Scuba diving scares me. I had a bad experience once, totally through my own fault, and I never felt comfortable after that.
I knew Ron Kipp at the time. If I had told him about my difficulty, he would have asked questions, explained what I should do in the future, and teased me a little bit. Then – and this is what makes him different from 99 out of 100 other people – he would have buddied with me for a dive, helping me to relax and once again be enchanted by Cayman’s amazing underwater world.
Ron would have done these things because he likes to analyze problems, come up with solutions and act on them.
These same characteristics took him to college, to the U.S. Air Force, to the giant corporation IBM and on to the not-so-giant but still iconic Bob Soto’s Diving in the Cayman Islands.
One of Ron’s favorite books was Herman Wouk’s “Don’t Stop the Carnival,” a humorous story involving an expat whose second career involved running a tourist resort in the Caribbean. Ron thought a similar book could be written about the dive industry.
So said, so done. Although it took a while, Ron has launched his account of an adventure that’s better than a novel because it’s true.
“From ‘Big Blue’ to the Deep Blue” is, as the subtitle explains, a collection of stories about how he jumped off a corporate ladder and into his dream of owning a Cayman Islands dive center.
People who know of Ron’s business acumen may wish for a little more insight into the day-by-day operational decisions leading to success, but this is not an instruction manual. People who love scuba diving might want to know more about Grand Cayman’s scores of dive sites, but this is not a guidebook.
Neither is it an autobiography or history, but the discerning reader will find all of these elements in one place or another. That is why, although I was tempted to skip around the chapters, I’m glad I read it straight through.
For example, Ron’s introductory explanation for leaving IBM I found unsatisfying, but he keeps dropping hints and sidebars that build to make the full story more powerful when it is finally told.
Along the way, there are some revelations that other tycoons might not make, such as how much he paid for the business and how much he sold it for. Ron sets out both very clearly, along with his reasoning. With Bobby Soto, in 1980, he says, “I met his price – he met my terms.” One startling figure is Ron’s own salary: for 10 years, he paid himself $2,000 per month. Not very tycoon-ish.
If the book had an index, there would be listings for the Kittiwake, the Cayman Islands Watersports Operators Association, DEMA and celebrities from Tom Cruise to Paul Tzimoulis. Yes, Ron was involved in the filming of “The Firm” here in Cayman. And yes, his friendship with the publisher of “Skin Diver” put him on the magazine’s cover numerous times, even as it brought priceless international exposure for local diving and Cayman’s tourism economy.
Ron starts each chapter with a quotation from sources as disparate as Winston Churchill, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Vince Lombardi. This device might seem pretentious, but the incidents related add practical dimensions to what could otherwise remain ethereal concepts.
One quote Ron attributes to his mother, who told him, “Find a job that you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.”
That approach just might be the secret to his entrepreneurial success. It could also serve as key to the realization of a goal he had years ago – writing this book.