By Bill Doran
This month we are starting a new series that we hope will create some hot topics to bring real discussions to the scuba industry. Many instructors are part-time or are only in the industry for a short time, perhaps young or older and receiving a pension. Why is that?
In several of our articles and over many issues of our magazine, you have seen comments indicating that people can not afford to work in the scuba industry and make enough to support themselves, let alone their families. Why is that?
In this series, we will examine why a scuba instructor or divemaster needs to know what their time is worth and equally important, how do you determine this value.
Let us start with a comparison. In this case, you are looking to get a job at a local retail store. How much do they offer to pay in your area? Is it the local minimum wage? Do you need to provide your own uniform/clothing? Do you need to provide all your own tools? Are you responsible for the health, safety and enjoyment of all the customers? Do you pay for your own training? In addition to the minimum pay, do you get tips that you must share with others? By now, you will know that I am talking about the local scuba business. But before you blame the scuba business owner, they are likely getting less per hour than you are!
How did this ever happen?
The recreational scuba business started with clubs and not-for-profit organizations that wanted to create a safe standard of training. The intentions were pure. Over time the scuba equipment manufacturers started to really make excellent equipment, and the stores were born! Stores generally focused on using courses to sell the equipment. The courses were often lost leaders, and the profit came from the equipment sales.
While the above is far from a complete history lesson, it is generally the truth.
What about the people, the scuba instructors and divemasters? Many of us quite simply followed a passion and simply ended up as instructors or divemasters. We never meant it to be a full-time paying job. To this day, many of us, including sometimes myself, make comments that it is about the passion, not the pay. But when we say this, we are actually hurting the sport we love.
Some independent instructors say that stores have overhead that they need to pay for, and they do not, so they charge less. Some stores course pricing strategy is simply to be lower than their competitors. These practices, too, are actually hurting the sport we love.
Driving prices down only means driving quality down. What I like to tell people…when you go underwater, it is not like your life may depend on the skills you learn. And then I say, WAIT, IT DOES!
Offer more, do not charge less. Give the student or guided diver the best you can offer. Not the least!
Let us take a moment to list some of the reasons why we need to know what our time is worth:
- How much should a person get per hour to do a job? Being paid per job is ok, but it is still based on the hours you spend.
- What does it cost me per hour to do this job?
- What else could I do instead of the job?
- Is one way of spending the time worth more to me than the other? What am I missing out on?
- Will making my passion a job enhance or kill the passion?
- What can the customers afford to pay? Not want but can.
Well, we have covered the WHY we need to know how much our time is worth. What about the HOW? I have taken the time with various people in the past to help them calculate just this very thing. Some people were making a good living, but many did not make anything close to the minimum rate of pay in their area.
Tune in next month as we will go through one example and make calculations on what their time “is worth.”
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