How A Small Business Should Run Like A Casino

June 3, 2015

After six years in the casino business, I am considered a veteran in the industry. The lessons that I have learned through that career have helped me in my current profession as a small business owner and online marketing professional.

Working in the casino industry had its ups and downs. After six years, I am considered a veteran based on the knowledge and experience I obtained through those years. After recently leaving the industry and starting my own business, I realized that many of the lessons I learned through that career should be applied to all small businesses if you plan on surviving in this economy and outlasting your competition. Here is a list of five things that every small business owner should adapt from the casino industry.

Deadlines are non-negotiable

In the casino industry, a deadline is just that, a deadline. There is no moving the deadline back, only up. After all, a casino makes money from the gaming revenue that they make from patrons. I was able to take part in the opening of two separate casinos. While the first one was not fully functional or ready to open in time, the doors opened on the date they were scheduled to. Pushing the date back would have been disastrous and cause close to seven figures per day in lost revenue and expenses. The doors opened on time and the little things that were not complete on time were done over the next couple of weeks.

When moving forward with a small business, there is a ton of planning and preparation that takes place. In association with planning comes deadlines for construction, marketing, regulations, etc. that must be adhered to. You are in control of your own destiny and can certainly push back any of the timeframes that you want, but doing will only cause disaster. Opening your business and maintaining strict deadlines will ensure that your business is open and running (and hopefully making money) in a timely manner. Without this, bills will come due without any income being made which will put you under water before the doors even open.

Marketing is king

I was involved in the regulation side of the casino industry so I did not have direct access to the casino marketing strategies; however, I was able to see the amount of money spent on marketing versus the return on that investment. While I will not disclose the exact numbers spent, I will say that yearly spend would be enough to buy a semi-professional sports team. The figures seemed astronomical, but compared to the revenue received from patrons it brought to the casino, it was worth every dime and more.

Do not skimp on marketing, but always track your return. Do not simply throw money at radio and television without having a way to measure it. Offer exclusive deals on each medium you advertise with so that you can see how much money your advertising dollars are actually bringing in to your business. You can then determine how much money should be allocated to each medium. In addition, if your marketing strategies are working, do not stop or let up. Far too often businesses see additional revenue and then stop their marketing efforts believing that customers will continue to come back. This is far from the truth as people need to be constantly reminded of who you are and given a reason to return. The casino industry never lets up marketing which is why it brings consistent revenue for those willing to spend the money.

Keep your business fresh

During my time as a regulator, I had the opportunity to approve multiple floor moves for casinos. Floor moves are nothing more than moving a slot machine from one location of the casino to another. This gives the same appeal as rearranging the furniture in your house. While the same pieces of furniture are still in your living room, it can completely transform a room. The same is true with a casino. Constantly moving slot machines to different locations and the shapes of the groups of machines makes it look like a casino is continuously purchasing new slot machines.

If you are in retail, moving merchandise to different areas of your store will make it look like you are consistently getting in new inventory. Moving something from the back of the store to the back of the store will likely spark purchases of merchandise that otherwise was not selling. If you run a service business, change up your packages to give people different choices. Your website, Facebook page, and other social media accounts need to be updated regularly. Change up the images that you use on your homepage to keep it from looking like it is just sitting there collecting dust.

Give stuff away, but get something back

No matter what industry you are in, you can always give something away. Casinos do this on a regular basis and people will drive for an hour to get a free gift. I have seen many different things given away through my career. From toasters to gift boxes with wine, people look forward to coming to the casino to get their “free” item. In reality, the casino pays pennies on the dollar for these items (typically anywhere from $ 2 to $ 10) per item. In exchange, you must be on the casino mailing list and have a player card (i.e., reward card).

So, give something away that is relatively inexpensive. If you run a service business, you will only be paying for your time. In exchange, collect email addresses or mailing addresses that you can use in your marketing efforts.

Treat clients like gold, you need them

Customer service is extremely difficult in today’s society. You cannot please everyone, but you absolutely must try. I learned from the casino industry that each guest is to be treated like they are your only customer. Greet them, thank them, converse with them, and help them out with finding what they need. While some customers will give you issues by expecting you to give them the world and still treat you like dirt, you still need to treat them good. You cannot afford to not take their money and you also cannot afford any negative reviews from them. Treat them like gold as they are the ones who are paying your bills.

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