Found myself-not unexpectedly-up in Cripple Creek last weekend, trying my luck at various infernal gambling devices, which, more often than not, taketh rather than giveth.
My significant other and I spent most of the afternoon at Bronco Billy’s, which started out small when it was established more than 15 years ago, and has expanded, thrived and prospered as the years have gone by.
Most of the casinos that sprung up in the months after gambling was first legalized during 1991 in the three mountain towns of Central City, Blackhawk, and Cripple Creek have long since disappeared. They’ve rolled through bankruptcy, merged, or have simply gone out of business.
Contrary to the popular belief that owning a casino is like owning a piece of the Denver mint, the gaming business is risky and volatile. You’re at the mercy of government regulators, of ruthless, better-funded competitors, and of the constantly changing tastes of your customers. Just as restaurants must tinker with their menus, remodel, and re-invent themselves, so too must casinos introduce new games, offer interesting competitions and constantly assess their markets.
Like restaurants, casinos are mainly in the business of offering customers a product that they can easily get elsewhere, so customer service is paramount. And good customer service=superb employees=empathetic, customer-centric management.
After we’d played for a couple of hours and were -mirabile dictu!- ahead, we adjourned to the on-premise steakhouse for a meal. We visit Bronco’s often enough to know most of the employees, but for a moment we didn’t recognize the servers preparing tableside guacamole for an adjacent table.
We should have known-it was one of the casino’s owners, Marc Murphy.
Chatting with him, and his partner Mike Chaput a little later, Murphy was amused at our surprise.
“Mike and I spend several hours every Saturday night just walking around, helping here and there-and I’ll tell you, making guacamole is one of the most pleasurable things we do.”
That’s the way you’re supposed to manage, isn’t it? And that’s the way that all successful businesses are run-with hands-on, continually involved managers who love what they do, what their employees do, and are dedicated to pleasing their customers. You don’t learn those skills at business school-you just do them every day, every week, and every year.
And with a little bit luck, your business, like Marc & Mike’s, will still be around 17 years hence.
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