Turn back the clock to the mid-1990s, and Aaron Hartwig is standing behind the front desk of a Las Vegas hotel, checking in guests and welcoming them to the always spirited city.
“I always loved hospitality—I love the idea of having people come to your property to enjoy themselves,” reports Hartwig, who first landed in “guest services” as a recent college graduate with a degree in hotel administration.Read More
Still, at the time, he remained uncertain with regard to within which functional area in hospitality he should try to build his career. Then came word that MGM Grand Hotel & Casino was looking to hire a number of accountants—or, rather, a number of accounting interns. Hartwig signed on, envisioning that the program could lead to something more permanent with MGM’s accounting department—a notion that soon became a reality.
“I did accounts receivable at $8.65 an hour, and from there I worked for a number of different people—some of whom became my mentors—which allowed me to learn and move forward in my career,” explains Hartwig, who notes that years later, one of his mentors recruited him to fill a controller role for a casino about to file for bankruptcy.
“To make a long story short, I trusted him and it became a tremendous learning experience for me,” remarks Hartwig, who adds that the casino’s turnaround involved having two audits by the Nevada Gaming Control Board within a single year.
“Typically, you have one gaming audit from the board every 2 to 3 years, but these were back-to-back and it was like we had to cram 3 years of work into one,” comments Hartwig, who found that his controllership tour of duty helped to validate his credentials for future CFO roles at some of Nevada’s flourishing small to midsize casinos.
Says Hartwig: “I like the people aspect of hospitality, but the casino business is so fast-paced and dynamic that it makes the days that I spend here all the more special.” –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about Edgewood Companies … what type of real estate development do you do?
Hartwig: The company has shifted during these past 5 years. We now have a Top 100 golf course that is right on the shores of Lake Tahoe, in South Lake Tahoe. It’s a tough place to go to work at when you have to look at that every day! But along with that we developed a four-star hotel that has 154 rooms. In 2018, it was named the #1 new hotel in America. We’ve now started to develop further into the resort hospitality space. We do have some real estate, and we actually have two leases to casinos. We also have about 500 acres that is long-term developable.Read More
We also have a water company. A dam that we run that holds back some of the water that goes into the whole golf course and whatnot. So, we do a whole breadth of things. We have such a beautiful property. It’s amazing to come to.
As many may recall, there was the big forest fire that breached the basin here in Tahoe last year. We actually had to shut down, but we were still able to pay our employees since we had implemented forecasting tools that really helped us to understand our cash flow. With our cash flow, we knew that we could take this risk —we knew that in the event of a fire evacuation, we had the ability to pay our employees. And so, once we were ready to reopen, we hadn’t furloughed anyone and we didn’t need to rehire. We had all of our employees.
The fire evacuation was a little different from the pandemic staffing situation. We had some people who had to be removed from the area, so this was a little harder. During the pandemic rebound, we were able to have our employees come right back. We strive to be more efficient with forecasting. I have a weekly forecasting meeting: What does 2022 look like at the end of the year? What if we do have smoke again? What if we do have a fire? Please, let’s hope not—but what if we do have a fire that breaches the basin again? What does this look like for us? How can we protect ourselves while at the same time we are developing? We’re building huge five-star villas—so we’re putting a large amount of capital into new resources at the resort and better forecasting is helping us to make the right decisions.
Edgewood Companies | www.edgewoodcompanies.com | Lake Tahoe, NV