DZO Challenges: What I’ve Learned

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The glowing sun majestically sets on the horizon, casting out a beautiful mix of oranges, reds, and yellows. The jumpers clink their green-lit beers and muse with each other as the last load lands. Meanwhile – you, the DZO or DZM is picking up trash, looking at the pile of parachutes to be packed, a full email inbox to tend to, and answering text messages and phone calls as you were out in the field all day managing the instructor rotation, fueling aircraft, and putting out other “fires”. Is this you?

I’ve had my hand at co-running a DZ, as well as in various management, marketing and event positions in skydiving – including being on the other end as a guest load organizer. If you find yourself stressed out, overwhelmed, or just plain exhausted because you never have any time, let me bestow my wisdom of experience to help you find your passion and love for the sport again!


Having come from a family DZ – I watched my dad do everything. He built the business from the ground up from a bustling, small Cessna DZ, to a mega multi, turbine aircraft, 46,000 square foot hangar DZ. However, when it was my turn at the helm, I realized that I could not handle all the details of the business I thought my dad did.

One year, I was doing a million things you do when you’re a DZO and one of the office gals had asked me if I needed help. In near desperation, I said, yes. I quickly gave her cliff notes on what I needed and she blew away my expectations. She took ownership and pride of the simple tasks I assigned her, so I asked her to do more.

MANIFEST-MADE-EASY-JPGIn doing that simple act I realized that there are others who believed in the DZ and wanted to be a part of – they were just waiting for their chance. It was a beautiful gift to realize that I didn’t have to be alone and was incredibly appreciative to share the responsibilities.

Whether you have a small, mid-sized or mega DZ, the importance of having staff in different departments will help you not only devote your time in the many other things you do as a DZO, but it will help you grow your business and offset the cost of their pay.

From “Using the power of leverage is a way for small businesses to be more efficient and ultimately do more with less. …But I tell entrepreneurs all the time that providing structure for your business from the outset will make you more effective as you grow.”

Here is an article to reference as you set up or refine your team:

Staff & Efficiency at Your DZ


I see it all the time: the DZO, DZM, and other staff members talking to customers, answering phones, answering messages, running errands, working 80-100 hours a week (depending on the season), and rushing to do one thing to the next. What happens when the workload is an overload? Stress? Lack of sleep? Not eating well? Forgetting things? Unhappiness?

Orbital shift hits the nail on the head:

Small businesses, in particular, cannot afford to waste time with bad time management and inefficiency. However, the benefits of good time management practices are immeasurable. Businesses that utilize good time management are better positioned to consistently deliver their product, or service, on-time.

Good time management also means that a business is able to solve problems that arise without it significantly impacting day-to-day operations. This is essential for businesses that rely on constant output to increase ROI – a planned, structured schedule provides extra time for problem-solving or unforeseen circumstances.

Here are the quick keys for better time management: strategize (big picture thinking and planning), stick to a daily agenda (including when you are done for the day), communicate, delegate and make time for play!

Here are a few articles as you set up or refine your team:

How To Beat the Burnout

Performance Designs


Not having a marketing strategy is like going up in a plane with a rig as a first-time student without ground training, and without a reserve parachute! Seriously, if you want your business to survive, you need to know your market. Not only your market but these points as well:

Know Where They Are

Are your customers on digital media like Facebook, looking at Google reviews, or reading your blog for more information? Knowing the primary platform that’s they are will help you focus your efforts in those areas instead of being everywhere and not making a difference!

Consider Digital over Print

Tis true – print media for skydiving is a fading art. Same with radio. I know it’s hard for businesses to let go of print as it was the heavy hitter back in the day to advertise. But not letting go is like still jumping rounds and refusing square parachutes are the future. Trust me, it’s worth giving digital a go.

How Are You Different

Skydiving centers are of plenty these days, and customers usually buy on price or reviews. Knowing ahead of time what makes you stand out of the crowd will help you focus on your advertising efforts. Then take a look at your reviews: What are your reviews saying about you? Then you know the areas you need to improve on.

Set Goals & Measure Them

Setting goals is like looking ahead to what license or rating to earn next. This helps you know where you are going, see what’s working, and using this data to motivate your team. When you reach or exceed those goals, celebrate! Maybe not a pie in the face, but high fives and staff loads are great give backs to continue to motivate the team!


If you look at the costs of traditional advertising: magazines, radio ads, billboards versus digital marketing – you are saving fuel loads of money! In digital, you will have analytics to tell you what’s working and the spend is incredibly affordable – especially when you can measure ROI (return on investment), unlike traditional advertising!

So don’t be shy on spending money on digital ads, just know where to test the market, on which platforms and tailor your budget accordingly.

Here’s a few more marketing emails to help you set your landing pattern for marketing:

How To Do Email Marketing Right

Growth Hacking

If ever I learned anything from the skydiving business it’s this: having a plan for a skydive is important, but so it is in business. Sometimes taking a break to refresh your passion for the sport will help you tap into your creative side to see things on a broader perspective, will help you strategize for the future of your business. We have such a high turnover from DZ to DZ and setting up a structure will only help you from burning out, but it will help you succeed!  

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