NAUI Board of Directors Election
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622 East 20th Street, 4C
New York, NY 10009
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An avid and passionate scuba diver, Michael is also a proven business leader and owner with extensive experience in digital marketing and interactive media. He has worked in key strategic, product development, and technical roles at media and advertising companies including ESPN, Conde Nast, Time Inc., Chiat/Day, DraftFCB, Grey, and others.
He currently serves on the board of directors of one of the most noted and effective marine charities, The Sea Turtle Conservancy, founded in 1959.
In 2006, Michael established Oceanblue Divers, a scuba diving club based in New York City that offers social events, group travel and training. One of the largest dive clubs in the U.S., Oceanblue includes over 1,500 members, with 7,000-plus Facebook fans. The club has hosted hundreds of events including benefits, happy hours featuring noted dive-world speakers, and approximately forty trips to dive destinations worldwide. Oceanblue is a NAUI Pro Dive Training Center.
In March 2013, Michael became the owner of Rex Dive Center in Norwalk, CT, a store with a twenty-year history of serving divers in the greater New York metropolitan area. Michael will be crossing the staff of more than twenty instructors and divemasters over to NAUI in the coming months.
Michael earned his NAUI Scuba Diver certification in Turks and Caicos in 2002, and has been actively diving ever since. He has taught diving since earning his NAUI instructor certification in 2008, and most recently achieved his Instructor Trainer designation in 2012.
NAUI is a great dive association with a rich history of leadership in the industry. But over the last fifteen years, while achieving financial stability, NAUI has been resting on its laurels. While other associations have embraced the latest marketing tools, NAUI has been relying on its reputation for high standards. Unfortunately, the vast majority of prospective divers don’t understand how standards differ between associations. What they do know is that our competitor is “The way the world learns to dive,” and is found literally everywhere.
As a dive business owner, I travel extensively across the world, throughout the Caribbean and Asia/Pacifica; what I’ve found is a complete lack of NAUI presence everywhere I go. In the last year alone, I’ve been to Curacao, Cozumel, Turks and Caicos, Bonaire, The Bahamas, Indonesia and Thailand. I’ve found no NAUI presence in any of these destinations. This has to change.
NAUI is at a crossroads and needs new direction. It must invest in the latest marketing tools, including web, social media, search engine marketing and others, to raise the profile of NAUI and advance the brand. As a director on the NAUI board, I will work with the other board members to create a plan of action that will be presented to NSG to help restore and expand NAUI’s global presence.
I believe that my experience in technology, digital marketing, and a proven track record of success will be a great asset to the NAUI board in this endeavor.
Answers To The
BOD Election Questions
1. Becoming a NAUI member means more than just having a love of diving. It includes adherence to the core principles of NAUI, ones that make NAUI stand out among dive associations. These principles engender and promote quality in the divers that NAUI instructors certify, and are all codified in the NAUI credo.
Some of the more notable principles of this credo that have a direct impact n the quality of divers that NAUI instructors train include the “loved one” principle, which states, “An individual should not be qualified as a NAUI Instructor unless those empowered to qualify the person would allow that person to teach their loved ones to dive.” Another key principle encourages members to exceed standards, “NAUI Instructors may exceed NAUI standards in ways that do not jeopardize student safety.” Our competition not only doesn’t encourage exceeding standards, it establishes that instructors should do so at their own peril.
The NAUI credo isn’t just a collection of words, they are the core principles of every NAUI instructor, differentiating NAUI from every other association.
As a result, NAUI instructors tend to take more pride in the divers they create than instructors from other associations do. They are committed to training divers the right way, rather than just cranking students through.
By virtue of the principles that define NAUI and the highest standards to which all instructor candidates are held, it is inevitable that NAUI instructors will be the best prepared to work as professionals in the dive community.
2. While there has been contraction of the dive industry in recent years, one thing is still true: diving is still as cool and fun today as it was fifty years ago, if not more.
I believe that the reasons for contraction lie in the commoditization of the sport by our competition, and the devaluation of quality training as the most effective means of keeping people in diving. Compressed classes with no in-class instructor component and abbreviated pool time are doing damage on multiple fronts. Badly trained divers get to the open water and there is a good chance they won’t enjoy themselves. Further, because of limited instructor time, students don’t develop a rapport with their instructor, which is key to keeping divers engaged. On top of this, dive industry marketing has by and large been a failure.
To combat this we have to move on all fronts; we have to cultivate our own image and project the excitement of diving to potential customers. We have to use all available means, including digital and social media marketing, branding and tag lines to promote the sport and our businesses. We also have to market against the large segment of the industry that is promoting instant training, sell our potential customers on the benefits of spending adequate time in training, and develop solid relationships with our customers. Diving, as an activity, is largely about relationships. Train them well, develop relationships with customers, and they’ll stay in the sport and spread the word.
3. I don’t believe that changing or lowering standards is a means to increasing certifications. It’s a dangerous path validating the idea that abbreviated training is the best means of getting people into the sport. You might get them to try it, but keeping them is another matter. The last ten or so years is a clear indication that this strategy has failed, leading to more dive accidents and a churn rate that is off the charts, as diving turns into a bucket list activity instead of a lifestyle sport.
Ultimately, potential customers do not understand differences in standards between dive associations. They rely on brand presence and evidence of market penetration to make the decision about what association to train with. Our competition owns more than 70% of the market; when people call our store, they ask for it by name, although it becomes clear very quickly that they have no idea what the difference is. Mostly they erroneously believe it’s more widely accepted, which is what our competition wants them to believe. Unfortunately, this brand recognition is the leg up that NAUI stores don’t currently have, so businesses are left to sell themselves, which is what will win the day in the end. While having an embedded brand is an obvious advantage, customers will still be won by selling the benefits of training with you, not by a comparison of standards that mean little to someone who has never been diving in the first place.