Will Koch: CEO of Holiday World & Splashin' Safari.
FAMILY FUN DURING summer trips to an amusement park--for Will Koch, it was not only a fond memory from his childhood, but the start of a career building one of Southern Indiana's most popular attractions.
Koch is CEO (1) (Chief Executive Officer) The highest individual in command of an organization. Typically the president of the company, the CEO reports to the Chairman of the Board. of Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, an amusement and water park started by his grandfather in the town of Santa Claus Santa Claus: see Nicholas, Saint.
jolly, gift-giving figure who visits children on Christmas Eve. [Christian Tradition: NCE, 1937]
See : Christmas
Santa Claus , approximately 45 miles east of Evansville. His grandfather thought a town named Santa Claus should have a toy shop and a place for children to play with Santa. What started as a hobby for Koch's grandfather in 1946 has grown into a destination for regional tourists and die-hard roller coaster enthusiasts from around the world.
Initially built around the Christmas holiday theme, the park has continued to grow over the years, adding sections for Halloween, Thanksgiving and the 4'h of July that feature rides, games and live entertainment. In 1993, a water park area opened and in 1995 the park won rave reviews for The Raven, a new wooden roller coaster ''
A wooden roller coaster or woodie is most often classified as a roller coaster with laminated steel running rails overlaid upon a wooden track. Occasionally, the structure may be made out of a steel lattice or truss, but the ride remains classified as a wooden that was recognized as one of the best in the world.
Koch, who grew up in the family business, got his start working in the park as a costumed character The term costumed character generally refers to a costume that covers the performer's face. These range from theme park "walk-around" characters, the mascots of corporations, schools, or sports teams, some novelty act performers, to personal fursuits. when he was just 10 years old. He took over as CEO in 2003 and now oversees an attraction that draws some one million visitors each season. "We've been averaging eight percent growth per year since 1975," he says. "That's something I'm really proud of."
Koch says the key to continued growth has been keeping a focus on families, while other parks targeted mostly teenagers. For example, the park has added a number of water attractions over the years that are fun for smaller children and their parents. Keeping the park clean and making sure the staff are friendly are also top priorities.
In addition, the park has taken some novel steps to make visits more enjoyable for families. For example, installing four self-serve soft drink stations where kids can get something to drink for free has eliminated a lot of hassles for parents who found themselves repeatedly saying "no" to thirsty children. While the move reduced some revenues, it made visitors happier and more likely to return.
Koch says such thinking was initially panned by other park owners before being recognized as a top promotion. "All I kept hearing from other park owners was 'Are you nuts?'" he recalls. "It's an amazing a·maze
v. a·mazed, a·maz·ing, a·maz·es
1. To affect with great wonder; astonish. See Synonyms at surprise.
2. Obsolete To bewilder; perplex.
v.intr. feeling to take a risk and have it turn out to be such a winner--both in the industry, and more importantly with our guests."
That's also why the park offers free parking and sunscreen sunscreen /sun·screen/ (-skren) a substance applied to the skin to protect it from the effects of the sun's rays.
n. and this year introduced special menus for children with food allergies Food Allergies Definition
Food allergies are the body's abnormal responses to harmless foods; the reactions are caused by the immune system's reaction to some food proteins. . Koch says having on-site management and listening to customers is a competitive advantage for family-owned businesses. And it's not unusual to see him walking around the park to find out what visitors would like to see in coming years.
Such efforts resulted in this year's $6 million expansion, including Kima Bay, a monkey-themed water attraction that has seven water slides, more than 125 water jets and a 1,200-gallon bucket that tips and creates a four-story waterfall. Another new feature that resulted from visitor requests is the patriotic-themed Star Spangled span·gle
1. A small, often circular piece of sparkling metal or plastic sewn especially on garments for decoration.
2. A small sparkling object, drop, or spot: spangles of sunlight. Carousel in the 4th of July area that was built for those who wanted to enjoy an old-fashioned ride.
Koch is actively involved in all aspects of the park's management and when he decided to add a new hybrid wooden coaster (a steel structure with a wood track), Koch worked with designers to create the ultimate ride. The Voyage opened in 2006 and features a 163-foot hill that drops riders through a series of other hills, tunnels and three 90-degree banked turns, reaching 67 miles-per-hour and having the most "air hang time" of any wooden roller coaster in the world.
"I've always loved roller coasters While there have been hundreds of different roller coasters built, there have been just a few that were notable for specific reasons. Some reasons include:
The out and back design of the roller coaster takes advantage of the park's layout and has been one of the its most popular rides, attracting enthusiasts from around the world and last year was named #1 Wooden Roller Coaster on the Planet by Amusement Today magazine.
Koch remains committed to the local area, hiring some 1,700 seasonal employees from Southern Indiana Southern Indiana, in the United States, is notable because it is culturally distinct from the rest of the state. The area's geography has led to a blend of Northern and Southern culture that is not found in the rest of Indiana. and next on his agenda is working to build attendance at another local attraction--Lincoln's boyhood home in Spencer County Spencer County is the name of two or more counties in the United States:
How did you decide to pursue a career in this industry? That's an easy one. I grew up in the family business. I started working at the park as a costumed character when I was 10, and moved on to other jobs from there. The business requires a lot of hard work, but working with young people and our family guests can be very rewarding. Working with companies that design and build roller coasters can be kind of fun, too. I always loved roller coasters when I was a kid.
What is the best business advice you recall getting and who made the suggestion? Read "Positioning, the Battle for the Mind" by Al Ries Al Ries is a marketing professional and author. He is also the co-founder and chairman of the Atlanta-based consulting firm Ries & Ries with his partner and daughter, Laura Ries. and Jack Trout Jack Trout is an owner of Trout & Partners consulting firm. He is one of the founders and pioneers of positioning theory, and also marketing warfare theory. Bibliography
What has been your most successful accomplishment in business? In 2004, Holiday World & Splashin' Safari won the Applause Award, a worldwide award given once every two years to a park whose foresight, originality, creativity, and sound business development have inspired the industry. Holiday World & Splashin' Safari is the smallest park ever to win the award.
Can you share an experience that didn't turn out as you expected, but provided a valuable lesson? Just one? Oh, my There've been so many! In 1999, we added a huge kids area to Holiday World, called Holidog's FunTown. While the attraction has been very well received by our guests who continue to enjoy it every day, it did not meet some of the objectives that I'd hoped it would. In particular, I wanted to make a kids play area a major marketing draw by doing it on such a large scale. Didn't happen. Second, I hoped to use it as a "draw" to pull visitors to the end of the park where it is located, improving traffic flow throughout that area. Didn't happen.
What goals would you like to accomplish in the near term? I am currently chairing the Lincoln Boyhood Drama Association board. We are working to stage a new show, opening in June, 2009, about Abraham Lincoln's character, and how that character was forged here in Spencer County, Indiana Spencer County is a county located in the U.S. state of Indiana. As of the 2000 census, the population was 20,391. The county seat is Rockport6. Geography
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,039 km² (401 mi²). , while Abe grew from age 7 to 21. If we can bring in 45,000 visitors per year, we should be able to get to break-even, thus protecting the drama's future from future funding cuts. I want to put 45,000 people in that amphitheater in 2009!
At Holiday World, we will continue to grow, but it is extremely important to us to do so in a way that adds value for our customers--we must maintain the "small park" feel that they love.
Named #1 Wooden Roller Coaster on the Planet Koch grew up in the family business started in 1946 by his grandfather as Santa Claus Land. Today the park attracts a million visitors a year with new attractions like Kima Bay and free Pepsi.
Will Koch, Holiday World & Splashin' Safari
CEO since: 2003
Birthplace/year: Huntingburg, Indiana Huntingburg is a city in Dubois County, Indiana, United States. The population was 5,598 at the 2000 census. This small town tucked in southwestern Indiana is known for its picturesque downtown famous for numerous antique shoppes. ; 1961
Education: BS in electrical engineering electrical engineering: see engineering.
Branch of engineering concerned with the practical applications of electricity in all its forms, including those of electronics. , University of Notre Dame Notre Dame IPA: [nɔtʁ dam] is French for Our Lady, referring to the Virgin Mary. In the United States of America, Notre Dame , 1984; MS in computer science, University of Southern California The U.S. News & World Report ranked USC 27th among all universities in the United States in its 2008 ranking of "America's Best Colleges", also designating it as one of the "most selective universities" for admitting 8,634 of the almost 34,000 who applied for freshman admission , 1986
First "real" job: Member technical staff, TRW TRW The Real World (TV reality show)
TRW The Right Way
TRW Tactical Reconnaissance Wing
TRW The Retriever Weekly (University of Maryland, Baltimore, MD)
TRW Thompson Ramo Wooldridge Inc Electronics & Defense--verified nuclear safety for Peacekeeper (MX) targeting software.
Proud of: "We've been averaging 8 percent growth per year since 1975."