Another new year. Time to establish new goals, take on new challenges and make predictions. My goals are set: they range from mundane to ambitious. The challenges are coming on fast. My prediction? It isn’t groundbreaking or controversial, but I am absolutely certain it is accurate — 2019 won’t be like any other year. While I won’t get into my full list of goals, my broadest and most important goal goes along with my prediction: enthusiastically embrace change.
Frequently, I am asked how Cedar Point sustains its long legacy of excellence. Our 150th anniversary is in 2020, we are the second longest continually operating park in the United States, and year-over-year we continue to win awards. It is rare that an award or poll for park excellence doesn’t include Cedar Point near the top, if not at the top. This was no different in 2018, and I am specifically proud of two of the awards our team received in 2018: Cedar Point received the Thea Classic Award and Amusement Today’s Best New Attraction was awarded to Steel Vengeance.
I believe in the tenet that nothing stays the same. Everything either gets better or gets worse. I find it fascinating when organizations, communities, people, dig in to halt change. I guess I can understand the instinct that when you like something, you should try to preserve it. Lock it down. Keep it like that forever. It just doesn’t work this way. Never has. Never will. This is no different for Cedar Point.
Excellence is even more difficult to sustain. Mostly this happens because it is surprisingly easy to overlook the true reason for success. Strategy and tactics get the attention, but principles are the key to success. It is easy to become enamored with the stars of the show. Millennium Force is one of ours: an amazing experience in a one-of-a-kind location that people travel from around the world to experience. One could then infer that the key to sustained excellence is to just keep building more Millennium Forces. This year’s successful strategy won’t necessarily be successful next year. Tastes change, culture evolves and repeating strategy has diminishing returns. Strategy has to adapt, it has to change.
Principles are the exception. At Cedar Point, we have the courage to change our strategy because we have clearly defined our core principles. Our cornerstones — safety, cleanliness, courtesy and service are held together by integrity. Our purpose: make people happy by inspiring fun and creating moments like no other. The commitment to maintaining these principles allows us to thrive with change. Even change when it is really different. New to Cedar Point in 2019 is the Forbidden Frontier on Adventure Island, which is not a roller coaster. In fact, it is nothing like anything we’ve ever done before. How does a company with the sustained success of Cedar Point confidently embrace something new that we’ve never done before? It aligns with our principles and purpose. It will make people happy.
There will be a lot of community change in 2019 as well. There have been many positive changes recently and the plans for the future are ambitious. Sure, there are a few roadblocks out there. Some people and entities aren’t quite ready to embrace change. While it is appropriate to question change to make sure the community sticks to its principles, standing in the way of change for the sake of just fighting it, or trying to make things like they used to be, is not productive. Cedar Point has certainly embraced a changing role by participating in community projects in a way it never has before. We are excited to be a partner in the Bowling Green State University program, the Sandusky Pathway project and more. Our community’s next era is certain to be unlike any other and its success depends on our collective appetite for change.
Finally, nowhere is change in 2019 more prevalent than in my home. In 2018, both of my children became college graduates, they’ve hit the road, careers are underway, and one of them even has the audacity to plan a wedding in 2019. What is going on here? It’s instinctive for parents to want to freeze time while their children are young, and I am no exception. But I am looking forward to the positive change in my family and finding new ways to impact their lives, and more importantly finding my true happiness in watching the impact they make on the world.
So, I’m all-in for 2019. While embracing change can be nerve-wracking, it is exciting as well, and the alternative really isn’t an option. Embracing change is the only way for Cedar Point to continue its legacy of excellence, it is the only way our community will continue to be progressive and improve, and it is definitely the only way I’m going to survive at home. 2019, here we go!