Wide-Ranging Wisdom on Display at ‘CEO Speaks’ Panel
by Mike Bederka
The wisdom of three industry experts with decades of experience among them hit the stage at the always-popular “CEO Speaks” panel.
Matt Heller, founder of Performance Optimist Consulting, moderated the wide-ranging conversation with Margo Manning, chief operating officer of Dave & Buster’s; Ryan Stana, founder and CEO of RWS Entertainment Group; and Michael Browning, CEO of Urban Air Adventure Parks.
Here are a few tips and nuggets of insight the trio shared during the session:
- Take Things Slow(er). Learn by testing before scaling, Manning said. “If you throw a bunch out there and just hope that it works, it puts a strain on your team and leads to inconsistency in terms of the guest experience.”
- Cared-for Employees Care for Your Guests. “Yoga classes and a ping pong table are not culture,” Browning said. “Those are perks. They’re going to see through that crap. Culture is more than that. Understand what makes them tick and show you care for them.”
- Offer a Strong Vision. Then, let employees move forward on a project on their own, Stana said. “If you feel uncomfortable with that, do specific check-ins. Maybe I’ll be there to guide them, or maybe they will be doing so amazing, I’ll say, ‘Keep going.’”
- Hire People Smarter than You. With Browning’s executive and senior leadership teams, he asks them for more information and “nudges them in the direction I want them to go,” he said. “But at the end of the day, if they overrule me, then I must be thinking about it incorrectly.”
- Going to the Next Level. The operating team at Dave and Buster’s pushes Manning to be the best at her job. “I have such admiration for them—how hard they work to deliver the experience, how committed they are to our people and to the brand,” she said. “That’s where my inspiration comes from.”
- Stay Ahead of the Curve. To keep up with the trends, Stana explores art, fashion, and food and beverage. “I’m not focused on the market I’m in,” he explained. “I’m looking at all these other markets because they infuse what we do. Now, people expect this comprehensive experience.”
- Competing with All. Amusement parks and attractions aren’t just going toe-to-toe with each other, Browning says. “It’s anyone. I’m competing with Chick-fil-A and the service they provide the consumer or Nebraska Furniture Mart and its self-service checkout. People are judging us based on interactions with brands that have nothing to do with us from a competitive perspective.”