Owning a DropZone is Not as Easy as It Looks

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If you enjoy skydiving, you should appreciate your local DZOs. They operate a business that seems to attract hardships and headaches on a daily basis. They work their butts off for very little reward to offer an environment for adrenaline junkies, year round. It’s choppy seas managing your very own DZ.

You wouldn’t think it at first, but operating a DZ site for skydivers is not the fun-packed, enthralling endeavor you might think it is.

It’s not all rainbows and sunshine. It’s a rough business. It’s competitive. The costs are extraordinary. The upkeep is mind boggling. And the financial risks are staggering. It’s almost an exercise in futility, but if you know the DZ manager or DZO at your local skydiving stop, you probably understand the type of passion that fuels them. If you are willing to put the energy forth to take the financial risks and go through exhausting obstacles to operate a DZ, you have to love what you are doing. And most DZOs have nothing but an insane addiction to the sport of skydiving and all things related to it. If they’re anything like the DZO at my DZ, you’re going to have a difficult time getting them to stop talking about one amazing jump or another. These passionate individuals want to share the amazing experience of skydiving with the world, and in an affordable way for the average joe.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to keep the prices down at some DZs, and in a lot of cases, DZOs don’t have a choice in the matter. For obvious reasons, the aircraft have to undergo routine maintenance and inspections. At any moment a mechanical issue can cost a DZO hundreds, even thousands of dollars, taking cash directly from his pocket along with costing him numerous lost reservations until the problem is corrected. How about the staff, equipment, certifications, gas, and all the other drains on the business monetarily? Those bills add up and are tremendous. Add in the fact that there is sure to be local competition nearby, so prices need to be high but as low as the guy next door. DZOs have to deal with being pulled in all directions with rising costs and the pressures of competition.

So the business is not the “walk in the park” people might think it is.

We know a lot of people think that when you own your own business, like a DZO, you’re living in luxury, but that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. Most of the wealth made from the operation gets immediately put right back into the business, whether it’s updating current vehicles, hiring new experts, buying new planes, replacing chutes, or whatever the case may be. So think twice before you’re tempted to complain about prices because most of the time they’re as low as they can be without the DZO taking losses.

There are a hundred and one setbacks that can take place on any given day that can ground a plane. And a grounded plane equals the loss of thousands, upon thousands of dollars. All the reservations are lost, but employees must still get paid when a craft gets grounded. Uncooperative weather can pop up at any moment and close the whole operation, and not everyone scheduled to jump that day will get the nerve to try again. Just imagine the serious risks that are in play every single day. Any fluke failure, any bizarre accident, and not only will a DZO have mountains of lawsuits piling up at the door, but potentially a complete and total media fall-out could occur if a serious mishap were to happen.

You’ve got to have a steel spine to be able to take that kind of risk—your entire business could be turned upside down in the blink of an eye, at no fault of your own. Let’s not forget about the grueling labor involved in not only operating during open hours but all the leg work that must be put in before and after. There’s an endless flow of communication you have to keep up with—endorsers, pilots, trainers—to make sure credentials are up to date and everyone is doing their work according to strict guidelines. Keeping everything running like a well-oiled machine can be quite the stressful endeavor.

Still, most DZOs love what they do. If they didn’t have the heart for it, why else would they stay on the wild and unpredictable ride of owning a skydiving business? The next time you’re seeking a thrill from your local DZ, show a little appreciation for your DZO.

They’re doing what they love, so you can do what you love.

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