As a part of our series called ‘Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became A CEO’ we had the pleasure of interviewing Richard “Boz” Bosworth, President CEO of JC Hospitality, owner of Virgin Hotels Las Vegas.
Richard “Boz” Bosworth has over 40 years of experience in hotel, casino, and restaurant operational management, hospitality investments and capital market industries. He is the founding General Partner and CEO of JC Hospitality, who acquired the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas in March 2018 and have recently completed a multi-hundred-million-dollar renovation, transforming the property to Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, which opened on March 25, 2021. His career began with hospitality operational management and evolved to the investment aspect of the business in the early 1990s and to date, Boz has either operationally or asset managed 173 hotel investments, including four casinos and over 400 restaurants and bars on behalf of private equity firms, entrepreneurial investors, and institutional lenders.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series Richard! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I have been a “lifer” in the hospitality industry, however, my career has morphed from operations to capital markets, to investment leadership. The aspect of my career that has always excited me the most has been organizational management. I have been able to utilize and combine every skill set that I’ve learned from washing dishes to negotiating investment documents. This is a true benefit for doing many jobs, but all within a related industry.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
We have a particular operational structure that was architected to be successful during economic downturns. It’s always been my core philosophy to first mitigate risk before driving yield. We did not underwrite building and opening a business during a worldwide pandemic.
Our project began construction at the very beginning of the pandemic. While we sat on the sidelines building and were not operating in 2020, we did not escape the intense obstacles created by COVID-19. While this may not be considered interesting since every industry and every business worldwide was impacted, Las Vegas was disproportionately affected. The interesting story was how the community and industry leadership created a bond to help ensure recovery for the local labor force and each other’s business. Even the staunchest competitors helped each other so we could recover together as an industry and community and that I find very interesting.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I had invited the wrong “Tommy” in my contact list to a Board of Directors event. I thought I was inviting the President of a Union, and I accidentally invited “Tommy the DJ” who happens to live in my building and is always looking for work. Fortunately, everyone had a great sense of humor about it and welcomed “Tommy the DJ” as if he was the intended guest. Lesson learned, when texting or emailing from your phone, always slow down and double check who you’re messaging.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There is no way I would have ever been able to make the transition from hospitality operations to capital markets and banking without the confidence and guidance of Bill Erbey, who was Chairman of Ocwen Financial Corporation. I am not a college graduate, nor had any experience in institutional capital management. Bill waived the prerequisite requirement of having undergraduate and graduate degree and gave me a leadership opportunity within his company. He gave me a support team to help me learn the language of institutional real estate investing. I am forever grateful to Bill Erbey for changing my career in such a positive way.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
I think culture is an extremely important aspect of the hospitality industry. The employee population is diverse with age, ethnicity and gender identity. Today’s consumer is as well. We have developed a resort that I hope is welcoming to all cultures. Therefore, even the most senior managers must represent today’s cultural and societal dynamics.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
It has to be more than driving the last dollar of profit or annual bonus compensation. One of the most rewarding goals for a CEO is for their entire employee population to be able to grow personally, professionally and financially. We have approximately 2,000 team members. It must be more than just about business, it must be about their life and personal goals as well. I’m personally interested in employee stock ownership plans (ESOP) for the future to create a structure of ownership for our entire team.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
Ultimate accountability. There is truth to the phrase the buck stops on a CEO’s desk.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
That the C-suites is a “cushy” place to work. It’s quite the opposite. My senior leadership team and I are the first to lose sleep, give up family time and miss meals. It’s a hard driving work environment and it takes a strong stomach to succeed.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
It’s not a job, it’s a way of life.
Do you think everyone is cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
No, I don’t believe everyone is cut out to be an executive, nor should they be. It is a personal choice and often times a quality of life choice. The most important trait of an executive is self-accountability. It’s important to recognize an organization is only as good as it’s people and that’s where the investment starts.
What advice would you give to other business leaders to help create a fantastic work culture? Can you share a story or an example?
Be visible, be communicative, solicit input prior to implementing change, and recognize that the least paid employee might be the most important.
A specific example is that we gave our employees 18 months notice of the resort closure to completely renovate it. We incentivized our team with a “Stick Around & Come Back” program which was very expensive. We retained 92% of our employees to the very last day and significantly reduced turnover costs which are generally high in the hospitality industry. We also reduced our pre-opening hiring costs. However, the intrinsic value was the positive energy that our staff brought to work every day and this was also respected by the local community of Las Vegas.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Success can be defined in many ways. So, I will answer this question with two different approaches. First, I consider it a success if you can inspire your employee population to grow themselves while growing the business. Second, financial success can often times lead to reinvestment. Investing in opportunities that not only create jobs but also breakdown supply chain constraints of quality and healthy products for all not just the top tier earners.
Fantastic. Here is the primary question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Nobody told me I would love it. While I did expect this position to be extremely consuming and challenging, I had no idea how rewarding it would be to see transformation not only of our business but of our team members. Outside of “matters of the heart” and family, this has been the most congruent time of my life despite all the natural challenges in today’s competitive and cultural environment.
- Nobody told me that it’s good to make mistakes. If a CEO does not make mistakes, they are not taking chances and therefore are remaining status quo.
- Nobody told me that the media would be interested in our business. I went from being an under the radar professional to one that now has a high level of local visibility overnight. That took some getting used to and even practice when frequently in communication with the media.
- Nobody told me that I would personally feel the accountability of 2,000 families with every decision I drive.
- Nobody told me that the amazing team members I work with would extract out every working moment of my life and apply each lesson learned.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Access to clean and healthy food and water for all. An example is organic food which provides a greater level of wellness for the consumer but it’s economically restrictive for mass distribution. There have been fantastic startups in the organic food industry that have not been able to sustain because of the cost of production and distribution and capital needed to sustain receivables. It is inequitable for health to be a matter of economic viability.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
There have been different variations of the following quote said by many people. “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
Not having the benefit of higher education, in the competitive world of career growth, I accepted the fact that I would achieve my positions through hard work and dedication.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
The choice for me is clear, and that would be President John F. Kennedy. When I think of our daily stresses or how we approach crisis management, I can’t fathom how he handled the Cuban Missile Crisis and avoided what looked to be an inevitable nuclear war that would of destroyed the world as we know it today. I would cherish the opportunity to discuss with him how he not only used discernment but built a coalition of support in a highly debated strategy and ultimately made a decision that saved the planet. If he had made a mistake the consequences are to grave to comprehend.