“Something you do on the weekend can be like a dream and you think, I wonder if that could ever be a full time reality?” says Peter Michie, a former prosecutor whose love of diving became a new career direction.
After graduating from law at the University of Sydney and spending a year overseas working with the Crown Prosecution Service in London, he joined the New South Wales Director of Public Prosecutions and worked as a general advocate; instructing counsel in jury trials, and running short matters across a range of criminal law issues. “One week you could be doing an arson trial, the next week you could be doing a drug trial,” he recalls.
“The office didn’t specialise,” he explains. “It provided a variety of work and people didn’t feel like they were just stuck doing one type of law… for example prosecuting child sexual assault endlessly really ground down peoples’ souls. It’s a very distressing area to practice in no matter who you are, so it was good that everyone just shared out the difficult work.”
About the same that he joined the DPP, Michie took up scuba diving. “I think what initially attracted me to it was the peace and quiet… it’s cutting out the noise, the phones, the traffic, people talking.” It wasn’t long before he trained as a diving instructor and started spending his weekends helping out at dive stores and taking groups diving. “It became very much part of my social life and a way to relax when work could get quite stressful during the week,” he says.
“About ten years ago or so I started thinking. I didn’t want to practice in any other area of law; I entered into the area of law that I loved and I loved what I was doing, but then I thought do I really want to be doing this for another 20 years until I retire?” he recalls.
“You always hate to do something to the point where you start hating it or not enjoying it and I never wanted it to get like that with criminal prosecuting. I wanted to leave while I was still enjoying it… I thought if ever I was going to do something that was completely different I’d better do it now.”
After 20 years of practice, Michie left the DPP in 2008 and set his sights on scuba diving. Having previously taught diving courses for other businesses, he decided on different approach, opting for one on one instruction, rather than group lessons. After going back to uni and completing a graduate diploma of travel and tourism, he set up Bondive.
His early days as a business owner weren’t easy; Michie admits adapting to life without a regular pay packet and mastering marketing and other aspects of running a business were challenging at times. Although the first twelve months were difficult, he says his legal background helped, particularly his experience in negotiation.
To anyone considering starting their own business, Michie recommends finding a model that doesn’t involve borrowing considerable amounts of money, or finding a business partner to share the risk. “The model I came up with wasn’t too capital intensive… that was one of the features of my business model that made it a bit easier to jump.”
For Michie, the gamble has paid off, and he spends most days doing a job he loves. “Every time you dive you see something different. It’s an ever-changing landscape under the water; the fish swimming by are never the same fish that were swimming by last week.”
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