How To Hire Great DZ Staff

Monday, December 31, 2018

Are you a DZO who has someone on your staff that you know you should fire?

If yes, is it because of any one of the reasons below?

    • Fear of being shorthanded
    • Because they’re a friend
    • Because they don’t have many other skills, so out of sympathy, you keep them on staff
    • Fear of confrontation
    • Fear of the fallout the dismissal will have within the DZs core staff
  • The individual has a variety of skills that you think are invaluable (example: a handyman, mechanic, electrician, rigger, pilot all in one)

If any of the reasons above resonate, it’s not because I’m a mystic – it’s because I lived it. With the benefit of experience, let me serve as your inner-voice on this topic. Let that person go. Quickly.


The cost of keeping a caustic personality is far greater than you think. Negative personalities infect a DZ by making each day a drudgery, dividing one group into cliques, and even causing great staff members, wearisome of drama, to leave.

The “bad apple” on your team causes much more damage than team dissension – these people are also affecting revenue. The quality of your staff is part of your marketing and it only takes a few bad apples to hurt the business from the inside out.

Hear me out.

Your customers notice negativity on your staff because your customers are out of their comfort zones. When humans are out of their comfort zones, awareness levels are higher than normal. They notice things like body language, tone, facial expression and that under the breath snide remark about manifest not having any idea what they’re doing.

Marketing doesn’t end once your customers make a reservation. Marketing is continuous especially when today’s major marketing prize is a five-star review – digital word of mouth.

Your Best Marketing Team Is Your Staff

The most important marketers for a dropzone are the staff, namely the admin team and instructors. It’s these people who leave a lasting impression that stimulate online reviews.

Above: I met Ernie Long several years ago at Skydive Dallas. It was clear Ernie was all about the customer. 

This fact is common sense, but common sense isn’t being practiced.

With a shortage of tandem instructors, DZO’s are turning a blind eye to the negative personalities who are causing disruption in the ranks to avoid any of the reasons listed in the first paragraph above.

While it’s true that a shortage of tandem instructors is a problem,  the process of acquiring staff doesn’t seem especially strategic to solve the problem. Too often, DZ’s are hiring out of desperation, or advertising when it’s much too late.

How To Hire Great DZ Staff

Firstly, It’s Not Only About The Money

Like any company competing for the best talent (think programmers or engineers) from a limited talent pool, the company that offers the highest pay doesn’t necessarily win the best people.

Just because your DZ doesn’t have the highest volume or best jump pay doesn’t mean you’ll be left with the sloppy seconds of the industry. I know of many high volume DZs that have a staff that are on the edge of total implosion. I also know of smaller DZ’s that have an outstanding crew. The DZ that offers the most money or the highest volume doesn’t win the staff game.

As DZO’s, it’s important to have empathy. Your crew is working incredibly long days for you and your customers. Everyone appreciates a great paycheck, but it’s important to realize why we have a small pool of talent – burnout. Burnout is a real issue in the industry and part of the DZO’s responsibility isn’t just paying well, but offering some comforts that make the experience as an instructor, better.

Performance Designs

The minimum starting point should be the expression of gratitude for hard work. Too often, staff feel underappreciated for their efforts and through time, resentment builds.

It Starts With The Job Post

If you take a few minutes and read through job postings on, you’ll discover a theme that highlights three points: the pay, the experience level required and the fact their DZ is drama free. But here’s the rub: few DZO’s are being intentional on keeping it drama free. These job postings need to have more.

Have a look at the job posting from DZO’s Bo Babovic and Alex Kolacio of Wisconsin Skydiving Center. This job posting may be the best I’ve seen. It’s intentional towards the culture they’re trying to build.

Writing a great job post should push the DZO to think about big-picture thoughts for the business. Ultimately, the “why.” Why does “X Skydiving Center” exist? What is its purpose beyond opening the hangar doors each and every day (a soulless activity through time)? Clarity here will lead to clarity in the kind of people you need to be hiring that goes beyond the knowledge of safely “tossing drogues.”

I believe the root cause of problems at most DZs culturally is the lack of a clear definition of their ‘why.’

Timing Is Everything

Once your job post is written, timing is critical. You need time to identify and interview the best candidates available and it needs to start early.

If you weren’t working on staffing in October and November of 2018 for the 2019 season, you’re already behind the power curve. Staffing, especially if you’re not a high-volume DZ, has to come early.

Hire The Right Personality

Once you have clarity on the ‘Why’ of the business and culture you wish to cultivate, who you should be hiring becomes much more clear.

Hiring based on jump qualifications is no longer enough. Require a resumé (CV), call all of the references provided by the candidate, but also have a formal interview asking questions that give some insight to the person.

Here’s a sample of 15 questions we recently asked an intern during a 90-minute meeting to learn more insights about them.

Help Them Progress

It’s important to find out what the long-term goals are for your staff members. If you can help them reach their goals, the value your DZ increases. No one wants to become stagnant. Many corporate companies wishing to negate turnover institute ‘progression pipelines’ to help their staff move towards their goals. Should the skydiving industry be any different?

Help your staff progress by offering something that allows them to pick up new skills to further their career.Dropzone Leadershiop

Leadership Traits

The high performing DZO’s that understand the importance of having a great team as it relates to DZ culture, marketing and revenues exhibit a few additional qualities.

• They have operational standards that are clearly communicated to the team
• Maintain an eye on the big picture without becoming subjective to the day-to-day
• Make decisions not solely based on financial implications
• Emphasize the need for customer service (beyond being simply polite)

• Recognizes that a skydive is more than a jump, but a complete experience

I do not wish to oversimplify the issues of staffing contractors or employees – it’s the challenge of every business. However, as someone who learned the hard way of 
staffing based on skill set requirements exclusively, I can say that the majority of our industry can be better in how we put our teams together.

The DropZone Marketing team will be at PIA 2019! Come see us at our booth at the main entrance to the expo hall!

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