weather icon Clear

Tilman Fertitta tells it like it is in ‘Shut Up and Listen!’ book

You can add “author” to Golden Nugget owner Tilman Fertitta’s list of accomplishments.

In addition to owning Golden Nugget-branded casinos in Las Vegas, Laughlin, New Jersey, Mississippi and Louisiana, Fertitta — third cousin to the Station Casinos-affiliated Fertitta family — owns hotels and spas, aquariums, theme parks, several restaurant chains (including Landry’s and Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Company) and the Houston Rockets. He is a member of the University of Houston board of regents. He’s also a reality TV star, the face of CNBC’s “Billion Dollar Buyer.”

Now he’s on a book tour. On Saturday he made a stop at the Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas to sign copies of “Shut Up and Listen! Hard Business Truths That Will Help You Succeed.”

It’s Fertitta’s first book and probably not his last.

For those hoping for stories about backdoor deals and insights on how the Rockets signed two of the NBA’s last three MVPs, Fertitta shuts up about that.

“That’s for the next book,” Fertitta said in a telephone interview.

“Harper Collins contacted me 18 months ago and said, ‘We’ve been watching your show. We see you on all these business shows. We read all these newspaper and magazine articles, and we love all these Tilmanisms and how you made it and these little tricks of the trade that you use,’ ” he recounted. “And they said, ‘Let’s write a book that kind of just tells how you did it. Let’s not get into life stories and save that for another book. This is just all those little tidbits that made you successful from one restaurant to a $4 billion revenue company with gaming and sports and restaurants and everything else.’ ”

To that end, “Shut Up and Listen!” is more textbook than tell-all.

“It’s an easy read,” he said. “People like it. They like all the Tilmanisms, the 95:5 rule, there are no spare customers, take no out of your damn vocabulary, know your numbers, know what you know, know what you don’t know, and it’s an easy, fun book that people like, regardless if you’re a CEO or a young entrepreneur or a newspaper writer. It’s something that we can all learn from, and it teaches you how to separate yourself from everybody else.”

Tilmanisms are the basic rules he has established for himself as a businessman. He summarized the highlights: Take “no” out of your vocabulary. Know your numbers because numbers don’t lie. Always have Plan B for a worst-case scenario. Businessmen are good at 95 percent of what they do, but they need to know the 5 percent that they don’t.

The book also is peppered with “Tilman’s Targets,” a summary recapping the highlights of each chapter, and “Listen!,” some added emphasis for a given topic.

Fertitta said he can tell within three minutes of a conversation whether people really know what they’re doing. That’s a recurring theme in “Billion Dollar Buyer” when he interviews entrepreneurs “Shark Tank” style to see if he wants to do business with them.

“It’s shocking,” he said. “The reason that people fail is not necessarily because of the product they’re selling. They don’t know their numbers and they don’t know if they’re making money or losing money. They don’t know their receivables. They don’t know their payables. They don’t know their cost of sales. They don’t know what their labor cost is. There are many people that have successful products that are unsuccessful because of the fact that they don’t know their numbers.”

Fertitta is Texas through and through and has an entertaining way of expressing himself on camera and in print, just the way Southwest Airlines co-founder Herb Kelleher used to do it. He makes you want to shut up and listen.

“Despite all my success,” he says in the book, “I walk around every day making sure that the paddle doesn’t get my a–. I can take a few taps, but I don’t want a big swat. Neither do you.”

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
Binion's debuts a spinning bar overlooking Fremont Street Experience
Binion's debuted its spinning bar inside the Whiskey Licker Up Saloon. The Rotating bar only goes at one full rotation per 15 minutes overlooking the Fremont Street Experience. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Day 3 of the 2019 Global Gaming Expo
Day 3 of the 2019 Global Gaming Expo took place at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Southern Nevada could set a new resale-price record in coming months.
The median sales price of previously owned single-family homes – the bulk of the market – was $310,000 in September. Before the economy crashed last decade, prices peaked in June 2006 at $315,000, according to the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors.(Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Walmart container park in Henderson - VIDEO
Henderson could be home to a container park associated with a Walmart Inc. initiative. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Recession lessons could help Las Vegas face next slump - VIDEO
While the last economic downturn had a dramatic impact on local casinos, most experts expect the industry will be better able to weather the storm during the next recession. (Mat Luschek / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM and victims of Oct. 1 reach settlement agreement - VIDEO
MGM Resorts International and lawyers representing potentially thousands of victims of the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip have reached a tentative settlement of between $735 million and $800 million. (Mat Luschek /Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Live music and EDM dominate the night on day 2 of A’Le’Innstock
After sunset bands rocked the crowds at A’Le’Innstock in Rachel, Nevada on the second night of the event.
iPhone 11 Release
Local Las Vegas long time Apple product consumer shares her excitement for the new iPhone 11 release Downtown Summerlin. (Elizabeth Page Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lihi Levin talks about a mobil app Dropit - VIDEO
Lihi Levin, regional manager at Dropit Shopping, talks about a mobil app Dropit. The app lets customers leave their shopping bags at a store then have them delivered the same day to their home or hotel so they can shop without carrying multiple bags all day. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
North Las Vegas company prepares for Mars - VIDEO
Robert Bigelow and his Bigelow Aerospace manufacturing facility played host to eight NASA astronauts and 60 engineers this week getting to know the company’s B330 autonomous, expandable space station. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas developer talks about a new apartment complex called “the yoU”
Frank Marretti lll, founder of G2 Capital Development, talks about his new apartment complex called “the yoU” near UNLV. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Steel cables will hoist roof at Allegiant Stadium - VIDEO
Stainless steel cables are being put into place at Allegiant Stadium to begin the process of putting the roof on the 65,000-seat stadium in Las Vegas. Stadium Chief Operating Officer Don Webb explains how the cables will be used to get the roof put on the future home of the Raiders and UNLV football. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The last remaining Sigma Derby game in Las Vegas
Derek Stevens, owner of the D Las Vegas, talks about the last remaining Sigma Derby horse racing game in Las Vegas inside his casino floor. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich Review
Janine Blake of Las Vegas gives her review of the new Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich at the restaurant’s location on west Bonanza Road on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019,
SuperZoo 2019 takes over Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas
SuperZoo 2019 show for pet retailers brought pet products of all description to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MSG Sphere at The Venetian to cost $1.2B plus
Scheduled to open in 2021, it is expected to be busier than Madison Square Garden in New York. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Favorite products from SuperZoo 2019
Some of the fun and interesting pet products on display at the SuperZoo in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MAGIC Convention Day 3
The fashion trade show MAGIC, held Monday through Wednesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MAGIC Las Vegas - Day One
The biannual MAGIC convention show opened Monday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Allegiant celebrates naming deal with tailgate party
Allegiant Air employees celebrate with a tailgate party after the company’s naming deal with the Raiders for the new Las Vegas stadium.
Nevada's sportsbook operators welcome competition
Sportsbook operators from near and far are looking to get into in the established Nevada market, experts say. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)