What Happens in Vegas Should Inspire Your Business

I spent this past week with a group of outstanding Maverick1000 CEOs focused on learning, enjoying, and giving back. The anticipated highlight of the agenda was meeting with Tony Hsieh, Zappos’s CEO, and touring the Zappos headquarters. Tony was very gracious and personally showed us their Las Vegas Downtown Project (DTP). DTP invested $350 million to transform downtown Las Vegas into the most community-focused large city in the world. The transformation is simply amazing!

But, I was truly inspired by what we experienced the next day during a visit to Opportunity Village (OV), a nonprofit that serves people in Southern Nevada with intellectual disabilities. OV’s success in helping others is motivating, enlightening, and teaches many valuable business lessons.

Take Ownership

Most non-profits like OV depend entirely on outside and government funding.  When funding shrinks, most nonprofits might just complain about their lack of funding. Instead of complaining when funding decreased, OV took ownership of the situation and became innovative. They knew they had to flip their traditional model on its head if they wanted to serve more OVIPs (the name they give to participants in the OV program).

OV implemented new programs to provide vocational training, art, and culinary training. These programs became so successful; helping OV generate new revenue and expand the number of participates. For example, OV now sells 40,000 cookies each week to local hospitality businesses for their staff lunches. Additionally, there are now 80 OVIPs in the art program creating hand painted silk scarves and original artwork. Buyers around the world are purchasing these handcrafted items. When someone buys artwork, the OVIP earns money, and so does the organization.

Without OV, the state of Nevada would be on the hook for an additional $22 million each year in social services. Instead, OV provides 80% of its own funding. Imagine making a donation knowing that for each dollar you contribute, the organization delivers $1.80 in benefit to those they serve.  That’s truly remarkable!

Any business can learn from OV’s success. Instead of feeling sorry for constrained budgets, OV used innovation to grow and better serve their customers (in this case the OVIPs).

Empower Employees

The OV population takes pride in earning enough to pay taxes. How are they compensated?  The more they produce, the more they earn. They are organized into teams, and each team celebrates when they reach a milestone.

During our OV tour, we experienced a room filled with individuals who contribute to society, achieve independence, and have a sense of pride in each item they produce.

It’s better to empower your employees to succeed based on what they produce instead of measuring how much time they spend.  Empowering employees might just give them a sense of pride and purpose that delivers more than you imagined they could.

Get Creative

What was originally thought of as a place to care for those with disabilities now offers a thriving business services group that provides janitorial services, assembles event packets, prepares and delivers lunches, and produces gift boxes for local businesses as well as government agencies. Recently, a national retailer conducted a pilot program with OV’s gourmet popcorn. The retailer just placed an order to offer the popcorn in every store.  OV has had so much success that they need to scale the operation to meet demand. They went from an organization providing therapy services to a business that succeeds on its own merits in areas that might appear foreign to its mission.

How you can get creative to expand your business into new areas that might go beyond your original plan?


Opportunity Village faced challenges just like many other businesses. Instead of feeling like a victim, they decided to innovate. They built a program that provides long-term value to its citizens and the surrounding community, allows them to deliver more than 100 cents on the dollar for each generous donation, and rewards OVIPs with independence, purpose, and tremendous self-esteem.

The next time you feel your business challenges are too tough to overcome, visit Opportunity Village. You’ll be in awe of what they can produce with a workforce with intellectual disabilities.  If a few hours there doesn’t inspire you to consider what you can accomplish with your team, check your pulse… you just might be dead.

It’s Your Turn

What does OV’s story inspire you to do?