It’s now been about three months since countless businesses began closing due to the coronavirus. Early on in this period, I had a conversation with my then 27-year old son about everything that was going on.
He’s an entrepreneur who started his own company in college and after the business wasn’t quite able to make it, he pivoted to a new company as he was graduating. It’s a company that has performed well in those years.
He uses the word ‘pivot’ along with another word ‘nimble’ quite often. In late March, he said that we would see many companies go out of business as a result of all this, but those that could make the pivot and be nimble would find new opportunities. I didn’t disagree with him at all, but I have been a bit surprised, in some cases, by which companies have done apparently such a good job at this.
We all know that dire times can force companies to make drastic changes. I always thought it was funny that one large retailer seemed to handle ‘order online, pick up in store’ orders rather strangely. I would go into the store and they would bring up the order on a phone or tablet that was not integrated into the rest of the store’s hardware. Why would such a large retailer develop a system like this and not integrate it into everything else they do? My guess says that they were in a rush to catch up with the competition and could not bother with all those bells and whistles.
Yet, when companies are faced with life or death situations, I was amazed at how quickly some could adapt. All of a sudden almost every restaurant figured out the idea of allowing people to order food and they would bring it out to your car. A few even quickly realized that if you’re going to eat at home, maybe you don’t want individual servings all plated separately but family-style meals at a lower cost might make more sense.
These websites and/or apps went up in a matter of days or weeks. Where was this innovation for the past few years?
Now we’re about to see how this concept works for the casinos. Putting up partitions between players or between players and dealers is not really innovative. It’s a necessity for now. The simple reality is that if a casino has only 50 percent of its machines turned on at any time or can allow only 3-4 players at a table, there is no way that they can earn the same profits that they used to.
At 3 a.m. this might work. During the middle of the day on a Thursday on an average week, it might work too. But we’ve got the July 4 weekend coming up. We’ve got football season coming up. There’s no way the sportsbooks can allow all those people in for Sunday football in the current climate.
The casinos that come up with the new ideas and put them into practice quickly are the ones that will generate a competitive advantage over the others. I’ve spent the last three months thinking about how the casino floor might need to change to meet the new requirements. Will all my ideas be the right ones? I’d love to think yes, but probably not.
The interesting part will be that casinos have generally not been an industry that adapts quickly, in my opinion. It can be slow to adopt new games and new ideas. But, will this crisis be the impetus that makes the move at a faster pace than history would seem to indicate?
Time will tell if the casinos that make this pivot and prove to be more nimble than their competitors can and create a new advantage, not just for now, but a new insight as to how to move forward for the long term.