Meet the non-undercover boss.
Brent Pinkston, chief operating officer of Wind Creek Hospitality, is more than a leader to 2,500 employees covering six properties throughout Alabama and Florida for the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. He is, at select times, their colleague.
For about an hour a week, the 13-year gaming veteran puts on a uniform and performs one of his employees’ jobs. He has done practically every one of them in this cameo role and subsequently implemented many staff suggestions.
“It’s important to see what your team members are involved with,” says the Chicago native, whose career includes a stint as executive director at the Pearl River Resort in Mississippi and executive director of slots and marketing at the Las Vegas Sands before joining this company in 2007. He has been the COO for three years.
“You can obtain great ideas from the front-line staff, who perform that job every day,” Pinkston indicates. “My favorite job? Being a dishwasher. You turn off the phone an hour or so, do all the cleaning, and relax to the noise of the dishwashing machine. The hardest job? Housekeeping. It is physically demanding, and the speed at which you need to work is significant. You not only have to be clean and spotless and leave that room in great four-diamond condition, but it must be done fast—and yet you cannot rush through it.”
Pinkston’s evolution combines marketing and financial backgrounds. The marketing expertise brings customers into the property, while financial acumen helps provide them a positive gaming experience. He has merged both disciplines well at the ripe young age of 40.
“Generally being the youngest guy in the room, you want to push, push, push,” he says. “Others have taught me to have patience and understand there is a process that must be gone through. From them, I have also learned that attention to detail is very important, especially in a resort type of environment.”
One detail he champions is Wind Creek’s payouts of 94 percent, via electronic bingo, compared to 92 percent on slots for nearby competition. Another detail is a service providing drinks on demand.
“Two complaints I have long heard from customers is ‘When I go to a casino I can’t win’ and ‘I can’t get a drink,’” he says. “We have payouts that are much better than our competitors and we serve drinks in an expedited fashion. Every customer can order a drink from the gaming machine (via touchscreen). The order pops up at the bar and the drink is made in less than 45 seconds. Cocktail servers run it out to the customer. It will usually be about five minutes. If some problem occurs and the drink is not delivered in under 15 minutes, the guest will get $5 in free play.”
Wind Creek completed an expansion of about $65 million for its Montgomery, Alabama, property in December. Its 2016 plans will be aggressive to expand their brand, he says.