Prudent business decisions have placed the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in an enviable position — the business made a profit for the past five years in a row and is on track to be debt-free by the close of 2011.
That feat, achieved in the face of poor economic conditions, has garnered some attention. John Farahi, president of Monarch Resort & Casino, parent company to the Atlantis, recently was named RGJ Entrepreneur of the Year for 2011 in the category of large companies. He was nominated by Michael Bosma, founder of Reno-based financial firm the Bosma Group and a certified public accountant.
"When I saw that nominations were due, many people came to mind who have been able to keep their head above water in this difficult economy," Bosma said. "Only a few, however, came to mind who are thriving — being up in a down economy is something worth nominating."
For Farahi, there was no secret strategy for dealing with a struggling economy. He simply continued steering the Atlantis on a steady course of sound, conservative business decisions.
"We are a conservative company when it comes to debt," Farahi said. "In the business world, as we have seen, things can change rapidly, and if you have high debt, you put the company at risk."
Last August, Forbes Magazine recognized this low-risk route to success when it named Monarch Resort & Casino among its Most Trustworthy Companies in the country. Less than 5 percent of public companies make the list, and Monarch was one of only 48 that reached the highest level, ranking in the top 2 percent.
"There are hundreds of factors they consider, such as quality of corporate accounting and management practices," Farahi said. "Because we exemplify those principles that Forbes is looking for in their public-company evaluations, that means less risk for the shareholders."
Of course, running a successful business means more than limiting risks — it also means making a profit. Farahi said one of his responsibilities to the board and shareholders of the company is to achieve financial results.
"That means we have to allocate capital where we will get the highest return on investment," he said. "We have never stopped investing in our product and service, even in this economy."
Figuring out how to invest this capital may be one of Farahi's most prominent skills, finely tuned in the course of nearly four decades. He and his two brothers have been working in the business since 1972, when their father opened the 142-room Golden Road Motel, on the same site where the Atlantis stands today.
"He knows every inch of the property and what makes it work," Bosma said. "All you have to do is walk through the casino with John to understand that he sees through the eyes of the customer.
"Every encounter the customer has with the property or the employees is well thought out and rehearsed," Bosma added. "He leaves nothing to chance."
Looking at the Atlantis through the eyes of a guest, Farahi has selected the right places to invest cash, including a top-of-the-line spa, a new race and sports book, a bridge to the nearby convention center, a steakhouse and other upgrades.
"John has continually improved his property and is giving his patrons a reason to come back to see the next cool thing he has in store," Bosma said. "He somehow did these improvements out of cash flow and did not pile on a bunch of debt."
Farahi's business acumen has helped the Atlantis net almost 20 awards in 2010 alone. Those include Best Hotel Casino Spa and Best Spa for Men from the SpaFinder Readers' Choice Awards, as well as the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for both Bistro Napa and the Atlantis Steakhouse.
One achievement Farahi holds dear does not come with an award. It's the fact his company has sustained this economic downturn without a single employee layoff.
"We are very proud of that record," he said. "Not only have we not laid off anybody, but we have provided a lot of trades people and suppliers with work and business due to all the facility upgrades we've been making at Atlantis."