Down The Backstretch: Red Shores' MacKinnon not standing still

Nicholas
Nicholas Oakes
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Pleasing customers key to success for managing director

If you are standing still you are not growing says the managing director of Red Shores.

Michael MacKinnon took over from retiring managing director Tom Mullally in May and admits it has been full steam ahead ever since.

The 45-year-old grew up in Monticello, in eastern P.E.I., the fifth oldest in a family of seven. MacKinnon’s father had horses with his parents, but it wasn’t until MacKinnon himself was 12 years old that his father decided he wanted horses again. So they built a barn on their property and got a retired standardbred, using him for pleasure driving and pulling a sleigh.

“Not that he ever raced,” MacKinnon said. “He had him as more of a pet.”

It was at this age MacKinnon would go to the races at the defunct St. Peters race track.

“At that time I would have only come to Charlottetown three or four times a year. It was 30 years ago.”

He met his future wife, Michelle, while in high school and they have now been married for 20 years with one son, who is studying Engineering at UNB Fredericton. When MacKinnon graduated high school he started working odd jobs, including the fish plant in Souris. After a few years, MacKinnon decided to further his education and took a business and technology course at Holland College and subsequently found work in the IT division at NB Tel in Moncton (which then merged into Aliant). MacKinnon spent 19 years there before following a former co-worker to the Atlantic Lottery Corporation as director of Corporate Planning.

“I found it such an exciting time,” MacKinnon said of leaving NB Tel. “Why I left after spending 19 years with a company was (ALC) were just starting to go through a period of change. Because the gaming industry is changing with the advent of the internet. They were looking at changing their products and offerings and what not.”

MacKinnon moved within ALC to deal with technology and business operations, which he did until last spring when he made the move to Red Shores.

“It was a co-worker that put the thought in my head. We heard the news that Tom (Mullally) was retiring and he said ‘You’re from P.E.I. aren’t you?’ It had never kind of clicked before that but I put a lot of thought into it. I spoke to my wife, the posting went up, and I said ‘I think I’ll put my name forward.’ I had been doing that job for three, three-and-a-half years and I was looking for a change.”

MacKinnon admits there has been a learning curve with his new position.

“I had been to this location several times with the lottery. So I knew a bit about the operation and the three lines of business, gaming, racing and dining. When I joined (In late May) it was two weeks from the P.E.I. Poker challenge then it just went zoom from there. Which was good in one way, but bad because I barely had time to put my head up for air at times. But I am of the opinion that there is always something to learn.”

Upon arrival, he was immediately impressed by the staff at Red Shores.

“One thing I saw was from event after event, how capable this team is of being in that event mode. They can deliver a very high quality event. As good as anyone.”

A key ingredient to the organizations success is pleasing customers every visit, MacKinnon says.

“The customer is key. We need to get new people in the doors of both our properties. They come in the facilities impressed. They’re impressed by the facility but by the time they leave they are impressed by the service. You’re not going to convert every person who comes through the door to a return client but service will go a long way towards doing that. Our biggest opportunity lays in getting those people in and letting them experience the three lines of business we have to offer.”

MacKinnon says Red Shores has the wiggle room to chart its own path, separate from ALC.

“It’s quite an autonomous operation. Which was one of the other things that was of real interest to me. At this point in my career, 24 years in, I think I have a decent business mind and I like to surround myself with good people, which we have here. It’s an entirely different business then the rest of Atlantic Lottery. Like look around us, we have restaurants. Atlantic Lottery does not run restaurants.”

The Summerside part of the operation is also key, as Red Shores is not just a Charlottetown business.

“It is a critical part. When we think of Red Shores it’s an automatic that we have two facilities. And if you look we did not duplicate the team here to burden operating Summerside. Because it is a smaller facility.”

MacKinnon says he has enjoyed the move back to P.E.I., as his son was moved from home anyways and his wife tends to travel for her job as a pharmaceutical rep.

“We both have large families here, so it’s been great to reconnect a bit.”

More with MacKinnon in next Friday’s edition of The Guardian, including his thoughts on the future of Old Home Week and Red Shores.

Nicholas Oakes’ column appears in

The Guardian each Friday. He can be reached at nicholasoakes@hotmail.com.

Organizations: Holland College, Atlantic Lottery Corporation, IT division Aliant

Geographic location: Red Shores, Charlottetown, Monticello Souris Moncton

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