The Hong Kong branch's July event was about the transformation story of the Ocean Park theme park in Hong Kong. An interesting talk entitled Ocean Park the journey; the destination; the future was delivered by Mr. Thomas Mehrmann, chief executive of Ocean Park Corporation (OPC). The presentation was held at Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club and was well attended by over 60 members and guests.
OPCs successful business turnaround has featured in EMBA (Executive Master of Business Administration) case studies. It was also acknowledged by the theme park industry as the best theme park in the world with the presentation of the Liseberg Applause Award for excellence in theme park management and leadership in 2012.
Tom Mehrmann has been Chief Executive of OPC since 2004, and has achieved sustained success through a period of difficult times under his innovative leadership. He is therefore well placed to share the success of the park over the past decade, together with a view of future developments.
When Tom first arrived at OPC, he started by regarding local competitors such as Hong Kong Disneyland and regional competitors in Macau, Singapore and Shanghai as opportunities to differentiate. Ocean Park had run a deficit before 2001 (-HK$80.5m in 2000/2001) and the attendance had significantly dropped from 3.8 million visitors in mid 1997 to 2.8 million by mid 2001. To focus the corporate culture, drive expectations and differentiate Ocean Park from its more franchised entertainment focused rivals, Tom developed a new vision statement Ocean Park will be a world leader in providing excellent guest experiences connecting people with nature.
In his presentation Tom shared the core values of the organisation;
- education and conservation
- the fun of the theme park
- a strong service focus
- safety of people and animals
- respect for people and animals
Ocean Park aspires to provide guest experiences in an interactive nature-themed environment. Tom emphasised it was nature that nurtured us and we must show it our respect and conserve it. We should also pass on the legacy of nature.
Tom then highlighted his leadership principles for continuous success. In his words, we should Do the right things, Do things right" and Catch people doing the right things. All too frequently, it is easy for us to criticise people and tell them what is wrong. We also forget to say thank you when people do the right things and are doing things right. Tom highlighted that there were only 25 positive customer testimonials received by OCP in 2004. He then started a process of directly writing thank you notes to every employee mentioned in the testimonials. By 2013, he was now writing over 1,200 a year.
Another leadership principle which he adopted from Stephen Coveys bestselling book The Seven habits of Highly Effective People is to Seek first to understand then be understood. He empowered all levels of staff to resolve customer issues on the spot. The increased service levels improved communication with the target markets, connected people better to the park, its facilities and attractions, won back the local market and increased the length of stay and hence revenues in the Park.
Turning to success factors, Tom focused on Be hungry for change, Innovate beyond your customers imagination, Be disruptive by nature, and Be genuine not just generous. Finally, he outlined the key upcoming developments at Ocean Park as:
- Adventures in Australia in March 2015
- A new MTR station connecting to the park in Q2 2016
- TSW Waterpark and Fishmans Wharf Hotel in June 2017 and;
- Ocean Hotel in November 2017
These key developments will further build upon the success to date, Tom also did not forget OPCs corporate social responsibility towards conservation research and outlined the many and widespread conservation projects that OPC sponsors.
Throughout his interesting presentation, which also included some event promotion videos developed over the last few years, Tom was able to share his leadership principles and the key success factors in delivering a multi-year change programme, that included HK$5.5 billion of capital projects, culture change, a redefinition of service levels and a successful brand transition and business turnaround story which grew visitor numbers to 7.7m in 2013.
Joe Wong & Steve Root
Hong Kong branch committee member and chairman
Tom's presentation can be viewed below: