Disneyland President Ken Potrock Faces Tough Challenges Going Into 2021
If you’ve been following along with MickeyBlog, you’ll know that there has been a lot of administrative shuffling at Disney since Bob Iger stepped down as CEO last year. One of the big changes was Ken Potrock stepping into the role of President of Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA- a theme park that has now been shut down for nearly a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a recent interview with the OC Regsiter, Potrock said of his promotion and the months that have followed, “What a way to enter a new job. It really portended to be spectacular. And, lo and behold, it’s been less than spectacular in that we’ve had to face these challenges.”
Over the past year, we’ve seen how financially and psychologically devastating the lengthy theme park closure has been to both Disney employees as well as surrounding businesses in Orange County. Potrock describes the scene saying, “Walk down Harbor Boulevard and there isn’t a soul to be found.” The exec continues, “It’s heartbreaking. I get notes and letters every single day, if not every single hour, from our cast members and from business partners that are just worried, afraid and stressed.”
As the OC Register reminds us, by the end of 2020, Disneyland has lost an estimated $3 billion in revenue. And with no reopening date in sight, restarting Disneyland will also be a challenge with more than 11,500 cast members currently laid off. Thousands of additional cast members have also been furloughed.
Those that have been lucky enough to return to their jobs at Downtown Disney and Buena Vista street are also finding that they are frontline workers rather than “ambassadors of fun.” Though Disneyland has tried to reopen what they can, visiting Downtown Disney today is a far cry from normalcy for visitors or employees.
However, Potrock says that cast members have risen to the occasion despite the obstacles and has called their reaction “nothing short of magnanimous.” He continues, “With all the hardship that they are facing, the generosity, courage and grace under pressure that they’re showing is something that I marvel at every single day.”
Potrock is a perfect person to help Disneyland Resort, the resort that Walt built, face these challenges. He has a 25 year history with The Walt Disney Company including leadership roles at Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, Adventures By Disney, Disney Springs and Disney Consumer Products.
He told the OC Register that he has had two priorities since he stepped into the job last May, the first is to get the theme parks reopened as quickly as possible and the second is to step back and view Disneyland as a “fresh canvas.”
The first priority hasn’t been easy as the COVID-19 cases in the state of California continue to climb and with new stay at home orders in place as ICU’s across the state at capacity. This means that we may not see a return to “new normal” until perhaps as late as this Summer when vaccinations become more prevalent across the country.
However, Potrock considers himself as an inventive and creative leader and looks forward to a time when he can put those qualities to work at Disneyland Resort which is home to two theme parks, three onsite resorts and Downtown Disney. He also told the Register that he hopes to bring an entrepreneurial culture to Disneyland, “People have the ability to be creative problem solvers.” Potrock continues, “They have the ability to say ‘Listen, this is the way it was done.’ Let’s turn it on its head and say, ‘Well, we could do this differently.’ And that’s not an easy thing for a traditional business. We’ve spent a lot of time on reshaping the culture of our leaders so that they’re looking at the challenges differently and coming up with creative solutions.”
Potrock sites the Pym’s Kitchen, part of the new Avengers Campus as an example of the “entrepreneurial spirit.” This new Ant-Man themed eatery could face problems due to social distancing constraints. However Potrock is one step ahead saying that Disney California Adventure may utilize the Hyperion Theater queue as an Avengers Garden to provide seating for diners. He says of the idea, “How do we create an environment there where we can serve more people? Again socially distanced, but utilizing a footprint that was an underutilized asset.” Potrock said.
So how has Potrock stayed connected with his over 20,000 employees during a pandemic? He told the Register, that like in many other industries, most of his interactions with his team have been digital. He’s done Zoom calls ranging from one-on-one to a group in the thousands.
Potrock attributes his “roll up your sleeves and get on with it” attitude to his upbringing saying, “I was born in New York City and I was raised in Akron, Ohio.” He continues “It’s a really nice blend of aggressive New Yorker and Midwestern values. I’m using all of them because I’m being aggressive in trying to help reimagine Disneyland in this new world. But I’m also being very Midwestern. I am out front and center. I’m willing to take on any question. I am taking on the tough challenges and not hiding. That’s my management style.”
Potrock says that despite all of the challenges of 2020 and those still to come, he remains optimistic that brighter days are ahead for Disneyland. “We will mount a legendary comeback,” he said.
Readers are encouraged to keep following along with MickeyBlog for further Disneyland news and updates.
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Source: OC Register