Bureaucracy is the antithesis of outstanding brand experiences. It may make a business more controlled and consistent, but it also strips away the human quality.
Incredible experiences rely on the human factor. Products or services can rarely stand on their own. They require the people—sales, customer service, and all the support staff—to bring the experience together.
WildPlay Element Parks is known for their over-the-top guest services. WildPlay provides outdoor activity parks with unique aerial adventures such as bungee jumps and zip lines. These are heart pumping activities that encourage individuals, families and groups to participate in nature-based recreation.
WildPlay has a tight knit culture focused on delivering outstanding guest experiences. But their challenge is protecting the culture through a period of growth. The company is rapidly expanding from five parks in British Columbia into new markets in Ontario, Washington and Indiana.
To manage and maintain their brand in this period of heady growth, WildPlay bakes their values into everything they do.
Why do clients come back?
Understanding the essence of a client experience is the starting point for managing your brand.
Hurling yourself off a 150 foot bridge with a rubber band tied to your ankles pretty much sells itself. If you’re looking to bungee jump you’ll find WildPlay. But that’s not what brings WildPlay’s brand to life. Their clients come back repeatedly, because of the total guest experience.
Tom Benson, co-founder of WildPlay explains, “From the very start of our company we knew our core purpose. To get folks out of their comfort zone as a catalyst for change.”
The bungee jumps and zip lines are the tools that support WildPlay’s purpose. Guests come back, because they have fun and they learn to overcome something. The WildPlay staff will often hear clients say, “I was afraid ahead of time, but not afterwards. The experience taught me [and they’ll insert a personal story].”
These experiences are the essence of the WildPlay brand. They’re not selling extreme, nature-based recreation. They’re creating activities that help their guests experience something new about themselves and their capabilities in a safe, fun environment.
Hard code the culture
To consistently deliver on their purpose WildPlay has defined their core values:
- Evolve The Guest: Aim to anticipate and exceed the expectations of their guests.
- Nurture The Clan: WildPlay’s family works together as a creative and tight team where dependability is a given.
- Taste The Dirt: If you don’t know Mother Earth, you won’t take care of her.
- Share The Fruit: The labour of their business should result in an obvious and tangible benefit to their community.
This is just a snippet of their values. They can be expanded or contracted to fit the situation, but most importantly everyone on their team knows them.
WildPlay lives and breathes their values. They incorporate them into their hiring, training and management processes. They’re embedded in their messaging, both internal and external, and they are baked into the language of the culture.
These values weren’t dreamt up at an executive retreat, and then plastered on the walls of the office. They’re part of the fabric of the company. Whenever a major decision is made, the first document they reference is their four core values.
Splitting the sourdough
WildPlay faces a unique challenge as they grow into new states and provinces, because the new facilities are so far away. The new parks can be thousands of miles away from the head office, and isolated from the core staff and founding culture.
WildPlay is acutely aware of the challenge, and is conscientiously working to reinforce and replicate their culture and values—what makes their BC parks’ guest experiences so sticky—at each new site.
Tom Benson describes the strategy to reinforce their values into each new site like splitting a sourdough starter. Sourdough bread is unique, because bakers add a starter to make the dough rise and create its flavor profile. The starter culture is living, and can be used for many years by splitting off pieces of the “mother” to create “children.”
For example, the Boudin Bakery in San Francisco has used the same starter dough since 1849. Each sourdough loaf of bread has a piece of the original mother, and it helps shape the flavor of their breads.
As WildPlay grows they treat their culture with similar care. It’s alive and precious, and they work to take a piece of what makes their BC parks remarkable, and infuse that into every new facility.
Trust your team. Trust you clients
WildPlay has a dynamic culture, because the leadership trusts it. Tom explains, “Trust your clients and your staff to be your barometer, and don’t lose sight of it.”
When everyone understands the company’s purpose and how it operates, they will work together to deliver an exceptional experience. And the clients are just as invested in the process. They have a choice to purchase from companies they believe in, and are naturally drawn towards the ones with shared values.
Almost anyone can open a business, but very few can nurture the culture and values that create a sticky brand.