We are thrilled to announce the appointment of veteran leader, Steve Connolly, as the new SVP leading our Outdoors business which works with state and federal government agencies to help manage reservations, permitting and licensing for their camping and hunting & fishing operations. We sat down with Steve to learn more about his vision for the business and where he sees the industry going.
ACTIVE: Tell us a bit about your background.
Steve: Well, I’ve spent the past 25 years running various businesses and held several leadership roles at General Electric. My career has spanned sales, operations and asset management in large-scale, global businesses. Additionally, I have spent a great deal of my career focused on quality management and process improvement and am a certified master black belt in Six Sigma methodology. My background is very well-suited to the types of large, complex customers we have in the Outdoors business, working with state and federal government agencies to fulfill on our commitments.
ACTIVE: What drew you to ACTIVE?
Steve: I was really drawn to the opportunity at ACTIVE for the potential to drive rigor and significant growth in the Outdoors business. Coming from a very mature market at GE, I was interested in joining a technology company with a lot of market opportunity ahead of them. I very clearly see the opportunity for ACTIVE to continue expanding in the Outdoors business, but also to grow our market share in the broader activities marketplace. We have a lot of runway in front of us not only in the markets in which we already operate, but also moving into adjacent markets and making strides internationally as well.
ACTIVE: What are the some of the key trends you are seeing in the Outdoors marketplace?
Steve: An area in which we have particular focus is on automation of services and helping our customers benefit from technology to do their jobs more efficiently and better serve their constituents. In some cases our customers are using paper-based registration and licensing systems still, which are inherently slower, error-prone and less efficient. We are helping them take their operations online with the added benefits of centralized reporting, the ability to process payments quickly and to forecast revenue with more accuracy.
Real-time ticketing and permitting is a major trend that is at the forefront of our customers minds – how can we make it easier for them to sell registrations and licenses on the fly or with very little advance notice? One way we are doing that is by shortening the window in which consumers can buy tickets online through ACTIVE. Let’s take the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor as an example. It used to be that the state of Hawaii would allow visitors to buy tickets online only with 72 hours of advance notice before their visit. If the consumer was already within that 72 hour window, they would need to call the Memorial ticket office or wait in line to buy tickets in person. This severely hampered their ability to service their consumers and limited their sales. We have been able to shorten that window to allow same day ticket purchasing through our technology – which provides instant gratification for visitors that may be planning a last minute trip, but also helps the state of Hawaii increase their sales volume.
Another trend has to do with leveraging mobile technology – and this is where we are shifting significant focus across the company. Being able to enable mobile access to the thousands of activities we power is crucial. We recently launched two mobile apps for the Outdoors market which makes it easy to find and register for campgrounds from a phone. They’re very simple, intuitive and reflect that consumers are doing more of their purchases via mobile these days so that is where our state and federal customers need to be. On the hunting and fishing side we are garnering information on how the states will operationalize, for example, law enforcement. Our mobile apps fit in very nicely with President Obama’s recent executive order to have the federal government adopt innovative mobile technologies to improve the delivery of government services.
Taking a look at other consumer trends, we’re really pleased to see steady interest in doing the types of outdoors activities that we power through our technology and media properties, such as ReserveAmerica.com, including camping, hunting and fishing. In fact, last year we surveyed over 40K Americans[i] and asked them what activities they planned on spending their money on in 2012. Our survey revealed that outdoor activities represent the number one activity category across all age groups, income levels and gender. In fact, 46% of our respondents plan on spending money on outdoor activities this year.
ACTIVE: What are the top needs ACTIVE is addressing for its Outdoors customers?
Steve: Our customers want to harness technology to gain greater productivity and efficiency, make use of real-time data and reporting, and provide greater convenience and access to their constituents. Our ACTIVE Works platform is designed to help them do all of these things very well. And, they want to trust that their technology partner is continually innovating and helping them do their jobs more successfully.
ACTIVE: How does ACTIVE benefit consumers who love the great outdoors?
Steve: This is a pretty significant differentiator for us – not only do we have proprietary technology that powers activities, we provide ready access to those activities through our online properties such as ReserveAmerica.com, our mobile apps, and our point-of-sale terminals which allow consumers to easily buy permits or firewood, for example.
ACTIVE: How do you get ACTIVE?
Steve: I played football at the University of San Diego years ago and now enjoy the gym, low impact cardio training, golf and hiking.
Steve’s Personal Snapshot:
- Favorite traveling companion(s)
My wife, Julie, and my iPad.
- Favorite camping spot (fishing hole, etc.)
I would have to say hiking in AZ as well as Sequoia and Yosemite.
- My must-have item for a weekend getaway
A credit card with a $0 balance.
- Recommendation (Best bug repellent, bait, etc.)
Make sure your “waders” don’t have holes.
- Biggest fish / hunting catch
I once caught a 200 pound Marlin off the coast of Cabo San Lucas. That was a good day.
[i]Source: 2012 Sports, Fitness and Leisure Activities Participation Report, SGMA, ACTIVE Network Specific Questions