Thirty-year employees are hard to find these days.
Mike Woody is one of the few.
Woody started his career with Herschend Family Entertainment Corp. in 1980, taking a job as group sales manager for Silver Dollar City and White Water theme parks in Branson. Now, 34 seasons later, he’s still on board, working as marketing director for Showboat Branson Belle and other HFE properties in Branson.
“I have done so by choice,” Woody says, citing the tutelage of HFE co-founders Jack and Peter Herschend.
Along the way, Woody has moved a few positions along the ladder and showcased a wide range of skills in his toolbox. He has managed operations at White Water, the Silver Dollar City campground and Talking Rock Caverns, handled marketing for Grand Palace and The Grand Village through HFE strategic partnerships in the 1990s, and directed sales and promotions for Celebration City, before it closed. Each position involved multimillion-dollar revenue objectives, management of multiple staff members and large operating budgets.
“I am currently responsible for marketing campaign development and the multimillion-dollar admission revenue plan for the Showboat,” says Woody, who also is known for starting the company’s first call center for reservations and customer service. “I am also responsible for developing and maintaining partnerships with regional and nationally recognized partners such as Coca-Cola, Humana, Ford, Bass Pro Shops, McDonald’s and more.”
Such allegiance says something about the employer, in this case, led by two business stalwarts in the Ozarks.
“Jack and Peter have shared many memorable leadership insights over these years, yet the most enduring leadership traits learned from these two are simple, but essential, to reaching financial and people development objectives: ‘Inspect what you expect,’” Woody recalls, “and ‘become an aggressive listener.’”
Woody points to Jack Herschend’s created culture of managing expectations by allowing personnel to own the expectations in their business units but inspecting them through a series of scheduled and surprise reviews.
“Subsequently, I encouraged ownership of programs by my direct reports, which inspired their success,” he says. “The inspection tactic ensured we were moving in the agreed upon direction.”
Peter Herschend’s ability to listen has rubbed off on Woody, and now it’s a trait he’s working to emulate.
“Good leaders become great leaders by their ability to become aggressive listeners,” Woody says. “Good listeners listen to understand, not to respond. Do that, and you will become a great leader.”
Woody lent his ear to the Ozark Board of Education, serving 15 years and finishing with a term as president, 2004–08. A growth strategy developed during that time led to the funding and construction of a new high school, athletic facilities and an elementary school in the northwest quadrant of the city.
Herschend knows Woody’s loyalty firsthand, and he’s glad to see it put to use in the community.
“I know from long experience that you do not sit on a school board unless you want to make life better for thousands of kids,” says Herschend, a veteran of the state and Branson education boards. “I have never known Mike to step back from a promise.”
Woody currently serves on marketing and advisory committees for the reopening of Wonders of Wildlife, attracting veterans to Branson, extending Branson’s tourism season with a new spring event in 2015 and serving international visitors, primarily Canadians, in Branson.
“I wish there were 20 more just like him to work for our company,” Herschend says.[[In-content Ad]]