(Note: This story appears in the November 2022 issue of ED Magazine)
ORA club chain’s Director of Operations, Mike Ricks, takes great pride in staff thanking him for “earning and living better than they ever imagined.”
At 6 foot 3 inches tall and 300 pounds, ORA club chain Director of Operations Mike Ricks is a dynamic, athletic figure — often a walking billboard in an ORA, Rachel’s, or Dancers Royale shirt — who doesn’t blend into the background.
Ricks did stints with Albert Bortz’s Blush in Pittsburgh, Mike Tomkovich’s Bliss Cabaret in Clearwater, Florida, and his first multi-club position, overseeing the four Mile High clubs for Craig Franze and Mike Galam in Clearwater. Ricks met ORA club chain owner Gene DuPont in 2017 when DuPont purchased the Inner Room in Cocoa Beach and helped to get it running. Ricks then worked briefly for RCI, managing clubs in Dallas and Odessa before returning to Florida in June 2018 to become Operations Director for DuPont’s then two clubs: Dancers Royale Orlando and the Inner Room.
“We agreed to give each other 100%,” says Ricks. “He’s had my back since then as we’ve grown two clubs into what we have now. Gene has a sincere interest in my being the best I can be. I trust him 100% because he’s always cared for me and my family, which motivates me to give him 100%. I have a real partner.
ED Legal Correspondent Larry Kaplan spoke with ORA club chain Director of Operations Mike Ricks about the challenges and delights of overseeing five Florida clubs.
ED: Gene has placed his trust in you and vice versa. Does that trust extend to the people that work for you?
RICKS: Absolutely, we take care of them. People make mistakes, and we strive to get them on track to sustain long relationships, both professional and personal. We have many staff that have worked for Gene for 20-plus years.
ED: What are some of your strategies and methods for finding managers and other staff?
RICKS: It’s a lot from recruitment, often just by talking to people. I go out frequently, as do my managers, as a part of their promotions. We look for younger, faster, trainable folks from hospitality and sales-orientated businesses.
If I have a good service experience, I simply leave my card with the tip. Our female managers also recruit, and many girls see our promotions on social media and contact us.
ED: What are some specific challenges you have in operating five clubs?
RICKS: Getting staff on the same page and consistently executing is challenging. Our philosophy is that yea, this server fucked up yesterday, but she’s still a great worker. Training our managers to be tolerant and compassionate without being doormats is tough.
ED: Tell me about how your life is different, overseeing five clubs.
RICKS: This is a way of life, not a job. I start my day by checking my phone to see if there were any incidents and if any staff reached out; I have days off with family, but I’m always accessible. Overseeing five clubs is a 24-7 deal.
“This is a way of life, not a job. I start my day by checking my phone to see if there were any incidents and if any staff reached out; I have days off with family, but I’m always accessible. Overseeing five clubs is a 24-7 deal.” — Mike Ricks
ED: What is a “typical week” for Mike Ricks?
RICKS: I talk to my managers daily. Monday is my admin day; we review the numbers and the week’s goals and set the following week’s goals. I visit each unit throughout the week and help my teams execute.
ED: Besides the difference in entertainment, what are the similarities and differences between your four adult clubs and your non-adult club?
RICKS: Each club is different. ORA Ultra Cabaret and Rachel’s have the steakhouse component. In contrast, Dancers Royale Orlando is an in-your-face party, the place to let your hair down. ORA is the ultimate “Ultra-Cabaret” with a big showstage downstairs and VIP bottle service, booths, a high-end kitchen, and private rooms.
Rachel’s is the Orlando VIP experience, with the downstairs full of fun-loving regulars enjoying the super-aggressive food and drink specials while the VIPs are upstairs enjoying the rooms and VIP bar.
Dancers Cocoa Beach, that’s a beach town. You’re there in sandals, and a tank top, enjoying a cold drink and a fun girl.Dancers Orlando is just the most electrifying and welcoming party in Orlando. Everybody knows you; it’s just home.
ED: How difficult is it to utilize social media at a time when Facebook and Instagram are not adult friendly?
RICKS: We do our social media in-house, with our entertainers on flyers. We get the girls on board, so they’re liking, re-tagging, and re-posting. They utilize their personal platforms, one of the best ways around some of Facebook’s roadblocks.
Many of our people aren’t from the industry, and it was their first EXPO. They didn’t even realize yet what they’re a part of. So it was essential to bring them to provide awareness, some education, and insight that they’re a part of a larger piece of greatness. — Mike Ricks
ED: How do you measure success regarding your social media marketing strategy?
RICKS: I do online-only specials, like a $5 burger. So I know everybody ordering a $5 burger found it online.
ED: You brought 34 people to this year’s EXPO; that was a considerable number. Why is bringing such a large group to this annual event so vital to you?
RICKS: Many of our people aren’t from the industry, and it was their first EXPO. They didn’t even realize yet what they’re a part of. They hadn’t seen or met many of the industry icons. So it was essential to bring them to provide awareness, some education, and insight that they’re a part of a larger piece of greatness. It’s not our jobs; it’s our culture. Attending every seminar and taking notes was mandatory. I wanted them all to see Dancers Royale win a major ED Award, for the Best Club in the South after 31 years of existence, and that was huge.
We’re not big operators, but we’re starting to get industry credibility because of what we’re doing. Orlando is not viewed as an adult club powerhouse market. And yet, you had two Orlando clubs nominated for major ED Awards because they earned the nominations. My crew needed to see what they’ve built and are a part of. That was important to me.
ED: Which of the seminars did your guys like in particular?
RICKS: They liked them all. They enjoyed the bar management seminar and seeing things going on there. Everybody loved security because we don’t run outside security. We believe in conflict resolution and preventing fights on your floor because you should see them beforehand. They enjoyed the social media seminar because they realized everything that we’ve drummed into their head is the norm and required to be successful.
ED: Florida has no shortage of adult clubs. How do you attract and retain entertainers in such a competitive environment?
RICKS: With all due respect to all the other great operations out there, I feel that we just treat entertainers better. Also, we have a zero-tolerance policy on fraternizing. We let women be beautiful and sexy, free of harassment.
ED: What’s a quality you’ve acquired or refined, working with Gene that’s helped you improve at overseeing operations?
RICKS: Learning to understand and mold people. While I’ve always been good at operations, I’ve honed my people skills since working with Gene.
ED: What’s the best part of your job and the most challenging part?
RICKS: The absolute best part was that moment when we won the ED Award. The accomplishment of winning Gene his first ED award after 31 years in business and getting him that recognition as a thank-you for everything he’s done for me was huge.
In addition, the satisfaction of staff thanking me for earning and living better than they ever imagined. That’s a big deal to be a part of making a difference in their lives.
The most disappointing part is people abusing our system of bonuses and commissions. It’s sad when people join a young growing company like ours and abuse it.
ED: What’s one aspect of your job that you wouldn’t have fathomed before you got into operations for multiple clubs that’s now second nature?
RICKS: Making decisions that impact the company and people’s lives. The day-to-day operations of running a company like this and the implications of every decision I make; I can’t mess up. If I make a mistake, Gene’s got colossal liability. I’ve got a bartender who’s giving me 100%, but if I misstep, she’s unemployed. So the weight of my decisions is enormous.
Larry Kaplan has for 22 years been the Legal Correspondent for ED Publications. In addition, Mr. Kaplan is a business broker in the sale and purchase of adult nightclubs and adult retail stores and the Executive Director of the ACE of Michigan adult nightclub state trade association. Contact Larry Kaplan: at 313-815-3311 or email email@example.com.