The Five-Minute Degree

How to get ahead in the gaming industry

Back in the late 1970s—around the last days of “Disco Duck” and the first days of “Ayatollah Assahola”—there was a college that, believe it or not, let you earn a degree in less time than it took to pick out books at a traditional school.

And for less money than it took to pay for them.

“The Five Minute University,” it was called.

Or at least it was when Father Guido Sarducci was on stage.

Sarducci, the bespectacled, mustachioed, nom de guerre of Italian-American comic Don Novella, would—adorned in priestly vestments that looked like they were shoplifted from a

Vatican City souvenir kiosk—explain his concept of meteoric matriculation in a manner as concise as the curriculum itself.

“The idea is that in a-five minutes,” Sarducci would say softly, his accent as thick as it was faux, “you a-learn what the average college graduate remembers a-five years after he or she is out of a-school. And it would cost a-like $20.”

As the audience broke out in laughter, smoke from Sarducci’s ever-dangling, ever-lit cigarette would waft from his fingers to the ceiling. “That may sound like a lot of money,” he said. “Twenty dollars for five minutes. But that’s for tuition, cap and gown rental, graduation picture, snacks. Everything is included.”

Here’s a crash course in his crash course:

Economics? “Supply and demand.”

Business? “Buy something and sell it for more.”

Theology? “God is everywhere.”

Foreign language? “Como esta usted? Muy bien.”

“And believe me,” Sarducci said. “If you took two years of college Spanish, five years after you’re out of school, ‘Como esta usted? Muy bien’ is about all you’re going to remember.”

He, of course, was joking. It’s ridiculous, outrageous, and perhaps a bit slanderous to say you can boil down four years of academic toil to five measly minutes.

From personal experience, it shouldn’t take longer than three, three-and-a-half minutes, tops.

Just kidding.

But this is serious: As goes school, so goes business. It doesn’t take long to learn what really matters. In fact, when you get right down to it, there are three skills that come into play. Master one of them, and getting hired will be easy. Master two, and promotions and pre-eminence are in your future. Master all three, and you will never have to look for work, because work will always be looking for you.

Say, you got another five minutes?

 

Create Something

Gaming, especially on the supplier side, is all about products and services. Slot machines are created. So are chip sorters for roulette. So are back-house systems. So are lottery tickets. So are table games, from the intellectual property underneath them to the furniture around them.

Ernie Moody made a large fortune off one idea, Triple Play Video Poker, and then made a few smaller fortunes off other ideas like Ultimate X Poker. John Breeding changed the casino industry by coming up with the concept—and ultimately the design—of the first successful card shuffler. Dozens of table-game inventors, from Geoff Hall to Ron LaDuca to Mark Jones, have ratcheted themselves up a couple of tax brackets by conjuring something the gambling public fell in love with.

The good news is there will always be a new new thing. Gaming is changing, changing rapidly and changing permanently. While this may slam some doors shut, it will pry others open. Skill-based slots, cashless transactions, the automation of anything and everything manual, social games, experiential casino environments will—along with more entrenched product categories—be the canvases of the future for the creative and the artistic.

 

Sell Something

You’ll never see a good salesperson go hungry. Or broke. Or unemployed. The ability to close, to convince someone that what you’re offering is more valuable than what it costs, is the simple objective of a complex endeavor. Day to day, salespeople must deal with an array of different personalities—sometimes from the same customer—with different agendas and different goals. They have to coax and prod and seduce and counsel. They have to develop trust and rapport. They have to take victory with humility and rejection with aplomb.

And most important of all, they have to build—sale by sale, interaction by interaction—a reputation. And then guard it like their lives depend on it. Because their professional life, aka their livelihood, indeed does.

 

Run Something

Of Don Shula, who coached the Miami Dolphins for, like, forever, it was said that he could take his team and beat your team, or he could take your team and beat his team. That’s how good he was. That’s how organized he was. That’s how smart he was. He couldn’t throw a pass or kick a point-after touchdown, but he knew better than just about anyone else how to run a football team.

It’s the same in business. Whether you oversee research and development, product management, compliance, accounting, finance, legal, if you can get the right people on your particular team (and the wrong people off it), and motivate them to act towards a clearly defined goal, then you can be the Shula—or the Auerbach or the Stengel or the Tikhonov—of your organization.

The great thing about management and leadership is that they are both transferable. And scalable. You can go from running a small group inside the company to running larger and larger groups, and maybe one day running the company itself.

Roger Snow is a senior vice president with Scientific Games. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Scientific Games Corporation or its affiliates.

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