ABOVE: WhiteWater’s Slideboarding combines a competitive game with a traditional waterslide. Photo courtesy of WhiteWater
If WhiteWater were to release a compendium of the company’s ride products, in the style of the classic printed product catalogs of yore, there would have to be extra pages at the back to allow for new ideas and concepts yet to be created. “Our business is really about getting clients excited about their dreams and then helping them achieve them,” says Paul Chutter, WhiteWater’s Chief Business Development Officer. “The possibilities are limitless.”
Of course, WhiteWater doesn’t print a product catalogue – in part because the company views itself as offering more than just a slate of rides and attractions. In fact, WhiteWater sees itself as a service provider more than anything else – and in reality, that’s what they have become. They sell slides, play structures and dry attractions, of course, but they also sell expertise, creativity and partnership potential with park owners and operators.
We visited WhiteWater’s corporate headquarters outside of Vancouver, Canada earlier this year and saw firsthand the team’s collaborative, solutions-based approach to business. The workplace was frenetic and full of dynamic energy. Teams of designers, engineers and salespeople got together, broke apart to work and regrouped later to discuss the latest projects, plans and ideas. In a digital world it was refreshing to see so much communication happening face-to-face.
A good majority of people there came to work for WhiteWater by chance. Many had been familiar with founder Geoff Chutter’s original WhiteWater Waterslide and Recreation Complex in Penticton, BC, Canada, but discovered an industry more expansive than what they had imagined, once they started working with the team. The discovery parallels WhiteWater’s own expansion in the industry and into becoming more than just a product manufacturer.
“Knowing that one of the world’s largest waterslide creators was just down the road was a giant magnet for me,” says Kelly Sall, Project Manager for Water Rides and self-proclaimed industry fan. “I watched job openings here for almost 10 years until I found the perfect fit for my skillset.”
What keeps WhiteWater staff on board, however, is more than just typical job perks. Of course, company culture matters, and nearly everyone I spoke with recounted tales of special breakfasts served by management, open-door policies, and real, meaningful opportunities for career growth. More than that, however, there is a sense of being part of something important: bringing fun to millions of folks around the world, being part of a company that is driven to succeed through creating fun.
“At WhiteWater we get the ability to learn about a space and then try to create something fun in it,” says Design Manager Anthony Marinakis. “All of us really get into creating spaces for kids and families to enjoy. Seeing kids’ faces light up when they are having fun in our attractions is really rewarding.”
“I think everything starts from the top. The passion Geoff Chutter has for the industry and helping clients is unmatched,” says James Hansen, Manager Project Services. “Geoff’s excitement is at its peak at major industry gatherings such as the IAAPA expos, because that’s when he’s surrounded by the industry that he loves. It filters down from there and motivates everyone to be the best at their job.”
A key component of WhiteWater’s business plan has been to cultivate industry knowledge and share it with current and prospective clients. The company’s recently released “Report on Play”(play.whitewaterwest.com/register/) was the result of professional studies on the different ways people approach play. The report establishes four groups: Dreamers, Adventurers, Socializers and Challengers. Each group approaches play from a unique perspective. Subsequent WhiteWater surveys determined operators in our industry tend to predominate in two categories: Dreamers and Adventurers. So it’s important to keep the demographic difference in mind, and create attractions that cater to all four types of visitors who come to the park.
Essentially, the report is a tool to help prevent groupthink from taking root. “We have to remember that no project is just about us, or our client. Every project is about the guest that comes to experience the attraction, and giving them what they want,” explains Chutter. “Thinking about how people play is an effective tool for figuring out how to implement ideas deliberately and effectively while earning returns vis-à-vis the end-customer’s ultimate satisfaction.” In other words, by taking the time to understand the market and end-use customer, WhiteWater is able to help bridge knowledge gaps for their clients and help execute their vision.
The company’s latest research results produced “The Splash Factor” (whitewaterwest.com/splash-factor/).
After surveying parks of varying sizes around the globe to find out what mix of wet to dry attractions worked for them, the WhiteWater team crunched the numbers and created a program that allows park owners and developers to enter their own data and learn if they have the right proportion of water rides versus other attractions for their particular location and variables.
In addition to providing real and meaningful data points to their clients, WhiteWater’s knowledge base is designed to inspire clients to have a conversation with their teams and excite them about the possibilities their project can reach for. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that WhiteWater is unveiling an entirely new branding during the 2018 IAAPA Attractions Expo this November in Orlando. The new company tagline, “Entertain the possibilities,” is designed to inspire developers to think about what a partnership with WhiteWater really signifies.
“Naturally, we like to always be talking about the latest product, but we often forget about the creativity that is involved,” says Director of Global Marketing and Strategy Una de Boer. “By harvesting that creativity and knowing our clients and business, we are able to build really incredible things. There really are endless possibilities to entertain.”
Franceen Gonzales, Executive Vice President, Business Development, agrees: “What’s most important to me in the sales process is talking with the client about what their ambition is, sharing in their excitement for those ideas, and then making those ideas happen.”
Moving discussions of ideas into actual plans requires a bit of work and planning. At WhiteWater, a team of more than 100 engineers takes initial designs and translates them into shovel-ready plans.
“We are happy to entertain all possibilities with our clients as we partner with them on a project,” says Chutter. “But we will not compromise our core value set in the process of turning those dreams into reality.”
Topping WhiteWater’s list of values is safety. “For us, safety is a non-negotiable,” says Gonzales, who also serves on a variety of industry safety committees and organizations. “Without a commitment to safety, we break trust with our customer.” Each attraction at WhiteWater is put through multiple ride simulations to check for potential problems, and subjected to a full range of internal assessments to ensure complete rider safety.
Additionally, WhiteWater displays that it is committed to innovating preventive safety measures, and developing industry partnerships to help achieve that goal. WhiteWater recognized that slips and falls are the number one safety concern at waterparks, and industry supplier Life Floor had already successfully created a product to help reduce or even eliminate injuries in this area. Naturally, WhiteWater engaged in a partnership to provide the Life Floor solution alongside their own products.
“The partnership with Life Floor not only helps address a major industry safety concern, but it opens up additional possibilities for us to think big in our product development,” explains Chutter.
Second on WhiteWater’s value list is quality. Slides and attractions are subject to extreme conditions. Harsh chemicals, fluctuating temperatures and intense sunlight all work to deteriorate composite materials. But WhiteWater is committed to innovating and creating the best materials for the job.
The company’s main fabrication facility is a wholly-owned subsidiary called FormaShape, located in Kelowna, BC. The team there also provides composite products for other industries, most notably signage and retail building exteriors (think gas stations and convenience stores).
“Quality control is the name of the game for us,” says Christine Stewart, Senior Quality Manager at FormaShape. “Every piece is 100% inspected and held to our strict criteria and specifications. Everything from the raw materials to the finished product is tracked and checked.”
“Ultimately, people make purchase decisions on the element of quality,” explains Chutter. “People view our brand promise as synonymous with the quality of the WhiteWater product lines.”
Finally, though equally important to the other values, is WhiteWater’s commitment to creativity.
“We are a hugely creative company,” says Gonzales, “but that side of the business isn’t always seen.” Even though a ride package may include the same slide products, no two parks are the same. “Our team is here to help differentiate our clients’ parks and create tailor made experiences for each situation – fulfilling client needs instead of sales quotas,” she says.
Perhaps the best example of how WhiteWater has already leaned in to its new “Entertain the possibilities” branding is with the No Boundaries play structure. Incorporating a variety of dry play elements and a variety of challenging obstacles, No Boundaries allows children and families of all ability levels to play together. Viewing platforms permit parents to enjoy play with their kids without having to climb, crawl or slide alongside them. No Boundaries attractions are already operating in Asia and the Middle East, with more under construction.
“No Boundaries highlights how we have been able to dream up new concepts outside of the traditional waterpark attraction,” says Nathan Jones, President, Park Attractions Division.
There are other examples too. The company’s Slideboarding product, which overlays a simple game onto a waterslide using RFID technology, helped create an entirely new genre of waterpark attraction. Slideboarding received a Thea Award in 2017 for its innovative technology and game-changing effect on the industry. Looking to the future, the team is currently working on the latest WhiteWater product: Vantage (www.vantage.co). WhiteWater will be introducing Vantage to the industry during the IAAPA Attractions Expo in November, but has hinted in advance that Vantage is a technology tool that will help operators understand their park operations better and enhance the whole guest experience.
“Vantage will show the industry that WhiteWater has a much broader understanding of what a park can be than people might expect,” says de Boer. “Because we see the wider potential for parks and think outside the box, we are able to bring Vantage to the market.”
It’s clear throughout the company that the entire team is working to create spaces where fun thrives, and in turn, parks succeed. The company’s new branding is designed to reflect that, and remind both employees and clients that what collectively is accomplished is truly exciting.
“We want to celebrate the passion and creativity in our industry,” says Chutter. “We want people to dream and think bigger…because with WhiteWater, you can.” • • •
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