Wild Island’s Incredible Culture Success Story

The saying goes, “Consistency is key.” Consistency helps develop habits and accomplish tasks more efficiently. This is extremely important in every business, especially in the entertainment industry.

Entertainment businesses don’t get much more steady than Wild Island. Over the years, Wild Island has become a model of consistency. They have built an excellent, employee-centered culture that has led to extraordinary persistency in their staff. In fact, the average tenure for the current managers at Wild Island is over 14 years!

To better understand how Wild Island created a desirable culture and achieved such remarkable consistency with their managers and their business, our VP of Marketing, Danny Gruening, had a conversation with Craig Buster, the General Manager of Wild Island. Watch the video above and then read on to learn more about how Buster and Wild Island found success.

About Wild Island

Wild Island is a 125,000 square foot FEC (family entertainment center) in Sparks, NV. The popular facility has nine attractions, including bowling, laser tag, black light go karts and indoor and outdoor mini golf.

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Throughout its history, Wild Island has undergone several expansions as its popularity has grown. Recently, the business underwent another large expansion, adding 50,000 square feet and several more attractions.

At any given time, Wild Island employs between 120 and 140 people to properly staff their large FEC. In general, entertainment businesses are in an industry that is built for extremely high turnover. Oftentimes, the majority of employees at an FEC are high school and college-aged students that usually only work at the facility for a brief period of time before returning to school.

This leads to high turnover rates and managers are constantly having to hire and train new people. This causes inefficiencies and a lack of consistency in the business. However, Buster and Wild Island have found a way to counteract this.

Wild Island laser tag
Our laser tag arena at Wild Island

It Starts With Culture

According to Buster, the lack of turnover at his business boils down to the culture they have built. Wild Island has focused hard on building an employee-first culture, and it’s paid off in a big way. It starts with putting your employees first. It sounds easy, and oftentimes businesses say they do this, but don’t actually live it out. Buster and Wild Island work hard to make sure that employees recognize that they are valued.

“A lot of companies say, ‘Oh, we work around your school schedules,’ and they really don’t, and we do. That’s just a basic. That’s one of the basic things,” says Buster. “We make them feel like they’re part of our company. That’s very important to us.”

Wild Island laser tag
Outside theming of Wild Island’s laser tag. This is the OTHER half of the plane in the image above.

Keeping Employees Involved

Another key to Wild Island’s culture is keeping their employees involved in the business and encouraging them to bring new ideas to the table. “We have a black box so to speak right in the employee entrance there and they can put anything they want in there,” explains Buster. This idea box allows the business to grow and improve based on the feedback of the people who work there.

When it comes to decision-making, Buster also likes to get the opinions of his employees. “I’ll talk to them, ‘Hey, we’re going to try this special. What do you think?’ and they’ll give me their feedback on it.”

This accomplishes several things. First, it shows the employees that they matter, and that Wild Island cares about their thoughts and opinions. Furthermore, employees are more likely to buy into the business, work their hardest, and contribute ideas that help the business improve.

Addressing Criticism and Corrective Action

But as we know, in business, it’s not all roses and butterflies. There are certainly times when tough conversations happen and constructive criticism is necessary.

Buster has an effective and unique way of handling corrective actions with his employees. “I always tell people I promote mistakes. What I mean by that is I want you to make mistakes because it shows you’re trying,” says Buster. “There’s no yelling and screaming going on. You just talk through the situation.”

This strategy allows the employee to understand what they did wrong and build on that. A more calm and patient approach like this ensures no one gets too upset and it’s easier for the employee to learn a lesson, understand how to improve, and do a better job next time.

Continuous Education and Empowering Employees

Buster understands the value of education in the entertainment industry and how it can help him and his team continuously improve. “I am passionate about education within the industry, and I know that a lot of other people are as well, but again, actions speak louder than words.”

Wild Island laser tag vesting room
Themed laser tag vesting room at Wild Island

Wild Island also believes in the education of their employees, and they back it up by investing in them. “We take care of them. We send them to conferences. We train them. We believe in them.” The investment in the employees at Wild Island has helped them retain both their regular staff and managers a lot longer than most entertainment businesses.

Perhaps the biggest reason that Buster and Wild Island have been successful in retaining their employees is trust. “There has to be that trust and that can never be broken, and there has to be constant conversations about it.”

Building a successful culture, like that at Wild Island, doesn’t happen overnight. It takes lots of time, patience and trust. However, the long-term payoff of investing in your culture and employees is clearly worth it. By following the blueprint of Wild Island, your business can also cut down on hiring, training and general costs, and create a culture that people want to be a part of.

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