Above: photos provided by Janet Hawk of Casino Magic Bay St. Louis before and after Hurricane Katrina, 2005.
Lessons from Katrina
How many of us have thought, “If only I had the time, I would (insert list here)”? Well, looks like we have some time on our hands.
This isn’t the first time I have had an unexpected “forced” downtime. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina shut down the entire Mississippi and Louisiana Gulf Coast. We were devastated, literally. Many of us were scattered all over the place because towns were wiped out, homes were gone, businesses were destroyed, people had lost everything. Even today, 15 years later, you can still see the damage. Most were furloughed, laid off or had lost their job completely (except for essential businesses that could still open). Connection with those close to us, both family and friends, was important. For the first few weeks/months, we didn’t have cell coverage (or electricity) in some areas, but we could text! Using my flip phone from home; yes, I said flip phone. I texted everyone I knew: coworkers, family, friends, and yes, guests. Having that connection had always been important to me, but even more so in the middle of a catastrophe many of us had never seen.
I preach a lot in my line of work about how VITAL building relationships are. Not just for business, but because, as humans, we crave connection. You’ve heard me talk about every human having the same wish: to be heard, to be seen and to feel like we matter. In the aftermath of Katrina, I used my downtime to build relationships with everyone I could; not just personally, but professionally.
What we are experiencing now is similar with some very obvious differences … the most important, we have places to live, and food (even TP!) is mostly available. I’ve spoken to several of my friends (some in the casino industry, some not, and, of course, guests) to see how they are using this time, and many are doing what I mentioned above. They are reaching out to others, tackling those “honey do” lists, relishing time with family, completing those “I wish I had more time for … ” tasks, putting away petty differences. To look at those things that are truly important.
So, what are you doing to use this time to your advantage? Here are a few suggestions on what the PD team can do (professionally & personally) during this time:
Touch base with your team on a regular basis
We have all heard from our direct report when your casino closed. Stay in contact so they know if there are any updates. This is also a good time to develop a message that is appropriate for your hosts to give guests. Your guests are going to have questions; make sure you get as much information as possible before hand. Even in this downtime, be proactive.
On top of hand-written cards, email, and office phones, hosts now have access to some tools that we didn’t have back in 2005 – social media, smartphones and video chats. Use all of the above to check in on your friends, coworkers and guests. If you haven’t had a relationship before with your guests, use this time to start. No sales, no offers, just reaching out. Be authentic! Then, as whenever you are calling a guest, LISTEN! In trying times, we all need someone to talk with and share. If they ask questions you don’t know the answer to, commit to finding out and get back to them.
Organization and planning
Don’t wait until you get back to work to figure out what you’re going to do when the casino opens again. Directors & Managers, use Zoom to get together with your teams. Don’t make it all business, though. Use the time to laugh, have some fun, share concerns or just blow off some steam. Talk about plans and ideas for when you all get back to the casino. Determine strategies, then organize your plans according to those strategies.
Expand your skills
Use this time to take some free online courses that will help you professionally. There are plenty of videos (Ted Talk, YouTube, etc) that can help you expand your skills. Coursera and Udemy are also great resources to grow your knowledge base.
MOST IMPORTANTLY – Take care of yourself
Take time for a walk, to workout, to dance or do something you love and never had time to do!
During this time, we need to look for the positives and look for things to be grateful for. During trying times, especially when we are isolated socially, we forget that it is the little things that really can sustain us; a phone call, a hand written card, a funny text, a post on social media can go a long way in helping us feel less alone.