General Manager - How do you become one?

Thursday, March 24, 2005 9:44 PM
I've always wanted to be the GM of some amusement park. I'm going into Business in college and I was wondering what is the best way to become a GM?

I'm planning on working as a ride op the summer I graduate high school at CP.

GM of an amusement park is exactly what I'd love to do. I mean there are over a 100 amusement parks across the US, odds are if I worked hard I could get myself into one of those parks.

Any suggestions?

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Thursday, March 24, 2005 9:55 PM
Just be ready to start at the bottom and work your way up! Most GM's have started out as Ride op's, restroom cleaners, sweepers, etc... After many years they start working their way up the ladder. Good luck in your venture.
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Thursday, March 24, 2005 9:58 PM
The current CEO of Paramount Parks, Al Weber started out as a ride operator back in the early 70`s at Kings Island. PKI`s current GM, Craig Ross, started out as a food stand employee at Kings Dominion in 1975. As said above, you just have to stay onboard and slowly climb the corporate ladder, and one day you might be lucky enough to be promoted to GM.
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Thursday, March 24, 2005 10:35 PM
Yeah, like the others mentioned, it all starts off at the bottom, then you got to work your way up...the GM at my park has a degree in Sports Management, not sure how that helps him because it is a degree that helps you to represent athletes and stuff like that...Also a lot of rear kissing doesn't hurt.
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Friday, March 25, 2005 12:46 AM
Bill sphen, GM of Geauga Lake, was a multiple duty employee of CP for many years. Then he started to get higher on the chain. Eventually vice president of operations at CP. now Has new a new GM position at Geauga Lake.
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Friday, March 25, 2005 8:29 AM
Since mots full time employees have just stayed with the company and worked their way up most dont have college degree's specifically in management or business, just be willing to work a lot of summer's before fulltime becomes an option, im in my 5th and still in seasonal supervision and I expect to stay there for at least another 2 seasons, maybe more.

Another thing is that since most companies promote from within its almost unheard of for a fresh college grad who has never worked with the company to get a position that a seasoned employee is applying for as well. *** Edited 3/25/2005 1:31:12 PM UTC by XFlight***

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Friday, March 25, 2005 8:37 AM
See if your local area parks have an internship program. This would be a great way to get your foot in the door at the park and earn college credit at the same time. You'd also probably intern doing something more towards your business degree than ride ops or food service.

I'm pretty sure Cedar Fair parks still have marketing and sales audit internship positions that would be related to a business degree.

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Friday, March 25, 2005 9:03 AM
Have you decided on a college yet? The University of Central Florida actually has a theme park management program within their college of hospitality. I don't think it's been around long enough yet to judge the success of its graduates, but it looks to be a pretty cool program.

Working at CP in the Summers is definitely a good start. You should also look into the Walt Disney World College Program as well. (I've heard mixed reviews of it, but like anything else, I imagine you get out of it what you put into it...)

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Friday, March 25, 2005 9:13 AM
No I haven't decided which college.

See, I've always beeen interested in running either a theme park or a ski resort.

The problem is that if I get a degree in either ski resort management or theme park management, what if I don't get a job? It's not a flexible degree I could use for another job if all else fails. I've gotten the impression you do have to work your way up, so I'll start with CP when I graduate high school and see how it goes.

I was thinking of just going for business or marketinga and then getting my MBA, and at the same time, each summer working at an amusement park for experience.

I'd preferably want to go to a college either out west or in Vermont so I can ski throughout the winter, and then go to a park in the summer.

Thanks for the info!

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Friday, March 25, 2005 11:33 AM
While UCF has a major "track" in theme park mgmt., my guess is that the degree is actually a BS in Hospitality Management.

Unless you're in a very technical (or medical) field, your college major means less and less as your career progresses. My major was in journalism (PR track), but I've spent most of my career in IT training (or, "performance management" as we like to call it now <g>.)

Unless you have your heart set on marketing, I'd suggest you look at other options for a "generic" business major. Considered the "glamour" business major, there are a lot of marketing graduates for each available job. Finance or business operations are good to consider as well. (Ohio State's Fisher College of Business offers an "operations management" program that I've been impressed with...it provides a great survey of all aspects of business ops. that would be useful in any field you wanted to pursue.)

I'd still consider the WDW college program for a quarter. I've worked with a few colleagues who did the program and both said having it on their resume opened a lot of doors. One guy told me that nearly 15 years later, every interviewer still always asks about it!

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Friday, March 25, 2005 12:54 PM
Hopefully these three words help you in your quest.

PRIDE - PASSION - PERFORMANCE

It helped me become GM of one of the country's top 10 FEC's, Enchanted Castle - Lombard, Illinois.

Take PRIDE in all of your efforts. Start wherever you can (usually at the base like I did at SFGAm in 1986). NEVER place yourself above a task no matter how unflattering it might be.

You have to have a true PASSION for this kind of work. It is long, grueling hours at times, but pays you back in knowing you have entertained thousands or millions of people. You will truly make an impact on people's lives!

PERFORM hard! Bust your behind to be recognized as a self-motivated leader. Be assertive, not arrogant. You are "competing" with dozens or hundreds of co-workers who may share the same goal as you.

Schooling IS important! I only was able to achieve an Associate's degree, but education is a MUST!

Overall, it's not easy getting to the top! Be prepared! Check out my progression...

1986 - Yukon Yahoo operator at SFGAm ($3.35/hr)

1987-8 LEAD of Power Dive, Orbit, Log Run, Am Eagle

1989 - Operations Trainer (seasonal) then Supervisor

1990-1 Seasonal Supervisor

1992-6 F/T Sup; opened Batman-The Ride, Viper

1996 - Old Indiana Personnel Administrator

2001* - Returned to industry as GM of Block Party in Indianapolis.

2002 - Hired on with Trails Entertainment. Became GM of EC within about a year.

* Left the industry for a while after Old Indiana's accident caused park shutdown. Was GM of a hotel and Reg Mgr for a loan company during this time.

Again, it's NOT easy getting to the top. I quote the lead singer of The Oak Ridge Boys, "You appreciate the mountaintops when you struggle through a few valleys".

Good Luck and Best Wishes!

Ken Phillips

BTW, I am still at the Castle and invite you all out if you're in the Chicago area. Ask for me! *** Edited 3/25/2005 8:24:33 PM UTC by CastleKing***

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Friday, March 25, 2005 1:21 PM
The WDW College Program certainly doesn't hurt. I agree with the above sentiment that this job alone opens many doors for interviews because potential employers are just interested in hearing about it. I was on the program in '92 and people still ask me about it.

That said, you are better off spending summers at a park and getting to know the right folks than trying to come out of college with a degree but no experience. It is a tight knit group.

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Friday, March 25, 2005 3:17 PM
I think I'll just end up going to college getting either a marketing or business degree as well as an MBA and then each summer work at an amusement park, probably the point. Like you guys said, it's not an easy job to get and I don't want to be stuck making 12,000 a year after I went to college for 4 years. I just need flexibility in case it doesn't work out.
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Friday, March 25, 2005 3:18 PM
There is another option: sleep your way to the top! ;)
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Friday, March 25, 2005 3:35 PM
I tried that at Disney but Minnie just slapped me.

Ride of Steel...if you want a high paying job you may want to look outside the amusement industry. Entry level full-time management isn't exactly going to make you rich.

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Friday, March 25, 2005 4:41 PM
Moosh is right. Go right to the top. Just hope ya don't get jabbed in the middle... ;)
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Friday, March 25, 2005 4:59 PM
I hope the Disney College Program is good...I leave on MONDAY to go to Florida (check in april 4th)
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Friday, March 25, 2005 9:04 PM
You should ask this question after Labor Day when they have more time on their hands.
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Friday, March 25, 2005 10:14 PM
Yeah AJ! I guess we'll hear from you again in September...good luck tomorrow, OPENING DAY 2005!!!!

I hear that you are dressing up as the bunny on Sunday!

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Friday, March 25, 2005 11:48 PM
Its Go Time!!!!!! Its Show Time!!!!!!! How many days to Labor Day? H n B, I can't wait for a day to start without the alarm clock....
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