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Skydive The Beach

What inspired you to start your business?

Mexico! Skydive the Beach's origin has several key elements; an exotic location, a beautiful woman (who is still putting up with me) and the need for adventure. The business has its beginnings in what was once a tiny seaside town on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico - Playa del Carmen is now a heaving and thriving tourist centre.

Tamahra and I saw tandem parachutes dropping onto a beach in the late 90's, already qualified skydivers, we decided to jump. The hired parachutes looked like they were fresh out of World War 2, the plane had holes in the dash where missing instreuments once resided, the internal lining was absent and sharp points were covered with duct tape; this I believe may have held the whole thing together. We jumped out into an angry black cloud still slightly dustry from the 50c Coronas consumed the night before. The guys jumping and running the business were remarkably busy and living the dream. We believed this could be sucessfully replicated in Australia with a few improvements in the equipment department.

What is your proudest moment as a business owner?
There are many, oddly enough the one that stands out the most is buying my first turbine engine aircraft. This aircraft revolutionised the business allowing a massive increase in carry capacity from 6 to 17 per load, less fuel burn, a faster clumb to height time, less maintenance, less noise and importantly it finally made the business profitable. I could start paying back some of the money I owed the bank! Besides, turbine engines are just cool, the whistling sound, the smell of aviation kerosene; it reminds people of places they would rather be. It's the smell of travel and adventure.

Any advice for new business owners just getting started?
If you really, really, really want it to work, then never give up; hold onto the vision, hold onto the dream, plan it out. Seek advice and guidance from people who have walked the path; Get a business coach, learn from your mistakes as there will be plenty of them.

Not everyone will share your enthusiasm, so ride the ups and downs and just go for it as no-one is going to do it for you, nor will anyone hand success to you on a plate. Don't let others deter you. I was told an adventure tourism business in Wollongong was destined to fail by countless people.

What are your company goals in the next 3-5 years?
The company is focusing on the broader adventure travel market, whilst also searching out further skydiving opportunities. Significant expansion and acquisitions will be the primary goals. We will be focusing on start-ups consisting of innovative new product offerings, expansion of existing products and our favourite being accretive acquisitions.

How do you define success as a business owner?
This is a very complex question and it depends on what hat you're wearing. Is it profit, shareholder return, growth, employee retention, opportunity, lifestyle, happiness? Is it actaully making it home to see your family then not spending home time answering calls and responding to emails. Is it that you're happy within yourself on achieving set goals perhaps even exceeding them. Is it knowing your team works autonomously in harmony with each other, able to keep the business traveling in the right direction. I think it's a combination of all the above and more. Importantly, today's success isn't necessarily tomorrow's success. Having goals, including stretched goals is a must. Success is a constant and ongoing ambition.

How do you encourage creative thinking in the work environment?
Listen to your team. As a leader it is OK to guide creativity, but ten heads will have ten times the ideas than one. It is essential that staff understand that the bsiness values new ideas and will try even the most 'inspired' ideas if they have merit. Businesses need to remain fresh. It is easy to fall into a rut, so creative thinking from the team is important.

What is most important to your business?
Fantastic and enthusiastic staff, amazing and incredible experiences delivered to customers, results to investors. Keeping the fun in the business, no-one really wants to work in the ordinary. We all want to be a part of a business that is exceptional.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing business today?
It is hard to pin this answer on just one challenge! Bureaucracy, over regulation, red tape, political correctness, paperwork to pin on the wall and fill manuals to remain compliant - which ultimately achieves very little. So many barriers to entry.

Regulators with enforcers and experts who have never run a business but certainly know how you should run yours. Utilitarianism has failed with minorities being able to hijack the majority. Taxes that discourage business growth; payroll tax for example - taxing employers for employing more people! Definitely not conducive to encouraging new business to expand and discover new taxes that didn't exist for the business previously. I understand why companies utilise offshore workforces and offshoring work is becoming so common. As a business you really need to be dedicated to a region and Australia in order not to off shore work for higher profits.

Workcover, Worksafe and their ilk with state by state rules. Why not one national simplified system?

Some say Australia is fast becoming a nanny state, where we cater to the lowest common denominator, I think the pendulum has swung too far and we no longer have a social or political environment that cultivates entrepreneurs, start-ups and small to medium enterprises. However, I'm an optimist and believe the pendulum will swing back at some stage.

What do you see as the benefits of being a member of Illawarra Business Chamber?
The Chamber is a connection to a collective of both local and state businesses. A collective of business minds that are solution and outcome focussed. Being a member of the IBC allows a greater understanding of Illawarra matters and the business environment. Most importantly for SKB, IBC has been positively advising and guiding with recent business challenges faced in the region.

Anthony Boucaut
Skydive The Beach