Bobby Soper is former president & CEO of Mohegan Sun, and current president & CEO of Sun Gaming & Hospitality. Initially beginning his career in law, Bobby moved into the role of CEO where he had the opportunity to lead an incredible operation. Through mentorship guidance, he learned how to lead great teams. Today, Bobby is the Investor and Chairman of the Hospitality Board at Nobody Studios, helping to build companies that will innovate and disrupt the future. In this episode of Unlearn, Bobby Soper and Barry O’Reilly explore mentorship guidance, servant leadership, and the gaming industry. Learn about the Importance of Mentorship with Bobby Soper.

The Role of a Mentee

Bobby attributes much of his growth and success to having a great mentor. Bill Gallardo was an exemplary role model who taught him, through demonstration, the importance of respect, humility, relationships, and hard work. Bobby shares how he cultivated that relationship and talks about the role of a mentee. “Sometimes people feel like they can reach out to anyone and hopefully ask them to be a mentor, but what you’re talking about is putting yourself out there, doing hard work and demonstrating excellence,” Barry comments. Through that effort, more opportunities will come. [Listen from 2:00]



How Mentorship Actually Works

Mentorship is more organic than approaching someone you admire and asking them to mentor you, Bobby shares. A better approach would be to ask if you can shadow them for a day. You’ll learn more from working with them and observing how they do things than sitting with them for coffee hoping to download all their esteemed knowledge. “The measurement of my success is based on how well [the people I work with or who report to me] succeed,” he adds. “I’m very fortunate because a lot of the folks I hired… have grown and become very successful as their own CEOs. To me, that is the best measurement of my success, not how much money I make or my job title.” [Listen from 6:30]

Being a Good Leader

As general counsel for Mohegan Sun, Bobby’s responsibilities involved managing people. What that role taught him was that everything comes down to relationships. The most valuable education comes from being in the trenches with the ground floor workers. It teaches you how to understand people, respect them, and show them that you aren’t above them. [Listen from 9:20]

Barry tells Bobby, “Building empathy is an important part of designing great products.” Customer development is about experiencing the world through your customers’ eyes and understanding their pain points. As the CEO, using that model to think about the people in your company can help you build empathy for them and cultivate healthy relationships. [Listen from 11:35]

(Listen to “The Power of Leading By Example with Cecelia Myers“, VP of Digital at CDW)

Technology as a Leveraging Agent

Bobby discusses what led to his advocacy for using technology to leverage customer experience. The gaming industry is young, starting in the 70s and becoming more prolific in the last 3 decades. The demand for casino gaming has existed for hundreds of years, but there wasn’t always a supply. The old adage of “if you build it, they will come” applied to the gaming industry significantly, due to the supply-demand imbalance. The problem with that, Bobby tells Barry, is that it wasn’t a competitive environment. Without competition, there’s no need for innovation. Now, the industry has matured and innovation is starting to pick up. However, some gaps remain. [Listen from 16:10]

Nobody Studios provides the perfect scenario for innovation, Bobby shares. “You have all these minds in different fields [and] many overlap in hospitality. You have this great bastion of resources, of intellectual human capital – a supercharged venture studio,” he says. [Listen from 18:05]

Looking Ahead

Bobby believes digital is the future. When you look beyond Generation X, the customers are mostly online, and the gaming industry has to adapt. In addition, the digital systems in the hospitality industry need innovation and improvement. [Listen from 20:05]

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