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Q&A: Igor Samardziski
Industry veteran Igor Samardziski describes the lynchpins of building a successful modern business ahead of his Totally Gaming Academy Online Gaming Masterclass
iGaming Business: What made you decide to move into collaborating with TGA?
Igor Samardziski: It’s a funny story actually. In 2015, I visited Lucien Wijsman’s Slot Academy course in Madrid. It was the first time I came across TGA. At the time I was running a few casino brands and had been consulting within gaming for a number of years already. Since I was working with both large land-based and online operators, I was intrigued by Lucien’s course which was focused on land-based player profiling and marketing.
Lucijen’s course was amazing. It was brim full of relevant information that we had not necessary looked at in the online world at the time. That said, I was a terrible attendant! I interjected and interrupted constantly, drawing comparisons between the land based and online way of doing things. By the end of the course, I had collected a wealth of helpful information, but frankly – through my incessant interruptions – I had offered a wealth in return. The only natural step from there was to team up with TGA and build a course for the online gambling industry which was in full swing by that time. We got to work putting together a true masterclass for the C-level executives and decision makers of the online gaming industry.
How much of running a successful igaming business has to be learnt on the job, and what are the advantages of structured learning such as through this course?
Throughout my experience consulting in dozens of companies in a very hands-on, specialised way, it became apparent that there are common denominating factors that haunt most businesses – irrelevant of the size of business. I was finding similar issues and concerns from small start-up operations up to the billion euro businesses. Perhaps stemming from different motivations, with start-up’s needs being existential, all of my clients struggled with a similar need for improved business efficiency. Over time, a set of common denominators became apparent. I’ve realised that there is a particular type of focus, a KPI structure if you will, that can be applied to every gaming business to ensure its continued success.
Igaming is, in fact, an on-the-job learning experience. The industry has just recently moved out of its infancy, and considering its growth is exceptionally rapid it has already reached a highly congested, regulated and competitive stage - after only two decades. Such growth demands consistent change of approach and change in information. Employees shifting companies would take their learnings from one business and find an almost contradictory set of KPI’s confronting them in their new venture. What we set out to achieve, and three years on have managed, is to create a structured, reasoned approach to doing business in this industry. It’s departmentally broken down and standardised, which offers a tremendous amount of insight into benchmarking against existing business process – or ensures a start-up hits the ground running.
The course helps delegates devise a one-year business plan. What are the common pitfalls people fall into when planning for their businesses without this sort of guidance?
Not many companies will enter into a business without a proper business plan. That said, I have never come across a business plan that projected results realistically in a start-up environment. Similarly, large companies will derive business plans for new brands, new markets, new products – which may be more statistically based and closer to home, however they are still, generic projections.
What we build is more of a “product performance” plan, than a business plan. We took the usual financially driven approach, and integrated core business KPI’s for individual departments within the business right into the plan. What we achieved is the ability to see, to a high degree of accuracy what financial impact will reducing bonus awards by 10% have on the business in long term. Or how much increased revenue will be expected by increasing customer interactions by a single interaction in the first 30 days.
It’s not a business plan. It’s culmination of 4 days of intense learning, put into an interactive roadmap that focuses on core KPI’s of each department within the business. Without this kind of approach, it is almost impossible for a business to properly manage its expectations toward internal and external stakeholders.
The course includes a focus on KPIs and business intelligence. How important is tracking performance and monitoring the industry alongside the day-to-day running of a business?
As I insinuated earlier – incredibly so. This is a pattern driven business that depends on repeat custom for its survival. To succeed and rise above the highly competitive environment there must a distinct focus on customer needs and expectations. Understanding what KPI’s to track, and tracking them accordingly allows us to deliver a more relevant product to our customer, more importantly – at the right time of their journey.
What are the commercial advantages that you would expect a business to see having sent a delegate on this course?
This is a difficult question to answer. The course is wide-reaching and designed for senior management and decision makers of the business. Most common feedback we receive on our follow-ups is that the business would have reworked its reporting and KPI structure almost immediately across the business. The most common financial benefits are increase in gross profit of the operations, but really – it completely depends on what area of the business the knowledge is applied to. The course tackles everything from acquisition KPI’s, to user experience and player profiling, down to bonus campaigns and bonus risk management. It’s a 360.
How has the online gaming ecosystem altered since you joined the industry and where do you see it heading over the next 18 months?
I started my igaming journey as an affiliate back in 2006. Much has changed since. We are now in a highly regulated industry that is highly competitive. Maybe not quite in the next 18 months, but soon I expect to see a distinct drop in the amount of white labels that enter the market hoping for a global approach to gaming and a rise in many localised brands focusing on their home market. Even giant betting operators will be broken up (internally) into localised teams with localised brands and sub-brands. We can already see this happening. South America has opened up to regulated gambling so we will see a lot of Latin-facing operations coming up, which will shift the market toward Latin culture – in terms of games, products verticals, supply chain – even employee market.
Igor Samardziski is the founder and CEO of Nexus Gaming Intelligence and is a renowned consultant on Gaming Product Intelligence. A veteran of the gaming industry, Igor has held positions with some of the biggest providers of gaming products today and in 2013, Igor was the recipient of the iGaming Representative of the Year award. More details of the course can be found here