It’s 2007, or is it 2008? I can’t remember. But what I do remember is the angst that I felt during that time. It even trumped the time that Frankie Bushel told me that Santa Claus didn’t exist.
I was an Area Productions Manager for a freight logistics firm called DB Schenker, which basically meant I worked on the British railways – albeit for a German firm.
I was in charge of the operational movement of all of the steel that came out of Port Talbot steelworks. Selling steel during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression is like trying to sell Whale meat to Daniel Negreanu.
We were in the brown stuff.
Jobs were at risk.
Everyone felt the heat.
Team Meetings Solve Everything
The Managing Director held a team meeting to address the crisis. The Marketing Managers were given revenue goals, and the Operation Managers (me) were told to shave millions off the operating costs.
That’s why I can see a good cost-cutting exercise when it presents itself. Yes, PokerStars…I can see you.
When I left the railway I was fortunate enough to find a job writing about poker. One of the critical moments for me was when PokerNews employed me to work at the European Poker Tour (EPT). Everything was easy peasy lemon squeasy. There were three of us employed to cover the live updates, and three more people employed to write ‘better and more important articles.’
I remember thinking to myself, “Christ…this is a bit much.”
So I’m not surprised that PokerStars are taking a hatchet to the low hanging fruit. It’s everywhere. The machine has so much fat, they could spend the next 10 years cutting away at it and all the Eskimos in Eskimo land could still live off the scraps.
What I am surprised about is the way that they have gone about it.
Good Communication is Key
The one thing that I always liked about Stars was the way that they understood their customers. They reminded me of Toyota in some ways. Figure out what their customer values, and then set about creating that value.
Part of what makes Toyota so successful is the quality of communication throughout the supply chain. It’s impeccable. I am not seeing that from PokerStars right now, and the level of disdain on the 2+2 forums is proof of that.
When I left that team meeting I had a sizable portion of money to save. At the time I was managing a wagon maintenance facility, a locomotive maintenance facility, and a marshaling yard. I decided to close the wagon & locomotive maintenance facilities, and create a single hub.
The plan would save me hundreds of thousands of pounds. The only downside was a loss of jobs. It was not a great time. One Saturday, whilst on call, I received a series of death threats, and my family were threatened. I later heard my nickname was Ming the Merciless.
Work With the Customer
The one saving grace for us was the trade union. We were able to sit down with the people elected to represent our employees and show them the ‘why’ behind our decisions. They didn’t agree with everything, but they could see that change was necessary.
What I learned from 2007-08 is if you have a bad news story, it’s better that the employees hear it from their own. By working together with the trade unions we developed a more robust communications plan. The management were no longer getting it in the ear. The trade unions were. The death threats had suddenly stopped as people started to understand.
The PokerStars Corporate Blog reminds me of the mail that used to come through my letterbox from my CEO. It would go straight into the recycling bin. I wouldn’t even open it. His letters would be littered all over the marshaling yard.
The reason nobody was interested was because the information was coming from the Lords and Masters. The people who liked to manage Command and Control systems. Once that level of trust has gone, nothing you write is of any value anymore.
Are you going to believe anything that the PokerStars management team tells you right now? Do you trust the men, and women, who are now running PokerStars? Now imagine if Phil Galfond was hosting a webinar to talk to the poker community about the need to cut costs? Imagine if Phil Galfond had held this webinar before any costs were cut.
Now how does that make you feel?
I nearly fell off my chair the day I heard that PokerStars had created a players council. I thought the idea was inspired. It’s true that the players chosen to represent were not elected by the community (something I didn’t agree with), but it was a step in the right direction.
Was the player council involved in the talks surrounding the requirement to cut costs? Were they consulted about the implementation of the Spin & Go games, the affiliate marketing cuts, the rakeback and VIP bonus changes, the margin applied to the currency conversions, or the increase in rake?
That’s not their job?
Well let me give you a piece of advice.
Make it so.