Cedar Fair is a leader in the world of amusement parks and it is striving to create leaders in the community.
It is being done through a program launched a year ago: FUNdementals of Leadership, a partnership between Cedar Fair and Bowling Green State University Firelands.
Cedar Fair simply wants to be the entertainment of choice; the employer of choice and the investment of choice.
They need leaders to help achieve all three goals.
Bowling Green State University had the experts in its facility, such as industrial psychology and business writing, said dean William Balzer.
It was a natural fit.
“We are a college of the community," Balzer said. "We want to support our community in every way, including how do we help our business community.”
One of the biggest businesses in Sandusky's community that BGSU Firelands students can benefit is Cedar Point.
That included Thaddeus Rada, a BGSU Firelands student in the industrial/organizational psychology program who worked with Cedar Fair on the program to create a profile of employees who would excel in a customer service driven environment like Cedar Point, Balzer said.
“What an opportunity we have to have our students work for a billion dollar company,” Balzer said.
The program concept was green-lighted by Cedar Fair CEO Matt Ouimet.
A well-trained employee provides customer service that makes a difference and helps make a company successful.
“While we are famous for our roller coasters, the biggest impact on our guest experience comes from the interactions our guests have with our employees," Ouimet said. "The collective impact of these programs improves the guest experience as well as the employee experience.”
Ouimet once was asked what keeps him awake at night. He replied sincerely it was the number of people whose livelihood Cedar Fair was responsible for.
The program seems to be a step toward a good night's sleep.
Duff Milkie, corporate vice president general counsel for Cedar Fair and Balzer both sit on the board for Firelands Regional Medical Center. They began to recognize there is leadership opportunity between the school and the amusement park operator that had never been explored, such as matching the university expertise to Cedar Point and Cedar Fair while offering real world hands-on experience to BGSU students and faculty.
“We discovered we had something to offer each other,” said Craig Freeman, Cedar Fair vice president of administration.
They created the Cedar Fair and BGSU leadership program and Freeman put the idea into practice with the pilot program at Cedar Point.
Classes are half a day for five weeks at the Firelands campus. Some of the skills they are hoping to develop include problem solving, communication, working with multi-generational colleagues and coaching for performance.
Positive feedback from Cedar Point employees and from department heads has convinced the company to roll out the program in all 11 of its parks.
Training has already began for full-time managers and supervisors at Kings Island and Canada's Wonderland.