Interview: CEO James Marshall, speaks with Intergamingi, on leadership and inspiration.
CEO, James Marshall, recently spoke with Intergamingi on his thoughts on leadership and inspiration. The interview provides some interesting insights in both his personal and professional life - how he gets inspired, his thoughts on his approach to business, and what he likes to do in his spare time.
Outside of the gaming industry, who do you look up to most in business and why?
I'm an admirer of former Disney CEO Bob Iger and have been listening to him a lot of late. He turned a business around that relied too heavily on its name and needed to adapt. Disney was fortunate to be able to make huge acquisitions in Pixar, Lucas Films and Marvel. But it was Iger who had the vision which is really paying off for them; and I take a lot of inspiration from his desire to learn and evolve. While the company strictly set out to be content creators and not a distributor – they have adapted fantastically to the changes in technology and the market, and they now have one of the biggest direct to consumer apps in Disney+. There are a few companies in our industry like Disney, who have relied too heavily on their brand and we have to learn from this mistake as we have attracted a great following but we cannot afford to rest on our laurels.
Is there a phrase or philosophy you live by?
In business -“it’s the user who decides”. Ultimately what this means is that whatever you’re doing, be it making sandwiches or games, you want a person to consume your product over that of your competitor, so you have to make a product that the user wants. That doesn’t mean modelling your approach on your own preferences, or a small sample of the market, but instead – looking to cater to take the entire user base into account when approaching development. In our market you cannot rely on data, you have to do all you can to truly understand your user base, or even potential user base.
What can online gaming learn from other industries?
I sometimes think the industry is too money focused and short-termist. We’re in entertainment; people pay to be entertained. If you look at a lot of other successful businesses, they try to give the user as much value as possible. Netflix is cheap for what you get, for example, as are things like YouTube, which focuses on free content and engagement. For the consumer these are manageable and sustainable costs and work in the long term, delivering great retention for the company in return. It is about having brilliant products whilst giving the customer great value. There’s a lot we need to learn here, and I’d like to see the industry doing more to develop brilliant, long-term products that offer great value to players.
What differentiates a successful leader from an unsuccessful one?
I think a successful leader really understands the detail of their market and its evolution, as well as how the users/paying customers are transacting with their products. Unsuccessful leaders are generally too short sighted and constantly looking for quick commercial wins, that are exactly that: short term.
What do you read and listen to?
I buy into a lot of content through podcasts and audiobooks. I have been following Gary Vaynerchuk for a long time now, he has been very consistent in a lot of his messages and gives fantastic advice, he also has some great guests on his podcast. I also really like listening to Brené Brown. She’s brilliant and encourages authenticity and vulnerability as a leader. I’d recommend her book Dare to Lead. Tilman Fertitta is another one. He runs a number of hospitality businesses, but I picked up his name as the owner of Golden Nugget casinos. His new book Shut Up and Listen is great. I really like his saying: “there are no spare customers.” It’s a reminder to look after each and every one.
What do you spend your money on?
I enjoy playing slots, to be honest. But I recently spent more money than planned on a road bike and have been doing quite long rides. There’s always something new to buy for it, or clothes, etc. When I first went out in December it was freezing and I just thought I’m not going to enjoy this. But I have invested too much to turn back now and I’m pleased I kept at it. It has been a brilliant release getting out during this time.
How do you bring the best out of your employees?
I try to give people responsibility and encourage them to take on challenges. We have so many people in the company that have grown at such a fast pace. They’re not stopping either and I know their potential is huge. I’m not sure how much credit I can take for it, but I’m immensely proud of the team that we’ve built at Push Gaming and the attitudes, talent and character of the people I get to work with every day.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I like to be in the detail with the team and am hugely passionate about our industry, the products and players. I don’t see myself as the boss, just someone that is very motivated to build a great place to work, with great people and products. I’m learning from everyone around me and I highlight my imperfections as much as I can to hopefully encourage others to feel more confident in what they’re good at rather than worry about what they’re not. I take guidance from our team too and really consider what they’re saying. I want the company to be successful and, in order for that to happen, each individual in the company needs to achieve and be successful.
What is the number one lesson you have learned as a result of the global pandemic?
I feel that we’re very lucky to be in the digital entertainment industry and on the gaming side of betting and gaming. We have been able to grow as a business and have demonstrated we can adapt quickly. It reminds me of a quote by boxer Mike Tyson: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth!” We’re lucky we haven’t been punched this time, or at least we haven’t felt the effects yet, but I’ve learned to expect the unexpected and be ready to adapt.
How will iGaming events change in the future?
There have been some very interesting new developments in digital conferences. I can see that continuing to evolve and gain more traction. I think it will also be the same for offices; the lockdown has certainly proved we can rethink a lot of approaches (as well as the need to be at every industry event) – which will likely mean plenty of change on the horizon.
Finally, describe yourself in three words!
Authentic, creative and dedicated. Others that know me might choose three very different words.