Skip to Content

safety : Industry : The Business Behind Skydiving

The Business Behind Skydiving (Visit this link)

Skydiving Article Image1_largest

Short of going to the moon, skydiving is the greatest adventure life has to offer. Everyday lives are changed & comfort zones blown wide open! Skydiving is therapy and a respite from the grind of life. Having a bad day? Make a jump and see if it's as bad when you land.

An Activity or an Experience?

So, what are DZ's offering? Many DZs sell the experience while others sell an activity. We have all seen these things: Instructors who look as if they just got out of bed, ripped or dirty jumpsuits, staff arriving late, foul language within earshot of students, sexual innuendo or inappropriate jokes about death, the list goes on. We've witnessed it, yet we're not surprised by it. The expression "It's skydiving" is the blanket phrase that's thrown over this behavior. Let it be made clear, It's NOT skydiving, it's a mentality.

The mentality derives from the origins of our sport when DZ's were built on an individual's passion to continue to jump post military service versus the creation of a DZ with a viable business plan. The introduction of tandem skydiving created a sustainable business model which has allowed for major skydiving centers like Chicagoland Skydiving Center, Skydive Spaceland, Skydive Carolina and Skydive Elsinore to thrive. The reality is the sport is still extremely young relative to other sports and we are still finding our way into the mainstream. To get there we must break the mentality that excuses poor service.

Skydiving has evolved from barnstorming DZ's to multi-million dollar facilities

Breaking the Chain

The majority of DZ decision makers hire by plugging in an individual's experience level into the position while forgetting a more important consideration: a passionate personality. If greater significance was placed on one's personality first and years in the sport second, there will be a major shift in the business of skydiving. Having an instructional staff that is passionate about pleasing the customer will benefit the DZ with additional business- GUARANTEED. I'm not suggesting safety be compromised by hiring less experienced instructors. I'm suggesting that DZO's be more selective in the people they hire by weighing personality as heavily as experience.

Customers want to have a relationship with a person not with an organization. Personal touch is what takes a company from good to great. Happy customers will create a word of mouth marketing campaign more valuable than any mass media expenditure from a DZ. Great customer service is a DZ's greatest marketing plan.

All of us are consumers. If we spend more than US$300 for a service (tandem plus video and stills) what would the expectation be for the kind of service we should receive? Add the variable of a high risk activity and we'd like to feel that we are being well taken care of. Negative attitudes cannot coincide with the business side of the sport. Our sport is too good, too fun, too pure, too life changing to be anything other than the greatest experience in the world with the greatest people.

About James La Barrie:

James La Barrie is passionate about marketing and the skydiving industry. As a former drop zone manager for nine years, La Barrie is the antithesis of most marketing professionals. He doesn't believe that great marketing starts with throwing money at an advertising campaign, but rather implements techniques in word of mouth (womm), social media, company culture and world class branding to create a connection with guests that drive the bottom line. La Barrie is the founder of DropZone.Marketing - a marketing agency for the skydiving industry.

By James La Barrie on 2013-05-13 | Last Modified on 2015-02-19

Rating: 12345   Go Login to rate this article.  | Votes: 10 | Comments: 11 | Views: 17711


elightle  2013-05-13

Good article. Even better blog at!

andybobolson  2013-05-13


DSE  2013-05-13

"Instructors who look as if they just got out of bed, ripped or dirty jumpsuits, staff arriving late, foul language within earshot of students, sexual innuendo or inappropriate jokes about death, the list goes on. We've witnessed it, yet we're not surprised by it. The expression "It's skydiving" is the blanket phrase that's thrown over this behavior. Let it be made clear, It's NOT skydiving, it's a mentality."

Worth repeating. Too bad more DZM's don't 'get' this. Some DZ's accept the poor behavior fun jumpers demonstrate to tandems and AFF students, yet wonder why they aren't seeing the turnover from first time jumpers to regular fun jumpers isn't occurring.
Provide a class staff, a class experience, and be surprised at how much better business becomes based on word of mouth, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter reviews.

snowcrash75  2013-05-14


Don't be a dick. Are you saying his points aren't valid?

I made my first jump 11 years ago, and my tandem master barely talked to me, and then slept the whole ride to altitude. Luckily for me, the TM next to me was friendly, professional, serious, and awesome. He's a good friend and mentor to this day, although we've lived close and far over the years.

Would I be on this website typing these words now without him? That's really uncertain, but I can tell you for DAMN certain that I'm still here because of him. From his friendship to his constant emphasis on safety and a good time. We should all aspire to be vigilant and awesome to one another, and to increase the size of our family.

andybobolson  2013-05-15

He makes valid points (though he is stating the obvious). My criticism is that 20% of the 'article' is him hawking his services. That's not an article, it is an advertisement.

JohnMitchell  2013-05-16

I thought the article was fine. The "about the author" bit was self promoting, but hey, if you don't blow your own horn from time to time someone else will use it for a funnel. :P

The points are well made and I've seen a lot of improvement in our sport over the past several decades. There's still room to improve, though. And some will just never "get it". Those folks should find a new line of work.

potatoman  2013-05-17

I liked the article, and it is so true.

Skydog0223  2013-05-17

Interesting BLOG! For a lot of people the "obvious" isn't so obvious!

Times have changed, when I started jumping the DZ was an old disused airfield from the 2nd world war, the buildings were crumbling, the bunkhouse, toilets were disgusting and the shower!! Yuck! We had a lot of fun skydiving, it was a thrilling experience with a lot of change in the sport in them days. We had BBQ's & partys at the DZ, people were friendly, some Ego's doing crazy things but I wouldn't change anything about it.

Today everything is more about customer service. Outside of skydiving I always want satisfaction for every dollar I spend, if I'm not satisfied I want to feel that as a customer I'm taken care of so I'll be a repeat customer, which doesn't always happen. Frankly a lot of skydiving clubs aren't like that, it's not just about image, whether the toilets are clean or dirty, it's the whole package! I was happy hanging out at an old airfield, but that's in the past. I've changed with the times and also prefer to jump at DZ's which are run more professionally with less "attitude" and I want to feel that I was treated as a "customer" not just a skydiver! I'll spend my money where I think I'm getting the best good feel factor!

BTW I jumped at Chester (Skydive Carolina) for about a year, I thought it was an excellent DZ.

kruse  2013-05-18

My feelings exactly! Well done! And by the way, self promotion is a good thing if you can back it up! And this man can!

katzas  2013-06-11

Skydog. I find it interesting that you say you want to be "treated as a 'customer' not just a skydiver". Funny--I have the opposite view--treat me as a skydiver--not just a customer--the latter being associated with $$ rather than everything being a real skydiver is all about. No offense--you're entitled.

ForrestJump  2013-06-16

I started jumping late October post military. Seemed great during AFF, and then the A lic objectives came into play. I had a hard time even getting success signed off on. I like to think that it was due to tandem volume. Either way i took a two month break realizing four thousand dollars later i was not going to get my lic at the current DZ. I'm very goal driven, never had any issues, and was told i had done great during AFF being i never repeated a step. Once I realized I just wanted to have fun and how much I sincerely love skydiving i took my Dad to watch me skydive for the first time. I was told i had to start over at AFF level three. The money wasnt there and I just didnt understand why this was. I've jumped with all the instructors with no complaints, and with military training i always think procedure and safety, so I never received any negative feedback. I am absolutely have decided i am going to stop jumping for awhile due to the negativity. Could anyone recommend a DZ that is a great student environment for me down the line so that I can make arrangements to visit? Any suggestions are appreciated. I invested 4000 and at least would like to achieve the goal i set and enjoy a good community of skydivers. I was so enthusiastic and the recent events have literally discouraged me. Thanks for any negative or positive feedback. I would think DZ's would want an enthusiastic new skydiver that is reoccurring revenue, at least. Help me understand...

More articles in this category: