The Kona Coast of Hawaii has some of the clearest waters in the northern hemisphere, in part because of its remote location 2,500 miles from the US mainland. Home to more than 360 species of marine life not found anywhere else, its natural beauty makes it a hotspot for scuba diving—and a unique natural ecosystem worth preserving.
In business since 1981, Jack’s Diving Locker (JDL) has grown from five sets of gear and a Volkswagen van to a company with two retail stores and five boats at two harbors. None of it would have been possible without technology, a passion for saving the environment, and human connections. Jeff and Teri Leicher co-own and manage JDL, where their oldest son, Kawika, also works.
In the early 1980s, the Leichers were concerned about the potential damage to Hawaii's delicate coral reefs caused by the growing dive-boat industry repeatedly dropping anchors. With the help of Teri's father, a marine scientist, they devised a system for installing ecologically conscious eyebolt moorings. The Day-Use Moorings are used by both private and commercial operators and are still installed and maintained by JDL to this day. “Our company values are built around people making a difference,” says Teri. “I'm proud of our efforts to educate the public. We have camps for kids and a marine life ambassador program where they can learn about sea life and coral reef ecology and how to have a sustainable relationship with the ocean.”
Jeff and Teri base each day’s route for dive excursions on the weather and guests’ skills and interests, so it’s subject to last-minute changes. They plan trips and assign crew and guests for five boats headed to 50 possible dive sites daily, and they must ensure that all equipment is well maintained and delivered to the right vessels. Jeff says, “We have to make sure that all the right equipment is on board and ready to go. If we get to the dive site and one vital piece of gear is missing, it can affect someone’s hard-earned vacation. Every dive relies on lots of small details. It all has to be perfect.”
Mobility and flexible work styles are vital to JDL. Most days, employees are out diving, teaching, and traveling—they rarely sit at a desk. For example, Jeff might go to the shop to print crew lists for each boat, then start stocking the boats’ equipment and food. “I also might be working at home editing a video,” he says. “Before, when I needed to get ahold of a passenger list, I’d call the shop, interrupt one of my team members who could have a guest there needing help, and ask that person to scan and fax a copy of the list.” And despite moving back to North Carolina, the operations manager and VIP group coordinator both continue to work for the company via email, phone, Skype for Business, and occasional trips to the island.
In addition to running between the repair shop, retail store, home, and boats, the Leichers often lead dive groups in other parts of the world. “We took a group to Cuba recently,” says Teri. “When we needed to communicate with the business, we had to use email or SMS, which didn’t always work properly. We didn’t have easy access to the resources we needed.” Mobility is so integral to JDL culture that, despite moving back to North Carolina, the operations manager and VIP group coordinator both continue to work for the company via email, phone, Skype for Business, and occasional trips to the island.