When Tyson Harvey offered to take over a skydiving center in Snohomish, Washington, there was only one problem—he had never been skydiving.
Aviation is a staple in the Harvey family, who own and operate Harvey Airfield. “My whole life I have grown up on the airport,” Tyson says. But he admits he considered skydiving as an “aviation sideshow.”
But when the owner of the Snohomish skydiving center became ill, the skydiving community begged the Harvey family to keep the opportunity alive.
“I was the only one who raised my hand,” Tyson recalls. “It was really in line, though, with what I had envisioned for myself doing in business. Not that it was aviation-related; not that it was skydiving specifically. . . . It was the opportunity to provide an amazing experience that empowers people, helps them overcome fears, provides joy, that really attracted me to using it as a springboard to whatever I really got into in life.”
Those first few years of Tyson’s business journey were powered by sheer will. “It was going to work. There was no other option,” he says, adding, “the first two years were quite a ride.”
Tyson knew that future success depended on his ability to relate to his clients and staff. He needed to learn how to skydive.
His first dive, Tyson was paired with someone who was 5 feet 1 inch tall. Tyson is 6 feet 4 inches. To add to the awkwardness, this instructor was taking her new boss—the person who held the skydiving program’s fate in his hands—on his first-ever skydive.
“There was a little bit of pressure on her,” Tyson says. That stress and anxiety negatively impacted his first drop, but Tyson could still appreciate the exhilaration of the dive.
“There are a lot of parallels to starting a business and jumping out of an airplane,” he says. “There is a lot of risk you are putting on the line, but there are also a lot of potential rewards, too. Like in skydiving, the reward outweighs the scariness.”
One particularly scary and “eye-opening” jump for Tyson was his first solo dive. “I got hanging out on the strut of the wing and looked back, and the pilot’s eyes were as big as quarters,” Tyson says. “My parachute deployed and became a drag chute and pulled me off the airplane.”
Tyson remembers the surreal feeling as he watched the tail of the plane pass in slow motion. While many would remain on solid ground after such a fear-inducing experience, Tyson’s mentality was to “fix that problem, get up there, and try again.” He reexamined the business’s processes and added new safety protocols to improve the experience for future skydivers.
From the flight process to handling reservations, Tyson combed through every aspect of the business looking for new areas to test and improve.
“Every decision needs to be an investment in some way or another,” he says. “You have to relate what you are spending your time on to some sort of a return. A financial return is tangible, it’s measurable, it’s specific, but there are a lot of things about business that you can’t measure like that, for instance, safety.”
Tyson began making incremental changes that were “essential for longevity, for growth.” With each new year of the business came new evolution.
In fact, Tyson admits he never expected to be running Skydive Snohomish over two decades after taking over the business, but the personal and business growth he has experienced during that time has kept him coming back season after season.
“I definitely feel like there is a further evolution that is happening right now, and I am excited for this next season,” Tyson says. “That has motivated me to look forward and to continue to evolve it into something that I am passionate about.”