Moving Forward into Digital

internet

I had been asked to do a presentation to a group of technical divers in Dubai on some of the ship wrecks that I have been fortunate enough to discover off Durban, South Africa along with Dave Griffiths, PADI Examiner and TEC Instructor Trainer as my co-presenter. I had planned to arrive in Dubai at 5am on the direct flight from Durban with Emirates Airlines, get in a few hours sleep and be ready and set up for the start of the presentation at 7pm.

The day before I checked in online and the flight was on time. I spoke with Ahmed Sayed, the PADI Regional Manager for the Middle East and he confirmed that there would be close to 100 attendees for the presentation. I arrived at King Shaka International three hours before the flight, checked in and went through to the International Departures hall. About an hour before boarding we were notified that due to bad weather the plane had been delayed by three hours. No problem, as I still had plenty of time. Needless to say, South Africa was hit that evening by extensive thunderstorms with terrible flooding, hailstorms and strong winds. I eventually got to board my flight at 2 pm the next afternoon. There was no way that I was going to make the presentation in time given that I was in for an eight hour flight.

Fortunately I had remembered that Emirates Airlines has Internet connection on the plane. I had confirmed with the very helpful ground staff that our plane had internet and confirmed that it was working. I told Ahmed that I was still going to do the presentation, but it would be from the air and not in front of the audience live. I Dropboxed Ahmed my Powerpoint Presentation and ran through it with him. Ahmed was to set up everything at the conference Centre and I would connect via Skype. We arranged to meet online two hours prior to the start of the presentation to check that everything would work. The Emirates flight crew had arranged for me to use the rear Galley to do the presentation from as this would give me some privacy.

We took off and I waited for the seatbelt sign to switch off. Twenty minutes later I had my laptop out, logged on to the airplanes wifi, bought 500 megs of data for $1 and connected to Ahmed in Dubai. Absolutely mind boggling.

in flight internet

The connection was fantastic. The sound was clear and I could control the presentation from my laptop. Just then we encountered same bad turbulence and I was sent back to my seat. This was minutes before the presentation was due to start.

So I ended up doing the presentation 35 000 feet above the ground, somewhere over Kenya, some 4000 km from Dubai, with the laptop resting on my lap, earphones on and all my co passengers sitting in the seats around me listening intently to the presentation.

My presentation lasted 56 minutes. Not once did I loose connection, the audible was clear and in real time and the presentation went by without a hitch. Something I would struggle to do even from my home office.

tec-diving-dubai

The next day when I went visiting the dive centres in Dubai, everyone seemed more amazed by the fact that I had done the presentation from the plane rather than the content of the talk. Ah well, I will just have to up my game.

Having to try to tell someone this story 10 years ago would have been like trying to convince someone that unicorns existed. Not possible. And yet it worked and we have the technology to do it. No longer do we need to send a pigeon with a bit of paper strapped to its leg to deliver a message.

The diving industry has seen this revolution and entry into the digital age. PADI has all the core courses available to download to your mobile device onto your PADI Library. Your prospective customers could be 4000 miles away, 35 000 feet up in the air doing their Dive Theory, Knowledge reviews and exams, ready and prepared for the start of the course when they land.

padi digital products

Times have changed and our customers expect to have the latest technological offerings available to them. They want to have the opportunity to decide when, where and how they do their theoretical knowledge. Nothing is ever going to replace the need for an instructor in the swimming pool or open water, but by using the digital materials available to you, you can then spend more time in the water with a better prepared student, practicing the required motor skills and applying their theoretical knowledge.

I have found that quite often it is the Instructors that are resistant to change. They find that it is comforting to teach using the methods they were taught with. And then they use this as a reason that their customers would prefer the traditional paper and classroom methods for receiving lectures.

If you don’t offer your customers the full range of products that are available, they will seek out those dive centres that do. Maybe it’s time to move forward into the digital era?

 

Soft Skills Do Matter.

stand-out

When you applied for your first job as a PADI Scuba Instructor you probably listed all the courses that you have done, what skills you have mastered, what courses you have attended, even your accomplishments at school. And these are all important to get a job. Just as you as an Instructor needs to have the knowledge and skills to dive, so do as an example dentists need to know how to fill holes in your teeth and perform root canal treatment.

Beyond the technical skills expected from a dentist, which dentist do you go to? The one who is pleasant and takes time to answer your questions; or the one who treats you like a number in a long line of numbered mouths?

In these situations, and all the others like them, it’s the soft skills that matter.

While your technical skills may get your foot in the door, your people skills are what open most of the doors to come. Your work ethic, your attitude, your communication skills, your emotional intelligence and a whole host of other personal attributes are the soft skills that are crucial for career success.

With these soft skills you can excel as a leader. Problem solving, delegating, motivating, and team building are all much easier if you have good soft skills. Knowing how to get along with people – and displaying a positive attitude – are crucial for success.

The problem is, the importance of these soft skills is often undervalued, and there is far less training provided for them than hard skills. For some reason, dive centres seem to expect people know how to behave on the job. They tend to assume that everyone knows and understands the importance of being on time, taking initiative, being friendly, and producing high quality work.

However, when you look around your own dive centre, it is usually fairly easy to find those employees lacking soft skills. They are the ones unwilling to accept any kind of change, the ones unable to properly manage subordinates, and the ones constantly upset about one thing or another (whether in their professional or personal life).

What should a manager do with employees lacking these skills? Fire them? Just put up with them? Why not help them develop the skills?

Dive Center Divers

Assuming that soft skills are universal leads to much frustration. That’s why it’s so important to focus as much on soft skills training and development as you do on traditional hard skills.

Soft skills can’t be learned by just studying about them. They have to be learned through a process of change that can be difficult and uncomfortable at times, but it can have dramatic effects on your company’s bottom line. The following six-step process is a basic overview:

1. WILLINGNESS TO CHANGE

While this isn’t a big step, it is an important prerequisite. You cannot force people to become more self-aware; they must be willing to begin the process of change themselves. If this basic building block is not present, there isn’t much that can be learned through this process. If this is the case in your dive centre, there are many good resources available for creating “readiness for change.”

2. EDUCATION

While learning soft skills is not simply “book learning,” there still must be an aspect of education on best practices. Reading books like Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get You There are great starting places for learning the basics.

3. EVALUATION

It is one thing to know the best practices—it is another to know how you measure up against them. Assessments help to evaluate where an employee stands (areas of strength and areas in need of improvement) as well as to describe the natural tendencies an individual has. It is important to include both self-assessments and assessments that include input from others as both types give important feedback. Does your dive centre even do staff assessments?

4. SELF-REFLECTION

Once employees have learned more about themselves (strengths, faults, tendencies, etc.), it is necessary for them to reflect on what they have learned. Are they humble enough to realize they aren’t perfect? Are they willing to put in the effort to grow even though it may be difficult and uncomfortable? Can they understand their natural tendencies and see how they interact with others?

Go

5. GOAL SETTING

Defining a clear vision for the future is an important next step, which should involve choosing three to five tangible goals to work toward. These goals should be developed from the information learned through the process (especially feedback from others), and then should be shared with others (supervisors, direct reports, peers) so observers are able to notice the changes and hold the employee accountable.

6. PRACTICE

Soft skills do no good in a vacuum. They have to be put into practice in “real life” over a long period of time. Some failure is inevitable, but growth will come. After a few months, employees working toward change should revisit the goals with coworkers to gauge the progress being made.

This process can be done on an individual basis or in groups; it can be completed internally or with an outside facilitator; it can be used at work or at home—but the key takeaway is that it is a process. It’s different than book learning and can take some time, so be patient. In the end, the time invested will be worth it—both to the employees involved and the dive centres bottom line!

 

Keep your customers coming back

Managing your customer retention rates is an enormously important part of growing your business into a sustainable business.

customer

How many of you have a favorite restaurant, garage or  shop that you like to frequent above others? Why do you enjoy going back to these places? Customer retention is far cost effective and profitable to your business than going out to try and find new business only.

You must understand and appreciate exactly what your clients need when they do business with you—even if they are unable to articulate that exact result themselves. Once you know what final outcome they need, you lead them to that outcome—you become a trusted adviser who protects them. And they have reason to remain your client for a lifetime. – Jay Abraham

Customer retention is how well a company keeps its paying customers over a period of time. It’s been said that the purpose of a business is to make and keep a customer. A low customer retention rate is much like trying to fill a bucket full of holes with water and keep it full. You could keep pouring water into the bucket to make up for the water leaking away but a far better strategy would be to find out what caused the holes and fix them. Retaining existing customers is far less costly than going out to find new ones and far easier than acquiring new ones.

 

In a study by the Harvard School of business it was found  that increasing customer retention by even 5% can increase profits between 25-95% and found that 61% of the small businesses surveyed indicated that more than half of their revenue comes from repeat customers. Furthermore, the study found that repeat customers spend 67% more than a new customer. The disappointing thing though is that 70% of businesses did not list retention as their top priority.

How can you improve your customer retention rate?

Stand for something

Customers like to be associated with businesses that share the same values as themselves. If you want loyal customers, you need to create real connections with them. What are your values, your business values? Promoting Project AWARE, eco diving practices or safe diving all can help to give value to your dive shop. What do you stand for?

dt_100_aware_banner2_670x503

Use Testimonials

Does your website have testimonials from existing clients telling about their positive experiences with you? Positive proof is the most effective strategy for getting people to listen to your business.

Appeal to your customers inner ego

Most people prefer products and companies that “resemble” them in some way. This cognitive bias is called implicit egotism, and is an important thing to keep in mind when talking to customers. To attract the customers you want, you need to identify your target customers down to the last detail, then craft a message that matches their pains, goals and aspirations. It’s easier to fill this existing demand than to create one. Using the PADI Continuing Education training courses is an effective method. Let your customers do courses that are beneficial to them.

Compare the before and after

“This is your world before diving and this is your world after diving.” Provide a contrast for your customers. Let them aspire to be that amazing scuba diver that they could be. Understand where they are now and where they want to be. Speak to that and show them how diving can bridge the gap between where they are now and where they will be.

Don’t just sell, educate

Customers enjoy receiving helpful recommendations or new information on products that will help them achieve better results, Have guest speaker evenings at your dive centre, invite scuba equipment manufacturers to do talks on their latests products, get the instructors to do presentations on breathing techniques to make dives last longer. This will keep customers engaged and wanting to come back to your dive centre.

Make it personal

In a study from the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, researchers found that waiters and waitresses could increase their tips by 23 percent by the simple act of returning to tables with a second set of mints. The researchers concluded that the mints created the feeling of a personalized experience for the customers who received them. So, it was the personalized service that made their day, not the small gift in itself. Do you have an effective Customer management program? Are you sending out personalised emails and thank you notes directed at the right customer? Using a system like EVE can assist you in this.

IMG_193

 

Customers enjoy business who know them

Numerous studies have shown that customers view their experience as more positive when they don’t feel rushed or ignored. Tell your staff to spend more time with their customers. Get to know them, share diving experiences. But its not just about hanging out. Make sure that your staff find out more about your customers and their key wants and needs. Use this for future retention ideas. Making every customer feel like they truly matter goes a long, long way. 68% of customers stop doing business with a company due to feeling like the company was indifferent towards them.

Get a Loyalty program.

The biggest pitfall in preventing customer loyalty programs from succeeding is getting people started. Everyone that does business with your dive centre should automatically be enrolled into your loyalty program. In the famous Car Wash study two groups of people were given loyalty cards to a car wash. The first group needed eight stamps to get a free car wash. The second group had 10 stamps but when given the card, two spaces were already stamped. Only 19 percent of customers in the eight-stamp group (the first group) made enough visits to complete their card. However, 34 percent of the 10-stamp group (the ones given a head start) came back enough times to finish their loyalty cards.
 Additional research have shown that people love being “VIP” or higher status members. Make sure to have different levels to your loyalty program.

Conclusion

“Spend a lot of time talking to customers face to face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers.” – Ross Perot

It is extremely important to conduct extensive research into your customer’s behaviors and demands to determine the best retention strategies for your business. But keeping that loyal customer will enhance your business, grow your turnover and reduce the overheads of seeking out new customers.

 

Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

On my travels over the past year or so to many different types, sizes and locations of dive centres I have come across many different types of plans in these dives centres. Although there are many dive centres that have plans and strategies in place there are very many that do not. Of this group of dive centres I think that the types of planning I see can be broadly grouped into two main categories. The first and most common one I see is the “Make it up as we go” strategy. The second type is the dive centre that has a year plan proudly displayed in the office but mid way through the year hasn’t implemented any of the well thought out plans they had put together for the year.

7822429830_809acd3fe2_o

Having a plan within your business becomes critical to staying ahead of the competition and significant to the future success of your business. Failure to acknowledge the power of planning can be the end to any growth within a business and if you don’t know where your business is going, it’s going nowhere.

Regardless of what method of planning you decide to carry out, there are a few basic questions you should be trying to answer in your planning processes. These questions should include some of the following:

  • Where are we now?
  • Where do we want to go?
  • How are we going to get there?
  • Who will do what and by when?
  • How are we measuring our success?

This is a pretty simple way to describe planning but if you are focusing on some form of these questions, you can put together a road map for your dive business. The planning process does not have to be complicated. In fact, if your planning process is complicated then you run the risk that nobody  will understand it or people will interpret it in a different way to what you had envisioned.

There are two types of plans to implement. The first is your strategic plan. This is developing a strategy for the dive business. The second part is the planning. What steps need to be taken to execute the Dive businesses strategy.

PADI Instructor 1

Some of the benefits of Strategic Planning include the following:

  • Provides a method for decision making within a business.
  • Allow staff to ask and answer important questions within a business.
  • Should reveal future opportunities and concerns.
  • Sets objectives and goals for the business and staff.
  • Provides a measuring stick for performance.
  • Develops team and team work that is focused on the business’s future

Having a Business Strategy gives your dive business the ability to better anticipate and prepare for change. You’ll lose valuable momentum being reactive rather than proactive. Customer expectations, competition, and economic changes are all variables that can rock the dive boat and send you to the sea floor if you don’t have strategies in place.  

The lack of a strategic plan can also send your employees morale down to the sea floor too. Besides the obvious need for your employees to receive a salary they need a reason to come to work everyday. Without a focused plan, morale falls and employee interaction becomes vague and lifeless. A good plan lets your employees know who is doing what, why they’re doing it, and how they individually contribute to the success of your dive business.

Having a plan allows you to set benchmarks and assists you in assessing your performance. A  plan requires you to measure and document performance. Doing so will allow you to benchmark where you’ve been, allowing you to adjust your trajectory of where you are going. Documenting data is a wise business decision to keep your organization moving forward. Do you know how many certifications, launches, charter customers you had in the same period last year and what are you aiming for in the months to come?

Failing to plan is indeed planning to fail.

At Work vs Working

As a Regional Manager for PADI I am fortunate to travel to many destinations throughout my region. I get to meet many dive centre owners and managers in exotic locations. Everybody’s dream job. However I am amazed at the recurring theme that I get to witness at most of these centres. Many of the staff and managers come to work, but fail to achieve their goals and objectives for the day. Instead of being proactive, they have to be reactive and this ultimately leads to less productivity and underachievement in the Dive centre.

Diving to the Office

So, what is work? My definition of work is the important things you do. Meetings, social media and work socializing doesn’t count The Pareto principle states that eighty percent of your results come from twenty percent of your efforts. So focusing on that twenty percent will bring in far better results instead of trying to please everyone and do a little bit of everything. So how do you set about achieving this?

  • Make a list
    • Every evening you should list all the tasks that you are wanting to achieve the following day. Allocate a time for each of these tasks. Don’t give yourself too many tasks to accomplish as not achieving the tasks can be just as bad as not having done them at all. Be realistic.
  • Wake up early
    • To achieve what you have set out to do you have got to get up in time to make it happen. Give yourself enough time in the morning to do everything you need to do at home before heading into the office. If need be, change your bed time so that you are still getting eight hours of sleep.
  • Do some exercise
    • It has been scientifically proven that doing some exercise in the morning can make us think better, work better and become a whole lot more productive. In Robert Pozen’s book, Extreme Productivity he writes that a modest exercise habit can help keep you sharper into old age, give you more energy to take on the day, and improve your mood. A quick cycle, run or gym session can prepare you for a day of getting a whole lot done.
  • Prepare for the day ahead.
    • Do all your preparation tasks before you start your day. If it means that you eat breakfast, feed the goldfish, open the office, water the plants, put the coffee on, do all these tasks first. Make yourself comfortable. When you achieve all these preparatory tasks first you are creating an environment free from distractions and ultimately making you more productive.
  • Do not check your emails as you get to work.
    • These emails can easily distract you from your planned schedule. For sure you will need to check them at some stage but allocate a time for this later in your day. These new emails can easily consume your whole morning without achieving anything.
  • Wear earphones.
    • Researchers at Harvard Business School found that earphones block out distractions and keep you focused on the tasks ahead.
  • Write First
    • Writing or composing emails is one of the most mentally demanding tasks that you are faced with. However writing also has the ability to focus you and get your brain in tune with what you have set out to do. Writing improves productivity and if you start out with this task it will improve the quality of your writing for the remainder of the day.
  • Tackle your most difficult tasks first.
    • The author Mark Twain wrote: ” If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” If you get that task you have been dreading to do done first thing in the morning everything else in your day will seem to be far easier and you will be more productive.
  • One Minute Decisions
    • Most managers find decision making to be the most difficult and time consuming portion of their days work. When faced with a decision give yourself sixty seconds to make it. You will find that your decision will be just as good but not have wasted as much time.
  • Stick to your planned schedule and tasks
    • Do not allow yourself to be distracted from your plan for the day. Stick to your schedule, allow it to guide your day. You will achieve more and be far more productive.
  • Have a clear work space
    • Junk and mess in your office creates distractions. Clean up your office and before you leave for the day make sure you leave it spic and span. When you get to work the next day it will allow you to think clearer, work harder and be more productive.
  • Be sure to reward yourself.
    • Some time during your work day you are going to have to stop. Look back at what you have achieved and tell yourself how much you have accomplished. If it means eating a chocolate bar or doing your happy dance, do it. Make time to reward yourself.
  • Have a routine and stay with it
    • If you do something over and over repeatedly you will be able to do it better and faster the next time you do it. Once you get into your groove, stay with it. Your routine is the start of your productivity.

Hopefully by following these simple tips you will become more productive in your work environment and achieve those goals you have set yourself.

 

Getting Back to Basics

Your very first experience as a Scuba Diver would have taken place in a swimming pool or confined Open Water Environment. It is here that you would have learnt the basic skills to give you the confidence to display to your instructor that you have mastered these skills in Open Water. But when last did your students practice these vital skills?

IMG_0354

Many people will do a lifetime of dives without ever experiencing any problems on their underwater adventures. Modern Scuba equipment is at the cutting edge of design and manufacturers have evolved their equipment over the years to make it more safe. But if you were to experience a problem with a free flowing regulator, a lost weight belt or an out of air emergency how would you react?

A great way to keep your customers skills refreshed and up to date is to invite them back to the swimming pool. Plan a safety and skills day at your swimming pool. Get your divemasters and Assistant instructors involved to help demonstrate skills and assist your divers perfecting skills they may have forgotten. You may even go over the basics of scuba equipment and pre and post dive care, Suggest them enrolling in a PADI Equipment Specialist course.

3

Get them in the water practising those vital safety skills they learnt on their PADI Open Water course.  Include some of your scuba equipment suppliers to demo new equipment on the day for your customers to try out. Practice some self rescue skills and do some rescue demonstrations. If your customers haven’t dived in a while you may consider doing a PADI Reactivate program with them.

ReActivate poster Lapsed diver (EN)-page-001

The day in and around the pool will give you chance to interact with your former students and customers and is a great way to get them interested in PADI Rescue courses or purchasing new gear.

You will have happy, safer divers and in the event of a problem they will be more confident to react or help themselves.

 

Changes in Attitudes

Attitude… Its a little thing that makes a BIG difference!

How often have you heard this? On your path to becoming a PADI Pro you would have realised that there are people that you have met along the way that have had such an amazing attitude and have positivity influenced you but just the same you have met people that just should not have got out of bed that morning.

PADI Instructor 1PADI Instructor 2

Enhance or change your attitude toward scuba instruction by identifying the importance of your role, and  professional duty, as a recreational diving counsellor…

A great instructor not only conveys knowledge and skills, but also transfers enthusiasm for our sport to the student. Why did you decide to become a PADI Instructor? At some point in your career there was probably a PADI Instructor that so inspired you or positivity changed you that all you could think about was one day becoming like that person.

In the dive centre or resort that you are currently working at or have recently visited there will be instructors and dive masters that you are drawn to and like to dive with or listen to them interacting with their students. You may noticed that these PADI Pros are truly living the dream. but what are the attributes that are making them successful?

Today’s diving consumer:

  • Interested in many sports
  • May only dive once/twice a year
  • Free time is at a premium
  • May be 5-10 years old!

So…

  • Challenge and thrill of new experiences is critical
  • Your experience and enthusiasm with regard to success in the experience is invaluable

Why do people come to us for our services? If you ask your students most of them will include high up in their list that they wanted to become a diver to have some fun. Too often the Instructors goal is to simply get the student certified and they forget about having fun themselves and with their students.

Change your attitude. Your new goal should be to create lifelong divers rather than certifying students.

What do we Sell?

What do we sell?

Fun

This is generated though a transfer of enthusiasm for our sport through proper equipment counselling, challenging and adventurous educational experiences. If the diver is enjoying himself/herself (having fun), the investment in equipment, further education and additional experiences is just the means to the desired end.

Equipment

The most influential person on when, where and what a student buys is…

The PADI Instructor!!!

Surveys indicate that 65% of PADI divers made buying decisions based on recommendations from their instructor.

Equipment Sales

Prepare them for success with proper equipment outfitting

  • Will the students be more comfortable?
  • Is it critical to be more comfortable in initial training?
  • Might they progress better with consistency in their equipment?
  • Might it be safer?
  • Will they have more fun?

Education Counselling

  • Your attitude toward learning experiences is key to success
  • Must truly believe in benefit of training to achieving student’s goals
  • Challenging educational programs entwined with new equipment exposure and adventurous experiences will maintain the diver’s interest in our sport

Experience Counselling

  • Adventurous experiences may be the impetus to buy equipment and continue training
  • The thrill and allure of experiences could have been the spark of their interest
  • Extreme exposure is attractive
  • Extreme exposure requires equipment
  • Your experience contributing to theirs is invaluable

Have a look at how you are doing things in your dive centre. Have a look at your approach towards your students. When you arrive tomorrow morning try and have fun.

The Power of Attitude

“Our lives are not determined by what happens to us, but by how we react to what happens; not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life.  A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events and outcomes.  It is a catalyst…a spark that creates extraordinary results.”

Instructor