The Independent Market Observer

3/18/14 – Service Insights from the Wynn GM

Posted by Brad McMillan, CFA, CAIA, MAI

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This entry was posted on Mar 18, 2014 8:37:51 AM

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Yesterday, Erin Payton wrote in, saying she would have liked to hear more about the talk from the Wynn GM, which I mentioned the other day in a post from Commonwealth’s Chairman’s Retreat. This one’s for you, Erin!

Brian Gullbrants is the general manager of both the Wynn and Encore properties in Las Vegas, which employ more than 12,000 people. Essentially, he runs a small city within a city, with thousands of residents, more thousands of customers, multiple restaurants, a casino, spas, a golf course—the list goes on and on. Not only does he have to run it all, but he has to do so at a very high service level, for a very demanding clientele. This is a tough job.

During his hour-long talk, Gullbrants spoke about his earlier career with the Ritz-Carlton organization. As a new GM, he took charge of a new property, at the bottom of the service rankings, and brought it to the top very quickly. He remembered speaking to the other GMs at their annual meeting as he accepted awards, explaining exactly how he had done it—and realizing, over several years as he continued to get the awards, that no one else was doing what he was.

He touches each of his employees every day, writing a detailed note that all leaders—not just managers—read to their staff before the shift starts. He has institutionalized employee recognition, rewarding exceptional service with exceptional acknowledgment. About the most excited he got during the talk was when he described several examples of exceptional service and how the employee had been recognized. Clearly, Gullbrants loves his work and is fully engaged across the board.

To summarize his talk, I’d offer the following points:

  • Pay attention to every detail, every day. During the presentation, I saw Gullbrants stop to pick up a piece of litter from the floor and put it in his pocket; he lives this. Attention to detail was the theme of the daily employee note he read to us. And he used Mr. Wynn’s attention to detail as a story point in several anecdotes. Every detail matters.
  • Hire the right people. You need exceptional people to provide exceptional service, but if you hire happy, outgoing people, the rest is trainable. One of Wynn’s initial hiring screens is based on whether the interviewee looks people in the eye and is animated and outgoing—simple but effective. By answering the key question first (is this a people person?), you can avoid many problems later.
  • Recognition is key. Much of the talk focused on how to ensure that employees get recognized and complimented for doing a good job. You can’t assume good work; you have to celebrate it and make sure that everyone knows. People need money to work, but they need more than that to excel.
  • Execute. If none of this sounds like rocket science, that was one of Gullbrant’s points. Even at the Ritz-Carlton, when he told his colleagues exactly what he did and how he did it, no one else was able to execute in the same way. Prescribing is easy, but execution is hard, which brings us back to point one: attention to every detail, every day. The employee note that Gullbrants read to us extended this idea to the rest of life as well—health, family, and friends.

It was really a wonderful presentation from someone who seems to be a great and very effective executive. Talks like this are one of the reasons I love the Chairman’s Retreat, and I should note that the other speakers were just as good.

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