Thank you for taking time to more fully inform yourself of my positions regarding election to the NAUI Board of Directors. Our right to vote as NAUI members is a privilege not enjoyed by members of any other organization. It is also a responsibility we should all take seriously, and I applaud you for doing just that. I want to use this space to more fully expand on my responses to the questions posed to each BOD nominee as well as outline my positions and perspectives that well qualify me for a seat on the board. I am also asking for your vote, and I thank you for it.
My name is Dave Ochs, NAUI #15918 and NAUI Lifetime Member. I am the owner of Dave Ochs' Aqua Safari Adventures, which is a scuba training, charter and travel company based in Palm Beach Florida. I started the business in February 1996, and have been operating it successfully for nearly 12 years. Aqua Safari Adventures' business model is unique, forward thinking and very successful. I believe the scuba industry is on the crest of large and exciting changes. I believe Aqua Safari Adventures' business model not only has anticipated many of these changes, but is well-suited for prospering as a result of these changes. It is this unique, optimistic perspective that I want to bring to NAUI and its membership, so that we as an organization and individual members benefit from a new era in the diving industry.
MY POSITION STATEMENT:
I am extremely proud to be a NAUI Instructor and Course Director. Fourteen years ago I left a lucrative corporate position to begin a career in the scuba industry. I had no doubt I wanted to be a NAUI Instructor because I was determined to be the best. To this day I believe NAUI is the best scuba training agency.
My position statement is easy to define. My objective as a NAUI Instructor, Course Director and Board member is that NAUI achieve prominence as the world's premier scuba training agency. I want the world to recognize what we NAUI members already know that NAUI is the best. NAUI has the best instructors, training philosophy, courses, materials and support.
I firmly believe achieving this goal is the responsibility of every NAUI member. Each of us in our conduct must strive for excellence. As owner of Aqua Safari Adventures I practice this everyday as I market our services and our NAUI training as the best choice for our customers. High ethical standards, quality service and professionalism practiced by each NAUI member will establish NAUI as the world's premier scuba training agency. I challenge each of us through our words and actions to promote NAUI as the best choice for the consumer for if we do NAUI will be recognized as the world leader for scuba training. You have my commitment, whether elected to the board or not, that I will always work to maintain NAUI's place as the best scuba training agency.
EXPANDED RESPONSES TO NOMINEE QUESTIONS
QUESTION #1: While there is evidence of an upswing in diving activity outside the US, the market in the United States is flat at best. What should or can NAUI do to help bolster interest in diving instruction, sales and travel?
I don't believe the US market is flat, in fact I see potential for incredible growth. My business has substantially grown for over 11 years, and I see even greater opportunity in the future. I do not have space to fully discuss the demographic and economic reasons which support my optimism, but to summarize: the US consistently has a strong, stable economy; low unemployment; high living standard; large number of active consumers who spend their large disposable incomes on recreational activities; to this market we offer a fantastic product. Plus the US has many fantastic dive destinations, and divers the world over and especially in Europe and Asia are beginning to know this and are including these destinations in their dive travel plans. The US has not only a large domestic consumer base, but literally a world of opportunity.
To attract consumers:
NAUI must continue to offer quality dive training. This is achieved by maintaining high standards; continuing to develop professional training materials; and providing superior support to retail and independent members.
NAUI must effectively promote to consumers these facts: NAUI Instructors are better equipped to provide superior training; NAUI divers are better prepared to safely enjoy diving; NAUI facilities provide a higher quality and more professional level of service and dive experience; NAUI members have strong agency support and freedom to pursue business ventures beneficial to themselves and their customers.
NAUI and each member must recognize that success is dependent upon individual effort in the marketplace, and understand that diving is a segment of much larger industries including sports & recreation and travel & leisure. Our competition is less with other dive operators and far more with activity sectors which draw dollars away from scuba such as skiing, tennis, golf, etc. To expand our revenues and customer bases continuing education, leadership training, local dive activities and travel must be effectively and enthusiastically marketed, and members must provide professional service and charge professional prices.
As a board member I will seek to form strategic alliances between NAUI dive operations for referral training, charter and travel services both internationally and within the US, which would include easier methods and systems for NAUI members and facilities to contact each other via phone, e-mail and web-based announcements. How much business do we as NAUI operators lose when customers have to find their own referral instructor, dive boat, or training/travel package? Why can't NAUI better promote the services of its own members for customers seeking these services? Perhaps NAUI should develop its own press release system similar to DiveWire, and perhaps host a consumer forum at its website for customer comments regarding their experiences with NAUI dive operators. I would also investigate the potential for shared investment advertising between NAUI and local dive operators promoting scuba diving and local diving opportunities.
QUESTION #2: How can NAUI best utilize recent advances in technology to support its
mission and its members?
Technology is racing forward at a fantastic pace. There is now an entire generation that was raised without the experience of living before the "digital age," and there are millions of consumers who eagerly take advantage of the benefits modern technology offers. The perspective of today's consumer is far different than that of previous generations. NAUI must remain current in its understanding and utilization of technological advances, while being careful not to rush in to every "hot" new technology. NAUI must invest in only those technologies offering the most profound benefits and business/marketing applications to its members and customers. NAUI must be forward-thinking to meet the demands of consumers who increasingly insist on utilizing modern technology in their spending patterns.
Without question the Internet has and will continue to change how customers and businesses interact. Organizations that ignore the power of the Internet do so at their peril. NAUI must continue to update and improve its website keeping it fresh and user friendly for both consumers and members. NAUI Student Kits currently are excellent, high quality, professional training materials, but if NAUI does not establish itself as a leader in web-based training these kits will soon be as outdated as 8-tracks, and our competition will gain a definitive advantage in eyes of consumers.
Modern technology offers tremendous tools for business success. NAUI must be innovative in selection and use of these tools to remain relevant to consumers by providing them the service they seek, and relevant to members by providing the marketing and support we need. Ideas I have for keeping NAUI members in
touch with relevant technologies include:
- Incorporating into NAUI Leadership training the use of business and presentation software and how to use the Internet & emerging technologies to one's greatest advantage
- Timely reports/announcements from NAUI to members informing them of important technology breakthroughs and changes relevant to the scuba industry and business/marketing in general
- Development of on-line training and refresher products, which are available to members at a "wholesale" prices for resale to customers at retail prices via a password at NAUI's or preferably the member's website
- Improving NAUI's website to better connect members for strategic alliances and business referral and making it more user friendly for consumers to contact NAUI dive operators
QUESTION #3: One of the primary functions of any Board of Directors is Strategic Planning. The second phase of Strategic Planning is "Envisioned Future" during which the BOD should target a "Big Audacious Goal" to be accomplished within 8-12 years. What do you believe should be NAUI's "Big Audacious Goal"?
My goal is that NAUI be universally recognized by consumers as the premier scuba training agency far exceeding PADI who currently has the advantage in this area. I believe this goal can be achieved in 5-10 years. PADI has innovatively and aggressively marketed itself, and is reaping the benefits of its efforts. PADI's name is the most widely recognized in the scuba industry, and at times is often referred to synonymously with scuba certification by consumers.
Who has not heard a potential dive student say, "I want to get my PADI certification," when what the customer really wants is scuba certification? Say what you will about PADI, but they are the consumer recognized leader in the dive industry. Since it is these consumers' business, loyalty and dollars we want NAUI must establish itself as the dominant and premier training agency. This dominance will make sales of NAUI courses and NAUI members' services easier, but this dominance will not come without effort. It must be fought for, it must be won, and it must be maintained.
Marketing strategists agree that branding is a critical element of any product's long-term success. Without solid branding and wide-scale name recognition coupled with a strong reputation for quality a product will have little chance to dominate its sector of the marketplace. I believe it is a realistic goal for NAUI to achieve brand and name recognition dominance in the scuba industry in fact this has already begun in Florida and other parts of the country where NAUI operators are aggressively promoting their quality service and the quality difference of NAUI. NAUI has branded itself as the "quality difference;" now it must actively market to establish itself in the minds of consumer as their best choice for scuba training and related services. Given the marketing advances and in-roads into PADI "territory" we have made over the last 5 years NAUI is already on its way. PADI's dominance is eroding because they are weak when it comes to quality training, and they are losing the battle for consumers on this front. We need to exploit this tremendous weakness and unseat them. Once
NAUI is recognized by consumers as the premier scuba training agency we must never allow ourselves to lose credibility with them by failing to deliver a quality product.
Dominating in this area is the responsibility of both the leadership and membership of NAUI. By the way aren't we all NAUI leaders? As I recall the courses from Assistant Instructor through Instructor are labeled "Leadership," so let's all show some leadership by aggressively promoting NAUI and the competitive advantage of our quality NAUI programs. Yes, the BOD and President are tasked with the responsibility of promoting NAUI, but so is each member. Let's start by all of us, President, BOD and members, taking a good look at the NAUI Credo in particular items 17, 18, 21 & 22, and applying the principles embodied there. Let's all get focused and aggressive in our promotion of NAUI's philosophy and courses as the industries best. Our agency is the best, our instructors are better trained and our courses are more comprehensive than any others. We have the best product, so let's get out there and sell it. Here's how:
I believe the BOD and President should actively seek opportunities to effectively promote NAUI through strategic alliances and joint sponsorships with other reputable organizations (e.g. Disney, NASA, etc.), consumer and industry trade shows, charitable events, multi-media advertising and perhaps even shared investment advertising between NAUI HQ and regional NAUI dive operators to promote local diving activities. The BOD and President have the responsibility to ensure that dollars spent and effort expended be targeted for the greatest promotional impact for NAUI and its members.
I believe each NAUI member must actively market the NAUI services they offer.
Without aggressive self-promotion from the membership the activities of the BOD and HQ leadership are wasted. As individual business owners (and each member is a business owner when they seek to profit from their scuba training and related activities) we have the responsibility to promote our own businesses. It is our responsibility and no one else's.
If NAUI is to be the dominate scuba training agency in the eyes of the buying public it is the responsibility of each of us to promote NAUI and our NAUI businesses and to represent them well. This dominance must be built upon our quality difference and professionalism as an organization and individual instructors. Once our name recognition dominance is achieved it must be maintained by continual promotion and performance of our quality difference and professionalism as an organization and individual instructors.
It takes hard work and dedication to become a NAUI Instructor. It takes effort and commitment, and no small financial investment, to properly train scuba divers. I believe every NAUI Instructor working as a reputable professional and teaching quality scuba courses should be compensated at a professional level. I am sick to death of tennis pros, golf pros, ski pros, swimming instructors, and flight instructors earning $75-$200/hour, while professional scuba instructors feel like they cannot make more than $5-$10/hour. This mindset is a lie that hurts current instructors, drives quality instructors out of the business, and prevents customers from pursing leadership courses. When I started Aqua Safari Adventures nearly 12 years ago my goal was for every quality instructor to be earning at least $50/hour. I have since amended that goal to at least $100/hour. Some may say this is impossible, but I and others like me know it is not only possible, but already a fact. It is my zeal for professional instructors to be professionally compensated that I intend to bring to my position on the board. I have a unique and successful perspective and business model. I intend to put my experience, expertise and insight to use as a board member to advance NAUI, and to advance the careers, income and quality of life for each and every NAUI member. I invite each of you with an enthusiasm and dedication for quality, professionalism and the success they generate to join me. We have an exciting and profitable career ahead in the scuba industry.
Thank you again for taking the time to learn more about me and my perspectives. I ask for your vote for NAUI BOD. You have my commitment that I will do my very best to represent you and NAUI well. Please do not hesitate to call me if you have any questions; I look forward to the opportunity to speak with you. You can reach me at 561-734-8816