Slow Down and Smell the Roses

Ann Hoff offers advice based upon her experience and background in the gaming industry

Excalibur Hotel & Casino President and COO Ann Hoff’s career has taken her from the ports of Louisiana to the deserts of Nevada and the pinnacle of her profession. A graduate of the hotel and restaurant management program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Hoff has risen through the ranks to become president and chief operating officer at the Excalibur Hotel & Casino.

With almost three decades in the hospitality and gaming industry, Hoff shared her reflections and hopes for the future with Global Gaming Business.

GGB: How is the industry different today than when you first started?

Hoff: I’m a native New Orleanian, so naturally, tourism and hospitality were very interesting to me. In 1987, I transferred to UNLV, and upon my graduation in 1989, the Mirage was opening. I was fortunate to join the Management Associate Program during an extraordinary time of growth in Las Vegas with properties like Excalibur and MGM opening shortly after.

The industry has evolved with technology and societal trends, but the core of what we do— hospitality and creating “wow” experiences for guests—has not changed.

There are more opportunities for women in gaming now than 20 years ago. What have you learned that you can share with women starting out?

A crucial moment was when I transitioned from sales and marketing to hotel operations. My intention was to become a general manager. I made a strategic pivot to ensure I was developing the necessary skills and leadership competencies. I ensured my mentors and sponsors were clear about my career intentions, so they could advocate on my behalf when opportunities surfaced.

It’s important to have a personal strategic plan: understand where you want to go, what you want to achieve and how you intend to do it. Set short-term and long-term objectives. Share your intentions with people who can offer advice, guidance and coaching.

But the most important lesson from my journey is to always be willing to take risks, to raise my hand for the tough projects and opportunities that stretched me out of my comfort zone. In doing so, I gained confidence, experience and exposure, which is so important for women with high ambition. I truly believe leaders are not able to realize or clearly understand their full potential until they’re willing to be vulnerable and prepared to risk failure.

Operations jobs are notorious for the hours spent on-property. Many women have avoided leadership roles in operations because they’re perceived as family-unfriendly. What’s your response?

The lines are very blurry, but no recipe fits everyone. No one can expect working mothers—or anyone—to be 100% all the time. I’ve been happily married for 26 years and raised two children who were supportive and proud of my accomplishments. We all understood the tradeoffs, but I was very organized, tightly scheduled and prioritized the “non-negotiables” so I wouldn’t miss important moments. The bottom line is, these decisions are very personal. You must choose what’s best for your circumstance. And yourself.

What’s your vision for the workplace of the future?

We must champion younger women by providing effective mentorship, consistent encouragement and meaningful celebration of their success. We must lead by example, confidently speaking up, contributing and taking on additional responsibility, always being mindful of paying it forward for the leaders of tomorrow.

If you could give new-to-gaming Ann one piece of advice, based on where you sit today, what would you say to your younger self?

There’s a quote from Dr. Seuss that says, “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” That resonates with me. I think I would have slowed down a little bit. Perhaps I would have enjoyed those moments that are now just memories. Where did those decades go? At the same time, I’m not sure slowing down is in my DNA.

Ann Hoff is president and COO of Excalibur Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas.

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