Wynn-ing Ways: A Practical Introduction to Improving Your Business

Welcome to Wynn-ing Ways. I’m excited to have you join me on this journey.

At a minimum, your participation will get you thinking about why you run your publishing business the way you do. You may find this material a transformative guide to achieving your publishing business’s full potential.

I ended 2020 with the three-part Tragedy of the Commons series.

In that series, I introduced the concept of how it is “natural” for the individual users of a shared resource to put self-interest first and use more and more of a resource until they destroy the resource.

The resource pool we discussed was attention.

While you may be respectful of the resources, others aren’t, and it’s a common resource.

 The bull elephants (Amazon, Facebook, Google) aren’t respectful.

Using digital marketers’ tactics makes you look like an attention hacker—not respectful, even if that’s not your intention.

Despite what you do, others may destroy the attention you seek.

While they may have more to lose as their business is selling attention, those of us also using the commons will suffer as well.

I then touched on how holistic ranchers have used a counter-intuitive approach to restore the natural environment.

What if we could build a sanctuary for those we seek to connect with?

In this series, I’ll share some more stories to illustrate ways to think about your publishing business and attract readers naturally.

When done right, you become a refuge for your readers.

A place where they can get respite from those trying to exploit their attention.

A place where they can be with those like them.

I’ll be drawing on the concepts from my book Advantage.

The crazy thing is that the primary location for this set of stories is Las Vegas.

Is there any other place in the world where more has been done to audaciously grab your attention and trap you?

If there is, let me know so I never go there.

Next time you’re in Vegas, stand on the Strip, and observe the gaudiness of the lights. With everyone trying to do the same thing with signage, it becomes hard to see a single location distinctly. Each casino becomes part of a larger noise that you block out.

From that audacity and the movers and shakers of Vegas, we can learn what to do and what to avoid.

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Let’s get started…

I want to share with you a conversation I had with Steve Wynn.

If you’re not familiar with Mr. Wynn, I’ll give you a quick synopsis.

In 2014, they ranked Wynn #17 on Harvard Business Review’s top 100 performing CEOs globally. His estimated net worth is $3.1 billion. They ranked him #278 in 2020 on Forbes’ wealthiest people list. He has been inducted into the Casino and Gambling Hall of Fame and has had other accolades.

Steve took over his father’s bingo parlor business after his father’s death. It came with $350,000 in gambling debts. Over his storied career, Mr. Wynn changed the landscape of Las Vegas. He built the Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio, Wynn, and Encore on the Strip, as well as several casinos across the United States and Asia.

But it was at the Beverly Hills Hilton I spoke with him.

A room full of investors and influential people all trying to get his attention.

I spoke up and…

Steve Wynn stopped and talked to me about his plans for the future.

Me!

He stopped, and the entire pack of followers stopped with him while he talked directly to me.

Before I go any further, let me provide some clarity about what this season will entail.

You are part of a select group that is seeing a different way of growing your publishing business.

This is season one of my articles for authors. It’s titled…

Wynn-ing Ways: How a Properly Designed Business System Creates a Competitive Advantage.

Get it?

There will be three tracks I will be weaving through the articles;

◆         Business Systems

◆         Personal Development

◆         The Market

There are 45 articles over the corresponding weeks, over 35,000 words, several thought experiments, thorough research, and a solid chunky nugget of knowledge for application in every article. We will begin exploring your business system.

All of this ties to my quest to craft a resilient, sustainable business system for authors that converts your creativity into reader delight, investor delight, and cold hard cash.

An advantage accumulator.

A novel author’s business system sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

Oh, and one more thing…

In the end, I’ll share the data with you.

Those who stick around will learn the ins and outs of using long-form narratives to create community, engage, entertain, and educate you.

Enjoy the ride. Then I’ll show you how I built it.

Consider this your license to steal these ideas and apply them to your brand.

What I’m offering here isn’t secret, and if everyone applies it to their business, it won’t result in another golden goose slaughtered.

These ideas are lasting because they are built on creating a personal connection with your reader.

I’ll take a few articles to share some stories. I’ll bounce between them to set the context, and then we’ll spend the rest of the season unpacking the concepts, moving from the higher-level abstraction down through strategy and into some tactics.

Now, back to me talking with one of the richest men in the world…

To understand why Steve Wynn would stop to talk to me and the context of the conversation, we need to go back to 1994.

My dad and I went to Las Vegas. This was our first trip, just him and I.

I had only been to Las Vegas once before. We went there as a family to meet some aunts and uncles and stayed at the Flamingo because my uncle got us all a deal.

On that trip, the Old Man (Dad) said we needed to see the Mirage.

Walking through the Mirage lobby, I was awestruck. I’d seen nothing like it in my life. Sure, outside was a volcano, but inside was a jungle, white tigers, and the biggest fish tank I’d ever seen outside of the Shedd Aquarium. It was amazing, palatial, decadent. I was in love…

The Old Man had been going out to Vegas since the nineteen-fifties.

He was OLD SCHOOL, and this place impressed even him.

A guy who did business on a golf course, gambled, smoked cigars, and drank vodka.

Vegas was built for guys like my dad and Sinatra – OLD SCHOOL.

Frank Sinatra first appeared at the Desert Inn in 1951, but it was the Sands where he held court and transformed Las Vegas from a western cowboy town to a glamorous city where the rising middle class could spot celebrities.

The Old Man once paid twelve dollars to see the Rat Pack perform at the Sands Hotel’s Copa Room.

My Old Man had seen it all, and he had stayed at all these places when they were the IT casino.

On this trip, I was going to Las Vegas with my father, and we were going to stay at the Mirage.

The Old Man was at the top of his career, and I was just out of University.

Reflecting on this time, I realize how little I knew. How limited I was by bias, ego, and blind spots.

Not that I’m not today, but more then.

I know how much more I don’t know, and that lack of knowledge is dwarfed further by my ignorance of what I don’t know that I don’t know.

I digress…

Even then, I had a natural affinity for seeing connections. I was making those connections or at least storing things away to associate with others later.

For example, an experience in 1994 and a conversation in 2001 all led to revelations and insights in 2021, but at that point in time, I wanted to learn from the master how to navigate the flashy world of Las Vegas.

At that time, if you stayed at Steve Wynn’s Mirage, you could golf at the Dunes.

Now, if you’re not familiar with Las Vegas’s history, Steve Wynn was a guy changing the scene and making moves. I’ll introduce you to a few more movers and shakers in upcoming articles.

Wynn was backed with money from junk bond king Michael Milken. He had moved from downtown, where he had turned the Golden Nugget from a cowboy sh*thole into a place people wanted to be seen in. Now, he was on the Strip with a never-before-seen hotel called the Mirage.

He had even lured Siegfried and Roy from the Frontier with a custom-designed theater.

Steve Wynn was redefining Las Vegas.

Wynn had just opened Treasure Island. It was “family-oriented,” so while it was the newest hotel, we would not stay there. While we were family, this was about a father and son golfing and gambling.

We were the Mirage, not Treasure Island.

For the grand opening of Treasure Island, Wynn blew up the Dunes hotel tower. It was very theatrical and tied to the live-action pirate ship fight in front of Treasure Island.

Treasure Island was also the first hotel to have a Cirque du Soleil show. Now, every hotel has one.

How spectacular was the event?

Wynn made a TV show that aired on NBC. You can see it here.

Go to 4:20 in the video and watch it.

This quote stands out:

“To me, it’s more than a hotel. It’s a gateway between reality and fantasy.”

And yes, that is Steve Wynn in the video.

Think about that for a moment.

In a business based on a compulsive habit like gambling, he had this vision.

It wasn’t until later, when I spoke with him, that I understood why he was doing what he was doing and the level of strategy he employed.

I had seen that video back in the day. It played regularly on the in-house TV channel at the Mirage. It wasn’t until I went back to research for this season that I watched it with a critical eye and was sensitive to what Wynn was saying.

Gambling pays the bills, but you still need to get people in the door to gamble. Sure, you can monkey with the odds, payouts, and perks, but competitors can quickly mimic you.

As an author, it can feel like you’re a casino on the strip where every other author is trying to apply the same strategies to get readers in the door.

They are.

While this is the golden age of content creation, it doesn’t change the fact that the competition is stiff and the stakes are high.

I’m not positioning authors against each other. This is the competition for attention.

The competition is layered.

How do you break readers away from boredom and the dopamine triggers of Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok?

These platforms want to hold eyeballs there, so they create more attention inventory.

What they do to make their platform sticky makes it harder for you to convert.

Next are the digital marketers and funnel builders trying to teach everyone how to find attention and convert it as quickly as possible.

While what they sell may be called “secrets,” they’re not. However, they do create more and more people applying the same tactics.

Within publishing, you face more and more authors looking to use advertising to stay top of mind. The result is everyone paying more for the deteriorating asset of attention.

What is the solution?

Make your brand the place to gather as a community.

If you agree with the premise I set out in the Tragedy of the Commons series, then there is a unique opportunity to use your community as a sanctuary from attention abusers.

As a guest of the Mirage, I felt special. I was at the most prestigious hotel on the Strip. Sure, there was Ceasars, but it was older and had a different vibe. I tied my identity to where I was staying. If I gambled while I was there, it would be at the Mirage.

There is a natural attraction to places where attention is respected and trust is built. The right people will congregate, and they will find others like them who appreciate the experience you’ve created. Oh, and they’ll buy your books as well.

Like Steve Wynn, focus on the experience. Create a gateway between reality and fantasy, something I refer to as blurring the lines between your story world and reality. If I were to distill this into a call to action, it would be CREATE CUSTOMER DELIGHT.

Now, we’re nowhere near done with this Steve Wynn story. I promised to share it with you when I talked with him in Beverly Hills, but not this week.

This article already has over 2300 words, and there is so much to weave together. I’ll leave you thinking of how your brand and community can be a refuge for your readers and a place where.

PS: In later posts, I’ll be diving into Ray Dalio.

Ray managed a colossal hedge fund and wrote the book Principles. His view on how the economy works aligns with systems thinking. I suggest that you take the time to watch this 30-minute video to get a picture of the ocean that your fish swims in. Understanding his ideas of “everything is a machine” and “cycles” will serve you as a publisher and help you understand the global economy.

Read: Overcome the Odds and Improve Your Decision-Making