You’ll first need to decide if you want to do a start-up dive business or purchase an existing PADI Dive Center or Resort
Start-up Dive Business
It’s truly satisfying to see your hard work, careful planning and goals come to fruition. However, starting from scratch involves paying attention to a number of details otherwise unnecessary if you were to purchase an existing business. Also, securing capital, building a clientele and managing the expenses of a start-up in the early months of operation can be daunting. But, the advantages of making a clean start, having no assumed debt and choosing your location can be most rewarding.
Purchase an Existing Dive Business
Just can’t wait? Sometimes you can buy an existing dive business. Generally, the initial risks are less and the start-up time is nearly eliminated. This is because you can usually retain the dive shop’s customers, suppliers and volume of sales. Keeping and increasing them over time becomes your responsibility.
You may also benefit from the advice and experience of the owner. A disadvantage of buying an existing business can be that you inherit the bad with the good. It’s important to know the facility’s reputation with its customers and suppliers. It can also be a challenge to find just the right business, in the right location, at the right price, at the right time.
It depends on your schedule, energy and resources. Some dive shop owners have opened their doors six months after deciding to start, and for some it has taken multiple years. On average, a new PADI Dive Center or Resort opens in approximately 9-12 months.
The checklist below is an example of tasks you should consider and when to work on them. Use it as a guide when creating your own checklist
9-12 Months Prior to Start Up
- Choose what type of scuba diving facility fits your skills and interests.
- Decide on business location.
- Contact your PADI Regional Manager or PADI Retail and Resort Association.
- Will the business incorporate a pool? If no pool, coordinate nearby pool rentals as necessary.
- Look for existing building space (rental or purchase) or property that you can develop. (If a pool is involved, this could take longer for approvals).
- Choose your business name, verify right to use the name and register the name. As a general rule, if your choice of name and location may cause confusion with an existing dive operation, it could land you in a Court of Law. This is an expense and a distraction you simply don’t need when trying to get your new business off the ground. Be unique.
- Determine the amount of time required to obtain business permits and other licenses
- Identify helpful membership organizations (e.g. PADI, DEMA, Chamber of Commerce, etc.)
- Develop or expand your business support network: attorneys, bankers, accountants, consultants, etc.
- Prepare preliminary business plan and budget.
- Attend the scuba diving trade shows.
- Look for other learning opportunities from other support industries such as retail design shows, marketing seminars, consumer goods shows etc.
6-9 Months Prior to Start Up
- Establish your business (Limited Liability Company, Sole Proprietor, Corporation, etc.) and file papers.
- Sign lease or purchase property.
- Select contractor for facility improvements and prepare improvement plan.
- Check zoning ordinances.
- Check utility requirements.
- Determine dive shop layout and design.
- Get in touch with your scuba equipment manufacturer sales reps and order scuba gear.
- Choose and meet with advisors: attorney, accountant, consultant, insurance agents, etc.
- Obtain bids on major business equipment.
4-6 Months Prior to Start Up
- Complete business plan including marketing plan.
- Prepare advertisements.
- Prepare final budget and review with banker
- Order business systems: receivables, check disbursements, payroll system.
- Order signs for dive shop.
- Secure the appropriate insurance policies (professional liability, general liability, property, boat hull and liability, etc.)
- Develop your website – including testing and launch it to let customers know you are coming.
0-4 Months Prior to Start Up
- Make sure business filings and license applications are complete. (Consider local, state/province, and federal/country license and tax requirements.)
- Complete improvements on facilities.
- Arrange for utilities and telephone service, along with other maintenance services – waste removal or janitorial.
- Open checking accounts and sign up for credit card systems at local bank.
- Arrange for business announcement ads in local media, prepare press release and begin advertisements.
- Order supplies – business cards, stationery, brochures, receipt forms, etc.
- Arrange to give talks to community groups
- Prepare job descriptions for employees and write policy manual for employees.
- Begin screening new personnel, then hire and train employees.
- Review tax requirements with your accountant.
- Determine business hours.
- Determine pricing schedule.
- Establish petty cash fund.
- Organize dive shop as equipment and supplies arrive.
- Plan an open house and contact everyone you know and let them know you are in business.
Starting a dive shop or resort is a life-altering experience. It does take time and hopefully you find it as exciting a venture as existing PADI dive shop owners have experienced.
As you move forward with opening your dive shop or resort, contact your PADI Regional Headquarters if you need specific insight about the scuba diving industry. Your Regional Manager and PADI Retail and Resort Association representative can give you more information about owning and operating a dive shop. When you’re closer to actually opening the doors, feel free to call a PADI Marketing Consultant or Training Consultant for ideas on how best kick-start the adventure.