Las Vegas...and the Death of Loyalty

In the 60s and 70s Las Vegas was run on "juice." Deals were done with a handshake and your word was your bond. Loyalty and relationships were valued. To some extent Las Vegas is still run that way. Like Mayberry RFD, Las Vegas is a town of 2,000,000….run by 200.

In 2008 Las Vegas was ground zero for Depression 2.0. And as an Executive Recruiter I was right in the middle of it. One week I had 120 job openings; the next week I had ten. Tens of thousands lost their jobs instantly and Las Vegas went from the fast growing city in America to a long stream of people leaving on I15 due to the highest state unemployment rate in America. And unfortunately, something else changed in 2008 – the people.

When I started my Executive Recruiting company in 2004 we were printing money. Mostly I was doing high tech, and with the unemployment rate at 4%, everyone was hiring. In 2008 the economy collapsed and there were two major changes in the candidate flow. First, integrity became a challenge. Executives lied about their job title, tenure, compensation and education in an effort to secure employment. Second, culturally many of the candidates came across as arrogant, self-centered and self-serving. “Me, me, me.” “Mine, mine, mine.” Loyalty was off the table. It’s all about “me getting mine.” After ten years of dealing with this dysfunctional new culture, here are a few of the lessons I learned.

It’s NOT Las Vegas – One night at a mixer I was having the loyalty conversation with someone far smarter than myself when he said, “Mark, this is not a Las Vegas thing. I’m in Silicon Valley and we have you beat on this hands down. It’s an not only an American cultural issue, it’s a global issue.” Lesson 1: This has nothing to do with Las Vegas; it’s a global cultural issue.

You Got Paid, Right? – My second lesson was learning that not everyone is grateful. The first time it happened was many years ago with a CIO in San Francisco. Got her an amazing job. She never said “thank you” or was heard from again…until she needed another job. Many candidates are so self-absorbed they believe it is an honor and a privilege for me to represent them. And how about the executives I placed that repaid me by using ANOTHER Recruiter instead of me? You are saying, “No way! Who does that!” But they do. Lesson 2: You are an Executive Recruiter and this is what you get paid to do Not everyone wants to be my friend. Not everyone says thank you.

New Captain, New Sailors – In many cases, when a new CEO shows up he/she makes drastic changes to the landscape. We call this “new Captain, new Sailors.” The new CEO wants to surround himself with “his guys.” That includes both employees and vendors. Maybe you sell insurance and worked with an account for 30 years. Never had an issue. Saved them tons of money. Supported them personally and professionally. Does not matter – the new CEO comes in, and without any due diligence, you are gone. I have been on the receiving end of this a couple times, and I have to say it is not much fun. The unfortunate fact is that with respect to Las Vegas, many of these CEOs are not from Las Vegas, have never seen the inside of a casino and could care less about supporting our charities and community. But I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason, and in most cases, they get run off in a year. Lesson 3: Everything happens for a reason. You can always wait out the bad guys.

Relationships Trump Transactions – If you remember nothing else, remember this: Relationships trump transactions. Maybe not for the thundering herd, but for the 200 hundred that run Las Vegas, relationships and loyalty are gold. LOYALTY MATTERS! I have seen incompetent executives get job after job after job. On the other hand, I have seen highly competent executives get frozen out and blackballed because they did not build strong relationships. Build strong professional relationships with your customers, your peers, your employees and business partners. Notice I said business partners and not vendors. No one wants to be treated like a vendor. Lesson 4: Treat people right and as your Mom said, “Play nice.”

It's a Short Walk from Park Place to the Park Bench – Today it’s all good. We are at the top. Real estate is at the top, the stock market is at the top, everyone is working. And when we are on top, we get filled with ego, pride and arrogance. We treat people poorly. We forget our roots and where we came from. But what goes up…always comes down. It’s a very short walk from Park Place to the Park Bench. A great example is when a “C” level executive gets laid off or terminated. Within a week they find out how many REAL friends they have. If they are lucky, they have five. In many cases they have zero. Everyone loves you when you are CEO; nobody returns your call when you are unemployed. Lesson 5: The true test of a man is how he treats the person that can do nothing for him. Treat the CEO and the Janitor equally well.

As My Dad Used to Say, "They will get what's comin' to 'em" – People are going to do you wrong. People are going to treat you poorly. You can’t be the GM of the Universe and you can’t fix everyone. Trust me, poor behavior is eventually rewarded. A lack of loyalty is eventually rewarded. My Dad use to say, “They will get what’s comin’ to ‘em son, no need for you to help.” Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but eventually there is a day of reckoning. Lesson 6: Let go and let God. As Mother Teresa said, “It is between them and God, it was never between you and them anyway.”

Loyalty Matters – I get 50 unsolicited resumes a day and 20 cold calls. Unsolicited means resumes of executives I don’t know. Most Executive Recruiters, like me, only work with executives they know personally or by referral. Why? Because our clients expect us to personally vouch for the candidates. Our clients expect us to be familiar with the candidate’s background, professionally history and even why they left their last two or three jobs. So when I get a $500,000 CEO role who do I submit? The executives that are cold calling me or the executives that have supported me and my charity work for the last 20 years? That’s right, the executives I know personally because if nothing else, I’m the most loyal person you will ever meet. CONCLUSION: No matter what anyone else tells you…loyalty matters!

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