As a CEO, you need to start taking bigger risks if you want your business to evolve. Lately, business owners have been faced with difficult decisions with the pandemic and inflation. So it is time to start taking risks while doing your job as a CEO. You still need your business to survive but it doesn’t hurt to innovate along the way. Join Alicia Couri as she talks to the CEO of Boomers Parks, Tim Murphy, about how he stays on top of his business as a CEO. Learn more about the core values of your company and why you need them. Discover why you need to educate and inform your team because transparency is important. Find out more about the theme park industry and how Tim’s business survived the pandemic. Start taking big CEO risks right now!
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Taking Big Risks As A CEO That Pay Off With Tim Murphy
I’m so excited for my guest. His name is Tim Murphy. Before I bring him on, let me read his very extensive and impressive bio to you. Tim is an entrepreneurial and strategic C-Level executive and board director with many years of leadership, creating strong teams and cultures to improve performance and turnaround companies needing significant growth, cost savings, and innovative new ideas.
With his many years of experience, Tim has been CEO, President, COO, CFO and Advisor to over 150 brands with more than 100,000 locations nationally and internationally, improving the performance of entertainment, restaurants, food and beverages, retail, and other industries. Tim concurrently works in family entertainment for two private equity firms: Cerberus, operating CEO in North America and the Carlyle Group, Board Director in Latin America.
Tim is an expert at leading turnarounds, improving profit profitability, creating new revenues, and negotiating acquisitions. He is a successful, charismatic, hands-on leader, providing face to public, focused on results, maximizing CapEx, improving corporate culture, and building strong teams with core values, vision expectations, exceptional guest service, and innovative risk-taking. Tim, welcome to the show.
Thank you for having me here. That’s a lot to say, isn’t it?
It was a lot to say. Over many years, a very extensive and impressive resume. I want to start with your journey because you weren’t born a CEO. You weren’t born into the C-Suite. What was that journey getting to the C-Suite like for you?
It’s goes back to my parents because they were entrepreneurs. They had different businesses. I started in family entertainment at eight with my parent’s companies. Over time, I wanted to learn how my dad did what he did or how he could do better with the 10th-grade education. I said, “I want to go to college and I want to learn Accounting and Finance,” which I did. I got an Undergrad in Accounting and my MBA in Finance. I wanted to know how to do businesses better. My dad made mistakes. He did things well. How do I improve upon the mistakes and how do I maximize what he did well?
In business, as an entrepreneur, you make your own mistakes and you learn a lot that as you go. Dad wasn’t that far off on some of the stuff he did. He kept trying harder than a lot of people but I wanted to know how to do it better. I got into accounting, and started to do a lot of books for financial statements. I read a lot of financial statements over my career and continue to do so as we look at acquisitions. Over time, I kept asking for the next role. Can I get a little bit more? Can I get a little more involved in those restaurants? Can I get more involved in different projects?
As a CFO, can I bring more money to the company? Can I figure out how my position can do better for the company? It taught me a lot because I got getting more involved in things. I got into operations, real estate, and construction. I’m a commercial real broker in the State of Florida. The bottom line was that I did it for the benefit of the company. How will that teach me more? I kept asking for more things to do, so I got the CFO role and got the COO role and President role and a couple of CEO roles and board roles. At the end of the day, I kept asking for more. It was the quest for wanting to do more.
That’s huge because a lot of people sit back and think, “Why don’t they give me more?” instead of going and asking for more.
Frankly, you do have to ask because sometimes people don’t know that you’re willing to help. I can’t say that every time I went and asked to go above and beyond, I was given that opportunity but I never stopped trying and went for that next level. I kept doing a little bit more with it. You start understanding all the frameworks. When you’re in finance and accounting, you only know numbers.
You start saying, “I need to know more about legal. I need to know more about marketing. I need to know more about the operations. If we’re building buildings, I need to know more about real estate and construction. I need to know more about how I buy that dirt.” All these pieces start coming together and you go, “This is all start to make sense,” but that’s your foundation and you keep taking on more roles with this. That’s got me blessed to work for two private equity firms, which is very unusual.
That’s a very unique journey. There’s something in there that you said, “Learning, instead of being siloed. I’m in finance so I only know the numbers. I know about finance. You made a very intentional, very conscious decision that this connects to this, which connects to this, “I need to know about this and I need to know about this and I need to know about this.” Not everybody thinks so broadly. They stick to, “This is what I know.”
Some examples, as I think back over history, of working for different companies when I was at Darden, I’m doing financial statements for Red Lobster in North America and Japan until they sold off Japan. I also had cash control. I had different things, but when I was in there, doing the financial statements and going, “It would be nice to know how they open one of these parks, however, one of these restaurants.”
I got to go to Grand Island, Nebraska, for a week to see the grand opening. It’s the middle of nowhere and understood how everything was coming together, how the systems work, how they train people, everything from washing dishes to delivering food to how it’s being created on the line but all those aspects teach us so much more. I think about that over time when I finally did become a CFO. I wasn’t CFO at the time.
When I did become a CFO, I would go out then and teach management financial statements to understand them better. Why would I do that? It’s because I want them to perform better. My goal was, “I’ll show you how to make more bonuses.” I want to listen. How do I make more bonuses? If you make more bonuses, I’m making more money for the company. It’s a double-edged sword, but it worked in my favor that way.
I had a guest talk about that when she was leading a charity organization. She said, “Giving people financial education, allowing them to understand how money flows through to and through the business, as an employee, lets them understand, ‘If I do this, this is more money for the business but it’s also more money for me.’” It’s helping. Each employee should understand the finances of the business so that they can understand what loses money for the business and what gains money for the business. That’s what you were doing.
If you’re being transparent, a lot of companies don’t like that transparency. They don’t want people to know these numbers. It’s like, “I’m total opposite of it. I want you to know all of it.” It makes my job easier if you know this aspect of this part of your business. You’re running this park or this restaurant or whatever it might be. If you know that inside and out and how it impacts the other parts of the business, it’s going to make my job easier at the end of the day.
A lot of people consulted with so many different brands. Some people like to hold that to the vest. “I’m not going to let my team know this. Why would I let them know my financial?” Why do you care so much? If you’re an individual and you’re owning a business and you now have given this information to others, that’s going to make you more successful. That might open up another restaurant or business for you. You can acquire more things if they know that piece of it and can build it. They might be great team members long term.
You’ve got to be able to give them thought process that says, “I know how to get there.” They might leave. They might take another job, take your trade secrets with them, but did I teach them along the way? I know most people and from consulting and running different businesses. Most people won’t follow what you do anyway.
You can tell them all the advice you want and the consulting you want. They’re still not going to do it. If you hold their hand and drag them along with it, there is that opportunity they might do it but people won’t, so why worry about it? Why worry about what the person’s doing down the street? Focus on your business, give all the information you can to your team, teach them how to do it, and you’ll be more successful at the end of the day.
I love what you’re sharing there. I love the teach them, educate them, help them understand the business, help them understand where you’re going with the business, and this idea of fear because I teach a lot on universal law and stuff. When you operate from that place of fear and you’re holding onto the information and you don’t want to share it, it’s a lack mentality in your mindset instead of this abundance mentality.
As you were saying, if they leave, they leave. They might take your trade secrets but if you treated them with respect and you honored them, then they will also respect and honor you. Most likely, they won’t tell share your trade secrets with other people because they left with respect for you. If you don’t treat people with respect and you don’t trust them, then they’re not going to trust you. They will take whatever they can and do whatever they want with it.
Our core values are honesty, integrity, and transparency. We teach that from the beginning for a reason. We hope that those individuals will stay with us, we’ll grow with us, we’re creating career paths for them and they can see where my company is better than others that are in our industry. If you give them that respect, you give them honesty, you’re filled with integrity with them, to your point, they’re going to honor that. I hope that they’ll be lifelong friends if they go somewhere else. I’ve made friends over time with close individuals that I’ve worked with. They go out and do good work or they come back to you and say, “This is what I’m going onto now. This is what I’m working with.” It reciprocates to you.
How do you make your team member feel the best? You educate them the best you can. You can’t hold their hand for every single thing but you’ve got to be able to give them the tools to be successful. Most companies don’t do. As I shared a little bit in consulting, most people won’t do these things. If you do give the trust to other individuals, it’s amazing what will happen. This is like night and day when I took over the current company. I’m with Boomers.
By bringing these core values that were my tools that I leaned against, these are the values that we’re going to go forward with. It was me against the world because the previous company had no real values. They didn’t know what direction they were going. They weren’t focused on profitability. They weren’t focused on their team or guests. There are things that are in our core values that say, “These are the things you need to do to be most successful, and this is what we’re going to keep falling back towards. If something doesn’t go right, what do the core values tell us to do?” It doesn’t tell us the lie.
It’s your North Star. It’s the North Star of how your ship is pointed and if you don’t have that, you’re all over the place. There’s no consistency, no culture, and no trust building and people are left to their own devices. That’s not a good thing when you’re trying to run a huge organization because people from the individual contributor all the way down the line, the last person in the door, have to know what this company stands for and how they operate. If they don’t know that, they’re going to bring whatever mess they had the last time. Bring it right into and try to start infecting people.
They don’t care whether you’re in a restaurant, retail, or entertainment like us. As I say to my team, which I take from Disney, “You’re going on stage.” Nobody wants to hear about your problems at home necessarily and they’re here for a good time. I don’t care if you’re at a restaurant. You don’t want to hear that server say, “I’m having a bad day.” I don’t care. Frankly, people care but at the end of the day, I’m here to also feel good. I want to have a good time, whether it’s your family or friends or whatever it might be. I want to make sure that our guests have a good time.
Even though there are things that are going on in your world, and we should probably know about those things as a team but when you’re dealing with guests, they don’t care about that. If you go to Disney World, they don’t care. I paid for the ticket to get in. I want to have a good time either with these rides, maybe the people, smiles on people’s faces, or they’re making eye contact with me. Whatever that might be. The place looks good. It’s clean. That’s what they want to see and that’s what they’re there for and that’s what they paid for.
If you’re going to the movie theater, you’re trying to escape from your world. You don’t want the first thing to come up on the movie screen, “We’re having a bad time and the economy’s not doing too well. I’m glad you folks are here but will you please buy some of our overpriced popcorn and drinks to help us out?” They don’t want to hear that. They want to have a good time while they’re there on the movie and so forth.
That’s what makes it difficult with the entertainment industry because you are there to entertain. It’s not about the gossip. You have to perform. You have to be a good server. You have to give great customer service. Just because you’re having a bad day doesn’t mean that you get to share that with everyone that you come in contact with that day. How do you train people to do that, to follow the core values and switch their mindset to be available for the customer, then deal with their personal stuff on another time?
First, it’s having clear core values that you’re going to operate from. What do you value as a team? It’s one thing to put it out there, a list of what your core values are, or you’re going to have a team orientation, or it’s an employee handbook. Great, but you got to keep reinstalling it. You’ve got to do that with your team members. You got to do that with your management. Personally, with my team management every week, we have a call. We talk about operations. How did it go last week? New things might be coming up.
I go into a portion of it for the last half of the meeting. It’s only 30 minutes long but every week, we’re consistent with it. We talk about core values and some aspects of it. What does that mean to us? I take from examples of other business leaders and how they were successful. If we’re in entertainment, how did Disney do? How did others do in this arena? We will have town hall meetings. We will reimplement that through being at the parks, engaging with the team members, and trying to display our values.
It’s one thing to say, “I talk about it,” and be hypocritical and do something different. I’ve got to live with this. I want senior team to live with this. I want my management team to live with this and I want it going all the way down to the hourly employees. I lead by example. If there’s trash in the ground, I pick it up when I’m walking through the park. Nothing’s below me. If I had to clean something, I clean it. That’s not typical of most C-level individuals but you have to live your values.
You need your senior team to live the values and you need to keep reimplementing it all the time and say it different ways. Maybe they didn’t get it the first time I said it. The more that you do it, the more it starts getting ingrained. The culture is there. Do we have signs up behind the doors before they walk on stage? Yes, we do with our core values. We implement it, lead by example, and try to display it in every way we can. Again, I do bring it up.
I’ve talked about it in a chamber meeting, too, as well as when I was speaking there. We talk about these things. What is that creating? It’s creating a culture. What do we live by? How do we do what we do? Do we take care of the guests? Yes, part of our core values. Do we take care of the team? Yes, part of our core values. Do we have profitable sales growth? Yes, I work for private equity. That’s part of our core values. There are things that you have to integrate, what we live by, but you have to be discussing it. You can’t say one and done. “We create the great thing. We stick it up on the wall.”
We have the poster on the wall and that’s it. How does that look in action now to the team? How do you care for the team members who are having a rough day? How does that translate?
Management is engaged. That’s down to usually lower-level individuals. I haven’t seen it too much with management. I will say there are times that management gets that way but we have to re-discuss that with them. They have team lineup meetings. They talk to them. They notice when things are not right. Frankly, we try to teach everyone. It’s like your family. We’re working with our family. We’re there to listen. That doesn’t mean we have to judge. We don’t have to take a side regardless of whatever way they’re physically going.
It could be against two team members or it could be something from home. Who knows what it might be? We’re there to listen and we’re there to try to work with them and try to get them to get the best out of them because they need to get whatever they’ve got as an issue out when they’re going on stage. They go on stage. As Disney put it, you’re basically acting. Going on stage, you could be having a horrible time at home or that day or traffic was bad. Who knows what it was?
You got to flip the switch like Tony Robbins.
You got to slip the switch and you’re smiling. You’re talking to the guest. You’re engaging. This is what I did see when I first joined. People are looking down at the ground as they’re walking past people so the guests don’t see. The guests want to see happy, smiling faces, that you’re having a good time, or you need to be able to engage and you see the guest is not having a good time, you say, “What’s going on? I need to correct this.”
Do we make mistakes? Of course, every company makes mistakes. How do you overcome those? How do you try to fix those? Get the team members to identify these things and see these things. We have a lot of fun stuff to do at our parks, and the food’s good. It should be a good experience. You need to get them to flip the switch. You need them to say, “We’re going on stage. It’s time to act.”
I want to shift directions for a moment. The first question I want to ask you is, were you coached through that process or was that innate for you? Did you ever have mentors or coaches as you were rising up the ranks?
I read a lot of books. A lot of great speakers over time. That’s everything from leadership to motivation to how do you operate a business. It’s funny, I use a lot of quotes from a lot of people in my team meetings every week. I got them all over my walls here. They’re different ones for different reasons. Steve Jobs on being different and the crazy ones that are there, and Elon Musk. I love people who created things and how hard it is sometimes to go through things.
You’re not alone when you start looking around. Those are big for me. I love biographies of people. How do they do what they did? What did they go through? Amazon and Jeff Bezos, everything was started in a garage. It seems funny how California and a lot of stuff have started in a garage out there. He still uses conference tables that are on doors because he doesn’t forget where he started with this. It’s very unique when you start looking back. Are there mentors that I’ve had? I’d probably even say my father was a great mentor in business.
Being an entrepreneur, why did he do what he did? Number 1) He wanted to survive. Number 2) He wanted a better life for his family. He was always trying hard to do it. Whether he did it right or wrong. That’s a different story but I’ve had the former Chairman and CEO of Applebee’s as a mentor. This is a gentleman that was a Chairman and CEO who bought Applebee’s when there were 52 units. He had 4 of those 52 units and retired with 1,300. He understood how to build a chain, how to build a franchise model, how to understand restaurants, what guests are looking for, and what those perspective franchisees are looking for.
He was a great mentor in business. I can call him another fatherly figure. He was a very interesting individual. I had time with him after he retired. I didn’t have it during the time he was this Chairman and CEO but I had it because he had the Central Florida Applebee’s. We built the Central Florida Applebee’s until it sold but the bottom line is, “How did you do this?”
I got to pick his brain. Commercial real estate broker, so we’re looking for real estate. I’m behind a windshield, driving, and asking him questions. It was always helping to build the franchisee, how to be more successful, ingress and egress a property. How to make the best property choices? He’s selected over that roughly 1,300. He’s been to half of those locations and seen what that property looks like. He’s also turned down quite a few but he would look at the property and say, “This will be successful because of X, Y and Z.” You start looking at those types of things when you’re looking at real estate.
As a commercial estate broker until now, I look at a property and go, “What could we do best with that piece of property?” Whether it’s my property or the parks I’ve got, how do I make it better? One thing he taught me that I’d still use now with Boomers is sight lines. What is th. t? He had Applebee’s. If you go into the Applebee’s, for the most part, the bar is sunken. The outsides of the restaurants are U-shaped going around the bar.
The idea there was to have everybody have the same eyesight across the bar to the restaurant because they wanted everyone to feel like they participated. That’s how Applebee’s was created. When I go into parks now, a lot of parks were overgrown. You couldn’t see past things. Whatever it is, clear it out. We took down a lot of trees but the bottom line is that I could see across the park now, so the guests are engaged. If they’re in the miniature golf, they’re going to want to do the go-karts. They want to do the attractions or they can see the cool area where we’ve got the TVs, food, and beverage.
It’s the same even in an arcade. A lot of people put arcades together and they have different philosophies in an arcade but you want to be able to look through. What’s cool here? Where’s the food and beverage? Where’s the front of the place if I needed more tickets, I need an exchange, or I need to buy more items to put on my card? Where do I go? You want to have good sight lines to be able to see those things.
What open concept.
Everyone’s participating together, so that makes it that much more fun. It’s funny because I’ve gone through some of the parks, and I got pictures of when I originally went and what it looks like now. I can see across the park. It’s great because I can see the golfer at the end way out there. I can see them over on the go-karts because you can see the sight lines.
Wherever you want to go, you don’t have things hidden.
Where do I want to go next?
Do we start at the back and move forward or do we start here and go back? There so much to do.
You asked about the mentors and that’s things that gleaned from different ones but I go back to that. It’s like, “What did he do? That makes a lot of sense.”
That was very successful.
It’s taken a different concept of a restaurant and put it in an entertainment facility but it’s very similar.
This is the direction I wanted to shift but I wanted to ask you that question first. We are still coming out of a pandemic and people are now talking about heading into a recession. As the CEO of major entertainment company, going into the pandemic, how did you respond to that? Let’s talk about coming out of it and now heading into a recession. We’re going to take a little journey here.
You got to take a look at the process. We took over for eight bankrupt locations and we knew we were going to have to turn it around anyway through the pandemic on top of it. We closed in June 2020, during the middle of the pandemic.
This is in the works before the pandemic, taking over these backdrops.
It still took it over. There’s a point to go, “I think we need to walk away from this one,” but we didn’t. We opened and closed four times of all the parks. I had to lay off 85% or 90% of my workforce three weeks before the holidays of 2020. I didn’t reopen again until March 2021 but we took the time during this process going, “We’re going to open. We don’t know when.”
Luckily, for us, we had some outside activities that we could sell. We moved into that and as quickly as we could move indoors as well. We were prepared for those and we already had plans of what we wanted to do with the parks to make them more adult-friendly, teenager-friendly, team-building events and corporate opportunities and better foods and things like that.
We still do these things. It just didn’t help that we had to burn a lot of cash to get through this to come back on the other side to set record sales but we were prepared before anyone else. That was a good thing. When everyone was trying to figure out, “Do we open? Don’t we open? What do we do?” All the mask requirements, the spacing that we had to do, the cleanliness which has stuck around with us and I’m glad that’s come to our industry to do this. Keeping the bathrooms clean, the kitchens clean, and things of that nature.
Hand sanitize everywhere and make sure that people are washing their hands.
We wanted to upgrade the parks to make them better because we wanted better quality guests because if we provide great services for them and things for them to do stay longer, they’ll stay longer and they’ll spend more money, which is what they did.
You said that it was in the works before the pandemic and you still decided to buy. What was that decision process to say, “We’re still going to go for this, even though everything’s shut down?”
Let’s put it this way. We had to take back these parks because we owned the debt on these parks. It was either going to sell it at an auction, chapter seven bankruptcy. This was a full-liquidation of the previous company. They went bankrupt. We decided what assets we were going to buy from this auction. We were the only ones that showed up because it was the middle of the pandemic. If it wasn’t for the pandemic, others could have shown up and bought the company.
The reason I ask that is because so many people see things back to looking at lack and saying, “We need to hold on to money. We’re not going to buy this now.” You were the only ones that went out for this because there’s an opportunity when there’s a down cycle. You saw that.
My parent company servers private equity could have taken a loss on this and sold it off for cents on the dollar. Part of why’d they bring me in to take a look at it is because I said, “You got a diamond in the rough. It just run the wrong way. This is what we can do with this. We can go after a higher price point.” What does that mean? The average check in 2019 when it was in the bankrupt company was about $20 per person. Last week we were at $54 per person. It’s a big difference.
That’s a lot more opportunity to allow us to put money back into the parks. Even though we had money coming in to fix the parks, we were hoping we’re going to get a return. That’s the business bet that you’re making. With it, it allows us to do more, so we’re more profitable for every guest. When you’re more profitable like that for every guest, that allows you to do more things, bring in more attractions, or fix the place.
That’s what the previous company didn’t do, so that paid off and it stayed with us. It’s started to change some of our clientele that wants to stay there longer. For more educated clientele, meaning they want a better experience. It’s like a Disney-like experience but at a fraction of the cost. More foods and beverages and things for them to do, places to hang out, and places to stay. We have VIP areas and what we call Boomers Backyards and chill zones inside for the adults. Frankly, we want the adults to play too. We’re adding more things to it that make it feel like it’s not just a kiddie park.
The adults aren’t just standing around watching the kids play. They have stuff that they could do too.
We now have given them something to do and now we can grow it even more. That’s the thing that we have to think about when we were going into this. Can we get to this point? If we can get to this point now, we’re at a point where we’re starting to look to acquire more parks or franchise our business. That’s what we’re going to start doing in Q1 of 2023. We’re on a call on a park we’re very interested in at the State of Florida. There’s an opportunity as we move forward. If we hadn’t made those fundamental decisions, I wouldn’t have this discussion with you now.
That’s what I want people to see. Sometimes you have to make some difficult decisions in times when it seems like it’s crazy ridiculous to make the decision right now.
All you can do during those timeframes is like when I’m being told by all these municipalities in California and others, open, close, mask, whatever the requirement was. We’re going to keep going forward. We’re going to keep doing this because this is going to happen, and we’re seeing benefits. We’re seeing some of the KPIs we’ve set up. We’ve seen some things moving in the right direction. I’d never like to leave money on the table. In any business I’ve been with, it’s like, “We’re going to take prices up and we’re going to do it for the right reasons. We’re going to provide better foods or we’re going to do better packaging.”
Not just raising prices for the sake of raising prices.
People do that but don’t give them anything back as value to the guests.
The other thing I wanted to interrupt about is the decision to lay people off. We talked about this in a previous meeting. That decision to lay off, you said 80%, right?
85% to 90% of our workforce was laid off three weeks before the holidays in 2020.
That that must be gut-wrenching.
If you’re in the middle of something like this, the business has to survive and I have to do what I’ve got to do to make the business. That’s the number one thing I got to think. What I’m hired to do is to make the business survive and thrive. We need to be able to come back on the backside of cash capability to move on when this does pass. Luckily, we did that and we spent the downtime with the people that we did have to do some of the upgrades, painting, fixing, and things of that nature.
We were bringing in new foods, changing the menus, and things we were ready for and when that happened, we were prepared for when everything started to open back up again in March 2021. We were off to a rocket in 2021. Profitability went from a loss of $10 million from the previous bankrupt company to a positive $8 million in EBITDA. That’s a big movement and we’re in a similar trajectory. Most people get into the spot and say, “We’re then good. We’re back to business.” No, we have inflation. We have a recessionary.
Recession is coming. That’s where we’re headed now.
There’s no one quick fix. As I said to my team, there is no status quo. You do not follow the status quo. You have got to be changing. You can’t fear the things you don’t know but you got to keep trying to do a little better. When inflation hits, you first look at it and say, “Is this real? Is it this strong? Is it going to sustain?” You read constantly. You have an opinion on it.
Every pundit has something to say.
Good and bad, then you start looking and going, “This trend looks like it’s happening. What do I need to do first?” Unfortunately, I need to figure out how to reduce labor because I don’t know how long this is going to go for. We need to tighten down corporate labor as well as park labor. Can we do things differently? Can we still provide the same services but do it differently? Can we rotate attractions so that means I have less people physically running the attractions?
We’re putting call boxes and certain things. If someone’s not there, then they ring it and goes to an earpiece that the managers have on. They get someone to that ride so they don’t have people stationed at every area to run the park. We can move and rotate. It doesn’t affect the guest’s perception of what’s going on. That way, we’ve been able to reduce labor.
You got to be able to iterate and innovate.
It’s funny that innovate and take calculated risks is like number seven on my core values. We have to think about this differently. It’s interesting, but what does that do for us? We had a plan and the plan got blown out of the water for where we’re heading because we were in a rocket and the Q1 still from 2021 just taken up then inflation hits. Less people coming out, less money for groups because they can’t get the buses because the bus costs have gone through the roof or labor as well as gas.
All of this has taken an impact and you go, “What can we do?” As you start going through it, first, I’m going to minimize where I can, labor, and corporate. We did let some people go based out of the corporate. Again, got to keep the business always operating. It’s my number one goal and throwing off cashflow. I paid down debt but can I innovate in the park? We’ve done that.
When is this thing going to start receding or people starting to feel more comfortable going back out? We went through Q2 and part of Q3 with numbers that were about what was 2021. 2021 was a rocket. It was already recorded. We’re headed from where they’ve been running in the past but then, how do we get back to the attendance there? We got creative but when we got creative on getting people in the door, everything as low as $15.99, that’s our starting price, to where you start getting them into different packages and you try to upsell. Let’s say you start seeing erosion from the ticket sale box.
We started making up more money in the arcade, in food and beverage, in liquor, beer, and wine and that basically washed it back up. Even though we may not be on the full rocket that we’re in Q1, we’re now getting ourselves stabilized but it was being cautionary but not cautionary to the point of we’re going to wait forever even of trend.
It wasn’t stagnation.
The trend is real. We make some cost containments. You can only go so low in cost but then you start saying, “How do I make this appetizing for guests to come back into our parks?” We get them in the door and we’ve been very successful. For every dollar we take in, we get it back at least $1 to $1.80 extra for those guests once they get in the door. In the past, it may have been more about the whole emission price and very little and food and beverage, beer and wine and arcade.
We’ve been able to flip the coin on that during this whole inflationary period so people come in. They’re still having a great time. We learned one thing was we push more people to buy things online. Psychologically, if they’d they buy something outside the parking lot, it doesn’t matter where it’s at. They’ll spend more in the park. If they come into the door and pay for the price, then go do stuff. They add that up pretty quickly. They don’t put the two purchases to go. It’s interesting.
It’s all psychological marketing. There’s so much to glean from you. There’s so much to learn. I don’t want to be on here forever, which I can because I have 1 million other questions I want to ask you but I want to respect your time. I so appreciate you taking the time to do this but I have some rapid-fire and real fun questions that I want to throw at you which I give all my guests because we’ve covered a lot of ground with this. Is there anything before I get to I rapid fire that you might want to share that I haven’t asked you?
You could probably ask about where do you think our growth is going.
We’ll share that then I’ll go into the rapid fire.
We’re looking to acquire parks. We’re going to franchise our modem. I’m already talking to some different folks that want to be a part of us. We hope to make more of a national brand out of our Boomers parks. We’re in California, Florida and New Jersey, but we’re looking to put flags in different places. If people are interested in what we’re doing, I’d love to chat.
You folks don’t close down for the winter, so go to a Boomers park or Big Kahuna’s. Go enjoy. Here’s my first rapid-fire question. What is the biggest leadership mistake you ever made or was a victim of yourself?
Not acting as fast as I should in the past. I’m more of a, “Let’s do it now and let’s get this over with,” where I get my team trying to catch up to me sometimes now. In the past, I would try to get too much analysis.
It’s paralysis by analysis.
I was constantly looking for too much but frankly, when you get 60% of the information, you’re good to go. You need to make those decisions because you can always course correct as you’re making changes. We screwed this up. I can fix it. You obviously weigh the costs, weigh the risks before you’re going into it. Me now, as a CEO, you’re looking at more of the risk side of things. What would this affect? Could there be a lawsuit that comes out of this? Things that you don’t want to have happen if you try to think more in advance of something along those lines. As long as I’ve dotted my I’s and crossed my T’s through those things, then we move rather quick through the process.
You’re talking about critical thinking through things because so many people look directly at something in one dimension, and they don’t turn it around. It seems like what you’ve learned to do a lot of is turn things around. Is this the only way to look at this? Can we look at it in a different way? Come at it from different angles and innovate from that place of thinking differently as Steve Jobs says about the same situation.
Correct. For instance, I’ll go through a supermarket and see things and go, “We could put that in the park somehow.” You start seeing those things. I was in Albertsons in California. They were talking to me on the ground with, “Buy sugar.” They’re like, “I could put that on the ground.” Everyone’s looking down now for the six feet distance during the pandemic. I’m going to talk to them on the ground here because they’re looking down. Let’s do these things. We started from that, went to banners on different fences to screens, on video screens and putting videos out there. We went through the whole process but where did that start? It was in a supermarket.
You can learn from any experience. Everything’s connected to everything. This next question is, what’s the best leadership advice you’ve ever gotten that you still implement now?
The best leadership advice is honesty. I’m an Eagle Scout in Boy Scouts going way back and it’s all about integrity, transparency, trustworthiness and honesty. Do you make mistakes? Of course. Do you do it intentionally? No, but you learn from it.
There’s the responsibility.
What am I bringing to the table? Did I do my best? You got to ask yourself that question, and most people say, “I’m doing great. I’m doing fine.” That’s on your mind but think about it. It’s like when you have reviews with people. You’re trying to be honest about things. Are all people honest with themselves? Not all the time. Could we have done better? We probably could have done better. Could that person have done better? They probably could have done better, but will they learn that you can admit? I probably wasn’t that good at this, or I could do a little bit better with this.
That’s the difference that sets the leader apart. The leaders now are not just taking orders and doing things like a manager would do. A leader is now thinking past that but I do believe it’s an honest approach to how you look at it. Again, I take that all way back to scouting when I was in Boy Scouts. They teach you leadership, and one of the fundamentals is trustworthiness and honesty.
It’s the same with the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Following those four agreements.
That sets it apart. As I shared a little earlier on, core values are different from every company. You’ve got to set what you believe you live by. That’s what you want team members to be with you to live by. Not everybody wants to be on that bus. I did have some people that left, right or wrong. Eventually, you realize that’s not whom I wanted on this bus with me. I want to go in the same direction with the same types of people thinking the same way for the company.
Everybody is rowing in the same direction.
You want different diverse opinions.
You want diversity but you want everybody moving in the same direction. You’re all still rowing in the same direction. It doesn’t change the diversity. If you were a castaway on a deserted island, what are three things that you would want would either wash up on shore or airdrop to you? One cannot be a cellphone.
I would want flint to make fire. I need to keep warm for sure. I know it’s an island, and I should be warm. I’d probably want something that I could cut some wood so I could make something and possibly get something for food and some way of being able to strain to get water. If I’m going to survive, I need water and something I’m going to be able to eat so I could live as long as I possibly need. I’m back in my boy scout days. If I don’t have water, I’m not going to survive. If I don’t have food, I’m not going to survive. If I don’t have heat, I’m not cooking anything and not staying warm.
I haven’t had those answers yet, so that’s good. This is an interesting one. If you were a song or song title, what would it be?
Never give up.
I got to look that up.
I don’t physically have a song for that one.
Do you have a song for that?
I have a playlist. The only thing that comes back is Titanium. Whatever you throw at me, so how about that?
There you go. You’re titanium. I love it. The last question I have for you is, what are you reading now or you can tell me what your three top favorite titles are.
There are so many.
I know that one is hard but you can tell me.
There’s one on my desk. I can’t think of who wrote it. It’s Driven, but I go back to a lot of autobiographies. I like the one on Jeff Bezos. I like the one on Elon Musk. I like the one on Steve Jobs. I’ve read so many on that or listened on Audible or whatever it might be. I always have something in my ear. I run so I’m listening to something. Usually, a lot of songs but a lot of books too. It all comes back to what I like the most out of them. I like to hear the stories that people have gone through. What did it take to get to where you’re at? Those that have built something. I’m a big fan of Walt Disney, working for the company. It’s those types of things that mean the most to me.
I have Drive, not Driven.
It’s how you stay driven toward your goals.
It was a different book. Thank you so much. This has been phenomenal. I learned a lot and I hope the audience gained a lot from it too. You can tell people how they can reach out to you if you prefer LinkedIn or how they can.
LinkedIn is probably the best. Connect with me on LinkedIn, Tim Murphy CEO. That’s good enough. I’ve got a few connections there but reach out. I’m happy to chat any other time too.
Send him a note. Say you learn of him on the show and that way, he’ll accept your connection request. Thank you so much, Tim. I appreciate your time, your openness, and sharing your transparency. Hopefully, we’ll have you back again for more when you start opening up all these parks again.
Sounds good and we’ve got some cool stuff and augmented reality coming. I love the chat.
Take care, everyone. Thank you so much for reading.
- Tim Murphy – LinkedIn
- Carlyle Group
- Big Kahuna’s
- The Four Agreements
About Tim Murphy
Tim Murphy is an entrepreneurial and strategic C-Level executive & Board Director with 30+ years of leadership creating strong teams & culture to improve performance and turnaround companies needing significant growth, cost savings, and innovative new ideas.
Tim is a strategic executive with 30+ years of international experience as CEO, President, COO, CFO and Advisor to 150+ brands with 10K+ locations, improving performance of entertainment, restaurants, food & beverages, retail, and other industries.
Tim concurrently works in family entertainment for two (2) private equity firms: 1) Cerberus, operating CEO (North America), and 2) The Carlyle Group, Board Director (Latin America).
Tim is an expert at leading turnarounds, improving profitability, creating new revenues, and negotiating acquisitions. He is a successful charismatic hands-on leader providing face to public focused on results, maximizing CAPEX, improving corporate culture, and building strong teams with core values, vision, expectations, exceptional guest service and innovative risk taking.
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