Episode 342: Jon Pausley talks about generational loyalty, leading with positivity and familiar but better

History, Leadership, Podcast

Jon Pausley is the CEO of Arnolds Park Amusement Park, a gem of a location found in the Northwest corner of Iowa. In addition to the amusement park, the property also contains a shopping and dining district, a scenic boat tour on Lake Okoboji, a beach, 3 museums and indoor and outdoor concert venues. Jon’s attraction industry story dates back to growing up in Ohio where his family had season passes to Kings Island. He credits those early experiences with defining his love for the business and even said as a young student that he thought it would be fun to run an amusement park. Now with a Masters in Leadership, Jon applies a wealth of knowledge to his role of leading Arnolds Park into the future. In this interview, Jon discusses generational loyalty, leading with positivity, and familiar but better.

Generational Loyalty

“The attractions industry is a people business.”

There aren’t many 100+ year-old amusement parks left in existence in the United States. Arnolds Park is one of them, which means they have been entertaining visitors for many, many generations. By large accounts, the people who come to the park do so because their parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents started the tradition. 

Jon emphasizes that it’s the people, and all of their experiences, that draw his attention regarding the past, present, and future of the business. In order to understand what the business needs to survive and to inspire many more generations of families flocking to Arnolds Park, you have to understand people, what makes them tick, and how they think. 

Leading with positivity

“If your employees are valued, seen, and heard, they’ll pass that along to the guest.”

Jon has taken a collaborative approach to leading the teams at Arnolds Park. He recognizes that he doesn’t have all of the answers, and he must surround himself with leaders who can make up for his shortcomings. For example, Jon states he is a big-picture, futuristic thinker, so he must surround himself with managers who can thrive in the day-to-day.

Jon shared that he and the team came up with a “Team Affirmation” which is a statement of intent regarding how they want to do business. It’s recited by everyone at each team meeting, which keeps the ideas top-of-mind. As they go through their day, individual leaders can assess their own behavior to determine if they are upholding the affirmation or not. 

Familiar but different

“Nostalgia is a powerful thing.”

Along with generational loyalty, you also get people who recognize when things change but may not always be happy about it. The phrase, “This isn’t what it was like when I was a kid” is actually something Jon loves to hear – because if he’s doing his job, then it SHOULDN’T be like it was 20 or 30 years ago. 

At the same time, Jon is not looking to reinvent the experience such that people don’t associate it with the memories of their past. That’s where the mantra “familiar but better” comes from as it reflects the idea that we will preserve the feeling that your memories invoke, but will constantly work to make the actual experience even better. 

To learn more about Arnolds Park, visit them on their website, Facebook, and Instagram. To find out about the music happening at Arnolds Park, check out roofgardenballroom.com.  Jon can also be found on LinkedIn

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

  • Scheduling and correspondence by Kristen Karaliunas

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