Pounding the Rock

Throughout his successful career, Michael Dominguez has focused on the journey, not just the destination. 

MGM Resorts International
Senior Vice President, Corporate Sales

Homtown: San Antonio

College: University of Text at San Antonio, University of Texas at Austin

"Life isn't necessarily about getting all the accolades; it's about making sure that everyone has a voice and knows that they're cared about." 

Hospitality professionals typically have similar items on their desks, including a computer, a telephone, some papers and trays. Curiously, the members of Michael Dominguez’s sales leadership team at MGM Grand Las Vegas all have another, seemingly less useful item on their desks—a rock. 

“Everybody is trying to replicate what the San Antonio Spurs did last year to win the NBA championship,” says Dominguez, a native of San Antonio and diehard Spurs fan. “The team’s motto is ‘pounding the rock,’ emphasizing the importance to keep improving, and I want my team to keep that motto in mind.” 

The motto was adapted from a quotation by Danish-American social reformer Jacob Riis: “When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the 101st blow, it will split in two, and I know it was not the blow that did it, but all that had gone before.” 

To Dominguez, like Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, the phrase “pounding the rock” also underscores the importance of focusing on the journey, not just the destination.

“We need to keep asking, ‘Are we better today than we were yesterday?’” Dominguez says. 

This perspective is central to his approach as he works as senior president of corporate sales for MGM Resorts International, maintains a very active public-speaking schedule and serves in leadership positions with several hospitality industry organizations, including co-chair of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition and member (and immediate past chairman) of the Meeting Professionals International board of directors.

It also reflects the work ethic he developed while growing up and later cultivated as he moved up the ranks in the hospitality industry.

“I was raised in a very closely knit, loving Catholic family,” Dominguez says. “I have one sibling, Jake Dominguez; he and I received a lot of discipline from our parents, and as a result developed a great sense of responsibility—but one of the things I remember most is all the laughter we shared.”

As a youngster, he participated in a variety of sports, but dropped out of organized athletics while attending John Jay High School to focus on his classwork and leadership roles. He served as president of the student council during his senior year, and oversaw 60 community projects, five of which won state awards. Dominguez also regularly attended summer leadership workshops, where he learned an important lesson that he has embraced throughout his career: Truly great leaders need to know when they need to follow.

When he was 15 years old, Dominguez landed a job busing tables on weekends and holidays at Hyatt Regency San Antonio. He subsequently served in several food and beverage positions with Hyatt properties, including Hyatt Regency Suites Palm Springs in California, where the general manager, Brad Poncher, urged him to consider a sales career.

Dominguez wholeheartedly embraced Poncher’s suggestion and hasn’t looked back since. After pounding the stone with several companies and organizations, he became vice president of sales and services for the Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau from 2002 to 2005 and vice president of global sales for Loews Hotels from 2005 to 2012. He has served in his current position with MGM since 2012.

“The hotel industry is very chaotic, but I can’t imagine doing anything else,” he says. “I get a rush out of it—those of us who are successful in the industry enjoy the grind.”

Dominguez acknowledges that the grind involves plenty of challenges, including those he faces daily at MGM.

“But I’m not afraid to make big decisions; it’s my job to make them, not to make sure everybody likes them,” he says.

Team members are involved in the decision-making process, however; Dominguez highly encourages transparency and strong communication with them.

“At one point in my career, I cut out using a middle man,” he says. “I communicate directly with all of my sales managers, and I invite all of them to put themselves on my calendar for a 30-minute meeting. They can talk about anything and ask me whatever they want.

“I’ve had about 35 of those meetings; most of the conversations are about what team members want to do in their careers, or about what I do. The fact that they’re comfortable enough to reach out to me tells me that we’re being successful.”

Dominguez has displayed the same accessibility while serving on industry boards and in other leadership positions, and the wide breadth of his experiences has given him insights into industry issues.

“One of the main challenges we face is how to deal with big data,” he says. “There’s an incredible amount of data flowing around, and we need to be careful how we correlate and make sense of it as we move the industry forward.

“When trying to understand millennials, for example, we need to start breaking them up instead of looking at them as one group; some are similar to the older generations, while others aren’t at all.” 

Dominguez has received many prestigious honors during his career, including being named one of the Top 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales & Marketing (2014) by Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International, and one of the 25 Most Influential Hispanics in Business in North America (2013) by Hispanic Business Magazine.

Despite his busy schedule, Dominguez still manages to keep most of his weekends free to be with friends and family (including wife Marcie, whom he describes as a “very supportive partner”). And he’s found that one family member isn’t at all awestruck by his illustrious career.

“Breana Dominguez, one of my three adult children, isn’t impressed with my career at all. She’s only impressed with me as her dad,” he says, laughing.

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