“Money doesn’t make people happy. People make people happy.” ~ Steve Wynn
Steve Wynn has a lot in common with Donald Trump. The role he played in the 1990s revival of the Las Vegas Strip through his casino properties was even more pivotal than The Donald’s casino presence in Atlantic City, NJ. Many consider him to be the father of the modern Las Vegas. Wynn’s successes in Sin City include such well-known properties as the Golden Nugget, The Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio, Wynn, and Encore.
These ventures have left Wynn with a net worth of $3.6 billion (including his Aquarius yacht with a staff of 200), just a bit behind Trump’s $3.9 billion. The two real estate entrepreneurs have at various times been friends and enemies. Currently on the friendlier end of the spectrum, Trump attended Wynn’s 2011 marriage to Andrea Hissom.
At 72 years of age, Wynn is another seasoned real estate entrepreneur from whom valuable business lessons can be gleaned. Here are five that deserve special attention:
1. The Personal Touch is the Midas Touch
Steve Wynn learned something early on: Something that is instantly gratifying will be repeated. He combines that truth with another idea: That the most powerful force on earth is that which enhances a person’s self-esteem. If you make a person feel better about themselves, they will love you for it. If you can do that, you’ve essentially hit the jackpot in terms of customer loyalty.
Putting this combination of ideas to work in his resorts, Wynn makes sure that his employees are engaging with guests on a very personal level that leaves them feeling great about themselves. That instant gratification and esteem-boosting guarantees that his customers will come back for more – and bring their friends with them as well.
2. Acknowledging Good Work
This one goes hand-in-hand with the first lesson. In Wynn resorts, every shift begins with a group meeting of employees with their direct supervisor, whether it be housekeeping, gaming, restaurant wait staff or restaurant kitchen staff. Rather than this being a meeting of mundane management information, the supervisor asks the group if anyone has a story from the day before that highlights the personal touch with guests.
In one such meeting of hotel staff, a bell hop explained how he drove 8 hours to California and back to retrieve an elderly couple’s medication bag full of their essential prescription drugs that was left at their home. A picture will be taken of that bell hop along with his story and posted in the back office areas where other employees can see it, as well as on the resort’s intranet.
The effect these stories have is two-fold and very powerful. The employee that has told the story is feeling really good about the acknowledgment of going over and above the call of duty in service to guests, and all the other employees are immediately on the lookout for what story might emerge for them that they can tell the next day.
That kind of employee empowerment pays off big time, making for happy guests and happy employees.
3. Take a Chance and Buck the Trends
In 1989, Wynn had a vision for what he wanted to build. It wasn’t just a fancy hotel, or a top-notch casino, or a 5-star restaurant, or even a high-class entertainment venue. He wanted to build something that was all of those things at the same time – the Strip’s first megaresort. Keep in mind that at the time, there hadn’t been a major new casino in more than twenty years on the Las Vegas Strip.
Reactions to his idea ranged from “insane” to “just plain stupid.” But Wynn stuck to his vision and built the Mirage. He bucked the trends, taking a chance that ran counter to the prevailing wisdom of the time. His initiative sparked a $12 billion construction boom in Sin City that transformed Las Vegas into one of the premiere entertainment destinations in the world.
4. Speak Your Mind, Live Your Life
Steve Wynn has always been politically active, typically on the Democratic end of the spectrum. He actively supported Obama’s bid for the presidency. However, Wynn is far from a “yes” man. Recently, he has become increasingly critical of President Obama’s choices regarding the economy, and he’s not afraid to speak his criticisms openly and publicly.
At the age of 68, he adopted a vegan diet, and is quite outspoken about why he thinks more people would be better off if they did the same. He had 10,000 copies made of Mike Anderson’s Eating DVD that sparked the change in him, in order to give one to every single Wynn employee. Every Wynn restaurant now features vegan-friendly menu choices.
What started out as a new diet largely for health reasons has since morphed into a full-blown concern for animal rights. Wynn has even changed his will to benefit animal rights organizations.
5. Show Good Taste
Wynn resorts are lavish, extravagant and opulent. But more than that, to the discerning eye, they have many touches of good taste, mostly in the form of impressive works of art. He has become quite the connoisseur of fine art. His collection, much of which can be found on display in his resorts, includes works by Picasso, Monet, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Degas, Vermeer and many others.
His most recent acquisition in May, 2014 was a 2,000-pound glossy statue of Popeye by iconic American artist Jeff Koons, for which Wynn paid a cool $28 million. Only three of the statues were produced, which means the purchase might also turn into a wise investment. Another work by Koons, his famous Balloon Dog, fetched $58 million last year, the highest price that has ever been paid for a work of art by a living artist.
Whether it’s boosting the self-esteem of resort guests or empowering resort employees, bucking trends and taking chances, or speaking his mind and indulging in fine art, Steve Wynn has built an empire of success, earning himself a net worth of $3.6 billion along the way. Budding entrepreneurs would do well to take to heart these lessons from a seasoned pro.