As many know, Churchill Downs Incorporated COO, Bill Carstanjen, was on Undercover Boss this past Sunday.
Bill visited the backstretch and front-side of the track as an undercover employee. He worked with a trainer, jockey valet, cleaning crew, and the press box coordinator.
Throughout all of this, he learned about how tough each and everyone’s job was. He saw the financial struggles that each of the employees go through on a monthly basis. But, he also witnessed the passion for the sport that motivates these employees to log the hours day-in and day-out.
At the end of these 1 hour episodes, most of the “Undercover Bosses” have discovered past policy changes that have hindered their employees, or have developed new initiatives to help incentivize employees and make their operations run more smoothly.
For example, the 7-Eleven CEO discovered that their workflow process for handling in-store repairs was outdated and didn’t perform its function as initially represented. By changing the way this process works, he was able to implement a new system that would ensure that the stores were kept clean, all the lights working, and provide a safe working environment for his employees.
However, and unfortunately, the Churchill episode didn’t translate into policy changes (at least not publicly stated during the episode). Bill is obviously an extremely intelligent and caring human being. But the episode resulted in changes or promotions for the 4 employees that he worked with, not necessarily the company as a whole.
There are many aspects of the racing industry that aren’t working in a cohesive manner. As an individual with a business degree in strategic management and operations, it pains me to see the industry I love not working on the issues that will eventually help all of the employees and people involved.
I’ve participated in a similar experience to Bill. I spent a lot of time at Hollywood Park a few years ago casually interviewing all sorts of employees and patrons. It was eye-opening to hear the opinions of the car valets, elevator lift personnel, maître d’, regular horse bettors, trainers, and jockey agents, all of which had ideas to help return the sport to the days of past.
Here at HorseRacingInside.com, I’d like to start and ongoing discussion with this principle question in mind:
How do we fix the horse racing industry?
For those that don’t know, HANA (Horseplayer Association of North America), is one of the groups looking to answer the above question. They bring the handicapper and bettors point of view to the discussion.
They also posted a response to the Undercover Boss show. You can read it here:
If you’re interested in following a graduate student at the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program as he completes his thesis on fixing the industry, here’s the link: