For many people, visiting a Disney park or property has a magical quality. Because of this, just as many companies around the world have been trying to emulate the Disney experience in their own facility, attempting to tap into their own brand of magic. But here’s the problem: there is no such thing as magic.
As much as I wish it weren’t true, I cannot wave a wand or snap my fingers and transport myself to Hawaii anytime I would like.
Except for magicians, most people can’t explain how a magic trick works (and magicians really aren’t supposed to tell, either). We know there has to some logical explanation about the lady that gets cut in half, but we are too busy being entertained to really question it. That’s what Disney is counting on for the guest experience, and what makes emulating them so difficult.
So I say don’t bother. Especially when there is a little park in Indiana that has been named the friendliest park in the world 13 times, positioning themselves as the new gold standard for hospitality in the hospitality industry.
And here’s what’s cool. If you were at the Pat Koch Lunch and Learn at IAAPA, she told you exactly how Holiday World has done it. If you weren’t, I’ll recap a few points here.
1. They train. They commit to making sure everyone knows what they are supposed to do and has the skill to do it. Even as Mrs. Koch says, “it takes time and it’s expensive, but it is vital.” And it’s not just for the front line, either. Folks in management ranks are also required to keep up with industry trends and certifications.
Speaking of training, it was something she said about the timing of their training that was very intriguing as well. She said they let people get comfortable their tasks for a little while, then bring them back in for hospitality training. That way they aren’t trying to cover too much at once. Seems to be working. :o)
2. They have “high standards and strict rules”. Many people seem to think that young folks need to be coddled or they have no work ethic. Not so. Holiday World proves that you can have high standards and people will rise up and meet them IF you are clear about the expectations and you enforce them fairly and consistently.
3. They “mentor, teach and care for” their employees. People need to know how they measure up to the standards, that they belong, and that there is someone looking out for them. As a brief aside, my wife and I have been watching the show “Gold Rush” about the new gold boom in Alaska. One of the characters, 16 year-old Parker Schnabel, recently enlisted the help of his father and grandfather to build a road on his claim. Parker shows a tremendous amount of respect for these two, not just because they are good at what they do, but likely because they have been there to encourage, guide, mentor and care for Parker throughout his life. Our employees at work need that, too.
4. They listen to the front line. Mrs. Koch stated that, “maybe the cashier or sweeper has a better idea of how things should be than we do.” It takes a strong leadership team to admit they don’t know everything, and that the people in the trenches probably have some good ideas, too. We just have to listen to them.
There was one last thing that Mrs. Koch said in her presentation that stuck with me, something that applies to business, relationships and how you lead your teams. She said, “Be number 1 to somebody, not number 2 to everyone.”
To me that means be the best you can for YOUR audience (ie. clients, guests, employees, friends, family, co-workers). Don’t worry about being everything to everyone.
Who are you number 1 to?