I attended G2E this year even though I was not slated to speak. When I arrived, I dropped by the AGA office and told them I would gladly replace any speaker that canceled or did not show.
On the final day of the conference, the phone rang and a panicked AGA staffer asked if I would be a fill-in as speaker. “Sure,” I said (arrogantly, confidently or naively). The staffer said I was to be part of a panel of experts selected to respond to comments made by a renowned “futurist” who would speak immediately before us.
As I rushed to get ready, I should have been worrying about what I was going to say. Instead, I was wondering if I should wear the white shirt with the striped tie or the pale yellow shirt with my Jerry Garcia tie that only a “Dead Head” could love. I figured if I was going to speak on a topic that I knew little about, I should at least look “good.”
I arrived (looking good) in time to actually hear the speech given by the futurist Robert Tercek. He was focused on vaporization and change and futuristic stuff and casinos without borders, or maybe he said walls. Standing in the back listening, processing and sweating profusely, it started to dawn on me that I might be in over my head.
My sense of foreboding increased as I went over (looking good) to introduce myself to my fellow panelists. They were with the AV technicians “loading their slides”…. I had no slides.
Of the three panelists, GGB’s Roger Gros, the moderator, positioned me last so I could hear my fellow panelists and see their slides, thus buying me some time to cobble together thoughts and organize my words of wisdom (born and honed over a magnificent 40-year career), which I would imminently deliver in a manner that would make great speakers envious.
…Who Needs Slides?
The panelists before me were so good. The first, Peter Yesawich of MMGY Global, spoke of gaming’s future from a travel and tourism perspective. The second, Bally Technologies’ Ramesh Srinivasan, spoke of gaming’s future from a technological perspective. My role was to discuss the dynamics of setting “futuristic” strategic directives.
I strode confidently to the podium… looking good.
I addressed the audience assuming that everyone in the room had aspirations to be the boss, the CEO, and spoke from the perspective of being in the “corner office” (the C-Suite). I spoke of how a CEO develops strategies to operate in an unknown future.
I believe there are five prime C-Suite strategic advisories to consider when looking into the unknown.
1. Never forget the past, as it always has lessons to give.
We evolve during life. Experience, wisdom and the emotion of our journey change who we are, and the evolution does not stop until our life’s journey stops. I wouldn’t worry so much about the segments we label (i.e. millennials, gen-X, gen-Y, etc.) when considering the future. A competent C-suite executive should always confidently approach the future with an eye on the past and use the collective experiences of the past to set direction.
2. Never “out-kick your coverage.”
Make decisions about future strategies which do not exceed the competency of the team or the technology to deliver successful outcomes. A CEO should never devise a strategy that the team or the technology is not capable of executing. This requires a great degree of honesty and staff assessment.
3. It is much easier to get into something than it is to get out of it.
I proffer if you polled the majority of gaming executives, most of them would opt to dump free play.
In the late ’90s, technology allowed for providing free play as a bonus to reward good players. Marketers considered this an awesome tool, and everyone jumped into the free-play pool without ever stopping to test temperature or depth of the water. No one in the C-suite was challenging the premise that free play had limitless upside without measurable downside.
Free-play capabilities, held by rogue operators, drive margins down for everyone. Margins once lowered cannot be easily reversed. The customer is not willing to accept reductions in free play simply because it is hurting the casino’s margin. What started as a progressive marketing tool has become the contributor to margin declines currently being experienced. No one saw that coming, and no one knows how to reverse the negative impact although many want to.
4. “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.”—Napoleon Hill
A CEO should never be afraid of allowing instincts to influence actions. It is alright to think outside the box; just be sure you can still see the box. This approach is not in contradiction to advisories previously discussed. Rather, it is in concert.
5. Be the Customer.
This is the most important advisory, and one every “C-Suiter” must remember, take to heart and make sacrosanct.
Every plan and every action must pass the “taste” test with respect to your customers. If they do not want what you are offering, or going to offer, you will fail. Push the limits. Move confidently and always move for the benefit of your customer.
The future is not a scary place. Quite the contrary, it is a place where real winners end up… without slides… and looking good!