Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Another Way to Connect: Mentoring Program

One of the key benefits to IAAPA membership is the opportunity to connect with peers, colleagues, and friends through a variety of ways such as trade shows and networking events. Over the past year, the association added a dimension to that for the small parks and attractions (e.g., standalone attractions) community: the Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Program. This member benefit is a formal way of opening the door for peers to share ideas, contacts, and advice.
John Norris (Seabreeze Park, Rochester, New York), a member of the IAAPA Small Parks and Attractions Committee, shares a few thoughts on this important opportunity.
For those who might not be familiar with it, please explain the Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Program.
It’s an opportunity for a small park or attraction member to have an ongoing dialogue with a mentor in the small parks and attractions community. Mentors can share their experiences, contacts, and knowledge about the industry, and they can act as a sounding board to bounce ideas off. Mentors can help point mentees in the right direction when they are looking for help from consultants, suppliers, and other industry services. Mentors and mentees enter into a written agreement that they’re going to work together, and the relationship lasts as long as both parties agree.

How did the program come about?
It’s a pilot project. During our Small Parks and Attractions Committee meeting last winter, one of the goals we had for the coming year was to continue to have open lines of communication with our constituency. My thought was that I really wanted to make sure members know if they ever have any questions or comments—about public relations, a supplier, a marketing idea, safety issue, anything at all—they can always feel free to e-mail or call any one of the committee members. And if we don’t have the answer, we’ll help point them in the right direction. So we discussed that concept, and it developed even further into this mentor program. And it really ties in well with IAAPA’s goal of “The Power of Partnership” program.

Why is this new program so important for small or independent parks and attractions in particular?
As a committee, we’re trying to fill the needs of the constituency. There may be some park owners out there or attractions that are looking to expand their business. They might already have a facility and they’re looking to get into a new angle, like an attraction that is looking to add rides or water—those types of things. Or they are fairly new to the business and are looking for some guidance going forward.

What level of park employee is this program best suited for and why?
There’s a group called Young Professionals in the association, and they might want to look at the mentoring program. Also, owners of parks and senior-level managers might be expanding their facilities or looking for more input.

What can participants expect to take away from the experience?
I think they’ll gain both personal growth and growth for their facilities, and over time they’re going to develop stronger relationships with people in the industry—get to know more people, more contacts. That’s really what the association is all about: bringing people together who are in a like profession and can share ideas and goals as a whole industry. For mentors, over the years they’ve received a lot of support and generated a great number of contacts and information from people in our association as they grew in the industry. Now it’s a chance for them to turn around and provide that for younger people growing up in the business. The mentees today will be mentors down the road, helping the next person along. We are not only looking for mentees—we’re looking for volunteer mentors as well. 

For more information and to sign up for the Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Program, click here , or contact Heidi Aulakh at +1 703/836-4800 or

To view this article on the FUNWORLD digital edition, click here.

Photo courtesy John Norris

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