Like most people my age, I didn’t discover the joys of amusement parks until I had entered my teenage years. Through the peer pressure of my cousins I went on my first loopy roller coaster and I was hooked. Now decades later, my husband and I often enjoy a day at an amusement park and yesterday was one of those days.
As we spent the day enjoying ourselves, I realized that an amusement park is a good metaphor for taking on any sort of new challenge, even in the world of business. The skills you learn and apply during your day at the amusement park are completely applicable in a new business venture. Let me explain.
1. Start with a high level map
Any time you visit a new amusement park, the first thing you pick up is the map of the grounds. This never gives you all the details, but instead provides a lay of the land, key attractions and locations of important facilities like restrooms.
This map is enough to allow you to make some key decisions about the day. Is it best to go left or right? Can you work through the park in a loop or will you have to backtrack at some point? Are there attractions that are not to be missed? Although you may make different decisions as the day moves on, you have a basic plan for starting out.
The same is needed when starting a new venture. You don’t need all of the details figured out and you may make a number of changes based on new information gained during the process, but you do have an initial plan. If you try to schedule out every minute, you will most likely miss some great opportunities and get frustrated with things don’t go quite as planned — because they rarely do.
2. Focus on the highest priorities first
At most amusement parks there are more things to do than can possibly be done in a single day’s visit. As such, you need to prioritize what you want to see and do the most to make sure you do them first. A new roller coaster will often have the longest line, but if this is your first time visiting the park, it may not have to be your highest priority as ALL the roller coasters will be a new experience.
Even within the coasters, there are lots of different types and styles. If you have a favorite combination, you may want to head there first to make sure you have the full enjoyment of the ride as opposed to waiting until the end of the day when you are tired and less appreciative.
Any new venture also has lots of actions that need to be taken, but focusing on the most important tasks with the highest “value” will produce the best results from the beginning. Also remember that there is always an ebb and flow to everything we do. Take on the more mundane activities when your energy is lower while using your high energy times to focus on more creative or intense endeavors.
3. Remember, for all things, getting started is the key
As I looked upon the path of Fahrenheit (the Hershey Park coaster pictured), I wasn’t sure how I would do with either the vertical climb or the 97 degree (yes it actually curves in) drop. But with my husband’s encouragement I got in line. Watching train after train run the rails didn’t seem to help much. But then we got close to getting on, 2 or 3 trains to go. But wait, they needed 2 people and we were the first group of 2, so now we are next. And once you are strapped in, well there you are!
Although I was still uncomfortable on the ride up, deep in my soul I knew it would be fine. And I realized that the anticipation was at least as bad if not worst than any of the ride itself.
Often for the hard or complicated tasks in business, we fear the difficulty and delay getting started. But the more we delay and build it up in our mind, the worse that fear becomes. By just taking the first step, even a small one, we can begin to see it is not that bad. Once we are in the middle of the thing, often the momentum is all we need to keep going.
4. Support systems are important (even if they aren’t cool)
No amusement park ever has highlighted the number, placement or size of their restrooms. But if they were missing, hard to find or too small causing folks to wait in long lines, it would be their most talked about (negative) feature. So even though restrooms aren’t cool like the roller coasters, they are still very important to the whole experience of the amusement park.
Whatever aspects of the business we love, there are always some elements that we would prefer to avoid. Unfortunately, it is all the elements combined that create the complete product, venture or business. Even the parts that we don’t discuss with enthusiasm are still critical to the whole.
So never try and shortcut the support systems just because they are not as fun or as cool. If you need to, you can delegate their management and operation to others. But remember – you still need to check on them from time to time, even if it is just to verify everything is running smoothly.
5. Make sure they remember you after they are gone
Throughout the park there are numerous opportunities to purchase souvenirs. Whether they are refillable cups, t-shirts or trinkets, each is a reminder of the fun day and good times spent at the park. Most of these feature some logo, image or phrase that not only reminds the owner of the fun, but of the fun specifically at this PARTICULAR amusement park. So the next time the item is used or viewed there is a little reminder to come visit again soon.
These reminders are actually an important element of marketing. Not only do they trigger our own memories, but it makes it more likely that we will share our story with others.
Developing a logo, image, color story or phrase when starting out is actually important to your ongoing marketing message. Hearing a phrase or seeing an image can unconsciously remind us of a prior experience. So consistency, whenever possible, is really important. Make yourself easy to remember. You want to be the first name that comes to mind when someone is ready to buy what you sell.