Vince Wickliffe… Making it big at Boyd Gaming
Boyd Gaming is one of the gaming companies in the Las Vegas seemingly untouched by the plague of bankruptcy. A formula of diversified success has lessened Boyd’s economic woes. Executive Vince Wickliffe, who serves as the assistant district manager of Boyd’s California and Main Street hotels, identifies the strength of their success.
What are some of the benefits from working with Boyd Gaming?
I have been very fortunate to be with Boyd Gaming for 21 years, because of our leadership with Bill Boyd, who has been very good to me, and he is a hands-on type of owner. He looks for the best in all people. What you put in is what you get out of it.
Has Boyd Gaming’s approach to diversity attributed to its success?
Yes, I think very much so. Our hotel and casino properties were reaching out and doing business with minorities in the Hawaiian Islands since the 1970s, long before diversity became a buzzword, and a large percentage of our loyal casino clientele are from Hawaii.
Are there a lot of African-American hotel and casino general managers in Nevada?
No, currently I am an assistant general manager along with Ronnie Highsmith, who is at our New Orleans property. I also believe that there is one at the Fitzgeralds Hotel and Casino. Nonetheless, it’s like anything else … it is a numbers game. If you start with a few numbers to begin with, you can’t imagine too many to have moved up the ladder.
Working at Boyd I have never felt inhibited. Like anything else, it is what you are willing to put in as far as time and willingness to learn all facets of the operation that gives you the competitive edge.
What gave you those advantages to be promoted in the gaming industry?
In the past, I have said to senior management that I needed to be more utilized, and when I did they gave me an opportunity. I think some people come to work and say to themselves, “I will get to work on time, put my best foot forward and someone will notice me.” I can tell you from my experience that I did that, but you also have to let those around you know that you are interested in a challenge. When I went to a gentleman who was senior vice president of Nevada operations, I asked him, “What can I do to challenge myself or at least show you that I am able to do more for the company?” He gave me challenges, and as I stepped up and accomplished those challenges it afforded me other opportunities and here I am today. I felt no resistance. Sometimes you have to speak up and ask for what you want.
With the economy, what is the Boyd Gaming atmosphere of employed African- Americans coming into the industry versus those being laid off?
If I would put that into a visual point of view — a lot of front line employees who are minority are in the food and beverage segments as well as hotel. Of course, if you have fewer tourists in your rooms there is a fewer need for maids, chefs and servers. Yes, it has an impact. I truly believe that there is no bias and if there is a reduction in staff, minorities are not hit any harder than nonminorities. Nonetheless, historically speaking … if you are the last hired you’re probably going to be the first fired if there is any downsizing.
How is Boyd Gaming able to consider buying other properties when the gaming industry is reporting an economic downturn?
All gaming properties are feeling the crunch of the economy. Just because we are talking about buying other properties doesn’t mean we haven’t felt the economic impact of our down economy. From a business perspective, the economic situation also provides us an opportunity to grow our business and buy other properties at a good price.
What is your advice for up-and-coming African-Americans aspiring to be executives in gaming?
The quickest path to moving up in the gaming industry is to learn craps. It is the quickest way to move up in table games. There are other areas in gaming such as marketing. We are very interested in those people who can market to our customers, and marketing is a great avenue. The slot machines are where most of the revenue is being made in gaming. There are various avenues that have inroads into gaming on an executive level. Once you have found your specialty, we are very big on internal training and promoting from within.
Once you get your foot into the door you have to spend some additional time of your own to learn about the opportunities that are available. There are opportunities for everyone. It is like musical chairs. The music is playing, but it is up to you to grab your seat.