Think laterally and expand your business horizons instead of crying the blues.

 

A recently recruited member of the SDI, TDI professional team admits that she and her husband have picked an unfortunate time to give up their “real jobs” and open a dive operation; but I think they are going to make it.
 
To begin with, they both have lots of enthusiasm and energy, both are people-people, and they have done their homework and sat with their accountant and put together a solid business plan, which includes an innovative marketing strategy aimed at a wide-open niche market in the small city where they live. However, all that aside they have something else going for them; they attack problems creatively.
 
For example, I bumped into them last weekend on a dive boat and asked how their first few weeks in business have been. “Busy,” was the immediate reply.
 
Busy, in the dive industry, after Labor Day in the Northern States; how could that be, I asked.  The answer was a bit of a surprise and underlines for me why I think they stand a much better than average chance of pulling off the transition to full-time dive professionals during harsh economic times.
 
It turns out that Steph, one half of the new dive shop ownership, had cast a wider than usual net to recruit potential students, and it was beginning to pay off in spades.
 
At some point in drawing up their business model, Steph and her husband had done a true cost analysis and were not happy about paying rent and running costs on their classroom only to have it sitting idle for 90 percent of the business day.
 
“We worked out that even if we struck a seam of gold and somehow managed to certify 500 students in our first year,” unlikely but a worthy aspiration, “the classroom was going to sit unused for more than 70 percent of the time. So we looked for ways to put bums on seats,” Steph explained.
 
Her Road to Damascus moment came in a local chain donut and coffee shop. “I noticed the first-aid kit on the wall, and a light went on,” Steph said.
 
That afternoon, she complied a list of ALL the local cafes, fast food outlets, and coffee shops and next morning started phoning around, offering training in CPR, First-Aid and AED for staff. “I figured it was a requirement that the staff in these chains have some first responder training – which turned out to be the case – and we had a classroom, presentation materials, textbooks, dummyies, supplies and the credentials to certify them. Seemed like a good fit to me.”
 
And it turns out she was right. The week before I bumped into her, she had certified 40 “students” and had bookings for the better part of the next three weeks.
 
“Wow,” I said, impressed with her creativity and ability to find a niche few of us would have looked for. “So I guess your next step is to contact the chain’s head office and see what you can do corporately,” I said trying to sound as though I too had some bright ideas.
 
“Already made that call,” she smiled. “Have a meeting next Thursday.”
 
Like I said, I think these two will make it, and not just because they are good divers, contentious and skillful instructors – which they are – but because they have that great asset shared by all true entrepreneurs: the ability to think laterally.

 

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