Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

Managing Your Boss: Mastering Change

A WCAA Web Exclusive
Prepare your department by hiring the right people, communicating your plan and taking the time to train them. “Hire for attitude, train for skill.” Figure out exactly what you’re looking for, and communicate it.

As the annual WCAA kicked off this morning in a somewhat overcastted San Diego, Calif., we welcomed Arte Nathan, President of Strategic Development Worldwide, an upstate New York native, now a “beach bum” by his own classification in Laguna Beach. Of course, before he made it to the beach, this “bum” had to prove himself in the big city — sin city. His enthralling presentation had the 50 (or so) attendees silent in anticipation, a notable challenge you’re surely quite familiar with in the newspaper industry. Arte Nathan spent 25 years in human resources for Atlantic City. He’s opened 12 hotels and hired over 100,000 employees; employees, he boasts, that are the best. He was a game changer in hospitality, and his hotels, ranging from the Mirage to Treasure Island and the Bellagio, are host to the world’s finest staffs, all because he believed in change.

In the 1980s, Steve Wynn, an American business magnate whom is attributed largely for the 1990 resurrection of the Las Vegas Strip, gave Nathan and his team free range. They were to establish a new kind of hotel/casino in Las Vegas; the kind of hotel that takes approximately $650 million to create — the most ever spent on a hotel at that point. After weeks of preparation, they approached the board of directors. Equipped with their slideshow and exuberance, they were confident in their ability to blow the board away. They didn’t. Not because their ideas were poor, but rather they hadn’t planned for implementation of those ideas. They were sent away with advice from an old-timer, “Go talk to people,” figure out what they’ve done and discover the secrets to success.

A year later, Nathan made another appearance in front of the board. Three thousand pages of notes in hand, he’d spent the full year traveling the world, interviewing managers and directors from 250 different organizations that had ever opened any sort of company. He approached the directors with lessons learned, lessons he shared:

  1. You have to hire the right people
  2. You must have a plan
  3. You must be able to communicate your plan
  4. You must train your employees — your way

He got the $650 million, and they created the Mirage.

Now he had to hire staff to fill the 634 different positions it takes to run a hotel, and had no idea how to do it. Nathan had to learn to be disruptive in his thinking. Clearly, he couldn’t take out 634 liner ads in the newspaper’s classified section, but how could he create interest in these positions without the classified section? He couldn’t. He knew he needed to partner up with the newspaper to staff his hotel. He had to pull out a game changer. He purchased a full-page ad in The Las Vegas Review looking for “5000 people who don’t mind working in a rain forest, swimming with sharks and a volcano exploding every 15 minutes.” Wynn was appalled, but Nathan was confident in his revolutionary idea. He thought running an ad that showed the culture and attitude rather than the ins-and-outs of the daily duties would provide better results in their recruitment efforts. He had the guts to stand behind his idea.

He thought running an ad that showed the culture and attitude rather than the ins-and-outs of the daily duties would provide better results in their recruitment efforts. He had the guts to stand behind his idea."

The day after the ad ran in 1988, he headed into the office early. At 4:30 in the morning, he wanted to be prepared for that first applicant to walk through those doors. However, when he approached his office, he was instead greeted by the police. They were there to control the crowds. He asked the officers how long they’d been there — “the first person showed up at around four o’clock yesterday.” How many are there? “Well sir, there must be about 5,000.” By the end of the application process they’d received over 50,000 responses. And that was before the Internet!

Today, it’s unnecessary to travel the world to discover these lessons, you can simply communicate via the Internet. But, the lessons are still the same. You must plan, you must study and you must talk to people. Newspaper classified departments are only consistent in their continual change. And, without a plan to accommodate for change, the days of success are behind you. Prepare your department by hiring the right people, communicating your plan and taking the time to train them.  “Hire for attitude, train for skill.” Figure out exactly what you’re looking for, and communicate it. And, of course, bring those lessons to your advertisers attention when you’re selling recruitment ads to bring in added revenue.

Want to hear the more on how Arte Nathan managed change with the introduction of the Internet and social media? Check back for continued live coverage of the 61st Annual WCAA Conference.