Going it Alone

This week I’ve been starting to realise just how cool it is to be working on a project of my own, as opposed to something owned by someone else.

I’ve been pretty lucky on the job front. At different times I have tended bar, taught people how to snowboard, crewed on sailing boats and most recently, edited a bar magazine in Sydney. I loved doing all of those things, and never once had the dreaded ‘Sunday night fear’.

But doing something for myself feels different. This experience has made me think back to two bar managers I worked for, and their varying approaches to life.

The first ran a beer and shooter joint at the bottom of a ski slope in Colorado, which was owned by the resort company. He was a good lad. A little older than me, pretty easy going and not too fussed if the stock-take didn’t quite add up at the end of the week, if you get my drift.

Everyone loved working for him. Customer experience was what it was; by the nature of the venue we didn’t have regulars, often not seeing the same face twice in a week. He was no different to me or anyone else working in the bar, save for a slightly bigger pay check.

The second owned a little dive bar in South West London. This guy was altogether different. He tended to micromanage every decision made and you could count on getting 10 or so phone calls from him during an eight hour shift if he was away from the bar.

The staff had mixed feelings about him if I’m honest, and yet our customers loved the place. We had a very loyal core of regulars and would often be told by new faces that they had come because of glowing reviews given by their friends.

While the second chap’s management technique may not have been textbook, he had a very clear idea of how he wanted his customers to be served (his financial survival depended on it) and he made sure that the bar, his baby, was treated right.

I think, aside from the pressure of making money, pride of ownership had a lot to do with his approach. That and the fact that it is easier to motivate yourself to go that bit further when you are doing it for yourself, not because your boss told you to.

I guess that explains why a lot of the best bars out there are run by bartenders who have gone it alone. More power to you, and BarLifeUK salutes you…