goBeyondProfit CEO Interview: Love Made Real in Communities & with Employees


Friday, June 24th, 2022

Herschend Enterprises and their CEO, Andrew Wexler, were recently nominated and selected as the first 2022 goBeyondProfit Champion. We sat down with Andrew to learn how they operationalize love within each of their 26 business units across the US and British Columbia and positively impact the experience of 11,000+ employees as well as their guests and broader communities. 

Love Made Real in Communities & With Employees 

We have foundations at each of our property that focus on their communities because they’re close to their communities and they feel the pain of the local community. For instance, at Silver Dollar City, they have a Care For Kids program that works with the public schools to identify needs of at-risk kids and come alongside the school to provide coats, shoes, basic necessities. Dollywood Foundation has an incredible program called the Imagination Library thanks to our amazing partnership with Dolly Parton. There used to be a poor literacy rate in Sevier County where Dollywood is located. So we came together with Dolly to provide books to every child born in the county from birth to five years old. The program was so successful that we now send a book to 10% of every child born in the United States. 

So when we talk about love in action, we really try and think about the programs we can offer to ensure our employees feel loved and taken care of. We truly believe that our guests’ experience cannot exceed our employee experience.

There’s a practical side to this. If my employee is stressed out about home, if my employee feels that they’ve been beaten down by their superior, who are they gonna take it out on? When we create an environment that makes sure that the employee feels taken care of, they have the bandwidth they need to take care of our guests. 

Specifically, we have programs like Share It Forward, which is a 501(c)(3) employee assistance fund. If something tragic happens to an employee, there’s a program to help take care of that employee.

And, we just announced a really exciting new program called Grow You. Starting in 2022, all 11,000 of our U.S.-based employees are going to have access to over 100 degree, diploma, and certification programs 100% free. Essentially, a young person can come out of high school, and if they want to work in our industry they can come work for us and have college paid for while they’re working. Even if they don’t want to be in our industry long-term, as long as they’re working for us they’re going to get their college degree paid for through our Grow U platform. We’re really excited that it’s going to create opportunity and reduce a lot of barriers that exists for a lot of people who are trying to get their education. We have the tagline: “your education needs to be funded with love, not loans.”

We realize that by relieving the burden of school debt from an employees life frees up our employees to be more productive. They’re going to be able to do a better job day to day, not stressing about how they are going to pay for their education.

We’re hoping this Grow U program relieves a burden in their life and enables us to better attract and retain talent in our industry. The partner we’re using for this program is called Guild Education. They have solid research in terms of the return on investment from turnover to ability to fill jobs to retaining higher quality employees. Roughly 40% of our employees are under the age of 24. The reality of our business is that very few people are gonna make a career of being a frontline theme park employee. Most of them are gonna move on to something else. But we know that the people we do retain are going to be high quality employees that we will continue to invest in through the course of their career.  We feel confident this is a win-win for everyone and will have a 2-to-1 return for our business.

Watch part one - Changing Love from a 4-Letter Word to a Core Business Strategy

Watch part two - Love Tested: Navigating an Industry Crushing Pandemic