Southern Skydivers: a soaring success for small business
Richard Branson was on to something when he said “happy employees are central to the success of a business”.
Officeworks Small Business Wellbeing index1 found small business employees in regional and rural areas were 20 per cent happier compared to those in metropolitan areas.
The study, which focused on 1005 small businesses across Australia, also highlights small business owners in small towns go to greater lengths to keep their staff happy and fulfilled at work.
Regional Western Australian business owner Amy Stutt says she and her husband Glenn invest a lot of time in supporting and motivating their staff at Skydive Geronimo.
Fostering a positive working environment helps keep Amy and Glenn’s staff happy.
The couple has introduced open communication models, flexible working conditions, training, and incentives to contribute to innovative projects to keep their staff content.
“We want our staff to [understand our vision] for the business and make them a part of the growth,” Amy says.
Things that might seem trivial, like being mindful of her team’s work-life balance, also helps keep her team happy.
“We do our best to consider [our staff’s] needs and their home life when working out the roster.”
Amy and Glenn’s team relationship-building methods are obviously helping their business. Skydive Geronimo is now one of the most awarded small businesses in Western Australia.
Amy is proud of how the business has grown over the past five years.
“We started from nothing. We took over an established skydive operation that was [struggling] and we’ve been re-investing all our profits into it to grow the business.”
Before taking over Skydive Geronimo Amy owned a seafood distribution business in Tasmania.
Glenn began instructing skydiving in New Zealand at that time.
After marrying in 2010, the couple moved to Brusselton (a small town in the Margaret River region) to take over Southern Skydivers.
The business operates seven days a week with its eight staff and two aircrafts.
“The most important part of what we do is making sure our customers walk away with good memories and an amazing experience,” Amy says.
“We’ve had incredible support from the community and we couldn’t have done it without our team.”
There are three full-time instructors who are always on call, while three or four contractors join the team during holiday periods.
They also have people on the ground who help with administration, parachute packing and video editing.
“If the weather is good for jumping then it’s all hands on deck, otherwise the administration team operates as usual while the skydive instructors have a day off.”
Southern Skydivers also encourages its staff to go on holidays during the winter months and allows them to take additional time off.
Southern Skydivers encourages a culture of innovation by giving team members an incentive each month to come up with new ideas for the business.
This past June, one of the staff members suggested they support World Wildlife Foundation’s ‘Wild Onesie Week’ by skydiving wearing animal onesies and raise donations.
The team took ownership of the idea and their collective enthusiasm made it a success.
“They ordered the onesies, started talking to the customers about it and shared it on social media,” Amy explains.
“They were driving the idea, and it really took the pressure of my husband and myself.”
Southern Skydivers motivates its staff and keeps turnover low by upskilling team members and recruiting from within.
“Whenever there’s a new position open for our business we always open that up first to our existing staff.”
Amy usually hires pilots-in-training as grounds staff and looks for opportunities to promote them when they’re ready.
While the pilots and skydiving staff are hired on merit, most of the administration and reservations team live around Margaret River.
“We’ve been really happy with the staff we’ve managed to find in the region. They’re really motivated, love their job, and love the area they live in.”
Amy believes her staff’s knowledge and enthusiasm enriches the customer experience.
While keeping her staff happy is highly important, Amy also believes keeping small town communities happy is paramount.
“Once you’ve earned the trust of your community, they will support you one-hundred per cent as long as you keep them front of mind when you’re making important business decisions.”
Amy advises anyone who is interested in starting a regional small business to get involved with the local chamber of commerce as well as industry-related organisations to meet people and build a support network.
“Even if you are experienced in business, opening a business in a small town often relies on having support from the community.
1Fieldwork conducted by Symphony Analytics & Research on behalf of Officeworks in June 2015.