Discussion about plans and actions in crisis situations with Attila “Otto” Török, Strategy Manager at Game World Romania
In crisis situations I could say that uncertainty is the only certainty
➤ What does Strategy Manager mean in the gambling industry? What does it mean?
As it is known, Game World has over 21 years of experience on the Romanian market. This continuity would not have been possible without some essential elements including a clear vision, a good knowledge of the market and trends and the choice of the most appropriate business strategies. In this sense, my role as Strategy Director is to propose the most effective course of action for the development of the company according to the current market situation and the forecasts for the next period.
➤ Can this position be compared to a similar one in other areas?
Of course. Our business as gambling organizers is organized like any other business, regardless of the field. All companies need to establish their development strategy and the way they do it depends on the organizational structure and the way the decisions are made.
➤ What can you rely on to outline a strategy in times of crisis and uncertainty like the present? How many times have you changed your strategy in the last year due to the indecision of the authorities?
In crisis situations I could say that uncertainty is the only certainty. The situation is changing rapidly, sometimes even overnight, the decisions of the authorities are unpredictable and we have to face all the challenges. The health crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic is probably the most difficult period I have encountered in my career. For more than a year now, we have been constantly adapting to situations we have never encountered before, without being able to rely on sufficiently robust predictions. In these conditions, our strategy, at Game World, is to ensure business continuity by putting the safety of our customers and employees first. Once we have decided this course of action, all tactical decisions are in line with the established strategic direction.
➤ Is the implementation of the crisis strategy very different from normal times? What is it based on?
Of course it’s different. Normal periods are characterized by more stability and slightly better predictability. As a result, a closer analysis of the market and the external environment is possible. In crisis situations, the biggest challenge is the speed of reaction in making and enforcing certain decisions. You all noticed, we have to close and reopen the game rooms, their restrictions or relaxation happen overnight, and the conditions in which we have been operating lately have differed significantly from the casino experience we used to have. We offer it. As a result, two aspects are very important: the way decisions are made and their communication.
➤ How is the collaboration with the other departments of the company? Which helps you the most? Which is the most reluctant?
Over time, Game World has built a united team, like one big family, as I like to say. Perhaps one of the positive aspects of the health crisis we are going through was the very way in which the Game World team successfully overcame all these unprecedented challenges. The management team consists of valuable professionals with extensive experience in the field, and collaborative relationships are based on trust and mutual respect. On the other hand, we have always considered Game World employees to be the foundation of the company’s success, and as a result, in this time of crisis, we have made decisions in line with this principle. We did not give up any employees, we paid the technical unemployment calculated on the individual salaries of each colleague, we kept a permanent communication during the periods when we had the activity suspended and we took the necessary measures to support our employees in this extremely difficult period everyone.
➤ Does the company’s flexibility allow it to change its strategy on the fly? Or is the inertia greater?
Game World is a company with a large number of employees, approximately 400, which operates in Bucharest and three other important cities in Romania. In addition, we are part of a group of companies with approximately 2,000 employees, with national work points. In this configuration a very good organization of the management and communication processes is required. It is not simple but it is vital to have the flexibility to adapt to the extremely volatile situations we have encountered in the last 12 months. Another effect of the health crisis we are going through is that we have been put in the situation to analyze our management processes and to adapt them to the current conditions. We continue to do this and aim to act preventively and react effectively to changes in the external environment that affect our activity.
➤ How does the fact that you are also the director of the largest games room in Romania help you?
For me, it is a great pride and an important advantage that in addition to the position of strategy director at Game World Romania, I am also the director of the Game World Bucharest Mall Vitan. It is known that our room is the largest in Romania and one of the rooms with the longest uninterrupted activity, operating since September 1999. As a result, it is the perfect place for me to interact with customers and understand their expectations and problems. At the same time I have the opportunity to follow market trends, I am in touch with the main suppliers of gaming equipment and I attach special importance to the training needs of Game World team members. As I said, I am very proud that our efforts are appreciated and I mention here the award for “Best Games Room” that I received 7 years in a row, starting in 2014. The fact that I received this award in 2020 is a confirmation that we have managed to successfully adapt to the difficult situation generated by the coronavirus pandemic.
➤ How do you see the traditional gambling industry next year? But in 5 years?
I am confident that in the future land-based operators will recover the significant declines recorded since March 2020 and that we will emerge from this crisis stronger and better adapted to the new reality. One aspect is the synergy with online casinos, the Game World brand being present in both environments. I am convinced that a period of many changes is coming and that the casino experience we will offer will continue to evolve. We will not go back to what it was before 2020 but we will configure offers and services according to new behaviors and customer expectations at the same level of quality, elegance and innovation that has enshrined the Game World brand.
➤ Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
At Game World, of course, with my colleagues! And, why not, at a new interview in the Club Casino series!