Kelly Nelson sitting in a prior Bristol office in 2004

Pictured: Kelly Nelson in a prior Bristol office in 2004

April 17, 2019 – Today marks Senior Vice President Kelly Nelson’s 24th year at Bristol Associates. Kelly joined Bristol in 1995 as an executive recruiter in the Hotels & Resorts industry. He became a key contributor in the development of the Travel/Tourism, Theme Park & Attractions, and Facilities & Concession Services practices that further expanded our Hospitality industry practice to what it is today.

He is a native of the Midwest and a proud alumnus of The University of Iowa as a member of the fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta. He is a past and/or current member of numerous professional associations, including AHLA, HSMA, SITE, MPI, USTOA, PATA, ASTA, CLIA, and IAAPA.  Prior to Bristol Associates, Kelly served as Vice President Marketing, Lady Luck Gaming; Sr. Vice President Sales and Marketing at Hawaiian Airlines; and COO of The Carlson Travel Group.

We asked Kelly a series of questions to reflect on his career journey thus far.

How did you join Bristol Associates?
In 1994, I was serving as the Vice President of Marketing for Lady Luck Gaming Corporation, based in Las Vegas. We were opening casinos in Mississippi, Iowa, and Colorado, and Bristol Associates was our executive recruiting firm of choice. I met personally with the owner, Jim Bright, and he assisted me in filling numerous property level positions. Lady Luck reorganized in late 1994, and I suddenly found myself a candidate, as opposed to a client. Jim approached me several months later and asked if I would consider executive recruiting, and the rest was history.

What is your favorite memory working at Bristol Associates?
I think assisting in the recruiting, training, and mentoring of new employees joining the company, and in so doing – adding to the development of our corporate culture. Now, I actually report to one of these (no longer so) junior associates. Our President and current owner Ben Farber joined the organization in August of 2003, and now provides direction and leadership to the organization. I find it a very memorable accomplishment to assist young people in the growth of their careers.

What is your proudest accomplishment at Bristol Associates?
My proudest accomplishment came last year. It was a story of “coming full cycle”. I started my career directly after college, and my first managerial assignment was in the travel industry working as a Branch Manager for AAA Iowa World Travel. I was a working retail travel agent, and managed a small branch in Waterloo, Iowa. Last year, Bristol Associates was selected by the National American Automobile Association (AAA) to manage their search for a key executive to lead their entire travel enterprise. While it is just one of the many significant placements that I have made in the industry, I am particularly proud that I was able to give back to an organization that was so integral to my early career success.

In what ways has Bristol Associates changed from when you first started working for the company?
The obvious answer is technology and the progressive use of the internet as a recruiting tool. However, what may be more important is to reflect on is what has not changed at Bristol Associates.  While trends and techniques have changed, we have never wavered from our steadfast commitment to ethical operation, quality, high touch customer service, and confidentiality for both clients and candidates.

In what ways have you changed since you started working at Bristol Associates?
I was virtually untrained in matters of technology – I did not even own a personal computer. Hard to imagine in retrospect. I had the other attributes for success in recruiting – transactional skills, the ability to negotiate, marketing skills, closing abilities, etc.  But, without the training provided by Bristol, I would not have been able to keep up with the advance of technology.

What has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?
I have always had a strong motivation to succeed.  I had already worked in sales and had experience in dealing with rejection.  I think principle to my success has been my ability to garner an understanding of the needs of the customer, and to find creative ways to fill that need.  I have focused on the theory of “find the need and fill it” throughout my career.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
Growing up as a kid, my father was a salesperson. It became apparent to me in life that I had the ability to influence, negotiate, and close. It was just a question of where to apply those skills in a future career.  My interest in foreign travel and adventure drove me to the travel industry. Truly, my avocation became my vocation.

What hobbies do you do outside of work?
I am an avid international adventure traveler, recently returning from the Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. I have had the opportunity to travel extensively, visiting virtually all continents in the world. These adventures have included eight major trips to Africa. As a somewhat associated hobby, I am a collector of cartography (antique maps), and an amateur photographer. I generally find a way to get a round of golf in every week.

Congratulations Kelly for 24 years at Bristol Associates! Your strong dedication and commitment to the company and Hospitality industry has brought inspiration and life-changing career opportunities to many. We are fortunate to have an exemplary mentor like yourself on our team.


Bristol Associates, Inc. is an executive search firm with over 50 years of excellence in recruiting nationwide. Bristol specializes in recruiting for companies in the casino gaming, food manufacturing, hospital/healthcare, hotels/resorts, travel/tourism/attractions, facilities/concessions, and restaurant businesses.

If you’re interested in working with Bristol Associates, click here if you’re an employer or here if you’re a job seeker.

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter here

[Image] Magnifying glass hovering over candidate resumes (What Do Employers Look For in Executive Candidates?)

Experience isn’t the only aspect that employers look for when it comes to hiring. Having worked with clients for over 50 years, Bristol understands the complex wants and needs of employers searching to fill a role at their company. It takes the right mix of experience, skill, personality, and fit within company culture for a candidate to land an executive position. Our seasoned recruiters share their insight regarding what employers commonly look for when searching for executive candidates.

Read More

Image of a magnifying glass hovering over the words "Dream Job." Surrounding the magnifying glass are clouds, an arrow and target, a CV resume, and a briefcase. - What Do Executive Candidates Look For In Employers?

In today’s job market, employers are competing to attract quality candidates into their companies. Because candidates have more opportunities available to them, it is important for employers to understand what they can do to be distinguished as a viable choice of employment.

Bristol recently posted the results to last year’s Casino Gaming Executive Satisfaction Survey Results, which received a total of 1,363 respondents. Executives were asked to rank six factors from highest to lowest priorities when it came down to choosing their employers. The six factors include: Career Opportunity and Growth; Compensation (i.e. base, bonus, stock, grants, and options); Corporate Culture (i.e. receiving recognition in job, relationship with co-workers and immediate supervisor, company values); Job Security; Location; and Weather and Lifestyle.

Read More

We are excited to announce the results of the 18th Annual Casino Gaming Executive Satisfaction Survey. The survey, conducted in partnership with Spectrum Gaming, received a total of 1,363 responses, which is our highest respondent count to date.

The survey analysis conveys how the attitudes and preferences of casino gaming professionals have changed over the past decade and how they relate to overall market conditions.

Read More

Recruitment Myth - Fact-Myth Teeter

When it comes to recruitment, people tend to have common misconceptions about the process for both candidates and clients alike. As a candidate or client, it’s important to understand the recruitment process in order to ensure that the practice is being utilized effectively.

We asked our executive recruiters to share and debunk recruitment myths they have come across while working in their field.

Recruitment Myth #1: All search firms are the same.

There are different kinds of recruitment firms that focus on specific industries, position levels, and types of work. It is important for candidates and clients alike to research if the search firm is a right fit for their experience and needs, respectively.

Simply put, if a candidate that specializes in the Casino industry tries to submit their resume to a firm that focuses in Healthcare, the chances of the recruiter reaching out to the candidate for career opportunities are slimmer. The same idea applies for a client who is searching for a specific type of candidate that may not be predominant in the search firm’s existing database.

Read More

[Image] People in internal interview process

When a position opens within a company, most organizations consider the option of extending the application to internal and external applicants. The internal interview may appear to be a smooth and easy process for employees who already work for the company, but it still requires the same amount of time and effort as an external interview to succeed.

Tip #1: Act Like an External Applicant

As an existing team member, be prepared to submit an updated resume when applying for the open position. It’s important to respect the internal process as one would for an external process by researching the position, dressing in appropriate interview attire, and preparing for the interview.

Even though you may know the interviewers in the panel, being too lax during the interview may come off as arrogant. Keep in mind that even though you may think you are the most qualified for the position, other internal or external candidates may prove to be a better fit for the role. Not taking the process seriously may decrease the likelihood of attaining the job.

>>> Read: Oops! Common Interview Mistakes Candidates Make

Tip #2: Use Your Knowledge to Your Advantage

Unlike external candidates, internal candidates have the advantage of having an inside perspective by already working for the company. It’s important to refresh your basic knowledge about the company while tying in what you have learned from your first-hand experience working for the organization.

If there are any changes that can be made within the company that can lead to the growth and success of the organization, be sure to address it in a constructive way, using solid examples from work experience. Showing proactivity in consistently improving the company can be a positive way to stand out from the other applicants.

Read More

On October 10, 2018, Bristol’s President Benjamin Farber moderated the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) panel, Taking Charge of Your Career to Achieve Your Preferred Future. Joining Ben on the panel were Bellagio’s Human Resources Director Brenda Dysinger and Affinity Gaming’s Director of Human Resources Greg Kite. The three executives discussed two major areas of development to provide professionals with the necessary tools to prepare for their future: Effective Networking and Nailing the Interview Process.

Read More

Recruitment Tips: Hire Smart

This piece is an adaptation of a previous article written by Roberta Borer in 1995, who was a former SVP here at Bristol Associates, Inc. Roberta was in the executive search business for over 30 years and specialized in the healthcare industry.

The competition to attract, recruit, and retain employees is keen. As an employer, how do you make your job offer the one top candidates accept?

Before starting the hiring process, use the need to hire a new employee as an opportunity to examine the organization and the reason why past employees left. Take an objective look at the program and use this vacancy as an opportunity to correct or amend what can be done to benefit the organization.

Is this a “fill-able” job? If the company is experiencing high turnover, consider the following: Is the compensation offered appropriate for the position? Is the position the right need for the company? Is the company in a geographic location that makes it challenging to attract top-notch candidates?

Read More

Letter of Recommendation [Image]

A strong letter of recommendation can distinguish a candidate’s application from the rest. Taking the time to obtain a letter of recommendation will leave a positive impact with the employer or recruiter reviewing the application. On the other hand, writing a letter of recommendation is a great way to pay it forward and contribute to the success of the candidate’s career.

Whether you are the candidate requesting the letter, or the employer responsible for writing the recommendation, it is essential to understand how to write a letter of recommendation that will leave a lasting impression.

What makes a compelling letter of recommendation?

Here are some helpful guidelines to write a strong letter of recommendation:

  • Print the letter on company letterhead
  • Personalization and sincerity is key – avoid using letter of recommendation templates
  • Explain the professional relationship and the duration spent working with the candidate
  • Give specific examples of the value and impact that the candidate has made in the company
  • Highlight the candidate’s hard and soft skills that greatly benefitted the company
  • When signing off the letter, include a handwritten signature along with the employer’s typed name, job title, and contact information
  • Proofread to avoid typos or grammatical errors

Read More

Casino Survey Graphic

Calling All Casino Professionals! 

We are pleased to announce that Bristol Associates, Inc. is conducting the 18th Annual Casino Gaming Executive Satisfaction Survey in conjunction with Spectrum Gaming Group.

Our survey is designed to help the gaming industry attract, retain, and motivate its executive talent by providing insight on executives’ overall attitudes and preferences at their workplace. The following questions will be analyzed in our survey results:

  • Which casino companies do executives want to work for?
  • How do executives quantify overall work satisfaction?
  • What factors (i.e. career growth, location, etc.) are the highest priority when executives choose their employer?

This year, two casino executives will be randomly selected to win a $50 gift card for completing the survey. To be eligible for the raffle, you must fill out your email address at the end of the survey and be a current or former casino executive employee. Only one entry per survey participant.

All individual responses will be kept confidential.

Take the Survey Here