Video Gaming Technologies manufactures gaming machines for lease to casinos in emerging U.S. markets. The company, founded in 1991, makes the popular Vegas Blackjack and Treasure Quest series, using 3-D graphics, CD quality sound and hit ratios that keep players playing. VGT, with offices in Tennessee, Oklahoma and Virginia, was the fastest-growing company on the Inc. 500 in 2005. Inc. Technology spoke with founder, president and chairman Jon Yarbrough talks about using technology to motivate workers.
Inc. Technology: Can the average business - from an ice cream parlor to a bio-tech startup -use video gaming technologies?
Yarbrough: With such new technologies as voice recognition, image analysis and artificial intelligence, video gaming technology could be used to offer an effective low-cost way to train and test employees in a self-paced, interactive and entertaining medium. Imagine an addictive video game that teaches employees to excel.
Inc. Technology: What can entrepreneurs learn from how technology has changed the video gaming and casino industries?
Yarbrough: Bally Gaming used to be the world's leading manufacturer of gaming machines. When video game technology first emerged at around the time of the introduction of Atari's Pong game, International Game Technology [IGT] (at the time a startup) embraced the idea while Bally eschewed it. At $13 billion, IGT now has a market cap some 15 times that of Bally. New technologies offer new ways to achieve a competitive advantage. If you don't embrace it, your competitor will.
Inc. Technology: Can you share some advice for entrepreneurs?
Yarbrough: You have to differentiate yourself from everyone else. For us, aside from the leasing model, what is most unique about us is our games and the way we pay out the prizes - the frequency, size of the wins, timing, and so on. Having a unique offering in an emerging market, where the demand exceeds the supply, is where you can really grow fast.
Inc. Technology: So, what makes a casino video game more “fun” than others?
Yarbrough: We've been successful at making customers want to play games for a while because we introduce new elements - just like a good movie has depth and you want to watch it over and over. Sure, it adds to the development time but we found some creative ways to do this by being more creative in the math and the way the wins are divided up and awarded to the player. One of our games, Mr. Money Bags, has a crowd-pleasing contest, where players qualify to play in a kind of game show. If you get a certain outcome you go up and choose a money bag out of a big pile and it's done at certain times of the evening after several people have qualified. The prize can be as high as a $50,000.
Inc. Technology: How do you motivate employees?
Yarbrough: We're a virtual company. I live in Tennessee, where gambling isn't even legal. I've got some support staff here but it's less than 10 out of our 200 employees. Others are in Oklahoma, where are machines are sold, and Virginia, too. It's extremely de-centralized, so there's no possible way for me to be involved in day-to-day decision making and it forces me to think strategically, focus on growth and new markets. It forces me to hire people who make good decisions. That's why they're motivated. They see themselves as they're own boss. I hire people who are passionate about their own ideas, people who do well on their own. And they're compensated well, too. We recognize that every human being is creative to a degree. We know that they already have ideas and would just love the opportunity to express them, so we simply ask them for their ideas.
Inc. Technology: Can you give us an example of a self-motivated employee at VGT?
Yarbrough: The Mr. Money Bags idea was from an employee. He came up with it himself.