Scuba University: going back to school with SSI


I was offered the opportunity to attend Scuba University (or Scuba U for short) at the weekend. What is this all about, I hear you ask? Well, it is a 3 day course that the CEO of SSI, Doug McNeese, offers to dive shop owners to help them improve their business. Doug is an inspirational speaker who has been helping business owners for more than 20 years, by passing on his own advice that has been collected over the last 40 years of being in the scuba industry and owning his own dive centres in the USA. Think of him as the Mary Portas of dive centres!

This event, and the 2 previous Scuba University events, have been organised by the Mares/SSI UK team and have been offered to dive centre owners and their staff, with the ambition of boosting their customer acquisition, training and shop sales and also to keep existing divers active within the sport. This is a key part of the SSI philosophy to offer a business partnership rather than just a training agency. On my course, we had one dive shop owner taking the course for a second time in 4 months, this time bringing along 2 additional staff members, as the results he is seeing in his shop are so good, they are a real testament to this training course.


Whilst I do not own a dive centre, I thought that there must be information that was going to be relevant to my underwater photography business and so went along eager to learn some tips and tricks to boost my sales and business. The course is a full on 3 days, which for my course was held over Friday to Sunday (9-5pm) in a hotel conference room in the North-West. The Mares team also ensured that the social side of the course was provided for, so that people could talk through the topics of each day with Doug and the rest of those attending over dinner each evening.

Each day, we would work through the course material Doug has clearly worked hard to perfect over the years. There were some real “light bulb” moments for me, where an idea might be so obvious once you are told about it, but you see that this will really change the way you will do business in the future and can see immediately how it will improve both yours and your customer’s experience. Whilst I cannot give away the course material here, I can tell you that Doug is much more generous and sends you away at the end of the course with a thumb drive with business plan documents, all the information from the course, further reading ideas and everything you need to go away and implement your new plan. Even though the course is completely focused on dive centre owners, I came away with loads of ideas and new systems to put into place, and I was armed with existing spreadsheets and documents to make it easy to get started right away.


SSI 2The next Scuba University courses will not be until 2016, but I can only advise those of you reading this who have a dive business to try to book a place. Doug will be coming back over in the summer to visit the dive centres that have taken part to see the changes taking place and to give further advice. Over the last 20 years of teaching this course, he has seen 17-38% increases in dive centre profits for those that have taken the course and, more importantly, implemented Doug’s advice and ideas. This course is a game changer.

One of my co-attendees, Shereen, had this to say:

“As the Manager of a PADI 5* IDC, I was initially quite sceptical about how much I would actually gain from attending Scuba U; a 3 day event hosted by SSI and Mares. However, I am very glad I attended with an open mind. The content was informative and professionally delivered. The sessions provided a fresh view of dive centre operation, making delegates really consider and evaluate what is actually important in running a successful Dive Centre. I am glad I attended and have taken a lot of good ideas away with me.”

At the very end of the course, we got an interactive demonstration of the SSI app, and this has re-ignited my enthusiasm to log my dives, with the ability to add photos of the site and buddy and create a permanent dive log in the cloud! Check out the app for yourself at

For further information contact:

SSI United Kingdom

Phone: +44 (0) 20 – 3287 3988

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown are a husband and wife team of underwater photographers. Both have degrees in environmental biology from Manchester University, with Caroline also having a masters in animal behaviour. Nick is a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in underwater wildlife photography and he also has a masters in teaching. They are passionate about marine conservation and hope that their images can inspire people to look after the world's seas and oceans. Their Manchester-based company, Frogfish Photography, offers a wide range of services and advice. They offer tuition with their own tailor made course - the Complete Underwater Photography Award. The modules of the course have been written to complement the corresponding chapters in Nick's own book: Underwater Photography Art and Techniques. They also offer equipment sales and underwater photography trips in the UK and abroad. For more information visit

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