A one trick pony; when is it time to retire?


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It has been over twenty years since I had a real job; a place where I went to work everyday and was, in one way or another, under the direction of other people.  I left that last job in January 1990, not because I thought it best, but because they thought it best; the company was restructuring.   Being terminated so the company could streamline its operations and save money left a bad taste in my mouth, one I did not want to repeat.   Although I did not know exactly what I might do, I knew I did not want to just get another job.  Luckily for me two friends, people I had met and associated with in business for over ten years, offered me an opportunity to consult.

One was here in Reno with a casino company, which at that time operated three casinos in downtown Reno; they needed a fresh set of eyes and new analysis and thinking.  Both of which I was eager to provide and it was successful for both of us; they were satisfied enough to recommend my services to others, which set a pattern for my business for the next 10 years.  In fact, every new client I ever got came through the recommendation of my friends and contacts.

The second opportunity was in the state of Washington with the Tulalip Tribes.  The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was new and tribes all over the country were looking for ways to take advantage of the act and open a casino.  The Tulalip Tribes were the first tribe in Washington to negotiate an agreement with the state – actually it was the first on the West Coast – to operate a casino.  At the time there were not many gaming/casino consultants in Indian country; it was great timing for me and a great career opportunity.

Tulalip needed advice and experience at every level, regulation, finance and accounting and a wide variety of operational issues.  After my first visit, it my limitations were clear to me.   In 20 years, I had only been a manager, directing other people who did the work.  I lacked the expertise to perform any of the work my subordinates performed; and my experience was in operations only, not accounting, regulation or any other technical field.  But  I did have a contacts – twenty years of working in gaming in Nevada meant I knew lots of people with gaming expertise.  In those days, if one was looking for consultants or experienced people, Nevada and New Jersey were the only places one could look and I knew most of my peers.  So I helped the tribe find all of expertise it needed to get started in casino gambling.  The tribe moved passed me and my experience within a couple of years and has gone on to phenomenal success in all of its business ventures.

However, mainly because of my Tulalip experience, I got other opportunities in Indian country and for the first ten years of my consulting tribes represented half of my income.  The other half came mostly from the Nevada gaming companies.  In most cases, I did for each new client what I had done for my first two clients; I used my operational experience to analyze and frame issues and then looked to my contacts, my friends for the specific expertise to resolve the issue.  It worked, or at least it worked until it didn’t work any longer; over the years, I got fewer and fewer contracts in both Nevada and Indian country.  By the late 1990s, there hundreds of unemployed former casino executives willing to consult until they got a job; and many of those had much a much better background than I did.  But I also got fewer referrals because many  of my friends and former associates had been replaced by people I did not know, nor did they know me.

There were two other factors that contributed to decline of my direct consulting; established companies became less and less willing to pay outsiders for expertise that might or should exist within the corporation, mainly for financial reason.    And in Indian country the tribes had long passed the entry, just learning stage and felt confident in their own experience and expertise to solve their own problems that once they might have hired a consultant to help find a solution, their motivation is sovereignty and self-sufficiency.

By then, I was already moving online and into information distribution; the Internet came along just in time to save me from my limitations.  Because by the end of the 1990s it was clear that my operational experience as too much out-of-date to be of any use; and worse, my contacts were getting as old and out-of-date as I was. By the turn of century it was clear to me that I had been a one trick pony – my pony only knew the friends and associates that I had developed in the 1980s and that no longer worked.  At that point I knew I could no longer help a casino find any expertise, not managers, regulators or accounts – it was time to retire my pony and give up that part of my consulting.

So, why does that matter today, Thanksgiving?  The military government in Egypt is trying to calm the protesters by finding a new prime minister – a non-military person.  The leading candidate has experience, he was a prime minister under Mubarak in 1996 to 1999. Wow, is that the best you can do guys?  Of course it is, they are all old and old members of an old regime – they don’t have any younger, untainted people in their memory banks – just old Mubarak guys.  That won’t work for the people in the streets – they are young and very tired of the old solutions.  It is time for all of the members of the current government to find something else to do – their one trick pony is too old to do the trick and keep the people amused any longer.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

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