Reality Check on Leadership: Meet SUSAN LONG, President & CEO of Diving Unlimited International (DUI)

I came accross a great article about my fellow dive industry woman while reading "Reality Check on Leadership" and wanted to share it. This publication (Half Full) educates readers on the challenges and successes of leadership through personal one-on-one interviews with leaders willing to share their own personal experiences. This month, they welcomed Susan Long, President & CEO of Diving Unlimited International (DUI).


Susan LongMeet Susan: If "spit fire" is an appropriate term for a leader, then Susan gets that description with all caps.  She is quick, witty, on top of everything and she exudes an awesome energy anytime you are with her.


Having been President & CEO of DUI for over 15 years, Susan is the one you want to go to for advice on the best drysuits to buy and even the best places to dive.  She spends the time to get to know you, your personality and your diving style before she puts you in the water! 


Not only is she 100% committed to the water, but Susan is absolutely doing her part to reduce DUI's footprint on the planet in general.  From products like ECODiveWear (yes, 75% recycled - crazy!) to every day business needs such as recycled product packaging and product catalogs only found online, Susan is doing the right thing by DUI.      


1.    What is your current position at your organization?


President and CEO 


2.    What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome over the last 5 years in your leadership role?


The economy along with all of the insecurity it brings with it.  Many of the folks who have been around longer than me tell me that the economy is cyclical - what goes up, must come down and then goes up again.  And I can do that.  Just why is it taking so long to go back up again?   Will it ever be what it once was?  Is there a "new normal" and just what does that mean? How can I plan with so much being unknown?


3.    What solutions have you put into place to overcome those obstacles? 


Focus, focus, focus.  Find what you do better than everybody else and stay the course.


4.    What do you foresee will be the most difficult obstacles to overcome in the next 5 years?


That's a tough one.  From a sales standpoint, competition from low-end providers is always an issue.  Companies try to enter the dry suit market because they see what DUI is doing and we make it look easy.  They enter the market with a product that looks similar to ours (because they copy our designs) and make it cheaper by outsourcing it.  They relatively quickly find that customers don't/can't just open a box and put it on.  They want something that fits THEM, that works well for THEM (using their own definition of that :) and that lasts a long time.  Most other companies and products cannot live up to that.  It is easy to say something and much harder to back it up.   


From the manufacturing side, we manufacture in San Diego, California.  California is making it more difficult all the time to operate a factory - even a small one.  Rules and regulations, HR laws and more.  We are in a world marketplace, people!  We don't make suits in San Diego to sell to the wealthy folks in the Hollywood Hills.  We make suits and ship them all over the US and North America as well as Europe, Asia, and more.  The more restrictions that are applied, the harder it is to stay here.  I have 77 employees with families that count on us! 


5.    What advice do you have for other leaders in general and/or in your industry? 


As my Father once told me, you have two choices in business; you either need to be the best or the cheapest.  We picked THE BEST.  Pick one and stick to it.  You cannot be all things to all people.


6.    What singular idea do you have that will change the state of our economy?


I would go to a flat tax - we all pay the same percentage no matter what.  Right now, 50% of people hardly pay any tax at all.  People need to take responsibility for themselves and the choices that they make.


7.    What is your biggest fear? 


That I won't make the right decision at the right time and my company dies. 


8.    What is your biggest accomplishment? 


Successfully transitioning the company from being my Father's to mine.  There is still a bit to go and much of that is due to the respect that I owe him as the founder of our company.  I feel this is now my company and the impact I have had on it has made it stronger and more successful than it has ever been.  


9.    What is your own personal long term vision?


My own personal vision ...  can I have the few parts of running a company that are good and leave all of the other stuff behind?


In ten years I honestly see myself doing much of what I do now yet with more confidence and contentment.  There are decisions that I make now that were very difficult ten years ago and I envision that one hundred times over in ten years from now.  I will have more successes under my belt and even a few failures but even those are successes for having overcome them.  I would like to be a mentor to others as others have mentored me.  I was a late-bloomer and I figure that by 65 I'll have it really going on :)


For DUI, I would like to see revenue and profit at least doubled.  DUI will continue to be a major leader in the dive industry and we have found other markets to apply our abilities. 


10.   And the big question ... who is at your table?

I worked for Marriott Hotels and started as a catering secretary.   I was assertive and a position was created so that I could handle some of the smaller events.  There were a couple of people that really helped me - took me under their wing and really helped me learn.  I would love to have them at my table and thank them for those very early pushes and support.  When you are really, really green, those mean so much. 




About Diving Unlimited InternationalDiving Unlimited International, Incorporated (DUI) is the world's leader in keeping divers warm and comfortable. Located in San Diego, California, DUI specializes in drysuits and high performance equipment for recreational, military, scientific and commercial divers. DUI has an extensive offering with a wide variety of styles and designs and is best known for exceptional fit with both standard and made-to-measure sizing, unlimited configurations through options and accessories, product dependability, excellent performance and superior customer service.


Founded in 1963, DUI gives divers the ability to go places and experience adventures they never thought possible. DUI's equipment is proudly designed and manufactured in the USA and distributed through over 400 dealers in North America and exported worldwide including Europe, United Kingdom, Russia, Switzerland, Australia, Japan, Southeast Asia, Ukraine, Mexico, Korea, and Brazil. 

Susan Long
Susan Long and Szilvia Gogh at DEMA.



Written by Rebecca Twitchell, half full, llc