It was very last minute, but I got the chance to interview Matt Ouimet today, the new CEO of Cedar Fair. It's not often that you get time with the boss of a billion-dollar public company, and I figured, at best, I'd get a half-hour of his time. I got three times that.
Naturally, I'll eventually edit the video and do a short write-up on it, but I'll say now that few people that I've met, in any industry, can really live up to the kind of leadership expectations that I have. This guy is the real deal. By the time I circled the park and eventually left his office, I was so enamored with him that I started to wonder how I could work for him. This is a guy who you'd feel comfortable meeting up with for a beer, and at the same time, play in traffic if he asked you to.
What it really comes down to is respect. He respects customers, investors, and employees from seasonals up through his fellow executives. You can see it in everything he has done so far. When I first met him, he made no assumptions about what I knew about him. He said, "I'm Matt," and went on not talk about himself, but ask me about what I do. He could have easily discounted me as the coaster Web site running schmuck that I am, but he didn't. That theme was recurring throughout my conversation with him. He seemed to ask me about my opinion on everything they were doing. He made it a point to say, twice, that his expectation of his people was to question him on everything, because that's how you avoid costly mistakes. He doesn't want to be the smartest guy in the room. How can you not respect someone who respects everyone else?
I've never seen a company change so quickly. I've been loitering in the halls of various administration buildings up there now for a dozen years, and while the people and the place are the same, it's like a different company. It's both odd and exciting.
What a great guy. His leadership style of empowerment has had nearly instant results. It's really exciting to watch.