code you provide to them or via your websites unique link are locked in as your students and you are given the credit.


10.    Q: Is there a user manual for facilities to understand better how the system works?


A: Yes, you can download one off of the members section of the website or contact your regional manager or HQ.


Contact your local SDI, TDI representative or call Cris Merz at 888.778.9073 for more information. Cris can also be contacted via email



SDI vs TDI Nitrox: Which One and Why

We are often asked why we have two nitrox programs, one under SDI and one under TDI, and why should someone choose to teach one course over the other…. or even consider both?