Chapter 7 – Industry Key People

cropped-dsc_0457-200DIVE LOCAL – A Dive Industry Community Effort
Key People of DIVE LOCAL
By Gene Muchanski, Executive Director,
Dive Industry Foundation

CHAPTER 7 – The Industry’s Key People

What do you think about when you hear the words “Key People in the Diving Industry?”  A number of years ago we ran a survey and asked select Dive Industry Professionals who they thought were our industry key people.  Not surprisingly, a few training agency CEO’s names were mentioned, along with some  top executives of the large diving equipment companies.  Jean Michel Cousteau’s name was mentioned a few times and so were a few scattered individuals in different industry sectors.  It seams that our respondents were a little confused about the difference between the titles of  “Key People” and “Industry Heroes.”

I can understand that.  Sometimes we think about key people as industry heroes, Hall of Fame nominees, popular dive industry professionals, environmental volunteer workers,  gifted underwater photographers, or even accomplished underwater explorers.   But as we began the DIVE LOCAL series of articles, the words Key People took on a whole different meaning.  To us, a key person in the diving industry is a person who is making a significant contribution to their own business and the entire diving industry as a whole.  A Key Person in the diving industry is also the lead person in an organization that is responsible for leading their company forward, regardless of their total industry significance.

Last month we added this chapter to our DIVE LOCAL series because we wanted to add faces to the names of the companies that are actively involved in creating, maintaining, and growing our local diving communities.  It’s important to remember that businesses don’t make a local diving community successful, people do.  It’s the people we celebrate in this article and it’s the Key People we maintain contact with to follow and promote their progress.  Defining the diving industry’s key people is easy when we are talking about Local Dive Industry Professionals.  We see these people face-to-face on a daily basis.  It gets more important to define who are key people when they are infrequent visitors to our local diving community and especially more important when they are located outside of our community, state, or territory.  Let’s start with the top four sectors of our local diving community that are usually local residents.

The 4 Pillars of Market Growth

  1. Diving Instructors
  2. Dive Stores
  3. Dive Boats
  4. Dive Clubs

Diving Instructors:  Every diving instructor is a Key Person in our books.  Of course, we are talking about the active diving instructor who is currently engaged in teaching diving classes.  Diving Instructors are helping to grow the market every time they teach and certify a new student.  As we have said before, if it weren’t for diving instructors, there would not be a diving industry or a market for diving equipment and dive travel.

Retail Dive Stores:  Every local dive store should have a Key Person in charge.  It doesn’t matter if that person is the owner, the store manager or the lead Instructor.  A successful dive store that is operating on all cylinders is the center of a successful local diving community.  Most dive stores teach classes, sell equipment, service equipment, and have some type of dive travel program, be it local diving or dive travel.  That means they are doing their part to grow the market.  Having a Key Person at the store that can take the time to communicate with the diving industry outside of their local diving community is extremely important and advantageous to the dive store.  The store key person should be forming business relationships with the stores equipment vendors, training agency, travel wholesaler and trade association.   The farther away that you are from your vendors, the more likely it is that you can miss out on business opportunities.  In our case, we give free website advertising to Local Dive Stores and often conduct email campaigns to divers in their local diving community.  All we ask is they mail us one of their business cards and keep in touch with us from time to time.  If the local store key person doesn’t know who we are, there is a very good chance that we don’t know who they are.

Dive Boats:  We’ve said before that Local Dive Boat Operators are the champions of local diving.  Usually, a dive store or dive instructor owns a boat that takes out students or local divers.  Since most dive boats are six-pack licensed, they mostly rely on their inner circle of students, friends, or customers.  Only when a dive boat decides to increase their capacity to run charters do they look into the possibility of advertising outside of their inner circle.  That’s where working with a trade association can help.  We would gladly list the local dive boats in a local diving community web page if the Dive Operator would send us one of their business cards and designate a Key Person from their Dive Boat to keep in touch with us from time to time.  All that is needed for a Dive Boat to stay in the public eye is to make that a responsibility of one key person.

Dive Clubs:  Dive Clubs were very popular in the 1960’s.  Maybe because scuba diving was new, maybe it was because there were a lot of baby boomers interested in an outdoor, physical activity or maybe it was because there were fewer recreational options available at the time.  I also think we were more social back then.  It was fun to get together with other divers and go diving, and talk about diving, and go to Film Festivals as a group.  Today is a much different story for dive clubs, although I do see some great activity from some dive clubs across the country.  I see press releases from Indian Valley Scuba Club (PA) all the time and I wish I still lived in Houston when I see Gigglin’ Marlin Dive & Swim write about their great club dives.  So good Dive Clubs are still out there.  What would help Dive Clubs grow would be to appoint a Key Person to represent the club and have a permanent mailing address that did not change with the election of every new president.  If they created a free WordPress website and free Facebook page, that would go a long way in creating the stability that dive clubs need.   Again, it all boils down to appointing one Key Person to be the face of the Dive Club to the Local Diving Community.

Now we get to the point of people who live outside of the Local Diving Community but are considered to be Key People in their Regional Diving Territory.  That would be the Sales Representatives working for the equipment manufacturers, training agencies, and travel tourism bureaus.  Because of the fact that Regional Sales Managers spend so much time on the road in their territory and are probably the best paid professionals in our industry, they are considered to be the most knowledgeable about the state of business activity in their territory.  According to DIVE LOCAL’s geographic breakdown, a territory may consist of multiple states and multiple local diving communities.  That’s the reason Regional Dive Shows like Beneath the Sea, Our World-Underwater, Sea Space, and Scuba Show were so well attended for many years. They created and grew a regional diving event that drew attendees  from multiple territories.

Dive Industry Professionals Actively Engaged in the Local Community

  1. Equipment Manufacturing Sale Reps
  2. Training Agency Reps
  3. Visiting Travel Advisors

Dive Equipment Sales Reps:  Each Sales Rep is considered a Key Person in their territory because of the amount of time they spend with clients and the amount of influence they have in the success of the local diving communities they work in.  We like to think of Regional Sales Managers as our boots on the ground regional influencers.  Regional Sales Managers can play a greater role in the Local diving communities they service. There are a great deal of benefits available to them by joining the Dive Industry Association.

Training Agency Reps:  Similar to Equipment Sales Reps, Regional Training Reps are Key People in their Territory.  There has been quite a bit of change in the past ten years with Training Reps.  Some Reps are now also working as Dive Equipment Reginal Sales Managers as in the case of Mares and SSI, while others  represent their National Training Agencies as Training Instructors, Sales Managers or Service Managers.  Training Agency market share was at its highest levels when training agencies used local Regional Sales Managers.  The strongest market share years for NAUI Worldwide was when they had Regional Branch Managers.  Having a local person responsible for sales and activity is the most competitive asset a company can have.

Travel Advisors:  The dive travel industry is a little different when it comes to local and regional representation.  Most Tourism Bureaus and Boards have regional offices in the major cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, and Miami.  Sales Representatives from their regional offices are the ones who participate in local dive shows and trade shows.  The regional offices also get extra help from time to time when Senior Tourism Managers from the Country’s Tourism Bureau happen to be in town for a local event.  It is our intention to work with National Tourism Boards to help them understand and sell to local diving communities and at Regional Diving Shows & Events.

The most difficult key people to account for and manage are the ones who live outside of the Regional Diving Community and are considered to be key people on a National or International basis.  There are a number of companies in a limited number of stakeholder groups that do not want their key people identified or even contacted by other members of the trade.  Whatever their reasons are, we have to respect that.  It’s their company after all.  Since our Mission is to bring Buyers and Sellers together for the benefit of the Global Diving Business Network and the Global Diving Community, we have chosen to focus on identifying and working with the Key People who are involved in the sale of diving equipment, dive training, dive travel, and lifestyle products.  We also have the social responsibility to work with the non-profit organizations in our industry.

Our approach to working with the Key People in the industry will be to follow the marketing channels of distribution that these companies use to move their products from conception through consumption.  We are more interested in working with diving companies that want to increase their sales, market share and marketability.  We view this as a life-long project rather than a short-term research project to build a list of Industry Key People.  This is our first pass at the Other Stakeholder Groups.  More detail and more stakeholder groups will follow.

Other Stakeholder Groups

  1. Diving Equipment Manufacturer
  2. Service Provider
  3. Training Association / Certification Agency
  4. Non-Profit Service Organization
  5. Travel Business (various)

Dive Equipment Manufacturers:  As a Trade Association, it is our responsibility to identify and work with original equipment manufacturers, equipment component manufacturers and suppliers, brand marketers, and distributors.  Since our mission is to help bring buyers and sellers together, we use a basic Channel of Distribution:  Manufacturer – Sales Rep – Retail Store – Consumer.  The Key People we are looking to identify are: General Manager – Marketing Director – Sale Manager.  The categories of manufacturing that we will start organizing are:  Full Line – Multiple Line – Single Line – Tech – Photography – Specialty – Apparel.

Service Providers:  A very important stakeholder group, but often underrepresented, is the Service Provider sector.  Mostly because the grand majority of service providers are small owner-operator businesses with a limited marketing and advertising budget.  The Service Provider companies we are following deal with:  Repair & Maintenance – Software – Professional Services.

Training Agencies:  There are over 50 Training Agencies in the United States.  Not all agencies have Training Managers or Sales Managers in all territories.  As a Trade Association, the Key People we look to identify are the General Manager (Executive Director), Training Director, Marketing Director, and Sales Director.  If the agency is looking for new customers, having one external key person to contact streamlines the acquisition process.  Having one internal key person that focuses on competitive strategy keeps the agency moving forward.  Having regional representatives engaged in local diving communities or territories, with their local contact information, is important to local diving businesses who want to have a working relationship with the national agency.

Non-Profit Organizations:  There are many non-profit organizations in the Global Diving Community.  We have identified non-profits that focus on environment and conservation issues, veteran health and rehabilitation issues, marine life programs, scholarship programs, and educational foundations.  There is a greater need in the industry to define, organize and promote non-profits for a number of reasons.  First of all, there are many people involved in non-profits.  They include the founders, board of directors, paid executive staff, non-paid staff members, and volunteers.  Secondly, there seems to be a higher turnover rate for people who work in non-profit organizations, and consequently there is a high turnover of the contact people who represent non-profits.  Finally, there is a disturbing trend in non-profits that are moving out of their national headquarters and no longer publishing a contact person or mailing address for their organization.  We are seeing an increase in online fund raising but a decrease in physical presence and personal accountability.  It’s important for non-profits to put a face and a name to all of their regional representatives and have a contact person (face & name) at their national headquarters.

Travel Businesses:  The Travel Industry is a very important aspect of our recreation.  Water covers over ¾ of the earth’s surface which means there are unlimited places to dive.  What is limited in the Global Diving Business Network are the number of Airlines, Dive Resorts, Liveaboards, Dive Operators, Dive Stores, and Dive Travel Wholesalers across the globe.  The Dive Industry Association keeps track of over 1,000 dive businesses that are involved in dive travel.  Based on the Channels of Distribution we work with in the travel industry, it is important that we maintain contact with two Key People at each company.   We’ve already stated why it is important to maintain contact with the Internal Key Person at the company.   But what about the External Key Person?  A travel company that specializes in adventure dive travel normally hires a number of external sales, marketing, and reservation specialists, in many geographical locations across the globe.  While it is important to hire these specialists, a company can lose its connection to a market overnight, if and when their market specialist stops working for them.  Why?  When an independent contractor leaves your employment, they take their contacts with them, and you are left to reinvent the wheel.  That’s where our association comes in handy.  We can help the Internal Key Person find a new local sales, marketing or reservation specialist.  That is one reason we work so hard to acquire and maintain our industry database.  We didn’t build a professional database just to have a list of the people who work in the diving industry.  We built our database to be able to bring buyers and sellers of diving equipment, training, travel, and lifestyle products together.  That is the true purpose of a Professional Trade Association.

Steps to be included in our Global Diving Business Network:  We encourage Key People at companies that specialize in diving to register with us at the Dive Industry Foundation.  1) Send us your business card and any sales and marketing brochures you use to promote your company.  It doesn’t cost anything to register with us.  2) Subscribe to our Industry Blog, Weekly Dive News, Monthly Trade Magazine (The Dive Industry Professional), and our annual Trade Directory.  Subscription is FREE and you can change your subscription preferences or unsubscribe fully at any time.  Subscribe to our Blog at   Subscribe to our other publications through Constant Contact’s Safe Subscribe Service at

To be listed in our Annual Trade Directory & Buyers Guide and be eligible for benefits from our Buyers & Sellers Referral Program, we invite you to join the Dive Industry Association.  Annual membership is $125.  We look forward to working with you in the months to come.

For more information contact Gene Muchanski, Executive Director, Dive Industry Association, Inc., 2294 Botanica Circle, West Melbourne, FL.  Phone 321-914-3778. Email:  web:

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About divelocal

Executive Director of Dive Industry Foundation. The Foundation is a non-profit, tax-exempt 501(c)3 charitable organization. We are the Founding Sponsor of DIVE LOCAL and soon to be just one of many.
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