You’ll first need to decide if you want to do a start-up dive business or purchase an existing dive shop 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 a clean start, 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 some or all of the same customers, suppliers and volume of sales as the new owner. Keeping and increasing them over time, however, is your responsibility.
You may also benefit from the advice and experience of the owner, particularly if the owner is willing to stay on for a time. 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.
How Long Does It Take to Open a Dive Shop or Resort?
It depends on your schedule, energy, resources and focus . You may choose to take longer because you want to make sure everything is double-checked along the way or you may be able to get through all the necessary steps in a shorter timeframe.
Some dive shop owners have opened their doors six months after deciding to start, and for some it has taken multiple years.
Typically speaking, the newest PADI Dive Center or Resort (that’s you) will be opening its doors in approximately 9-12 months.
A checklist can be a great start to help you identify all your tasks. You can use the one below to start with and tailor it to your needs.
Starting a Dive Shop Checklist:
9-12 Months Prior to Start Up
□ Choose what type of scuba diving facility fits your skills and interests
□ Will the business incorporate a pool?
□ If no pool - consider and coordinate nearby pool rentals if 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 business name, verify right to use name, register the name
(Note: PADI does not generally regulate the use of business names (other than within the bounds of common decency), however as a general rule if your choice of name and location may cause confusion with an existing dive operation, this may be a bad idea. In some circumstances it may even land you in a Court of Law accused of “passing off” on their existing trade, and this is an expense and a distraction you simply don’t need when trying to get your own business off the ground
□ Determine the amount of time required to obtain business permits
□ Research the idea and contact your PADI Regional Manager or International Resort and Retailer Associations
□ Identify helpful membership organizations (e.g. PADI, DEMA, Chamber of Commerce, Builders Association, etc.)
□ Visit with others in your network: attorneys, bankers, accountants, consultants, competition.
□ Check out community amenities (real estate, schools, etc.)
□ Subscribe to local papers
□ Decide on business location
□ Obtain licenses (city, county, state, industry)
□ Prepare preliminary business plan and budget
□ Interview bankers or other sources of financing
□ Attend the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association (DEMA) Show or one of the big exhibitions in your home country (Boot Düsseldorf (Germany), EUDI Show Rome (Italy), Salon de la plongée Paris (France), Salón de la Inmersión Cornella (Spain), Duikvaker Utrecht (Netherlands).
□ 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
□ Sign lease or purchase property
□ Select contractor for leasehold improvements
□ Check zoning ordinances
□ Check utility requirements
□ Prepare leasehold improvement plan
□ Determine dive shop layout and design
□ Get in touch with your scuba manufacturer sales reps and order scuba gear
□ Choose and meet with advisors: attorney, CPA, consultant, the PADI Members’ insurance agents, etc.
□ Review leases and contracts with attorney and advisors, establish form of business organization (Limited Company, Sole Trader, etc.) and file papers
□ Arrange for insurance (business and health)
□ Obtain bids on major business equipment
□ Arrange delivery of 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
□ Website development, testing, launch to let customers know you are coming
0-4 Months Prior to Start Up
□ Make sure business filings and license applications are complete (trademark, patents, copyright)
□ Complete leasehold improvements or building
□ Arrange for telephone service installation
□ Open checking accounts
□ Sign up for credit card systems at local bank
□ Arrange for business announcement ads in local papers
□ Order announcements for dive shop opening
□ Arrange to give talks to community groups
□ Consider membership in civic and church organizations
□ Arrange for movers
□ Contact State Department of Workforce Development (or other appropriate government office that applies to your area)
□ Prepare job descriptions for employees
□ Write policy manual for office employees
□ Check local resources for personnel
□ Begin screening process for new personnel
□ In the US, contact IRS for booklets (apply for Federal Employment ID number)
□ Apply for state ID number
□ Find out about workers' compensation if you will have employees
□ Apply for seller's permit
□ Contact state for tax forms and employer's requirements
□ Obtain payroll withholding booklets from tax authorities
□ Review tax requirements with your accountant
□ Arrange for janitorial service, waste removal, laundry service, grass mowing
□ Order supplies: appointment cards, business cards, stationery, deposit stamp for checks, telephone message pads
□ Interview and select collection agency
□ Determine business hours
□ Determine pricing schedule
□ Order publications (price lists, brochures, receipt forms, etc.)
□ Purchase office display units for sales floor, equipment and furniture
□ Start setting up dive shop or resort
□ Schedule utilities to be turned on
□ Hire and train personnel
□ Establish petty cash fund
□ Prepare press release and begin advertisement
□ Deploy your marketing strategy
□ Mail announcement
□ Plan an open house
□ Call everyone you know and let them know you are in business
Is It Worth It?
After all this, is it worth it, going into business? The answer is a resounding YES! – as long as you know what is necessary and have the desire to earn the money by getting the job done.
Go for it!
Starting a dive shop or resort is a life-altering experience. It does take time and hopefully you find it as the exciting venture that existing PADI dive shop owners have experienced.
As you move forward with opening your dive shop or resort, give your PADI Customer Service Team a call for some specific insight into owning a business in the scuba diving industry.
Your Regional Manager and International Resort and Retailer Associations representative can give you specific details on owning and operating a dive shop. And when you’re closer to actually opening the doors, feel free to call your Marketing Consultant or Training Consultant for ideas on how best kick-start the adventure.