30 Years in the Business of Fun

Posted on March 24th, 2010

Any company that can claim 30 years of ongoing success can usually attribute it to the vision and strength of its leadership team. For Management Resources, a leisure time/recreational services consulting company, that is truly the case. However, a closer look at the company shows a subtle but continual pattern of infusing the firm with fresh young talent who can embrace the new technologies needed to stay apace and competitive with the ever evolving industry.
Located in Tustin, California, Management Resources began its existence in 1980 at a time when two major players, Disney and Universal Studios, dominated the leisure industry. In fact, the company’s four original founders – David H. Schmitt, James E. Harmon, Bill Bieberbach, and Stephen J. Clark – were all seasoned veterans of the Disney organization coming from Finance, Operations, and Marketing.

“Looking back, it’s hard to imagine thirty years have passed. In one sense, it’s been a blink of an eye,” stated founder David H. Schmitt.

Over its 30-year history, an estimated 200 million guests in 36 countries have thrilled to the work of this California-based company. Their commercial client list is a virtual “Who’s Who” of entertainment companies: Disney, SeaWorld, Legoland, MGM, Radio City Music Hall, Paramount Studios, Warner Communications, and so on. Plus, a roster of world-class museums and not-for-profits – the American Museum of Natural History, The Field Museum, Newseum, Aquarium of the Pacifc -- show where Management Resources is headed.

In the eighties Management Resources was successful landing consulting contracts for several world expositions including, World’s Fairs in Knoxville (1982), New Orleans (1984), Vancouver (1986), and Brisbane (1988). Of particular note was Management Resources’ involvement with the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Those were quickly followed by projects like the 1988 Olympics in Calgary and the 1992 World Exposition in Seville, Spain.

“We’re in the fun business,” Schmitt, now Chairman, stated. “But we never forget what we do is a business. We help our clients be successful by turning innovation and imagination into solid business returns.”

That philosophy has paid off for Management Resources. They have contributed to theme parks and attractions on each and every continent of the world, except Antarctica, and they are not ruling that out either.

“We don’t look back much,” Schmitt added. “We keep our eye focused on the future. That’s what’s exciting. If we want to have another thirty years of success we need to continually add new people and support their vision. Our business opportunities change.”

Jim Higashi and Brad Merriman joined the team over fifteen years ago. A little over two years ago they were made partners in the firm. “Much of our focus now is on international on-going attractions and museums designed to welcome guests from all over the world,” Jim Higashi recently commented. “Advances in technology have opened the world as a marketplace and we are able to apply what we have pioneered virtually anywhere.”

Recent global projects include Everland Theme Park in South Korea, West Kowloon Cultural District in China, and Danfoss Universe in Denmark.

Over the first fifteen years, Management Resources diversified its client base as the leisure industry evolved. The core of their services has always been business planning plus operational, marketing, and ticket sales planning and implementation to theme parks, expositions, and major special events. Projects over the last fifteen years have added an additional focus on non-profit cultural attractions like museums, aquariums, science centers, as well as corporate brand centers.

How did the company continually reinvent itself to stay topical? Brad Merriman, explained, “The fundamentals have remained the same, whether for a theme park or a museum or a destination resort: tell a great story that will engage an audience and keep your eye on the business model.”

“The world of leisure time activities has changed unbelievably since 1980,” Dave Schmitt commented. “When we started business there were no personal computers, no cell phones, no Blackberrys, and FAX machines had only been around a couple of years.

“No one could have imagined where entertainment was headed. Today, people are bombarded with all sorts of mind-boggling choices of experiences. Our clients have to compete to get their customers’ attention. The bar keeps rising. We stay current, relevant, and on the edge with what consumers want. This continues to be our value in the marketplace – even after 30 years.”

This quest to stay ahead of the entertainment curve is reflected in the wide array of ages and backgrounds of the company’s employees and consultants. “We learn from each other and create a superior product together,” Schmitt added. “When we started our technology consisted of four guys with pens, yellow pads and a flip chart. Today we design and model with computers and other sophisticated technologies. Yet, our most valuable technology has remained the same for thirty years – the imagination of our team.

“It’s an exciting time to be in this business. I enjoy it more today than ever before. The people are what make it fantastic.”

Posted in Management Resources    Tagged with 30th Anniversary



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