Stepping into Leadership

One distinct memory comes into mind about stepping out of my comfort zone.  I was called into my President/COO's' office for a one-on-one meeting. As the head of security, being called to the boss' office was nothing out of the norm. It could be a request for a VIP escort, maybe to start an investigation, or to mentor a colleague or a rising manager.  However, our conversation entailed an opportunity that would push me out of my comfort zone, as a result over time it had given me the experience, knowledge, and skills that elevated me personally and professionally from a department head to an executive leader.

As I entered her office, she asked me to have a seat.  She expressed how impressed she was with my leadership ability in overseeing the security team.  She wanted to allow me to grow and expand my scope with the additional oversight of both the Engineering and Roller Coaster and Arcade Departments! For a moment, I thought she had mistaken me for another person.  Yes, I was a career security professional, however, with no working experience in engineering, let alone roller coasters. 

I was blown away by her offer and more so that she believed I had the ability to take on these additional departments.  I was overwhelmed but also excited for the opportunity.  Eventually further opportunity came my way to convert a 14 thousand square foot amusement Arcade from tenant-owned to company- owned. My overall responsibility included $30 million in operating budgets, $17 million in revenue and 300 employees across six departments. 


Emergency Preparedness

How you train, prepare and communicate with your employees is paramount to responding prior, during and after major city-wide events like 9/11, 10/1, and the current pandemic. I remember vividly returning to the Las Vegas Strip on the night of 10/1. The “echo” calls coming from several Las Vegas resorts indicating an “active shooter or shooters” made me ask myself "Was the Las Vegas Strip under siege, similar to the Mumbai, India attack?" It was not the case but at that moment it was real. 

Emergency Preparedness (pre-planning) for any crisis event will control or minimize chaos and panic in your employees and guests. 10/1 was the first time in history that every resort on the Las Vegas Strip was required to lock down their doors and interior areas. Top questions needed to be asked and answered: How do you lock down doors that do not have locks? Where do you put all your employees and guests when a lock-down is ordered in the building? Where do public emergency response teams enter your facility? How do you communicate to Corporate and Property Executives and your Crisis Management team? World and local events are road maps to preparing the workplace for emergency preparedness.  Every major event involving employees and guests require a thorough after-action review to learn what parts of your pre-planned emergency preparedness worked effectively and to identify areas of opportunities. 


Opening a Property Vs. Running Day-to-Day Operations

Opening a hotel/casino resort or other venue is very different from running the day to day operations. I have been on the opening teams of three Las Vegas Strip resorts (The Mirage, Treasure Island and Bellagio), several restaurants, nightclubs as well as the opening of the T-Mobile Arena neighborhood.  I've taken away learning experiences from each one of them. Starting from ground -zero has a completely different approach as oppose to managing an already existing and performing team and department. 

Opening The Park and T-Mobile Arena neighborhood was a much different experience than opening any other venue.  Not only did it involve the usual hiring of front line staff and creating policy procedures and emergency preparedness, but it also included event planning for major outdoor events, a professional hockey team and the mass crowd of people it will bring.  The arena neighborhood was labeled the “official tailgate” location for hockey game day, which brought thousands of guests before and after the game. Before each game there is a parade with a band, cheerleaders and Vegas show girls that begins inside the resort and ends at T-Mobile Arena. The inaugural first year brought events never seen in Nevada, specifically the NHL hockey playoffs and a Stanley Cup series. Did I mention there was still a resort and casino operating 24/7 next to all of this!

Over the first year there was a lot of learning with each event experience. The most challenging thing we faced was "How do we prepare for a large event taking place between two major resorts next to one of the busiest intersections in the world?" Collaboration with our public and private sector partners was a major factor. Communication was paramount prior, during and after each event that assisted for better preparedness and response. The first year of T-Mobile's opening brought approximately 70 significant events and a level of knowledge and experience that only Las Vegas could provide.