Welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview with Jay Thomas, the CEO of Urban Air. In this captivating conversation, we delve into the mind of a visionary leader who has brought tremendous success to the entertainment industry.
With a rich background in the amusement park sector, including a notable tenure at Six Flags, Jay Thomas joined Urban Air in 2018, igniting a transformative journey that continues to redefine the landscape of family entertainment.
In this interview, Jay Thomas shares intriguing insights about his professional journey, the core values that drive Urban Air, and the company’s unique position in the market.
Prepare to be inspired as Jay Thomas imparts valuable lessons learned from his experiences, including his favorite books that have shaped his leadership philosophy.
We also explore the challenges businesses face in the current climate and gain a glimpse into Urban Air’s strategies for thriving in 2023.
Join us on this enlightening journey as we uncover the mind of an exceptional leader and discover the secrets to Urban Air’s remarkable success.
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Jay Thomas: I joined Urban Air the summer of 2018. Prior to that I was a 30-year Six Flags executive holding several roles. My titles included Vice President of International Park Development; President of Six Flags Magic Mountain, near Los Angeles, California; Executive roles in Administration, Operations, Human Resources, Marketing, and Information Systems.
I hold a B.A. in Management Science from the University of Texas at Arlington, and an M.B.A. from Amberton University. I am also known to be extremely organized, same may even dare to call me a “neat freak”.
What advice do you wish you had received when you started your business journey and what do you intend on improving in the next quarter?
Jay Thomas: The best advice I was given that continues to serve me well was from a former and well-respected Six Flags Over Texas Park President, Bob Bennett. He taught me effective leaders take risks and teach their good-thinking employees to do the same.
When you read my work history, you see I held so many roles in different facets of Six Flags. Bob pushed his staff to experience all divisions even it was not your field of expertise. Effective leaders understand all aspects of the company, not just one segment. So, never fear a promotion outside of your comfort zone.
As for the improvements I’d like to make: we are really drilling down on culture. We have webinars, systemwide calls, and offsite conferences where we identify young employees who show promise.
We rely on those boots-on-the-ground staffers who deal directly with our guests. They are the best soldiers to tell us how to improve operations and achieve gold star guest service.
Here is a two-fold question: What is the book that influenced you the most and how? Please share some life lessons you learned. Now what book have you gifted the most and why?
Jay Thomas: The book that influenced me the most is “Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies” by Reid Hoffman. The book is about what separates the startups that get disrupted and disappear from the ones who grow to become global giants.
My takeaway is that you do not have to build a perfect product. Get it out there, and work on it. There is no such thing as a perfect product.
As for life lessons: Don’t underestimate your co-workers. Let them be “owners” within their own departments. Allow them to make calculated risks.
My gift book is: “Leadershift.” (John C. Maxwell) It was one of the books we read in our Urban Air Book Club. We meet once a month in our Dallas Home Office to discuss a chosen book. Some folks do it via Zoom but yeah, we have a good little book club going. It’s fun!
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as THE real challenge right now?
Jay Thomas: The real challenge is consumers are spending less due to inflation which means you better offer a good value for your product.
I go back to an earlier comment, that our Endless Play Membership program is successful because it does just that. You come as much as you want for one low monthly price. Our guests love it.
2020, 2021, and 2022 threw a lot of curve balls into businesses on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past years, how can businesses thrive in 2023? What lessons have you learned and what advice would you share?
Jay Thomas: In order to thrive in 2023, you need a good yield management strategy. Do you fully understand your consumers behavior? And how do you influence them? You cannot get distracted from your core competencies. Continued success relies on providing a great value right now.
When we came out of Covid, our marketing department developed a campaign strategy to propel business.
We did not ask our franchisees to pay for it until they got back on their feet. We did our best to work with our park owners in order to drive volume. We stuck to our yield management strategy to generate the maximum revenue.
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Jay Thomas: My business superpower… Hmmmm that’s a tough question. Perhaps time travel. Wouldn’t it be great if we could bounce into the future and find cures for life threatening illnesses? I’d bring that knowledge back to the present day and try to prevent loved ones from getting sick.