Insight: Above and Beyond
If there is any doubt that a single effective leader can have an enormously positive impact on a business, look no further than the Chuck E. Cheese location in Newington, Connecticut. The story of its young General Manager, Elma Huric, reveals how encouraging and hardworking leaders can transform an attraction.
After coming to the United States from Bosnia at age 10 following the civil wars in the former Yugoslavia, Huric went to work for Chuck E. Cheese in 2008 at age 16. It was inside the Connecticut family entertainment center (FEC) where she found a home.
“I knew this was it for me. Chuck E. Cheese was everything and more to me. The fun culture, teamwork, and ways of giving back to the community made me feel excited to work here,” Huric says.
Her talents and enthusiasm were quickly recognized, and she became a team trainer only three months after her start date. At age 18, she was promoted to an entry-level management position, and at just 22, Huric became the location’s general manager. She says managing birthday parties and arcade areas requires her time and attention, but adds, “I’m most often out on the floor working alongside my team, making sure we’re delivering the best experience possible to guests. When I’m not busy assisting guests, I dedicate my time to my team, helping them if they have challenges or are struggling with solving something,” Huric says.
Though she has assistant managers who manage different areas of the FEC, Huric remains responsible for hiring, training, and developing her team. With her store operating at an optimum level, it’s now designated as a regional Chuck E. Cheese training location. “We develop new and existing managers and cast members from across the state by setting the correct standards and demonstrating the Chuck E. Cheese way and arm them with the necessary tools that can be brought back to and implemented in their own stores,” she explains.
During COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions, Huric managed to retain most of her employees, keeping the team active and unified. “My motto was, and still is today, that when hard things happen in life, you must fight harder to get back up even stronger,” she says. “I formed great relationships with my team and made sure that we didn’t lose our drive for the store or our positivity. We communicated constantly and together mapped out a plan that would get us back on top. The reason my team chose to stay and remain committed was in part due to the bond we’d previously established. I believe you first must have human connections before you have working connections.”
Keeping in line with this mindset, recognizing employees is an essential part of Huric’s success. “Having a great team you can rely on is invaluable as a general manager. It comes with an understanding that even the little things are worth recognizing and celebrating. This simple notion has been passed on to my team, who are constantly acknowledging one another’s accomplishments, big or small,” she shares.
When asked what advice she’d give a young person looking to lead an FEC, Huric tells Funworld, “Maintain a positive, caring, motivating, and open‑minded environment. A business runs on communication, but a great business runs on two‑way communication. The ability to share and receive feedback from your team is an integral piece to your business’s success.”