owner of a theme park

owner of a theme park
You are a Management Consultant who has been asked to advise Albion Theme Park Ltd on the development of a strategic plan for the development of the company.
You have attended two meetings at the Park. The first meeting was with Tom, the owner of the Park, where you were provided with background information and financial data. The second meeting was when you attended a special off-site meeting of the Park?s Management Team as an observer.
Now you are about to start work on preparing your report. You carefully review the notes you took following the two meetings …
Faculty of Business, Oxford Brookes University. U51002 FoB ? 2013-14 S2 ? Assignment 2
Notes from Initial Meeting with Tom
The history of Albion
The Albion Theme Park had been established in the 1980s by Jack and Julie?s father, Tom. Tom had inherited a large farm in Hampshire. However, he had little interest in farming so he had gradually left most of the arable farming to his farm manager and increasingly Tom focused on running visit days for local school children who wanted to see a local farm and see and touch the animals. The visit days became very popular, especially during the lambing season, attracting coach loads of school children from the area from March to October. The first ?ride? had been a ride around the farm on a hay cart pulled by a tractor. Over the years Tom had introduced more small rides and attractions for children and in 1985 had sold off a lot of the farming land. With the money from this sale Tom reorganised the farm attractions around three themes linked to British history. Tom?s vision was to provide a place for families to go to enjoy a day out away from all the stresses and strains of their normal day to day lives.
Over the years new rides were added to the Park, all of which complied with the original themes which remained the same:
? Farmland ? a small petting zoo of primarily farm animals along with demonstrations of old farming crafts at which children could try their hand such as milking, cheese making and spinning
? St George?s Challenge ? rides and attractions themed around the legend on St George (the area in which the new roller coaster Dragon?s Tail is located)
? Robin Hood?s Hideaway ? a wooded area containing an adventure playground with slides, rope walks etc.
By 2011 Tom had semi-retired intending to leave the day-to-day management of Albion to his two children Jack and Julie. Both Jack and Julie had almost grown up in the Park. Their first summer jobs from school and later university were as attendants cleaning the Theme Park and giving information to visitors on request. But Jack and Julie had very different personalities and had chosen different routes into their current jobs. Jack had always known he wanted to take over the Park and had done a degree in leisure planning after which he started working full time at the Park in 2005. Julie had completed a business degree and then, to her father?s disappointment, had chosen to work for a competitor, getting a job with Merlin Entertainments. Julie had successfully moved up the organisation and had secured a position as Head of Operations at one of Merlin?s smaller visitor attractions. In 2010, at her father?s request and to his delight, Julie joined Albion as its Operations Manager whilst Jack continued as Marketing Manager. However, despite their job titles each of them thought they could help the other one do their job better whilst resenting any advice that came the other way!
Trouble at the top
Before Julie?s return to the Park Jack had always seen himself as the natural successor to Tom. But, despite advice from friends and colleagues, Tom had not named his successor and had left the issue unresolved hoping that Jack and Julie could share the job and sort out who does what between them. Julie appreciated Jack?s marketing expertise but was not happy at the idea of him single-handedly deciding on the future strategic direction of the business. There were frequent arguments between the two of them on many issues. As a result Tom had to intervene to arbitrate and found himself gradually taking back more and more control of the business. Staff in the Park could see the disputes happening between Jack and Julie and so would go directly to Tom for a decision. If anything, Tom felt he was doing more now than he did before Jack and Julie were made managers at the Park. Tom was now back at Albion almost every day but knew this could not continue as he was feeling old and tired. He no longer wanted the responsibility of running the Park and his wife was
Faculty of Business, Oxford Brookes University. U51002 FoB ? 2013-14 S2 ? Assignment 2
insisting he relax more and learn to delegate so he could retire.
Next Steps
It was agreed that I will attend a special off-site Management Team meeting. Tom will chair the meeting and I will be an observer. The aim will be to talk over all the issues facing the Park including its current financial position and management.
of visitors
Promotional spending
Composition of promotional spending 2013
Cinema 15
Direct mail 5
Outdoor 4
Internet 1
Press 25
Radio 25
TV 25
Admission Prices 2013
All-day tickets available only.
Prices for tickets are the same whether bought online or on the day.
Family ticket (2 adults and up to 2 children) ?100
Adults ?34
Children under 12 ?28
Extracts from financial accounts
2011 2012 2013
Current ratio 0.9 0.8 0.7
Gearing 40% 140% 170%
Return on capital employed 2% – 3% 4%
Creditor days 8 10 15
Ownership of Albion Ltd
Tom 60% of shares Tom?s wife 30% of shares Jack and Julie 10% each
Faculty of Business, Oxford Brookes University. U51002 FoB ? 2013-14 S2 ? Assignment 2
Notes from Special Management Team Meeting
Tom?s children, Jack and his younger sister Julie, showed me around the Park before the meeting. Jack proudly pointed out the Albion Theme Park?s newest attraction, ?Dragon?s Tail?, roller coaster ride that opened at the beginning of the 2012 season.
?Listen to them? said Jack as he heard the excited screams of the customers on the rides. ?No, listen to them? said Julie pointing to the long queue of people waiting to go in Dragon?s Tail and watching as some unhappy customers were complaining loudly. One father was arguing with a new attendant on the ride claiming that his son should be allowed on even though he did not quite meet the height level required by health and safety legislation. Further down the queue another employee was trying to take cans of lager away from three youths who were reluctant to hand them over. They were protesting loudly even though signs at the entrance made it clear that alcohol was not allowed in the Theme Park. ?It?s not like it used to be? said Julie ?in the past this was a family Park, a safe place for parents and their young children?. ?Oh not this again? retorted Jack angrily ?We have to move with the times. What the public wants is bigger and better thrills. We need to be moving forward not looking backwards.?
As the three of us walked away, I noted that the father and son had got on the ride. Clearly the attendant had been pressurised into letting them on. I am worried that this might invalidate the company?s insurance policy and I wonder whether staff understand how to deal with difficult customers.
The meeting
Tom called the meeting to order and introduced me, reminding the Team that it had been agreed that I should be asked to prepare a report which evaluates the business and proposes a way forward for the Company. He then introduced the members of the management team. As well as Jack and Julie there was:
? Nasra Soumani, the Theme Park?s Hospitality Manager in charge of catering
? Brian Cox, the new Business Development Officer who had been a colleague of Julie?s at Merlin Entertainments that Julie had been keen to recruit
? Anne Fisher, who has worked for the Park for over 20 years starting as Tom?s personal assistant and who was now Human Resources Manager
? Jim Thornton, who is in charge of the Park?s small administration team and manages the complex job of paying large numbers of part time hourly paid employees as well as dealing with customer bookings and supplier payments. Jim is also responsible for the ever increasing paperwork associated with running a Theme Park.
Tom explained that he has always undertaken the financial management of the Park along with a good bookkeeper (a member of Jim Thornton?s team) and a reputable local accountant. Over the last few years Julie had partially taken over this role (Jack was relatively disinterested in the details of the figures). Individual departments within the Theme Park do not have their own budgets.
Tom then began the meeting by saying he was still very proud of Albion and its achievements and he attributed this to the hard work of all employees. But the financial performance of the Park had been poor for a number of years. Matters had not been helped by bad weather. Recent years had seen extensive investment in the much needed areas of renovation in the Park and in the new roller coaster Dragon?s Tail; the company was borrowing more to improve the facilities. In 2012 the company went ?into the red? for the first time and made a loss. After showing the management team a breakdown of the financial figures Tom declared that there was no easy answer to the Park?s problems. Tom suggested that each member of the Management Team should share their
Faculty of Business, Oxford Brookes University. U51002 FoB ? 2013-14 S2 ? Assignment 2
knowledge of the challenges and issues facing them honestly and openly with each other so they could arrive at solutions.
First to speak was Jack. ?There is no doubt that these are difficult times. We have more competition than ever before. Although Albion faces no direct competition within a 55 mile radius we are increasingly competing with other attractions for discretionary expenditures. Frankly for our survival we need to increase revenues and you don?t need to be a financial expert to know there are only three ways of doing this: increase the visits per customer, increase the average spend per visit, and to attract new customers.? Glancing at his father Jack said ?Despite Julie?s aversion to the new Dragon?s Tail ride we can clearly see that it has attracted new customers. The number of visitors has increased significantly since it opened in 2012. You can also see from simply strolling around the Park that we are now appealing to the youth market not just families. Potential customers now see us as a destination site and are willing to drive further to get here. We need to continue to offer exciting new rides to attract new customers and repeat customers and we need much better use of technology. We also need to increase marketing spending to communicate to a wider public that these new attractions exist and to offer suitable promotions to entice them to come.?
Tom looked at Julie to see if she wanted to respond but she simply shook her head to say ?no?.
Tom then turned to Anne, the Human Resources Manager, and asked her to give her view. Anne was anxious as she did not want to upset any of the family members all of whom she regarded as her bosses. She began nervously: ?I agree with Jack that we need to both increase the spend per customer and attract new customers. However, in the spirit of openness I think I should say we have experienced increased staffing problems this season. Firstly, as you know, it is difficult to hire the right people when we are only open from March to October. During our open season we hire around 200 part-time temporary members of staff in addition to our 35 full-time, permanent staff. As we expand it becomes more difficult to hire more temporary staff of the right calibre. Staff feel powerless to satisfy customers with genuine grievances such as the long queues and are angered by unreasonable and difficult customers. After all, why should our staff have to put up with abuse from bad tempered customers? On top of all these problems I am constantly being asked to keep labour costs down, but frankly labour costs are escalating and will continue to do so. We must compete for staff with other employers and comply with the law on the minimum wage and increasingly stringent government health and safety requirements. We also have the problem of knowing how many staff we need to have on site on any given day ? visitor numbers fluctuate so much, for example people decide not to come out because they think it?s going to rain even it turns out to be fine!?
?Thank you Anne, for your honest if rather depressing description of the human resource challenges facing us? said Tom. ?Nasra, how is the catering side of the business??
?Whilst we have seen an upturn in our recent catering figures, the big issue for catering is whether we change our whole approach to food provision at Albion? began Nasra. ?Up to now the catering has always been done in-house so we can complement the Park?s themes with food outlets such as the ?Farmhouse Kitchen? and ?St George Burgers?. But now, with staffing difficulties and increased health and safety requirements and endless paperwork, I wonder whether it is worth it. Maybe we should stick to our core business and simply franchise the food outlets to known brands. Or alternatively maybe we should expand into on-site accommodation and try to gain economies of scale??
?Jim, your turn? said Tom tiredly.
?I guess I can only echo the feeling around the table that things are getting more complex and costly? said Jim, ?I was going to tell you that I think we need another full-time member of staff on
Faculty of Business, Oxford Brookes University. U51002 FoB ? 2013-14 S2 ? Assignment 2
the administrative team because the paperwork just gets more complicated every year.?
It was Brian?s turn next. As a new member of the Management Team, Brian was cautious in his initial appraisal of the current situation and suggestions for the future. Brian started by saying that the main problem faced by the Park was seasonality and vulnerability to external factors. ?The biggest challenge faced by Albion is the British weather which forces the Park to close in the Winter.? Jack interjected ?Well this is the UK not California, there is not much we can do about the weather?. Brian calmly continued ?In my view, the second biggest problem face by the Park is that we only provide a one-tier ticket system. Looking at Julie, Brian said ?all business students know the Pareto rule ? 80% of profits are generated by 20% of customers. We need to target a high spend sector of customers ? affluent segments of the population who are willing to spend more on admissions so that they gained preferred status and do not have to stand in a queue.?
Finally Tom turned to Julie. ?Julie, what do you think is the way ahead for Albion?? Julie looked around the room and said ?I am not sure I see a clear way ahead but I do see a lot of operational challenges facing us. Things are just not as simple as they seem on the surface. Yes, perhaps we should attract more customers, but parking is already at capacity and we already have long queues for our high profile rides, Dragon?s Tail in particular. Longer wait times mean less customer satisfaction and an increase in problems with customers.? Jack broke in: ?But if we invested in more and better rides waiting lines would diminish?. ?Yes? replied Julie ?but we would need yet more customers to pay back the investment. The long lines for our big rides may be responsible for the increase in customer complaints. I understand the problems with recruiting staff but all it needs is an arrogant attitude let alone a rude comment from an employee to ensure a customer never makes a repeat visit.?
?That?s why we should concentrate on increasing the spend per customer? said Brian. ?Yes? said Julie ?and I agree that the increase we have seen in our youth market has led to more people using our food outlets as they tend to use these more than families who are more likely to bring their own food. But the youth market also causes more problems. They are more rowdy and this puts off families and their drinking can cause problems. All we need is one major incident and our insurance costs will increase significantly. So yes, while I agree with you Brian that one way of dealing with this is to focus on premium priced guests to allow some visitors priority. However, I wonder how the average visitor will fell when they are sweating in an even longer queue with children who are getting bored waiting and they see someone ?jump the queue? ahead of them. Is this the vision Dad had for our family Theme Park? It doesn?t seem to fit with what we set out to be. There must be other ways of making money.?
?Like what?? asked Jack.
?Can we make more money without investing in major rides? Perhaps we could try and make more money from gifts and souvenirs?? suggested Julie.
?But Nasra has already suggested we outsource services that are not our core business and we are not retailers? said Jack.
Julie nodded ?there does not seem an easy answer? she said gloomily. ?What do you think we should do?? she asked, looking at me. ?Well, let me think it through and I will prepare a report evaluating the current business and suggesting a way forward? I said as brightly as I could. But I have to say, I think Julie is right ? I do not think that there are any easy answers.
Faculty of Business, Oxford Brookes University. U51002 FoB ? 2013-14 S2 ? Assignment 2
Assignment Task
Write a report with a maximum of 2,000 words which incorporates the following sections:
Introduction This should be a brief introduction which sets the scene and purpose of the report.
Part 1: External Analysis
? Analysis of the Macro Environment In this section, select and analyse two factors in the macro environment (external to the UK theme parks industry) that might significantly influence the future development of Albion Theme Parks.
? Industry Analysis In this section, assess how the competitive forces in the UK theme parks industry impact on Albion Theme Parks.
Part 2: Internal Analysis
? Marketing Issues
? Human Resource Issues (including organisation culture and structure)
? Operations Issues
? Financial Issues
In each of the sections in Part 2 analyse the current issues and identify potential solutions.
Part 3: Conclusions and Proposals
? Proposed Strategy Set out proposals for the strategic direction of the business.
? Proposed Implementation Set out proposals as to how changes in the company should be prioritised and introduced.
In each of the sections in Part 3 you must build on the evidence that you have developed in Parts 1 and 2.