Find the Right Builder

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Oct 092017

This article first appeared in Adventure Park Insider


By Paul Cummings

So you’ve decided to build an aerial adventure park—congratulations! You are about to embark on a fun and exciting journey into the world of adventure business. But you’re not on your own. There are plenty of firms out there whose job it is to help you on your quest—and you’re going to need them.

One of the most critical partnerships you will make is with the firm you select to build your park. Not only are builders typically the largest expense as you open your park—making up around 50 to 60 percent of startup costs—but they will also impact how much hair you will have left on your head after your park has been built. So, how do you pick the best one?

First, let’s start with design. Actually, scratch that. The first thing you should do is go out and experience as many aerial adventure parks as you possibly can. Honestly, this is one of the most fun and exciting parts of opening an adventure park. This is how to learn what you like and don’t like about existing operations. Pick the best parts from each, and figure out how to combine them to create a quality experience for your eventual participants.

Be sure to climb on different types of parks as you explore the wide variety of existing designs. Ideally, these will include tree-based parks, wooden pole-based parks, steel pole-based parks, indoor parks, hub-and-spoke designed parks, and linear trail parks. Yes, this will likely involve travel outside of your market and geographic area. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

Talk to staff and guests at each park and find out what they like. Be sure to also ask them what they would change about that particular park, and why. Aerial park personnel are usually a pretty chatty bunch, and you should be able to glean a wealth of information from them. If you are not visiting a potential direct competitor of yours, you should also talk to the owners, and find out what their experience has been.

Once you’ve researched different parks (and probably found some new muscles you didn’t know you had), it’s time to start the task of finding the right builder for you.

Bonsai Design Creation: A nest built into a zip line course at Ijams Nature Center, Ky.

Bonsai Design Creation: A nest built into a zip line course at Ijams Nature Center, Ky.

What do they build?

No two builders build the exact same thing. This is why it is so important to visit and climb on a few parks designed by different builders. Even if the basic design is the same (tree-based, pole-based, linear, hub-and-spoke), there will be subtle differences on everything from the height of the belay cables to the shape of the zip line landing platforms. Participant equipment will vary as well. Different builders use different harnesses and belay systems. And then there’s the eternal question that all adventure park operators will eventually ask: helmet, or no helmet? Only by visiting numerous parks will you really gain an understanding for what each builder is “about.”

How long does it take?

We’re talking about the time it takes from signing the contract to opening day. The time frame provided by your builder may seem reasonable, but keep in mind there are often delays in the rest of the process that can stall your build. Financing, zoning, permitting, and weather delays are the most common contributors to unforeseen hold-ups.

What is their lead time?

By the time you read this, it is probably too late to open by spring of 2017 if you haven’t yet contracted with your builder. Many of the top builders book up several months in advance, and almost everyone wants to open in the spring. Find out how much lead time your preferred builder requires, and be sure to budget more time than you think you will need so that you can secure the builder you want.

Sky Trek Tower

All part of the job: KristallTurm installed the masts for the Epic Sky Trek Tower at Castle Rock Zip Tours in Castle Rock, Colo.

What is included in their costs, and what isn’t?

Every proposal and cost structure is designed a little bit differently, so it’s important to make sure you know what costs should be included. The following list outlines some of the top costs associated with building an aerial adventure park. When reviewing proposals, you should look for the following:

Shipping. Does the builder cover the transportation of the building materials, or do you? This may seem simple, but these costs can add up quickly if they are not accounted for.

Storage. Once the materials and supplies arrive on site, where do you put it all? Secure storage may be necessary to prevent theft and weather damage, and builders may or may not have a plan already in place for this.

Insurance. General liability, automotive, and builder’s risk are just some of the insurance coverages you may need for your project in the construction phase. These may not show up as itemized costs in the proposal, but they are definitely worth asking about.

Equipment/Participant Gear. Often overlooked in contracts, you are going to need harnesses, lanyards, smart belay systems, rescue equipment, and other gear for your staff and participants. Sometimes the builder only supplies a small amount of participant equipment. Find out what gear they are using, and how much of it you will receive with your bid. If you are building a larger park, you will probably need more gear!

Aerial Design course

Aerial Designs crafted this course for Glacier Highline Aerial Adventure Park in Coram, Mont.

Heavy Equipment. Oftentimes, builders don’t include the cost of using cranes, bulldozers, and other earth-moving equipment, but this can be a huge unanticipated expense if you are not prepared for it. Be sure to find out if these tools will be necessary, and receive an estimate on the cost.

Foundations. Depending on your location and the type of course you are building, you may need concrete footings and foundations for parts of your park. Like many other land improvements, these are frequently the responsibility of the client. When you are soliciting bids, be sure to have a conversation about this when builders visit your site.

Assembly. There are builders that don’t construct the main support structure themselves, but require that you hire local labor to assemble it before they come in to string up the individual elements. As long as you know that this cost isn’t included in their proposal, it’s not a problem. But it is imperative to find that out in advance, so you don’t incur additional costs or experience delays in the project.

Training. Most builders will include some degree of safety and usage training with their courses. This should also be supplemented with customer service training and management training. Find out what the builders offer, and then supplement accordingly. Remember, this is an area where it is better to go overboard than the other way around.

Permitting. Will your builder be assisting you with the permitting needed for your course, or does that responsibility fall solely on your shoulders?

While these costs may seem straightforward, many of them may not be included in proposals, so be sure to do a comparison. We once worked with a client who compared almost identical proposals from two different builders. One of them came in $300,000 cheaper, which seemed very odd. Upon closer inspection, we realized the builder had omitted labor costs from his bid! So, make sure to cross-reference your proposals, and know that it never hurts to get a second (or third, or fourth) set of eyes on the costs.

Sky Trail Explorer

Ropes Courses, Inc. installed the Sky Trail Explorer at the South Shore YMCA in Hanover, Mass.

Are their existing clients happy?

Before making a final decision on a builder, be sure to obtain some client references from them, and call those clients to see how satisfied they are. Better yet, go out and climb on one of their parks, and if the park isn’t within your competitive radius, talk to the owners. This is different from your initial visits—and hey, it’s another great excuse to get out and climb! Plus, getting feedback from someone who has firsthand experience with your preferred builder is very valuable.


Once the park has been built, and all of the necessary permits have been obtained, what else needs to happen in order for the park to open? Find out if the builder will see you through the final steps of the process.

Ongoing Support

After your park is up and operating successfully, you will need to go through inspection and periodic review, and make sure that your equipment remains up-to-date. While a third-party operator typically conducts the inspection, most aerial park equipment has a specific shelf life and needs to be retired after a period of time. Your builder will also likely be your supplier for course and participant equipment, so you’ll want to have a conversation about equipment orders with your builder.

Overall Fit

At the end of the day, you will be spending a tremendous amount of time communicating with this person, or with this group of people. The metrics discussed in this story are all important, but ultimately, you’re embarking on a long-term business relationship with your chosen builder. Make sure you like doing business with them. Do they return your calls? Are they respectful of your questions? Do you “click,” or do you struggle to communicate? If the designs on different bids are similar, everything checks out from a cost perspective, the references are good, but you still can’t decide on a builder—go with your gut.

Final Thoughts

As you read through the different criteria, you’ll notice one recurring theme: have a conversation, and ask lots of questions! The more informed you are at the front end, the more you avoid hidden costs, project delays, and additional gray hairs. While a picture is worth a thousand words, a question could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. So don’t be afraid to dig in, talk to industry experts, and use this article as a reference as you embark on the quest to find a perfect builder.

And when you’re done, let us know. We can’t wait to come climb on your park!

Little Things That Matter Big

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Oct 052017

This article first appeared in Adventure Park Insider

By Paul Cummings

In the world of adventure parks, everything is based around selling an experience. Several factors play a role in this experience, not just the physical elements guests pay to enjoy. As such, one of the most critical aspects of your business is how you handle guest relations. For an adventure park or zip line tour, the quality of guest relations impacts just about everything, including the perceived safety of your attraction.

Most people hear guest relations and think specifically about what happens when guests arrive on-site. However, it is so much more than that. Every interaction that people have with your brand—from when they first hear of you to when they write a review after their visit—is part of the guest relations experience. We’ve broken it down into three, easy-to-manage phases of guest relations: before the visit, during the visit, after the visit.


Let’s start at the beginning. The very first impression of your business is going to be your marketing system, starting with your website. In many ways, your online presence is a reflection of your quality of service.

First off, does your website look professional, or does it look like it was built on software from the 1990s? Before visitors even look for information, they will want to make sure you are indeed a reputable company, and that perception starts with having an up-to-date website. Not just the look of it, but the overall user experience. How easy is it to navigate? A good site should have tabs for FAQs and contact information, among other things, on every page so users don’t have to go searching.

Here are a few other factors you may want to consider on your website in order to improve the guest experience:

Is it mobile friendly? The majority of web traffic today takes place on mobile devices, and this is particularly relevant in tourist markets where people do most of their research on their phones or tablets. If you don’t have a mobile site or a site with responsive design, stop what you are doing, go talk to your web designer, and come back when you’re done.

Are the photos professionally done and technically accurate? We have come across photos of participants not clipped into their safety systems while at height, which is a dangerous message. You may also want to address certain safety practices that may be considered “unorthodox.” For example, if you have images of participants going upside-down, explain that the harnesses are specifically designed for that purpose. If your adventure park does not use helmets, explain the rationale behind this.

Is your FAQ list accurate and up to date? We’ve encountered more than a few FAQs that don’t match the policies or facilities of the park. Make sure you and your web designer don’t just copy a FAQ from another park’s site. Done well, your FAQ can provide a script for phone staff (more on them in a moment).

If you take reservations, how easy is it to reserve a spot? If it’s too complex, they’ll go elsewhere. This can be particularly problematic on mobile sites where third-party software is integrated.

What is communicated after booking? Everyone should get an email confirmation after they book online. Take this opportunity to provide helpful information, including “what to bring” and/or “what to wear” so guests arrive properly prepared.

How the phones are answered is another key service issue that needs to be addressed. Often an afterthought, the person answering the phones and how they handle inquiries can have a huge impact on whether or not someone decides to come. I once called a zip line tour about a booking, and the woman on the phone was very enthusiastic, to the point that every other word out of her mouth was “awesome!” And I know that this is not an isolated case—just reading through some of the Park Spy articles in this magazine is enough to make me shudder (and also see there is still a glimmer of hope!).

Whoever answers the phone should know the basic process of the park/tour and the park/tour’s policies, and be able to answer the most frequently asked questions. They should know what clothing and shoes to recommend, and suggest bringing food/drink if it’s not available onsite. And finally, the website info and phone info should be in sync, and updated as needed. If one doesn’t match the other, what message does that send about your operation?

Finally, your guests’ day-of experience should be positive before they even arrive at your park. For example, if Google Maps will send them to the middle of nowhere, provide specific directions on your website. In all cases, ensure the signage leading up to your park is clear, especially if the location is difficult to find. Same applies to the path from parking lot to check-in. It might be obvious to you, but will a first-timer know where to head?


Your on-site guest relations begin the moment visitors pull into the parking lot. How obvious is it that they’ve arrived at your park, and will they like what they see?

In most adventure parks and zip line tours, the check-in process is the first real on-site experience with guest relations. Short wait times are crucial in delivering a positive experience, as is handling waivers. Can they sign a waiver online in advance? Do you have paper or electronic waivers? What system is being used, and can the waiver transfer over if you operate multiple parks?

Once guests are checked in, they typically go through an orientation process. These vary by park, of course, but a good orientation should offer clear instruction and some hands-on practice with the equipment that will be operated at height. The experience should be thorough, but succinct. Don’t make your guests feel bored or overloaded with explanation.

As a whole, staff interactions are one of the most critical factors in the guest relations experience. Hiring the right people is key, as is training your staff on how to interact with guests.

Here are some standard protocols that should always be enforced:

Language/Communication: This is particularly critical when it pertains to safety. We have heard far too many jokes like “first to ride, first to die,” and other off-message humor about the integrity of safety systems. Our general rule is: “No jokes about safety. Ever.” There are plenty of other things to joke about. Usually self-deprecating humor works best, just make sure it doesn’t make it sound like you’re incompetent. “I’m always forgetting to check my harness, too” doesn’t give me confidence that you’ll be checking mine, either (yes, I actually heard a guide say that).

The Weather Factor: We all know what it’s like to operate in an environment where the weather does not always cooperate. Staff attitudes can make or break a rainy day in New England or a 105-degree day in California. Additionally, staff should be clear on when to close a park in the event of inclement weather, and what the policy is for refunds in such a case. There is nothing worse than guests getting conflicting information from staff on what happens next after a park unexpectedly closes down.

Injury/Incidents: Bumps and bruises are common, and while we all hope that further incidents do not happen, you still want your staff to be prepared. First aid kits should be easily accessible, and staff should be proactive in responding to minor injuries while maintaining a calm, positive attitude. You also want to make sure that your staff is trained on how to handle larger incidents, and what not to say in the event of an emergency (absolutely no expletives, for starters). Most importantly, the best thing staff can do in the event of an emergency, large or small, is to remain calm and not succumb to panic.

Overall Attitude: Is your staff trained to smile? Do they use participants’ names? Do they introduce themselves? When they need to correct someone on their use of equipment, what is their approach? These are all small, minor details that can absolutely make or break the guest experience.

Equipment condition: this is another key factor. Does everything look clean and fresh, or does it smell like a locker room after football practice? Are there visible tears or blemishes that could affect the perception of safety? If your course uses gloves, what sizes do you provide? Does equipment get hung to dry when wet? If people are strapping into equipment and trusting their lives to it, that equipment should be as immaculate and odor-free as possible.

Nothing is worse than reaching into a bin of gloves and encountering “glove soup.” Recently, we were visiting a client and climbing on their course. It had rained earlier in the day and they had forgotten to close the lid on their glove bin. This was late in their season and the gloves were rather, well, ripe. Our hands smelled like drowned cow for days.

Do you provide closed-toe shoes for those who show up without them? If so, make sure they are clean and appealing. And dry.

Oh, and the number one guest relations issue? Bathrooms. People do not want to use bathrooms that are gross or unkempt. These should also be in convenient locations, and directions to them should be well marked. If you are at a location where porta potties are your only option, make sure they are serviced constantly, and you may want to add a few nice touches, like sinks, hand sanitizer, or air freshener. No matter how much fun guests have climbing or zipping, they will always remember a nasty bathroom.


The guest experience does not end just because the visit is over. As a matter of fact, you want to ensure that your guests continue to have a positive experience after they leave, because this is when they will write their reviews. Here are a few of our favorite ways to keep guests engaged at the conclusion of their visit:

Follow-Up Surveys: This is one of the best ways to gather valuable feedback on your product. It’s important to remember, though, that a survey is different from a review. The responses are not for public consumption, and should be used as a resource.

As tempting as it is to give guests a survey as soon as they finish the last big zip line or complete the double black diamond course, do yourself a favor and hold off for a few days. Let the experience settle in, and then send them a follow-up survey via email. While the results may not be as glowing, they will be far more accurate and provide valuable data you need to keep improving your park.

Online Reviews: Every park and zip line tour operator seeks five-star reviews on Yelp and TripAdvisor. If you are looking for public, online reviews, make the process as easy as possible. Provide QR codes at your park, send a follow-up email with an incentive to write a review, and be sure to have your website updated. Most importantly, make sure the link you provide in all of your materials and messaging is accurate and goes to your park’s review page.

Newsletters and Promotions: I once met a park operator who was trying a new email marketing software product where he was sending out daily promotional emails to prospective clients. That’s overkill and, frankly, annoying. A monthly or quarterly email with news and promotions is perfectly appropriate, depending on your client base. Generally, if you work with a primarily local population, you can get away with emailing once a month, but if your database is mainly tourists, stick to quarterly or semi-annually.

This is a great chance to let them know of upcoming events, new elements that are being built, or simply to pass along basic park updates in order to remind them you’re there. If you can add value by offering some knowledge or an incentive, that’s even better.

Invite Them Back: There is nothing wrong with inviting guests back to your park, particularly if you can offer them a new experience the second time around. Use your newsletter as a platform, or send a personalized email a day or two after their visit, letting them know of a promotion. Your existing customers are your biggest promoters, so be sure to give them an incentive to come back for more!


If you are in the industry and reading this article, it’s likely that you’re already on track to make some outstanding strides in guest relations. However, the biggest misses we see typically involve the “before” and “after” experience.

Our best advice is to think of the guest relations experience as a turnkey process. Remember, it starts as soon as they hear about you, and ends only if they choose to unsubscribe from newsletters after visiting. At the end of the day, if you provide an outstanding guest experience, the entire industry benefits. So good luck out there, and we hope to visit one of your parks soon!

Oct 042017

2016-05-12 09.51.47

This article originally appeared on Adventure Park Insider

Question: I am doing my homework on how to obtain financing for my aerial park; can you suggest any terms or keywords I should use when talking to lenders? Anything I should avoid saying?

There are two primary sources of funding we typically see for aerial adventure parks: banks and private investors. Each one will want to know some keys pieces of information from you.

Banks will want to know about personal guarantees, collateral, and of course they’ll want to see your business plan.

Personal Guarantees: Unless you have other profitable businesses, a bank will want to get you and any private investors to commit to being responsible for the loan should the business default on the loan.

Collateral: Real estate purchased for the business and any structures added to the property are regularly used as collateral. Unfortunately, the aerial park itself is often not considered for collateral, since the bank will not be able to get full value for poles and cables that are repossessed. The equity available in your home is oftentimes included for collateral, also.

Business Plan: A well thought out business plan is critical for a bank to take you seriously. It will detail your research into the marketplace, how you will operate your park, and highlight the expertise of your team. It also details the financials of the business and how the business will make money. Private investors are a bit different from banks and will want to know a few more details. These details include your expected ROI, EBITDA, and your valuation of the business.

ROI: Return on Investment. This ratio is expressed a few different ways: The first is in the number of years it will take to get their initial capital back (typically, private investors want a return within three years). It can also be represented as an average of what percentage of their money is returned on an annual basis (a three year ROI works out to 33.33 percent, annually).

EBITDA: Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization. This calculation is essentially a way to measure performance without having to factor in financing structures, accounting decisions, or how the business is taxed.

Valuation: the current value of the business. As a start up company without any operating history, the value of your business will most likely be whatever your start up costs are. Thus, if you spend $1 million to open the business, it is valued at $1 million to a potential investor. Now, should you be anticipating a higher than average return on investment, you may be able to get a higher valuation.

No matter what direction you end up going—banks, private investors, or both—you are going to need to know your numbers inside and out! The more prepared you are, the better your chances of obtaining funding.

The worst thing you can say is “I don’t know.” A better response is, “I’ll find out and get you an answer, ASAP.”

Good luck to you, and I look forward to climbing in your new park!

Key Numbers for your Adventure Business – Break Even

 Business Planning  Comments Off on Key Numbers for your Adventure Business – Break Even
Sep 222016

As you grow your business, there are several metrics you should be tracking to see how your business is doing. Here is one that is important to know:

Break Even

Break Even is the point where your business begins to make a profit. In the adventure business world, we typically use the number of visitors as the defining break even point. In other words, we need X number of people to come to our aerial park before we start making a profit. Here is an example of a break even chart and graph.


There are three elements to calculating your break even number. The first is your fixed cost. Fixed cost is the money you spend per year whether you are open for business or not and includes things like management salaries, utilities, marketing, and so forth. The number used is the yearly total of all of your fixed costs.

The second number is your variable costs. These are the costs that fluctuate as you get more guests. These can include liability insurance, guide or monitor pay, credit card service fees, etc. Variable costs are represented as the total cost per visitor.

The last number is the unit price. This is the average price you are charging for each participant. Be sure to calculate any discounts or childrens ticket prices into your figure.

As you look at the graph above, the point at which you start making a profit is where the revenue line (green) crosses the fixed plus variable cost line (blue). So in this example, with an average ticket price of $47, we would need about 13,000 visitors to break even.

Break Even is an important number to know for any Feasibility Study or Business Plan!


How feasible is your new adventure business?

 Adventure Parks, Business Planning, Zip Lines  Comments Off on How feasible is your new adventure business?
Aug 182014

2014-06-26 11.13.27

One of the most common questions that we get from prospective clients is whether or not their new business will be profitable. Most potential business owners want us to come to their site, evaluate their business model, check out the land, scope out the competition, crunch some numbers and give them a 100% thumbs up or thumbs down.

Easy, right?

Well…it’s not always that simple. There are a variety of factors that we take into account, any of which could be a make-or-break for the business. What we have done is devise a point-based system that will help determine the success of your business (and no, no one has ever scored a perfect 100%!)

Here are some of the factors that we look at, and questions that any new business owner, whether it is a zip line tour, aerial adventure park, climbing gym, or some other type of adventure business should be asking:

  • How far away is your land from the nearest population or tourist center?
  • How much space does the land have for your proposed attraction, and for future expansion?
  • Is the land currently zoned for commercial use?
  • Does your management team have adventure business management experience? What about other business management experience?
  • Who else do you plan to have on your team, and how much relevant experience do they have?
  • Is your project already capitalized or do you need investors? If so, are the investors already in place?
  • How much of a financial cushion does the business owner have? Are you able to go several months without generating revenue?
  • Who is your target market and where are they coming from?
  • Who are your competitors, and how high-quality are their services compared to your projected business?

If you see a question that you are not sure how to answer, or if you want to know your feasibility score, contact us at (888) 553-0167 or email us at to learn more.

We look forward to hearing about your new projects!

If you build it…

 Marketing  Comments Off on If you build it…
Aug 122013

The phrase “If you build it, they will come” seems to be the mindset of many adventure operators. Perhaps it’s only true if you’re building a baseball diamond in a cornfield, because it sure doesn’t work for most other ventures. Marketing tends to be one of the first items to be cut when money starts running short, either at the construction phase or during the first year of operations usually.  And it will cripple your business.

So how much should you be spending on your marketing efforts? Financially speaking, 10-15% of your annual operating budget. Minimum! Time wise you should be spending 40-50% of your work day on marketing efforts. That includes testing and measuring the results of your current marketing tactics. If you see a positive return on your investment for a particular tactic, do more of it. If you don’t, do less of it or stop it all together.

Your marketing budget should be an untouchable amount as you grow your business. Unless you decide to do more of it…

Facilitated Growth

 Business Planning, Marketing  Comments Off on Facilitated Growth
Apr 082013

My wife Michelle and I have put together a unique training opportunity that we are hosting in Golden , Colorado April 18th and 19th and we would love for you to join us! Here’s what we’ve put together:

The Business Development Track by Paul Cummings includes:

1. Marketing the Experience – We all know that marketing is important, but how do we find the time for it amidst everything else that we have going on? This session will explore tools and techniques to help you communicate your message more effectively, and to the right people. The techniques that you learn will ultimately help save you time and money by spending those valuable marketing dollars in the best way possible.

2. Selling the Experience – If you run a business, chances are you already have some sales experience. Do you have a process in place, or are you just “winging it?” Come learn how to develop a real sales process that yields long-term clients, and find out what is the most common “make or break” for businesses.

3. Starting your own Business – What does it take to start your own business? What are the common pitfalls and less known obstacles to creating a successful venture? I’ll show you!

4. Growing your Business – Whether you are running a successful operation or struggling to make a profit, chances are your business could use a bit of fine-tuning. This interactive discussion will target the areas of your business that most need adjusting so that you leave feeling well-equipped to make the changes you need, and take your business to the next level.

Maximum of 20 people in each session.

The Group Experience Track by Michelle Cummings includes:

1. Awesome Icebreakers & Energizers- Come prepared to play and learn a ton of interactive activities in this action packed workshop. The adventure based activities are suitable to share with groups ages 12 and above and group sizes of 4 to 50+ participants. Activities that keep your group meaningfully active and engaged throughout their experience. They can be used together or to break up the day. Build your bag of tricks in this action packed workshop.

2. Effective Debriefing Tools and Techniques- Are you good at the games but not so good at the debrief? Do you ask questions and get blank stares from your participants? This workshop will focus on 10+ effective debriefing tools that are simple and easy to use. We will discuss nine different techniques for processing to help liven up your debriefing circles. Learn simple and effective ways to process experiences so they relate to real life and future learning. In this interactive workshop participants will experiment with an interesting array of prop based methods that lead to metaphorically rich reflection. These tools from the book “A Teachable Moment” are easy to duplicate or make on your own.

3. Conflict Resolution/Bullying Prevention- Walk out of this workshop with a variety of tools and techniques for dealing with conflict, bullying and discipline issues. Apply your learning immediately to help your participants understand that through collaboration, encouragement and an appreciation of differences in one another’s lives we can defuse tense situations and de-escalate conflict.

4. Best Problems Solving & Communication Activities- Michelle’s most favorite activities and new ideas!

Maximum of 80 people per session.

Specifics can be found on the Training Wheels site at the following link: Facilitated Growth

We hope you can join us!




The Importance of a Business Model

 Adventure Parks, Business Planning, Value, Zip Lines  Comments Off on The Importance of a Business Model
Mar 202013

It’s no secret that one of my favorite shows on television is Shark Tank. My other favorite is Hell’s Kitchen, but that’s a different blog post… On Shark Tank, business owners present their companies and ideas to a panel of successful investors by doing a quick 3 minute presentation before the “Sharks” start asking questions.

The first question is almost always “what are your sales so far?” In other words, are people buying what you are selling? If the answer to that question is a very low number, the sharks ask why no one is buying yet. If the answer is a large number, the sharks will wonder why the business owner is seeking more funding. What they are really trying to discover is what business model the owners are using. How is the business engaging clients and making money?

A business model as several key components that you must consider whether you are starting a new business or looking to grow an existing one. They include:

  • Your Target Market
  • Your Value Proposition
  • Sales Channels
  • Client Engagement Strategies
  • Key Activities of the Business
  • Key Partnerships
  • Key Resources
  • The Cost Structure
  • and Revenue Streams

If one of these components are missing from your business plan or strategic plan, you are not going to be as successful as you could be. One recent contestant on the show recently stated to the sharks when they asked about her business model “We don’t have a business model, we’re making this up as we go!” It should be very telling that all of the sharks lost interest the second that came out of her mouth.

What is your business model? Could you explain it to someone in a few minutes?


(My 10 year old typically watches the show with me. Last week I had missed the intro of one of the presentations and I asked him what was going on with the proposal. He replied “He’s been in business for six weeks, has $10,000 in sales and is giving his company a valuation of $500,000. I think he’s going home disappointed.” That’s my boy!)

4 things investors want to see in your zip line business plan

 Adventure Parks, Business Planning, Zip Lines  Comments Off on 4 things investors want to see in your zip line business plan
Jan 222013

When you are writing your business plan, or having someone write it for you there are four key elements that you want to be sure are detailed in your plan. If investors don’t see all four of these elements, your chances of being funded are greatly diminished.
1. Detailed Financials – This should go without saying, and yet it is surprising how many plans we see here at Strategic Adventures that have minimal financial data. You need at minimum a Profit and Loss Statement, a Balance Sheet, Cash Flow Statement, industry related Business Ratios, and a detailed Start Up Cost Analysis. You should also be prepared to have your personal financial statements and tax returns reviewed.
2. A Business System – Investors also want to see that you have a well thought out method of operating. How are you going to run the day to day business? What marketing tools will you be implementing? Who is responsible for doing what in your business?
3. Experience – You need to show that you and/or your partners have experience in either running a business or in the industry you’ll be operating, preferably both. It may be time to brush up that resume!
4. Skin in the game – What level of financial commitment are you personally making in the new business? Investors don’t want to be in the position of holding all of the responsibility if the business hits a rough patch. They want to be sure that you won’t just walk away!

So as you’re preparing to make your plan or if you think you are ready to present a plan you’ve written, be sure you are covering the above points in as much detail as possible.


P.S. Are you getting a bit overwhelmed with writing a plan on your own? We can help! Call our office today at 1-888-553-0167 for a no cost consultation.

Dec 052012

Every day, I see marketing for the biggest, fastest, longest, blah blah blah zip line tour. And it’s all crap.

Why? Because that’s why people come the first time, but has zero relevance on whether they come back. If you want a zip line tour that is successful for the long term, you NEED people to come back and what gets them back is your quality of service coupled with how accurately your tour is presented in your marketing.

Case in point: I was developing a feasibility study for a client and had to go ride the competing tours in the area. I know, I suffer for my craft… Anyway, the first tour I visit said on their web site that they had the only tour in the area with zero hand braking. Intrigued, I booked my tour. Upon arriving at their office I signed my liability waiver. As I handed it to the check in person they loudly proclaimed “First to sign, first to die!” I was stunned. If I hadn’t been “undercover” I would have let loose on this unsuspecting individual. However, I kept quiet and waited for the rest of our tour group to finish signing their lives away.

On to the course! As with most tours, we start on a short training line to get everyone ready to tackle the longer lines. Now, guess what they show us how to do… Hand Brake! And not only do they show us how, they proceed to tell us that it is required for every single one of their 12 lines. Major disappointment.

From there I witness many other gaffes:

  • Guides not clipping in on platforms
  • Duct tape being used to finish cable ends
  • More jokes about safety and the impending doom of each rider
  • and many others…
  • All told, one of the worst experiences I’ve had on a zip line/canopy tour. Now hopefully I’m not describing your course! However, take a look at your marketing and see how it compares to the actual experience. It may be worthwhile to hire a secret shopper or two and get some solid feedback to see how your business is or isn’t attracting repeat business.


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