Faces of Gaming is a monthly column from consultant Tom Osiecki about interesting and engaging people in the gaming industry.Mark Wayman, known in some circles as the “Godfather of Las Vegas,” is an executive recruiter with a distinctive brand.
With a life philosophy gleaned from his father and a dedication to charity, Wayman is known for sharing career advice in a voice that is blunt and straight from the heart. Over the last 18 years, Wayman, CEO and owner of the executive recruiting firm The Foundation that specializes in gaming and high tech, has matched 1,000-plus senior-level executives with companies large and small.
The fascinating thing about Wayman is a long history of unique articles, newsletters, and LinkedIn posts dedicated to educating readers about their careers and how to work with executive recruiters. It’s the kind of advice you might give your daughter or son if you had Wayman’s experience as an industry matchmaker.
Advice from Dad
Wayman builds his base of opinions on advice given by his own father, who was a paratrooper at Normandy on D Day. Those who follow Wayman are frequently treated to such quotes from his father as: “If you can’t pay cash, you can’t have one”; “Your reward is equal to your contribution”; and “If you take the elevator to the top, you have an obligation to send it down for others.”
Wayman has taken these fatherly lessons to heart. Thus, he’s an extremely visible supporter of Catholic Charities, Olive Crest, Adam’s Place, Make A Wish Foundation, Noah’s Animal House, and many others charities. He frequently hosts charity events and is a dedicated fundraiser.
From bowling to executive recruiting
Wayman describes his early life as “working poor.” He started out as a professional bowler. “That was my first job until I found out that about 200 guys were better than me.” He spent 20 years as a technology executive in software companies until he retired and bought a racehorse.
“Two weeks into my ‘retirement,’ a friend asked me to help find a risk-management expert. I told him I was retired and he responded, ‘You’re on the board of Make-A-Wish, yes? I’ll pay you to find me the right person and you can give the money to charity.’ That was the day I started my executive-recruiting business. To this day, we still donate a portion of each placement to a dozen national and local charities,” Wayman said.
“When I first started, rather than go to business-development networking events where you don’t meet anybody, I called six of my clients and said, ‘Hey, how about we all get together at the Foundation at Mandalay Bay? I’ll bring Cuban cigars and pick up your bar bill. Our one purpose is for you six guys to meet one another. You already know what I do. I don’t need to sell you anything.’ Those parties turned into 50 people. Now it’s 150. When there were about 50, we were all jammed into a room. A woman walked in and said, ‘What are you, the frickin’ Godfather of Las Vegas?’ The next day everybody started calling me Godfather,” Wayman recalled.
Access and bad actors
I asked Wayman what sets his executive recruiting practice apart.
“There are two things that separate executive recruiters. The first one is access; I have 7,000 casino executives in my Rolodex. I can call pretty much any CEO in the gaming industry. I’m not trying to figure things out. The second differentiator, and this is even more important, is I know who the bad actors are. I know who’s got a drug problem, an alcohol problem, has been sued for sexual harassment, or got caught embezzling. So clients pay me for 10 to 20 years of backstory on candidates. Which is why I don’t represent people I don’t know.”
He publishes a newsletter that goes out to 7,000 national and international gaming executives. It’s a compilation of his articles, national and industry news, quotes, opinions, and new candidate jobs and promotions, which Wayman says is the most popular segment of the newsletter.
From recession to the “Great Pandemic Reset”
“In 2008 when the Great Recession hit, all my friends were unemployed. I worked sixty hours a week, grinding it out, trying to get my friends back to work. And the last two years, since the pandemic, believe it or not, it’s just boom time.” Wayman said. “During the pandemic, casinos shut down and laid off 30% to 50% of their workforce. It was a reset. When they turned the lights back on, companies asked me to backfill these positions.
“When everything shut down, people had an opportunity to think about their lives and what was important. People wanted to work remotely. They didn’t want to relocate. A lot of people had one spouse working and they were getting government assistance. The other person just stayed home. And it became very difficult to find candidates. Lots of jobs, no candidates. It’s still that way today.
“The other problem was that the candidate’s behavior was horrible. People lied about everything. They lied about their title. They lied about their education. They lied about how much money they were making. They went out and interviewed for two months, then took the job offers back to their employer (to match or improve on). It’s been really hard. People became very self-absorbed and self-focused, and they just don’t care who they hurt,” Wayman lamented.
A godfather’s advice on the economy
Based on interactions with those at the top of the gaming industry, Wayman’s opinion on the economy is, “The soft landing looks more like a cliff and the government is not coming to the rescue again. I saw this movie in 2008. I had 50 job openings in August. Two weeks later, I had three. I’ve probably had 10 jobs canceled in the last couple of weeks. There are still jobs for kitchen help and hotel cleaners. The high-end stuff’s gone away,” Wayman mused.
Wayman recently published that hiring has dropped an astounding 75% in the last 30 days.
“I think people should be preparing for layoffs. I can tell you companies are getting ready for it. I don’t care how important or indispensable you think you are, make sure you’ve got some cash in case things go sideways. Because you might have to sit out six months trying to find that next big gig.”
From his articles, newsletters, and LinkedIn posts, the Godfather relates advice that gives it to you straight. Below are a few classic statements.
Relationships: “You need to stay in touch with people. You can’t just put your head in the sand. Then once every five years when you’re unemployed, you start rapid dialing people to drop what they’re doing and help. Did you know that 85% of job offers come from your professional network?
Executive recruiting rules one and two: “Executive executive recruiters get people for jobs, not jobs for people. And “The wrong time to meet an executive recruiter is when you’re unemployed.”
On accepting counteroffers from your present employer: “Let me explain why that’s a bad strategy. My completely unscientific survey shows that 100% of those taking counteroffers are terminated within 12 months.”
On integrity: “Without integrity, nothing else matters. My dad drilled this into me. You’d be shocked at how many candidates lie to me about their education, job title, compensation, and tenure. I just had a client extend an offer to a VP (not my candidate!). The background check showed he lied about his tenure at the last job. The end.”
You’re Family … until you’re not: “The company always takes care of the company.” And “Here’s a news flash: No one is indispensable. Period!”
Career lessons for the recession: “The 25%-50% salary increases are a thing of the past. Everybody out of the pool, the party’s over! For the past two years, people have been asking for massive raises and getting multiple offers. People who were overpaid now have a huge target on their backs. They’ll be the first to be laid off as companies trim payroll by 10% to 20%. Overcompensated people go first.”
You got wacked — or explaining why you were terminated: “My number-one piece of advice to candidates is don’t lie about why you were terminated. Be honest! Out of roughly 5,000 candidates over 18 years, do you know how many told me they were fired? Zero. Not one. It’s best to be honest about why you left, even if you were terminated for cause.”
Karma is the most ruthless gangster: Wayman councils his candidates never to burn bridges when they exit a job. “Karma is just finishing her drink and she’ll be with you shortly. As my dad used to say, ‘They’ll get what’s coming to them; no need for you to help.’”
When you get the job offer, go: “The longer it takes, only bad things can happen. This is my number one tip for candidates that receive a job offer. GO! Sign the offer letter and get moving with the background check and drug screen.”
In the end, thousands of books and services offer advice on how to work with an executive recruiter. Mark Wayman is different. He offers career advice specifically for the casino, hospitality, and high-tech industries. And he doesn’t pull punches. If you follow the Godfather of Las Vegas through social media or his newsletter, you get practical and useful information based on hard-learned experience. And it might just help you keep from getting wacked in the future.
Former entries in the Faces of Gaming series:
- Melonie Johnson — From rural Louisiana to resort-casino leadership
- Brian Christopher — From actor, Uber driver, and cater waiter to slot celebrity
- Allan Solomon — From accountant and tax lawyer to pioneering casino owner
- Kenny Epstein — A Niche from Nostalgia
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 email@example.com.