As the New Year begins, it’s important for us to recognize that these past two years were a time of “rebuilding.” As a result of our initiatives and execution, your current Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc. Board issued its first dividend to Tribal members. Even as we celebrate this accomplishment, it’s critical that we highlight where the Board will focus its efforts in 2014.
We will continue to evaluate new business ventures that appear before our Board. Future projects will include major national initiatives, such as medicinal marijuana, compounding pharmacy medication (which is the fastest growing pharmaceutical sector), hydrogen energy (which we have been observing for some time) and social Internet gaming, among others.
The Board is considering other opportunities as well, but our focus going forward will not be reaching out to identify new projects, as we were doing a year ago. Instead, we will focus on the growth of the enterprises we’ve worked so hard to put in place. I am talking about growing our current operating businesses, growing our Seminole Pride products (beef, water and juice) and our Hard Rock Energy drink. We will emphasize staffing, making sure that we have the right personnel in place, the proper distribution channels and doing everything we can to make these businesses mature.
Staffing, putting the right people in the right places, is a key part of this growth process. We are growing by leaps and bounds, and we have to be sure that all businesses are staffed properly or we’re stuck. We need proper personnel to manage and grow our current business ventures. Our focus on that will be huge.
The real focus of this administration is conducting business as a corporation, to move away from the Mom and Pop mentality. That means learning the full system, getting into the nuts and bolts and understanding that if we want to market our products to the masses, we have to understand the production needs, the delivery schedules, the pricing needs and so on. That focus is exactly why we have been able to achieve the proper distribution channels for all our Seminole Pride products.
Let’s take our energy drink for an example. Think of how its success could spill over from one product to another. We’re moving the energy drink. This product will put us on the national map. Hard Rock Energy drinks will take us global. We’re receiving inquiries from all over the world, expressing interest in this product.
Hard Rock Energy drinks will show us how things are done, not just locally, but around the world. It’s one thing to deliver juice in a pickup truck and another to sign up with H.T. Hackney and US Foods – two massive foodservice distributors that reach across the globe.
What we’ve learned from this one product is going to help all our Board ventures. This will elevate our other products and create a path they can follow to success. I am eager to see it drive the Board’s entire operation.
That’s what I want to see in 2014.
To be successful on that end we need administrative support. Someone can go out there and make hundreds of sales, but we must also follow up on the back end to make sure orders are being placed and delivery is scheduled, that the product actually gets delivered and people know the product is there. If we don’t perform those tasks, we’re just spinning our wheels.
That’s all part of our focus this year – being diligent in crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s. That will ensure success.
As individual Board members, we want to learn as much as we can. We’re not going to run all these projects personally and be there every day with a clipboard counting cans. But, at the same time, we want to be an integral part of each venture …and know, really know, how it runs, how it works, all the steps to success. We want to know the why, the what, and the where so we’re all up to speed.
We want to know how the machine is working. That point can’t be stressed enough. For so long we’ve heard that we need to control our own destiny. Well, the only way you can control your own destiny is to roll up your sleeves, and jump in, but you have to know what you are doing. You can’t just say, “Oh I thought Sam was going to take care of it,” or, “Wasn’t Tom going to take care of it?”
No. You must have intimate knowledge of all these businesses to control your destiny. Personally, getting involved not only teaches me, but the younger generation, as well. They are learning also. So when it is time for me to ride off into the sunset, the next generation will take my role.
We’ll give them the map and our knowledge and they’ll keep it going. The vision will change – because consumer needs and business environments will change. Our youth will understand that. And their methods of operating will change according to the new business demands.
That won’t happen, if all we do today is sit back and hope someone else takes care of it tomorrow. What message would that attitude send to the next generation of business managers? We must stay involved. I’m proud to say this administration has met that challenge. We are asking questions, we are getting answers because when we’re questioned by the community, the last answer we want to give them is, “Uh…I’ll get back to you.”
We’re in direct contact with all our managers, all the time. We don’t want filtered information from a few reports. We have a daily working relationship with our team.
Our third shareholders meeting was a proud moment. We were up there personally as elected officials, giving the financial report. We didn’t say, “You’re the CFO, get up there and give out this information,” or, “OK, in-house attorney, go put on the dog and pony show.” No. No. No.
There’s no doubt in my mind, that if I weren’t able to stand up and give the report, that Steve, Joe or Larry could’ve stood up and delivered the same information. No doubt in my mind. And this is due to our desire to be closely involved, to have intimate knowledge of our businesses.
That’s something that was lacking for a long time. If we’re not willing to roll up our sleeves then it’s just lip service. I’m very proud of this administration. No lip service here.
We’re going to continue looking at opportunities, but we can never say, “Hey, we got all the business models that we’ll ever need.” We’ll never reach that point. We’ll always ask ourselves, “What is the next opportunity?”
Understanding that no matter what the next opportunity is, it will always require that we roll up our sleeves and be involved. During the last two fiscal years, the Board has operated without a Tribal Council subsidy. And we will continue to operate this way. That wouldn’t happen without our direct involvement in our enterprises.
At the end of the day, if we handle business the way we should handle business, we’ll be in position to continue issuing dividends in the future. We know why we’re here and why we were put here: to grow our businesses and generate income. We are pushing these businesses to operate at an optimum level, and if gaming ever does take a hit, we’ll be able to pick up the pieces. I truly believe, if we play the game right we CAN do that.
There was talk at the shareholders meeting regarding the teamwork between the Board and the Council. We must have that teamwork. While we’re developing a stronger working relationship between the Tribal Council and Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc., the focus must remain the same: How do we improve the lives of our Tribal members?
We are setting the bar high for the next administration and sending a message. You better be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get to work. You have a job to do. We make decisions that affect nearly 4,000 people. We better have our minds right and our boots on.
Tony Sanchez Jr. is President of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc.