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20 Jan 2018 Attractions Management Handbook
 

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Attractions Management Handbook - Scott Ault

Movers & Shakers

Scott Ault


After 19 years with BRC Imagination Arts, Scott Ault left to become president and CEO of a newly launched design company called Rethink Leisure and Entertainment

Scott Ault, president of Rethink Leisure
Diagon Alley and the continuing global expansion by Universal of Harry Potter – an exciting development within attractions

Why did you move on from BRC?
BRC is truly wonderful – that’s why I spent 19 years working there. But I was presented with an opportunity that was really challenging and sparked a deep interest.

What are your aspirations going forward with Rethink?
For Rethink to be a vibrant group of talented, great people who are fun to work with and always have a voice for their opinions, ideas and needs. Rethink is not truly hierarchical. I want people to want to work at Rethink, and I want clients who want to work with us. If we achieve that, then all our business aspirations will be fulfilled.

What does the attractions industry mean to you?
It’s entertainment that is wholly interactive, for and about the guests: to inspire, educate, delight and provide opportunities for family experiences. For me, it’s about being there on opening day and hoping we did such a good job that the visitors don’t see the process and aren’t disappointed. It’s witnessing those magical moments when they gasp. It’s a thoroughly collaborative industry, which I love. We build entertainment hubs that continue for successive generations. It’s an industry that crosses social barriers and is so available.

What challenges face this sector?
A big challenge is the issue of suppliers. In many countries, hard goods must be imported and they’re heavily taxed. This is in addition to the necessity of working within fractured and/or foreign bureaucracies. Another challenge is that the industry’s talent base is not deep enough nor easily available beyond very distinct locations. Therein lies the challenge of capacity: with so many projects happening worldwide there’s a limit to trained professionals and resources. There is just so much time and just so many bodies available to create and manufacture. This also boils down to safety – the challenge of making attractions as safe as possible no matter where they’re located. And attractions aren’t solely based on importing or exporting “Hollywood” – we must work with the local culture and mindset. Plus, we need to identify the next generation of talent worldwide, and then train and encourage it.

What does the TEA mean to you?
The TEA provides a safe forum to get to know others doing what you do. To connect with individuals in the industry, who you wouldn’t necessarily get to meet, and on a global scale. This is a competitive and fluid sector: many of us have worked together or for each other. Although we may compete for a project or a job, we can sit together with a glass of wine when we meet at a TEA event. So, if you as a professional come up against a new obstacle, you can reach out to others for advice. The TEA fosters trust, offers a welcoming social and professional network with an accessible pool of advice and resources. But members must attend events and participate in order to reap the best benefits.

What does the year ahead hold out for attractions?
The world is now slowly recovering and people are making more and more plans, particularly for leisure projects in the Middle East with the announcement of Dubai’s 2020 Expo. Recovering economies result in more people with discretionary incomes, who then visit attractions. On another note, as Disney works out the kinks in its MyMagic+ program, I think you’ll see more use of integrated payment systems, which turn mixed areas into whole resorts – and people tend to then spend more money.

What attractions trends are you most excited about?
Diagon Alley and the continuing global expansion by Universal of Harry Potter. The overall area development is phenomenal.

How has your career progressed?
Like many, I started out in the attractions industry completely by accident – I applied for a summer job at Walt Disney Imagineering and have been in the industry ever since. But it’s also been a steady progression, with two side progressions: I left the industry to take a job with a party planning service, but that dovetailed into me becoming the producer of The NFL Experience, as I was the only one who could do it. I also temporarily worked in commercials because I wanted to learn about the production process in the media. But again, it all tied back in.

What are the best and worst business decisions you’ve made?
I realised that there would always be a better designer than me, but that I was good at production, organising and editing, so I changed my career path. All my business decisions are made with the intention of embracing change and welcoming risk. During The NFL Experience, I took on more than I should. My physical health was compromised. It taught me to set boundaries.

What’s been the biggest challenge?
Starting Rethink and hiring good people. To overcome challenges, work through them. I learned to rely on the right people and to listen and reflect before acting.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? What advice would you similarly give?
Always be nice and kind to people, both in principle and in practice. Bob Rogers advised me that there’s never a reason to be rude to anyone – life’s too short. You never know – you might one day be working with them or even for them. Now is a challenging time, it’s a very competitive market. So, I’d advise people new to the sector to identify someone doing what they want to do in 5-10 years and learn from them.


ABOUT SCOTT AULT
Scott Ault is the president and CEO of Rethink Leisure & Entertainment, LLC.

Facebook: /rethinkle
Twitter: /rethinkle
www.rethinkLE.com


Originally published in Attractions Handbook 2014 issue 1

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