Episode 285: Brandon Thom talks about making genuine connections, enabling leaders, and following your unique path

Leadership, Networking, Podcast

This episode is kindly sponsored by Attractions.io, the guest experience platform behind Merlin Entertainments’, San Diego Zoo’s, and the PGA Championship’s branded mobile apps. Like us, the team at Attractions.io are on a mission to elevate our guest experiences and ensure they exceed the expectations of today’s digitally native guests. By combining a branded mobile app with an operator console that consolidates behavioral data from every touchpoint in the guest journey, the Attractions.io platform empowers operators with the tools they need to increase guest satisfaction, spending, and loyalty. To learn more about how Attractions.io can help you connect your end-to-end guest experience, visit Attractions.io/howitworks.

Brandon Thom, an experienced theme park executive, discovered his passion for the attractions industry after working in banking for an oil and gas lender. By having an insatiable fascination for amusement parks since his childhood, Brandon realized that his heart was set on working in the industry. Brandon’s journey in the attractions industry began when he served as a Show Ambassador for the 2013 IAAPA convention. After the event, Brandon landed an internship at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and quickly transitioned to a full-time role on the team. Since then, Brandon has held various leadership positions at Universal Orlando Resort, Merlin Entertainments, and most recently, he served as the Vice President of Adventure Island for Sea World Parks & Entertainment. In this interview, Brandon talks about making genuine connections, enabling leaders, and following your unique path. 

Making Genuine Connections

“The connections have to be authentic and genuine, otherwise the person will see right through it.”

As a young professional, Brandon understood the importance of networking for success in the industry. However, he also knows that many people make mistakes while networking, such as relying too much on a single contact or being insincere in their approach. To achieve real success in networking, Brandon emphasizes the importance of building friendships, rather than just connections.

Brandon’s advice is simple: when networking, don’t get caught up in someone’s job title or position. Instead, focus on finding common ground and building a connection based on shared interests beyond just professional goals/aspirations. This will help you avoid a boring, insincere conversation and develop a stronger bond with your contact. After all, networking should be enjoyable.

Enabling Leaders

“Our industry is fortunate to have a lot of engaged leaders.”

Enabling leaders is crucial to the success of any operation. By giving leaders the confidence they need, you can build a strong team that can withstand challenges and create an excellent guest experience.

However, Brandon stresses the importance of understanding the difference between enabling and empowering leaders. Enabling team members may give them some minor responsibilities, but it doesn’t necessarily grant them freedom to run a section of the operation and truly learn. This approach could limit them to following orders rather than truly developing as leaders. In contrast, empowering team members gives them significant responsibilities and the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.

When a leader makes a mistake, they should be eager to improve. Fortunately, the attractions industry has many engaged leaders who are committed to making things right. To discourage mistakes, we should demonstrate what they missed out on by not getting it right, rather than merely reprimanding them for their errors.

Following Your Unique Path

“Your story is different than everybody else’s.”

Brandon didn’t kickstart his career until he was in graduate school, after watching many of his friends land stable careers. The greatest lesson Brandon shares is to follow your own path and avoid comparing yourself to others. It’s okay to start later than your peers. As with many other aspects of the industry, have fun and enjoy the experience.

Brandon encourages people seeking to start a career in attractions to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on themselves by constantly planning for the future. Instead, focus on doing what makes you happy by taking it one step at a time. When speaking with other young professionals, Brandon enjoys sharing his story and often encourages his audience to avoid common stressors that can make their industry experiences overwhelming.


To connect with Brandon, you can find him on LinkedIn


This podcast wouldn’t be possible without the incredible work of our amazing team:

  • Scheduling and correspondence by Kristen Karaliunas
  • Summary by Mason Nichols
  • Video editing by Abigail Giganan

To connect with AttractionPros: attractionpros@gmail.com

Leave a Reply