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CHRIS BENZ WATCH SHOP TENERIFE

3 YEARS SSI-MARES

Posted 25/4/2017

Three years ago, the sports equipment manufacturer HEAD bought the SCUBA diving training organization, Scuba Schools International (SSI). At the time, HEAD announced that Mares, a subsidiary of the group, would join with SSI as Mares-SSI. A few weeks ago I read an online publication written by a regional manager of SSI.

Quite honestly it felt, to me, more like a personal advertisement than a personal reflection of the past 3 years. It did, however, inspire me to think. Being an instructor and an SSI dive centre owner, I feel I have a very different perspective on this collaboration than the regional manager.

 

Manufacturer buys training agency - does it work well?

Three years ago, the sports equipment manufacturer HEAD (you should write what that stands for) bought the SCUBA diving training organization, Scuba Schools International (SSI). At the time, HEAD announced that Mares, a subsidiary of the group, would join with SSI as Mares-SSI. A few weeks ago I read an online publication written by a regional manager of SSI.

Quite honestly it felt, to me, more like a personal advertisement than a personal reflection of the past 3 years. It did, however, inspire me to think. Being an instructor and an SSI dive centre owner, I feel I have a very different perspective on this collaboration than the regional manager.

A little more than three years ago, the diving world was turned upside down by the news that SSI had been bought by Mares. A diving equipment manufacturer buys a training agency? Unusual! This was however only half the truth as it was not Mares but rather the group HEAD that had acquired SSI, and was thus the owner of both companies, Mares and SSI.

Some time later I was visited by the Spanish Mares business manager Marc Mayoral, it was clear from the outset that Mares and SSI were interested in SSI dive centres working with Mares material and vice versa. Anyone with a good sense of business management could easily understand this expectation. I, however, personally had a problem with the idea.

When I opened my dive centre in 2009, the Mares representative in Tenerife at the time, made me the best offer. Thus, I completely equipped my new and very small dive centre with Mares. Unfortunately for me the promises that were made by the Mares representative were not adhered to and I made the choice to buy a different brand. At the time we were working mostly with VDST (German Underwater Federation) and with SSI on the odd occasion. Because of this unfortunate experience, you can understand why I was sceptical about the visit from Marc Mayoral.

After a convincing conversation and being given his word that the original problems would no longer be an issue with the new representative in the Canaries, I felt confident that this merge could be to my advantage. I then embarked on the new adventure: Mares-SSI.

After three years of cooperation, we have successfully become a Mares Dive Centre and the only SSI Diamond Instructor Training Centre in the Canary Islands! It may seem like everything always went great but it didn’t, we were just so committed to making it work.

Everything went great? Not always, but it goes ahead.

This blog is about the development and cooperation between both companies in the last three years. I intentionally say both companies as they are largely traded separately.

SSI is represented by the regional manager for Spain, David Perea. Mares is represented by Juan Carlos Rivera here in the Canaries.

I cannot fault Mares much, the service is good, the equipment is good, and with the new XR material came a great extension for the TEK world. Unfortunately, the Canaries is somewhat isolated which can sometimes cause supply problems which we are working toward eliminating. We are fortunate enough to have diving season all year round in the Canary Islands whereas the rest of Europe starts season from April. With the material being produced in Italy for the general European diving season, it is very challenging to acquire material before April. All in all, however, the cooperation is extremely positive.

At the same time as the purchase of SSI by HEAD, the SSI training system was fully digitized. Surpassing a few initial teething problems, we find it an enriching part of our training. Anyone wanting to take a dive course on vacation, are able to learn the theory beforehand at home and enjoy the practical exercises when on the vacation. This was not previously possible unless the learning material was sent to the potential student via mail.

From an ecological point of view, digitization offers advantages, the amount of paper and manufacturing of unnecessary plastic cards are greatly reduced. The courses are constantly updated online and the customer always has the latest manual on hand. Registration and certification is done digitally which optimises the work flow of the instructor.

My Opinion: Simply top now with continuous improvement! A huge benefit for us is that you no not need to keep a physical stock of course material.

 

My conclusion - the cooperation

All in all, I can talk of a recommendable and positive cooperation, with both companies. But not everything is gold that shines. And as I had written before, there were also some personal disappointments. Very often I felt that other dive centers and instructors were preferred. But also, this problem was solved with time and eliminated. It is important that you talk to each other - as so often in your life.
In hindsight, when you look at such matters at a distance, you realize that you have a better view of things on the ground than a big company with the headquarters in Italy. What happens here on the spot with the individual dealers, mostly remains unfortunately hidden from the management of the company. Those who know the diving industry know what I mean and what I'm talking about. But as time went by, much truth came to light, and in the end, everything more or less was on the way it should be. Also, there are often still delays, but they are always trying to solve the problem either via Barcelona or Italy. As I said, you are finally on an island and this has its advantages, like the eternal spring, but also its disadvantages.

My conclusion - the training

Back to the new SSI teaching system. Better or not, this is a point of view. From the ecological point of view, it is definitely better and also for the sales of course to tourists. Is digital learning better or not? This is also the viewpoint again. A few days ago, I could see how a former SSI instructor had a very bad opinion about digital learning. But is it a disadvantage? Not at all. Apart from the fact that the material is directly available in all languages, the instructor can also check online whether the student really learns and makes the repetition questions. Previously this was not possible. And it does not mean that the theory is lost, but it can shorten it, according to the course and the student, and you can take more time for the practical exercises. Unfortunately, many courses have not yet been translated to all languages or are still not online.
Obviously, this is a matter of priorities. Someone would like to have as soon as possible all recreational diving courses online, I personally would prefer Cave and Advanced Wreck. But you cannot have it all at once, especially when it needs to be translated into so many languages. This also causes errors in the digital courses, which are then repaired as quickly as possible. Is digital theory better or not, does it make better or worse instructors? In no case, the quality of an education still depends on the instructor, whether digital or analogue teaching material.
In the end: Digitization is the future and more ecological. Has there happened anything special in the dive sector due to the union from SSI and MARES? No, everything goes on as it was. And who was MARES and didn’t wanted to be SSI, he isn’t. And who was SSI and didn’t want to work with MARES, does not have to and must not.


But he is missing a lot.

 

 

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