Six Flags CEO gets thrill from seeing people smile

Jim Reid-Anderson says he has one of the greatest jobs in the world: making people happy.

He has been doing that since 2010 as chairman, president and CEO of Six Flags Entertainment Corp., which operates Six Flags Over Georgia.

He joined the corporation several months after it exited bankruptcy, and his extensive financial background helped him guide the company to financial success. But it is his passion for theme parks that drives the chain to keep offering bigger thrills and greater customer satisfaction.

Last week, Reid-Anderson talked about what he brings to the Six Flags chain and how he strives to improve the parks.

Q. Your background is not in the theme park industry. How did you end up at Six Flags?

A. I have a basic love of theme parks. I had run Dade Behring Holdings (a medical equipment company acquired by Siemens in 2007) and some Six Flags investors in Dade Behring contacted me. When I got the offer, my kids pretty much tied me down and said, “You are taking this job!” It’s nice to be in a field where you make people happy.

Q. How have the Six Flags parks been doing?

A. Our dedication primarily is to guest satisfaction and safety. We keep asking, “How do we improve guest satisfaction?” Well in 2013 we hit all-time highs at all Six Flags parks (in guest satisfaction surveys). And our employee satisfaction is at an all-time high. And the corporation is performing extremely well overall.

Q. How does Six Flags keep up with the changing tastes of what customers want in a theme park?

A. Anything out there happens instantly (on the Internet, Facebook, etc.). We focus on how we connect with our guests. And communicate with them. We survey everybody. In the past we had a lot of data, but no research. Now we measure everything in research. We measure guests’ value perception. We ask the guests what they are looking for. And in Atlanta we found a strong desire for a water park.

Q. What impact are you looking for the new Hurricane Harbor water park to have at Six Flags Over Georgia?

A. It’s the biggest investment ever in Six Flags Over Georgia’s history, and it’s the biggest expansion at any Six Flags park in 2014. It gives us the potential to expand and offer more to our guests. From a revenue generation perspective, it’s very powerful. And it’s complementary to, not cannibalizing, Six Flags White Water (a separate water park about 20 miles away). And it’s part of our effort to put something new in every park every year.

Q. What’s your favorite ride and amusement park?

A. I’m not going there. It’s like trying to choose your favorite child! But I’ll ride every ride. Every single ride. I can’t talk to guests unless I’ve ridden them all.

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Tom Kelley is a lifelong amusement park fan and lover of roller coasters. He has been a member of the American Coaster Enthusiasts, a worldwide group, since 1996.