Faces of Gaming: Deana and Brady Scott — Still talking shop with the owners of Raving Consulting

June 17, 2023 4:00 PM
  • Tom Osiecki — CDC Gaming Reports and Raving Partner
June 17, 2023 4:00 PM
  • Tom Osiecki — CDC Gaming Reports and Raving Partner

Most families dinner discussions consist of events that day.

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Not Deana and Brady Scott. As they tell it, they spent hours at dinner discussing business as their children rolled their eyes.

“Yeah, we’ve always talked shop. We’re always discussing operations and properties and thinking about how to make them better and better,” Deana Scott said. “If you talked to our children, they would say, ‘Oh my god, our parents are ridiculous.’”

Owners of Raving Consulting, a consulting business in the Native American space, Deana and Brady Scott’s journey began when they met at a Super Bowl party; they still celebrate a Super Bowl anniversary every year. They each bring considerable experience that contributes to a life partnership and business partnership uniquely built on collaboration.

25 years of Raving

Celebrating 25 years of operations this July in Reno at the Raving Casino Technology & Marketing Conference, Raving is a Native-owned, women-managed company.

For the last two decades, Raving has partnered with more than 152 tribes and their casinos and enterprises and 71 commercial casinos in the U.S., along with First Nations throughout Canada and Asia.

Raving was incorporated in 1998 and quickly established itself as the leader in results-driven strategic marketing and guest-services training. CEO Deana Scott, along with her husband Brady, an enrolled member of the Coquille Tribe, purchased Raving from gaming-industry veteran and company founder, Dennis Conrad, on October 1, 2017.

Raving builds custom programs for Native American and commercial casinos in the areas of compliance and audit, data analytics, entertainment, financial performance, operations, guest services, hospitality, host player development, leadership and human resources, marketing and loyalty clubs, advertising and media, project development, research, security and surveillance, and technology.

Raving also hosts the annual Raving NEXT: Indian Gaming Strategic Operations & Leadership Conference, Casino Marketing & Technology Conference and Host Player Development Conferences. The company offers insights, news, and video interviews through a quarterly magazine, Tribal Gaming & Hospitality. 

Bored accountant

Brady Scott spent decades building and retooling business for his own tribe, the Coquilles of North Bend, Oregon. With early positions in gaming regulation and senior management, Scott eventually became CEO of the tribe’s development corporation. And it all started because he was bored with accounting.

“I was working in Portland as an accountant in technology. I came back to the area to work for my tribe. The gaming industry was starting to boom in Indian Country. Because I was an accountant, I came to work at the gaming commission as an internal auditor. I couldn’t stand the structure of accounting; it’s kind of boring. I like the idea of developing and creating businesses. I had the opportunity to operate the tribe’s economic- development entity for about 12 years. Trying different businesses, I had some success.

“I also love the idea of creating something and growing it, starting from nothing and ending up with something you can point to and say, yeah, we built that, we created that,” Brady said.

Brady’s economic-development experience helped advance successful businesses in gaming and hospitality, senior care, telecommunications, agriculture, and health insurance. He’s currently CEO of Tribal One Development, which does contracting in the federal government market, primarily in construction, including communication infrastructure, historic- building renovation, and civil-airfield paving.

“The senior-living project was really more of a turnaround. When I came in, it was hemorrhaging cash. I turned that around and built it up. My biggest successes were when we tried some different things, including agricultural endeavors and organic cranberries.

“We also started a fiber-optic network, providing high-speed data transport to the local community. That business survived, thrived, and became a pretty important going concern,” Brady recalled.

“We’re in Coos Bay, Oregon,” Deanna explained. “Brady started the fiber company back when there wasn’t even reliable internet service in Coos County. That business provided a framework and foundation for the entire county to have a reliable network. From there, he leveraged it into this bigger opportunity for the tribe, which ultimately can be more lucrative than the casino.

“He’s really good at building a solid team, then taking the right steps to build a company that he can walk away from and be successful. It’s not all finance; you have to understand the market, where those next opportunities are, and what will be sustainable long term. He’s done a respectable job with that.”

Born into business

Deana Scott started working in her parents’ restaurant, moved to broadcast radio, and started her own production company in her 20s.

“My dad had a midlife crisis in L.A., moved to Oregon, and opened a deli that turned into a restaurant, catering, and food trucks before food trucks were cool. I actually ran the food trucks for the summer when I was sixteen.

“I always had three jobs until I got into gaming, an industry that finally gave me enough to do. Early on, I worked in radio and broadcast news. I also worked in retail, along with working at my parents’ business.

“I’ve always liked the idea of building something and being able to create strategy. I think of it as a chess game. How do you build this? What are the pieces you need? What is going to make the ultimate win?”

Next person up

Deana’s start in the casino business is an interesting story.

“I came to the industry doing PR for the tribe in the casino. That lasted three days. They fired the marketing director and said, ‘Hey, can you do this?’ And I say yes, probably when I shouldn’t have.

“Opening the property, there was no budgets, no campaign. But I loved it. I love projects. It was a big project and I still love the operational side of the business,” Deana remembered.

“Deana is the field general and takes the strategy, the tactics, and the operation and gets right out front. Those were fun times,” Brady interjected.

Deana spent the next 18 years with the Coquille tribe.

“I had the opportunity for 18 years to build and grow at the Coquille tribe, which included hotels, an RV park, and many restaurants,” Deana said.

“I wanted to branch out after my son graduated and worked for John Akers for a brief time, and went back into operations, opening the Redwood Hotel Casino for the Yurok tribe in northern California, one of the largest tribes in the state and one of the poorest. Then I moved into the general-manager role, which was an amazing opportunity.”

Buying Raving

After looking at buying businesses for years, the opportunity for the economic-development guy and the strategic field general to use their combined skills finally arrived. Deana was working for Raving as a consultant when Dennis Conrad invited her to help sell the company.

We looked at it and Dennis had done an excellent job of building a business out of nothing. We said we can purchase this and, with our skill sets, grow it and continue Dennis’s good work and keep that core reputation in Indian Country.  We were so excited. We thought there was a lot of potential,” Deana stated.

“We literally looked for 30 years to buy a business. It started with my parents selling their restaurant. After that meeting with Dennis, I called Brady and said, ‘Hey, do you want to buy Raving?’ He said, ‘Absolutely.’ And I went, holy cow, it’s the first time we’ve agreed on purchasing a business. It’s such fun. The people with the company are great,” Deana commented.

The Pandemic Advance

I asked how the pandemic affected Raving, which was only operating for a few years prior to the shutdowns.

“That was really scary,” Deanna recalled. “We were planning big initiatives just before the pandemic hit. When the world shut down, we already had our plan. We moved into the virtual world very quickly. We already started Tribal Gaming and Hospitality with the idea that it was going to be a virtual magazine. We didn’t really stop during the pandemic. Fortunately, our existing clients stayed with us and completed the engagements. We moved to virtual and came through it with our bigger initiatives accelerated, because we had the time. We weren’t traveling. We weren’t going to trade shows.

“It gave us time to reexamine who we were and how we were going to perform our business. Coming out of the pandemic and going back to live, in person, we’re using a lot of those foundational things we created in our conferences now, which only made them stronger.”

Future of Indian Country

With Deana and Brady’s unique perspective, they can look at the industry through the lens of working with hundreds of casinos, companies, tribes, and businesses.

I asked what they see for the future of tribal gaming.

“I think the industry overall will have to evolve,” Deanna said. “These are extremely competitive businesses. Whether you’re commercial or an Indian gaming business, you need to create experiences that the consumer is looking for. That’s going to involve mobile technology, online, sports betting, and restaurant experiences that bring people to the huge resorts we’ve built. If we don’t stay relevant in those areas, we’ll have a lot of empty retail boxes, just like malls.

“We don’t spend enough time looking from the consumer perspective and where the demographics are going. I don’t think one size fits all. It really depends on each market and each property. It’s going to take much more time consideration to make good decisions.

“And it’s also going to be more expensive. Technology is more expensive. Labor is more expensive. We’ve got to stop whining about that and accept it. We’ve got to try to move beyond that struggle, wanting it to be like it was 20 years ago. It’s not going to be,” she predicted.

Secrets of a successful business couple

I asked Deana and Brady about the secret to their success as a business owner couple.

“I say that we’re very long-term-minded. We don’t ride the wave and we try to keep the perspective that good things come, and things change, and don’t panic in those moments when things feel scary. We talk each other off the ledge. And we fight very well. We have the kind of trust that, ultimately, we will get through it,” Deana said.

“In addition to that, Deana and I are both successful. Even though Deana is the one really driving Raving and should get credit for what it is today, we have a real partnership. Our work relationship is very collaborative. She advises me about my business and I advise her.

“Like we said, we’re continually talking shop and always believe that we can do better and make things better,” Brady said.

Entries in the Faces of Gaming series:

Tom Osiecki is a casino consultant who writes an occasional column for CDC Gaming Reports called Faces of Gaming, about interesting and engaging people in the gaming industry.

Tom Osiecki is a marketing and management consultant for Raving Consulting and can be reached for consulting engagements at 775-329-7864.

If you know of a fascinating personality in the gaming industry you would like to see profiled, please send Tom Osiecki an email at tosiecki@cdcgaming.com