There are definite things that we are doing to streamline and evaluate each current enterprise of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. This is being done with an eye to making the particular venture more profitable, less expensive and as productive as possible for our Tribal citizens.
An example would be the former convenience store complex on the Brighton Seminole Indian Reservation. We are not only changing the appearance of the current buildings, inside and out, we are changing the way the products are presented. We are adding a Subway restaurant and improving customer service: upgrading the look and operation of the public restrooms. We are making arrangements to change the adjoining trailer park into an RV park, removing all the trailers as their leases are up.
We have taken a close look at the Brighton area and realize tourists and other travelers go off the beaten path looking for unique locations with unique amenities. Well, we got a casino down the street, we got Lake Okeechobee down the street, we got real cowboys, just to name a few. Those are very unique features, very special. With that in mind, we are changing the overall presentation of the store and the park to complement our unique world. We’ll put in a little sitting area, a play area, barbecue area and make ourselves more inviting to all the RVs you see out there on the road around here.
The day will come very soon when you will walk into the Brighton convenience store and it will feel like you have walked into a 7-Eleven or Circle K. We’ll use the best business practices and presentations that those large chains utilize. And why not? They work! There is a method to their madness. Plainly said, we are going to implement the proper policies, procedures and system to be successful.
I consider this sort of business improvement as one of my specialties. I expect these projects to succeed no less spectacularly than what I was able to accomplish during my tenure at the Immokalee Casino. It is a matter of understanding the possibilities and capitalizing on what we have, especially in terms of our advantages as American Indian business operators. We must recognize and pursue these advantages and utilize them to their fullest capacity.
For example, we are looking at reducing our costs by concentrating on the tax side of the ledger. Gas stations in Brighton and Hollywood should benefit from our tax advantage. It translates to more money at the end of the day. Another benefit we have not yet taken advantage of is our ability to sell beer 24/7, even offer it before noon on Sundays. Small deals perhaps, but it definitely increases the daily bottom line. It fits in with everything else we are doing and contributes to the successful business system we are trying to improve and maintain overall within the Tribe.
In fact, we are doing exactly what the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc. was created to do – which is to operate as the economic development arm for the Seminole Tribe of Florida. And when we do it right, we declare a dividend for the Tribe and its members. That is what we do.
Things have changed. I know that many of our Tribal members realize this. We now operate our businesses as businesses. We are no longer just throwing money at failing enterprises. We are no longer doing business like a mom and pop organization. Now, we obviously have to spend money for these improvements, but in the end, we are aiming for it to translate into a bigger bottom line. We will continue to evaluate and evaluate to make sure it’s working right. And we will go down the line, as I have said before, and look at everything one by one.
Take the grove at Big Cypress. I don’t want to call it an eyesore, but I can call it non-producing. We are going to push those dead trees out. Six hundred acres of non-producing trees will be removed and the land prepared for a new agricultural project. I don’t know what that is, whether we will replant orange trees or sugar cane, but I can tell you we are in the evaluation process right now, looking for what will give us the biggest return on our investment.
Many people think that all the Tribal Board of Directors have to deal with is cattle and cigarettes. Not true at all. We have citrus, c-stores, sugar cane, mining, etc. Since this new administration took office, we have partnered with a vineyard in Tuscany, Italy under a plan to market this fine wine to restaurants at casinos across our country. We have a media company that offers myriad services under one umbrella. And a construction company joint venture. I could go on…but there’s work to be done.
A good businessman does not just sit back, revel in his successes and hope that he or she will continue to be successful. You have to have a plan and you have to constantly monitor and evaluate that plan. It’s the only way to insure continued success. As the old saying goes, “No one is going to give you anything. You have to earn it.”
As you know, we are developing personnel changes that allow us to provide enhanced support for current and future enterprises and improves our abilities to conduct due diligence on future projects. And it will all be done in-house, instead of outsourcing it, which is what we have done too much of in the past.
I am talking about the basic necessities we need as a business to operate successfully on a daily basis. This has been lacking at the Seminole Tribe of Florida for many years. I can assure you, future dividends will mark the result of what we are doing today. There has got to be a plan. Just plain hope don’t work. With no plan, you go around in circles. Those days are over. There will be a method to our madness, and the ultimate goal is for Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc. to be a self-containing entity.
I think the people were ready for a change. I know that is why I am here. The people of the Seminole Tribe may not have known exactly what to expect, but they knew there was a definite need for change.
It takes a whole team for a business to be successful. I don’t care if you are IBM, Apple, Donald Trump, no one person can make it happen. And there will always have to be someone’s head on the chopping block. And I know that is me. I knew that when I signed up to do this job.
I will take the criticism. I don’t take it personal. And, believe me, when the successes come in, you won’t see me out there beating my chest. Because I know the credit goes to the team, all of us working together. THAT will make us successful. THAT will keep us in the black!
Tony Sanchez Jr. is President of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc.