Exec’s thrills: Business, sports, fast cars, educating children

Johnny McMahon learned the value of customer service during his 20-plus years working in the hospitality industry. Recently, he became president and chief operating officer of SpeedVegas.

Johnny McMahon is president and chief operating officer of SpeedVegas, a driving attraction in which guests can get behind the wheel of their dream car and give it a spin on a 12-turn race track with a half-mile straightaway. Even people who don’t know how to drive a manual transmission can experience the exotic cars available.

Do you have any recent news you’d like to share?

Following some restructuring of the company, SpeedVegas experienced one of its strongest quarters to date and we’re anticipating an unbelievable 2018. We’ve got some exciting things planned and look forward to not only becoming one of Las Vegas’ premier entertainment destinations, but ingraining ourselves into the community with continued philanthropic efforts.

On a more personal note, working with the SpeedVegas team has been one of the highlights of my career — it’s an absolute dream job. I’ve had the opportunity to watch this attraction grow into something special and can’t wait to see what the future brings.

What sets SpeedVegas apart from other driving experiences in the valley?

SpeedVegas is the only attraction of its kind that was built from the ground up and solely designed to be a driving experience. The track is an expertly designed, Formula One-inspired track — the longest and fastest track in Las Vegas. We’re only 10 minutes from the Strip for tourists, easily accessible off Interstate 15 for locals, and have a fleet of supercars and muscle cars — Ferraris, Porsches, Lamborghinis, Corvettes and more.

How many people are on your staff, and what is your management style?

We have about 70 team members, including driving instructors, management, car technicians and more. My management style is direct — honest, transparent and to-the-point. I believe in taking my time to hire the right team members and then taking a step back to let them do their jobs. It’s important not to micromanage. Let them do their jobs and hold them accountable when necessary.

You previously worked in the nightlife industry and more recently at Topgolf. Tell us about that and how it prepared you for your current position.

For more than 20 years, I cut my teeth in the hospitality/food and beverage industries, which taught me so many valuable lessons on customer service that I have carried forward. In these types of positions, it’s a priority to give our guests the greatest experience possible on every level, from the second they walk through the door until they take a victory photo after their ride.

My previous positions also taught me how to properly put together a management team, run a business day-to-day, multitask and, most importantly, organize my day, which allows me to be a more effective manager.

What is your favorite exotic car to take a spin in?

Without question, the Ferrari 458 Italia. It’s the most incredible car I’ve ever driven — it’s fast, beautiful and handles the track unlike any other supercar. There’s nothing like going 100-plus mph. I love being behind the wheel.

If you could change one thing about Southern Nevada, what would it be?

There’s nothing more important than educating future generations. To properly achieve that, we need to make a larger investment into education.

We recently hosted a group from Delta Academy — their English teacher Lance Patterson selected the film series “The Fast and the Furious” as this past quarter’s theme. The students used the films to learn about science, math, social studies and English, and they came to SpeedVegas as the end-of-quarter field trip. Those types of educators are making a difference in the lives of these students and really giving them something to relate to. We need more educators like Patterson, and more resources for teachers to be able to do their jobs.

What’s your favorite local spot for a business meeting or power lunch?

My new favorite spot would be a Vegas Golden Knights game. What they’ve done for this community in such a short time is incredible. They’ve brought the community together, and there’s nothing like taking a colleague or possible business partner to a professional sporting event.

As for a power lunch, I enjoy going to Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab at Caesars Palace. The food and atmosphere are incredible, and the customer service is as good as it gets in Las Vegas.

What is your dream job outside of your current field?

General manager of an NFL football team, preferably the Pittsburgh Steelers. There’s an excitement and a unique challenge to knowing every decision made can tip the balance of a season one way or the other. On top of being a part of the football team I grew up rooting for, the position would be a combination of two of my greatest passions — sports and business.

If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?

I’d likely choose San Diego or the Caribbean. Having been born and raised in Fargo, N.D., I would do just about anything to never see a snowflake again. Golf and warm weather make me happy.

Whom do you admire?

The person I admire most in this world is my mother. She was a single mother of three boys and gave up many of her own dreams and aspirations to make sure my brothers and I received an education and had everything we ever needed. She’s my hero, an inspiration and I’ll never be able to truly repay her for the sacrifices she’s made for me and my family.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

My biggest pet peeve in life and in business is dishonesty. Being truthful and trustworthy, especially in the small Las Vegas entertainment industry, is of the utmost importance. Once you’re seen as dishonest, it’s going to be a tough road.

What is something that people might not know about you?

Although I am not a father, I’m the proud uncle of four beautiful nieces, and that’s given me a soft spot for kids. I try to focus all of my personal philanthropic efforts toward enriching the lives of children in the Las Vegas community.