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Day in the Life: Matt Eckert, CPA

Oct 1, 2017

President & CEO of Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, Koch Development Corporation


Alma Mater: Indiana State University
Company: Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari
Size: 2,300 employees (100 are full time, the rest are seasonal)
Direct reports:
Position: President & CEO
Previous positions: Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari – Controller and General Manager of Shared Services; Senior Auditor at Arthur Andersen.
INCPAS involvement: Emerging Leaders Alliance

Matt Eckert riding rollercoaster


Family: Tonya (wife) and children: Abby (15), Claire (13), Drew (8)
Pets: Bella (black lab)
Hobbies: Who has time for hobbies with my job and three kids? Free time is spent going to soccer games, tennis matches, dance competitions, baseball game.
Other memberships/community involvement: Board member for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Southeast Dubois School Corporation, Dubois County Community FMatt Eckert & Familyoundation and Divine Mercy Finance Council.
Cool Company Perks: I work at a theme park (what could be cooler than that?)! Knowing that I have world-class roller coasters right outside, my office is a perk I never dreamed I would have. Plus, free soft drinks are always nice!  
Advice for students considering the profession:  Accounting truly is the language of business. It opens so many doors and can lead you to opportunities you never would dream exist. When I graduated, I never dreamed I would be the president of a theme park. I grabbed every opportunity I could to learn about every facet of business that I could. Accounting develops skillsets that you can apply in every situation.
Advice for young pros wanting to advance in the profession:  Seize every opportunity you can to learn, and take on additional responsibilities. Never look at any task as nonessential. Everything has a purpose, and if you feel it does not, reinvent that task so it does. Network, network, network. You can never meet too many people, and you would be amazed at how valuable that will be to you as your career progresses.


6:30 a.m. Alarm clock sounds and it's time for another fantastic day! Check phone for any texts that may have come in overnight and check the weather forecast for the day. Hey, it's Indiana, it changes that often and we are a very weather-dependent business!

7:30 a.m. Make sure my oldest daughter, Abby, is up and about; she has to work at the park today too!

8 a.m. Drop my son, Drew, off at his sitter (he loves going there; he and his buddy Landon have a blast together). Mentally go over my "to do" list for the day as I drive, knowing what a busy day and evening is in store.

8:30 a.m. Review and respond to the 20 or so emails that have come in since I last checked (the night before) and look at the prior day Per Capita Spending Reports. Make some notes on trends I am seeing to discuss with the appropriate directors and think of some initiatives we could try for improvement.

9 a.m. Meet with the Indiana Department of Transportation to discuss construction areas leading to the park. We attract guests from more than a three-hour radius. It is critical to know what routes may be compromised because of construction improvements. INDOT is great about working with us to minimize the impact it has on our travelers and making sure that the appropriate signage will help them travel to us safely.

10 a.m. Head out to front gate to greet guests. It's a sunny day and our guests are smiling and ready for a fun day at Holiday World & Splashin' Safari. We always offer them free unlimited soft drinks to stay hydrated and free sunscreen to protect their skin! I love seeing how excited the little ones are.

11 a.m. Grab a slice of pizza at Kringle's Kafe and head offsite to meet with our director of attractions, director of communications and one of our owners to record our bi-weekly podcast. We started producing this about a year and a half ago and have generated quite a following!

12:30 p.m. Back to Holiday World & Splashin' to walk the park. I love talking to our hosts and hostesses, as well as our guests. I get great feedback on both the guest experience and the employee experience while doing so. We are constantly looking for ways to make improvements.

Knowing that I have world-class roller coasters right outside, my office is a perk I never dreamed I would have. Plus, free soft drinks are always nice!

1:30 p.m. Stop in at Employees Services to meet with my vice president of shared services. She is over human resources and finance, so we always have topics to cover. We look at the latest recruiting results and staffing for the various departments. It takes close to 2,300 employees each season to run the park, with 75 percent of our workforce at college age and younger. Needless to say, this is a big task to conquer each year. We also talk about our month-end results and a financing package we are working on with our bank.

2:30 p.m. We are always working on our master plan, looking out to see what is going be next for Holiday World & Splashin' Safari. Time to call one of our consultants to discuss an idea I have for a possible capital investment next year. They worked with us in the past when we added the Thunderbird, the nation's only launched wing coaster, and the theming work they did was fantastic. We want to keep that level of excellence on all future projects.

2:45 p.m. Call the superintendent at Forest Park High School. I'm on the school board, and we are working on an expansion of our science and agriculture building and classrooms. Discuss bonding options and bids we are receiving for the construction.

3 p.m. Meet up with vice president of marketing to discuss possible promotional opportunity with the Nashville Predators hockey team. We get quite a few visitors from Nashville and the Predators are doing really well in the playoffs. Looking at a giveaway to increase awareness is very logical. Go over sales reports and picnic bookings. Talk about the success of the new Pick Your Price initiative we started this year.

3:30 p.m. Weekly meeting with vice president of development and safety. Safety is our number-one cornerstone, and we are diligent at ensuring our guests have a safe visit. We discuss any areas we feel need to be improved. In addition, we talk about the many projects that are ongoing, ride maintenance, downtime and throughput of our attractions, and any personnel issues that exist in his area.

4:30 p.m. Review applicants for vice president of revenue operations. This is a new position I created that will oversee the directors of food and beverage, retail and games. These departments are high revenue generators and a critical part of the business. I need someone with a balance of good financial and analytical skills, but also who is extremely creative and process driven.

5 p.m. Head home to grab a quick bite with my wife, Tonya, my middle daughter, Claire, and Drew. Time to determine which parent is taking which kid to what! We are constantly running in opposite directions with baseball, soccer, tennis, gymnastics, cross country, dance and musical rehearsals! Tonight, I'm taking Drew to his baseball game and my wife will take Claire to her soccer game. 

6 p.m. Drew hit his first pop fly to the outfield. It's live pitch this year, so he has been nervous. He needed this hit to boost his confidence. 

Matt Eckert in office7:15 p.m. Game over, so time to get Drew the obligatory unhealthy snack; okay, I may get one too. Head back to Holiday World to pick up Abby now that her shift has ended. This is her second year working in Food & Beverage, and she loves it. It means a lot to me that working at Holiday World & Splashin' Safari helps teach our youth about responsibility and values, preparing them for their future and their future careers.

8 p.m. Back home, bath and shower time for the kiddos. Talk with Tonya about her day (she's a surgical nurse - I don't ask for too many details, I'm a bit squeamish). Talk about what the plans are for tomorrow and the upcoming weekend. (Sounds like Claire has a pool party planned...)

8:30 p.m. You would think Drew would be exhausted, but no, he is full of energy. Play some NFL Madden on the XBox One and then read some of his books for the summer library program he is in. 

9:30 p.m. Time to brush teeth and get Drew to bed for the night. I love that he still likes to be tucked in at night by Mom and Dad. His hugs and kisses each night make everything we do worth it.

9:31 p.m. As soon as Drew is down for bed, Claire is ready to talk our ears off. She has always been our sassy and chatty one, and I love how outgoing she is. Although not yet a park employee, I tend to use Claire as my Quality Control Hostess. She is very quick to point out areas, hosts and hostesses, rules, etc., that do not meet her standards. She is very intuitive.

10 p.m. Time to talk to Abby about her day. Tomorrow she has a busy schedule with work and then soccer conditioning. She is going to be the varsity goalie next year for the high school team, and yes, Dad is very nervous (but proud) about it. I suggest she get to bed soon, but she's a 15-year-old girl and I'm a 40-something dad. What do I know? 

10:05 p.m. Help straighten up the house then it's time to wind down a bit. Take a look at emails that have cropped up since I left the office for the day and then review the budget for our church (I'm on the finance committee). Then read for a while; I'm currently reading “The Servant.” It is a wonderful book about leadership. I'm a big believer that there is a difference between being a boss and being a leader, and I want to concentrate on being a great leader. This book really challenges you to take a good self-inventory and develop areas of self-improvement. 

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