Wind Creek Hospitality : Providing More Than a Chance

  • 5
  • July 28, 2015
  • Sunny Lee-Goodman

Case Study Details

The Poarch band of Creek Indians, owners and operators of Wind Creek Hospitality (formerly known as PCI Gaming Authority) in Atmore, Alabama, engaged Lapin International in 2007 to advise on an HR problem it believed would affect its growth plans. At the time, WCH had 600 employees and operated casinos in three concrete and corrugated steel buildings. The company was looking to move its casino operations to new, higher-end facilities in Atmore, Alabama.

"We had this great piece of property and wanted to transform our operations from what looked like bingo halls to world class resorts with full gaming, food and beverage offerings, and an entertainment center with bowling, an arcade and a stage for performers," said Jay Dorris, Wind Creek Hospitality CEO and president.

The company was concerned that its workforce would not be able to provide a level of service consistent with these new surroundings, and that it would adversely affect attendance. WCH's employees were non tribal and from diverse backgrounds working alongside members of the Poarch tribe. The company feared it "lacked a cohesive employee culture," Dorris explained. "There was some friction [between employees] and we did not want it to affect the service we provide our customers. We needed to create a unifying force."

Lapin International was recruited to help the company create that force. The firm conducted numerous interviews with senior employees to identify and articulate why WCH was in business; that is, its core purpose. These discussions helped WCH create a Purpose Statement:

To provide guests, especially women, an escape from their ordinary world into our exciting fantasy world of play, chance and possibility.

For a variety of reasons, women had been frequent and repeat guests of the casino, which offered WCH an opportunity to differentiate itself from its competitors - a strategic distinction. At the same time, defining this strategic distinction would provide its employees with a clear direction, a purpose, uniting them in a shared mission and thereby mitigating the friction.

"Once the purpose was clear, we met with our tribal and non-tribal employees and laid out the values that we agreed to operate under - through consensus," Dorris said. "We defined the actions and behaviors that would provide the level of caring and warmth we wanted to provide women - positive experiences that would encourage them to return and bring along their female friends and male partners. Everyone became very excited about working toward the same goals."

With help from Lapin International, WCH also created an Expectations Guide to provide further clarity about employees' responsibilities. "Clarity is important because it brings security, and security allows individuals to operate without fear," the guide states. This security was critical as non-tribal employees worried that they would be the first to lose their jobs should the company downsize. Once this anxiety was relieved in one segment of the employee population, the whole population was able to function as closer unit.

"By inspiring employees to focus on the care of women, it made their tasks more meaningful and satisfying," Dorris said. "Rather than demanding that people do this or that, we learned what our collective purpose was - taking care of people, especially women - and where and how this was consistent with our internal values.”

"The process created a level of happiness here that did not exist previously," continued Dorris. "We have distilled the intrinsic in what we do and how we do it, creating strong employee enthusiasm for our values.

He added, "Employees now feel they are providing a service of real benefit."

Today, WCH employs more than 2,000 people, and its multicultural workforce is aligned, collectively and individually contributing to a satisfying, vital purpose that goes beyond serving drinks and dealing cards.

The results speak for themselves. Since 2007, WCH has increased annual revenue by 1,097% in an era of economic uncertainty and volatility. A Purpose-driven strategy creates _Distinction_ and leads to sustainable growth.