Resolutions for 2008: Purpose, Strength, Simplicity
by Martin R. Baird

Resolutions for 2008: Purpose, Strength, Simplicity
By Martin R. Baird

Well, it’s that time of year again. Time to make resolutions and prepare for the best year ever.
I just took a moment to find a definition of “resolution” and this is the one I liked. Resolution: A decision to do something or to behave in a certain manner; "he always wrote down his New Year's resolutions." I like this definition because it mentions action. “Do something” or “behave” – those are wonderful. I think too many people view resolutions as wishes or hopes, and they don’t commit to the actions that are needed to make them a reality.
I wrote this column late last year as resolution season was descending and I thought about the many casino executives I personally talked to in 2007 about guest experience improvement. I’d be willing to make a friendly wager that less that 10 percent of them did anything meaningful to improve that experience. I’d also bet that 90 percent or more talked about it but that was as far as it went.
The majority of casino executives truly know that, as competition increases, they need to improve their service and guest experience. But knowing and doing are two different things.
Here are a few resolutions that could help your casino take action and have the best year ever in 2008!
Distractions. I read an article in Forbes about a guy who teaches sports psychology to people who play golf. He said that sand traps, the rough and water hazards are just distractions. WOW, this is big! When you keep it simple and see them as distractions, not monsters, it’s much easier to focus on what you want… your ball resting comfortably on the green.
We all face distractions in our business and personal lives. You know, the things that pop up that force us to take our eyes off what we really want. Sometimes, we even let these distractions interfere with our focus. It could be a flat tire that gets the better of us and we end up wasting a day. Or it could be a mistake that a person or department made that we get sucked into like a black hole.
So my first resolution is to have a clear and written purpose for 2008. After all, if we know where we want or need to be, it’s less likely distractions will get us off track. If we use our purpose as our guide post, we can make faster and easier decisions about what our priorities are. It also guides us into giving projects to the people who should be doing them rather than to those that will do them.
If I were a casino GM or CEO, I would ask all my direct reports to give me their purpose or a short list of purposes for 2008. This would help me help them stay on task. If someone brings me a whopper of a laundry list of “purposes,” they clearly need direction and coaching. This would be done early to avoid confusion as the year progresses.
My second resolution would be to make a major improvement in the area of “bench strength.” I mentioned earlier that few casinos actually do more than just talk about their guest experience. Well, I think the statistic could be equally low for casinos that improve their bench strength. If you have read my articles over the last few years, you know I often mention “poofs.” I think what was once funny to me is now becoming a festering sore in the gaming industry.
Poofs are casino employees who are good at what they do and, before they’re ready for it, they are promoted to supervisors and mid-level managers. Joe is an outstanding beverage server, so “poof,” he is suddenly an F&B supervisor. And he’s lousy at it! He probably wishes he could go back to what he was doing before his promotion. Consequently, he makes life less than fun for his front-line team members. Poofs demoralize people and weaken a casino’s bench, its pool of employee talent. Our employee Advocate Index™ scores for some of our clients are so low it amazes me. And this is not just an issue with our customers. When I talked with a variety of people last year at a major gaming conference, they shared the same feelings. To refresh your memory, employee advocates love their jobs and recommend their casino to friends as a great place to work.
If you are not measuring the degree to which you have employee advocates – expressed as your employee Advocate Index – you are missing the boat. Research published by Harvard University makes it crystal clear that “satisfaction” is fickle and a waste of money to measure. So-called satisfied employees are fickle, but employee advocates are the real deal.
Once you know your employee Advocate Index score, it comes down to internal improvement to create more advocates. Employees need to be educated, trained, coached and mentored to be good supervisors and managers. If they are not, they will fall back on what they know and that frightens me. What they know is what they learned from past bosses or high school coaches who stressed that one should never spare the stick. For example, supervisors and managers need to learn how to recognize and reward success in others. One of the top things casino employees tell us is that they want to know when they are doing their jobs the right way. Too many bosses think their employees will not raise their level of service if they are told they’re doing a good job.
Finally, in the area of bench strength is the selection process. You need to know what skills people should have to be successful. In order for a casino to grow over time, it must have people coming up through the ranks who can run it. Let’s say a new casino is opening in your market and it needs 12,000 employees. If this competitor takes a few of your best and brightest, do you have high-caliber people waiting in the wings?
Here’s my last resolution – keep it simple. As the gaming industry evolves, some very talented people are working in it and consulting to it. You don’t need to grow all of your own talent or re-invent the wheel with every project. I’m all for training and improving people, but I see it as a terrible waste of time, energy and money to take two years to create what you could have implemented immediately using the right resources.
Make 2008 the best year ever for your casino by staying on track with a well-thought-out purpose, strengthening your employee ranks and keeping it simple so the things that matter get done on a timely basis.

This article first appeared in Native American Casino.

Date Posted: 03-Feb-2008

Martin R. Baird is author of “Advocate Index™: An Operational Tool” and chief executive officer of Robinson & Associates, Inc., a customer service consulting firm for the gaming industry. Robinson & Associates helps casinos determine their Advocate Index, a number that indicates the extent to which properties have guests who are willing to be advocates, and then implements its Advocate Development System to help casinos create more guest advocates. The Advocate Development System uses the proven methodology of Advocate Index in combination with best business practices to chart a course for growth and profitability. More information about the Advocate Development System and Robinson and Associates is available at the company’s Web sites at www.advocatedevelopmentsystem.com and www.casinocustomerservice.com. A copy of “Advocate Index: An Operational Tool” may be obtained by calling 206-774-8856. Robinson & Associates may be reached by phone at 480-991-6420 or by e-mail at mbaird@casinocustomerservice.com. Based in Annapolis, Maryland, Robinson & Associates is a member of the Casino Management Association and an associate member of the National Indian Gaming Association.

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