Don’t buy a house – the job is only temporary


Indian casino in a reservation

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act is a 1988 United States federal law which establishes the jurisdictional framework that presently governs Indian gaming.

In 1990 when I lost my job I was very fortunate; within two weeks I had two clients.  It was enough to give me hope and keep me from looking for a real job.  My first client was the Tulalip Tribes of Washington.  I will always be grateful to the tribe for the opportunity to learn Indian gaming from the ground up; Tulalip was the first compacted tribe on the West Coast and I was fortunate to be a part of the process beginning with the negotiations all the way to an open and operating casino.  I am  even more grateful to Wayne Williams my mentor and guide at Tulalip; Wayne taught me about his tribe’s history and culture and he taught me how to think about tribal culture in general.  Up to that point, I knew almost nothing about Indian tribes or about their history or culture.  I did not know they were different, nor that their existence is governed by federal law; each tribe is a separate and sovereign nation – dependent sovereign; the sovereignty is dependent on the federal government and the land held in trust by the federal government.   Tribal sovereignty is usually a very difficult concept to grasp for a non-Indian, but without it you cannot understand Indian gaming or any one Indian tribe; Wayne taught me to understand it.   Wayne was my primary guide, but in every tribe there was someone who helped me under his/her tribal history and culture.  I also learned to do the research necessary on federal Indian law, tribal-federal government history and on the specific history of each tribe.  I am not an expert on any of it, but I do have experience working in Indian country, for ten years it was my primary source of clients.

Because of the experience, occasionally someone calls me for advice about working with or for an Indian tribe.  Last week, a friend called to ask some questions about Indian gaming: a friend of his had been fired from a management job with a tribe and he just wanted to chat a bit.  I asked all of the traditional questions about contracts, sovereignty waivers and dispute resolution agreements; those agreements are specific to each individual employed and differ widely from tribe to tribe and they dictate what course of action is open to both parties, the employee and the tribe.  At the end of the conversation, I said, quite cleverly I thought at the time; “When you take a job with a tribe, don’t buy a house.”   My reasoning was simple, the jobs are usually temporary; temporary until the tribe can identify and train a tribal member to do it – that is usually the final objective of all tribes for the tribe to manage and staff the casino and all of their tribal business ventures with tribal members.

However, after thinking about it more I wanted to withdraw my clever response.  The truth in this case is the same as it is in most casino management jobs whether in Indian country, Las Vegas or Atlantic City (or any other industry); all senior management jobs are temporary.   Why?  Because managers in business are like managers in baseball or coaches in other sports.  Baseball managers are hired to win games, when the team stops winning and loses too much, someone decides it is necessary to make a change.  “Well, if he can’t get the job done, fire him!”  the owner yells, “and find someone who can win a damn game!”  With or without ranting and raving, swearing and cursing the same thing happens in business as it does in sports; when the business takes a down turn, someone, the owner, the board of directors or the stockholders demand a change.  It does not matter if it was the economy’s fault, the  results of too much debt acquired before the manager was hired, or a radical paradigm switch such as newspapers are undergoing.  Losing is losing and when you lose, people demand a change, and a change they get.

My friend’s friend managed a casino that was struggling financially.  It was not the manager’s fault, the casino was built at the wrong time, the developer spent too much money and no one appreciated the challenges of the remote location.  The tribe had unrealistic expectations built around larger more successful tribes located close to urban population centers.  The developer had unrealistic expectations, he too failed to appreciate the differences in locations; my friend’s friend was hired after everything was decided and built, the casino was up and running, but under performing the expectations – make it better was his mandate.   My friend’s friend tried, but could not overcome the obstacles nor the unrealistic expectations.  He tried to explain the issues as managers do; a manager can point out all of systemic issues over and over; in the beginning people listen, understand and agree.

However, over time they stop listening and start blaming the manager.  It is just like a losing baseball team that is in a small market and has an owner unwilling or unable to spent the money necessary to get the best players – instead of blaming the situation the fans and the owners blame the manager;  the manager becomes the problem.  In the fans’ eyes the problem is not the debt, not the location, not the financing – the problem is clearly the manager and a new one will change to course of history.   It rarely works out quite that way.  But for a while everyone has hope; “we fired the manager or we hired a better manager” feels much better than doing nothing.  That is just the nature of the beast.  So, here is my grand advice, whenever you are offered a great job to take a business or a sports franchise and turn it around from being a loser into a winner – don’t buy a house, the job is only temporary.

3 Responses to “Don’t buy a house – the job is only temporary”

  1. 1 Bill Hanigan April 12, 2012 at 2:00 am

    OMG I could write a book about this subect. Fortunately when I bought the house I prospered, mostly ! I worked for a drilling company and prospered and was promoted and left to pursue another industry for a lot more money. In balance I’m not sure in material terms I really gained, in experience I gained incalcuably. I watch the PBS News hour and feel somewhat secure that I live in Australia. CEO’s generally last 5 years so buying the house probably is a sound investment. For anyone else I agree to be careful. Or you could go and live in Portland, Oregon which seems to me to be an ideal urban environment.

  2. 2 Ken Adams April 12, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    It may be safer in Australia or China or some other country; but in this country anyone who takes a job a distressed company should know the job is temporary – the same mindset that caused the person before you to be fired will in time cost you your job – the reasons will change, but the mindset remains the same – ask any professional sport coach.

  3. 3 Rich Carr July 4, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    There are many of the over million members getting more
    than enough money every day from a legal, ethical and
    indefinitely sustainable system, that makes it very easy
    meet mortgage payments . even yours (not get rich quick).
    Everyone qualifies Irrespective of credit score, income – age

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