Rebuilding The Industry Series part three Who is the customer?

By Bill Doran


This month, let us look at scuba training agencies. Like any product or service, there are many suppliers ranging from big to small. We are not looking at any one agency but rather all of them as a whole.


Let us start by asking who the customer for a scuba training agency is. Is it the store, the instructor, or the end user? By looking at agency websites as well as talking to stores, instructors, certified divers, and students, there is an obvious answer.


What is the answer? No one really knows! Wow, should this not be clear in any dive plan?


Let us look at these categories one at a time.


Stores: For many stores, teaching is a way to sell scuba equipment and accessories. While this is not the best business model, it is often used. Selling courses as a lost leader be avoided. Rather courses should be a profit-based service that enhances your overall sales. Stop giving them away!


Instructors: Many independent Instructors end up with the agency they started diving with. While this is an easy transition, you need to ask yourself if it is the correct decision for you.


Certified divers and students: The majority of divers and student decisions for which agency follow the store or instructor that they like or simply have access to. These can be in either their local area or a holiday destination. Another major group is influenced by advertisements or social media.


So just who is the customer for the scuba agency?


While there are, without a doubt, a confusing amount of answers out there, I am going to focus on one “should be the obvious” answer. The instructor.


The instructor. Are they the customer, the salesperson or the good goodwill ambassador for the scuba training agency? Well, they are treated as all of the above. But how can that be?


Here are a few facts to think about:


The instructor:

  • Must pay, often large fees, to become an instructor for an agency. So that they can teach and sell the products/courses of the agency.
  • Pays annual fees to the agency to be able to continue to sell the products/courses of the agency.
  • Buys the products/courses from the agency to resell to the customer.
  • Either buy all of their own equipment and supplies to sell and run courses or joins a store that has bought the equipment and supplies.


So, what does the instructor receive in return?

  • Quality training material. YES.
  • Exclusive rights to a geographic area? NO.
  • Business Support? NO. Possibly some very limited support.
  • The agency promotes your business? NO. At best, a very small bit of promotion will spill over into your area from national or international programs.


In many business models, a person buying a franchise right to sell a company’s services in their area. In diving, instructors get to buy the right to sell the agency’s courses. Should the instructor not be paid to sell the agency courses? I am not saying that things should be free, but the model here is often broken. A large number of people become scuba instructors only to lose money and shut down in a year or two. The past few years of the pandemic have only made this worse. Especially the soaring cost of insurance, but I will leave the insurance discussion for the next article in this series.




Instructors and stores have been convinced somehow to advertise the agency more than themselves. This is truer than I wish. Simply look around at local and holiday destinations. The amount of advertisement of agency names is massively out of proportion to the store and instructor names. Are we getting paid for this? Look at all of the advertising: signs, windows, shirts, hats, and more.


How, or perhaps better stated, why, have we arrived at a place where people are looking for a brand and not quality training? As an instructor or store, you have to ask yourself, “What is the agency doing for me? Am I the customer or a paid representative?”


If you need help with promoting your business, then remember that our mission is in our name, ScubaBiz.Help.

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