Why the Owner is a Bad Apple

Many people I know enjoy at least one television reality show that they will admit as being a guilty pleasure. Mine happens to be “Bar Rescue.”

The premise of the show is that within just a few days, bar turnaround expert Jon Taffer can change mindsets, educate the staff, straighten out lousy owners, remodel the venue and rebrand the bar to appeal to a demographic that will make the business profitable.

As each episode begins, Taffer enters a failing bar like a new Sheriff riding into a crime-ridden Western town.

In no time flat he determines what works, what doesn’t and what needs to change. This formula consists of calling out individual employees dragging the business down, financially and operationally.

One of the most exciting elements of each episode is the creation of a new brand for the bar. Taffer utilizes all elements – people, education, remodeling, signage and organizational changes – so that the owner, employees and customers all have a better experience. The transformation is always fun to watch.

To accomplish this goal, Taffer must change both hearts and minds. Those employees that can adapt keep their job and those that won’t find themselves out of work.

Taffer comes into a bar because it is failing financially. The core reasons the bar has issues are outright owner neglect, indifference, a poor attitude based on past event, or simply burnout. A common theme is a lack of technical understanding of how a bar makes money. This all makes for entertaining television.

In all of the “Bar Rescue” episodes I have watched, and in thinking about some of the business owners I’ve met and perhaps consulted to, I’ve witnessed these characteristics that explain why the business they own is doing poorly:

-These are individuals who think they are working hard, and may appear to work hard, but often don’t do either. While they are proud to be the owner, they don’t really want to either lead or manage.

-They do not supervise. Subordinates never hear praise and rarely get direction or feedback. Formal performance appraisals never take place. Employees are often told “Good job,” but it is never in reference to anything specific.

-Follow-up and follow-through is non-existent. While always talking a good game, the owner often fails to honor commitments. Employees cue on that and use it to their advantage.

-No one is ever fired. These owners grumble about the mistakes that employee make. But that is all they do. Employees know the bark is far worse than the bite. Eventually, they ignore the barking.

-Employee training never takes place. The owner assumes people hired know what to do. It is too much work and too big of a hassle with minimal returns.

-Growing the company is okay as long as the owner doesn’t have to work any harder for it to happen.

These owners also lack two other things that have caused their bars to decline. The first is lack of vision; they do not see the lack of cleanliness and disrepair of their own facility. They fail to see that new customers are not being acquired and that old customers are not returning.

The second is their ambiguity related to trust. Being total control freaks, these owners will not allow anyone to make decisions about how the bar runs; yet the lack of control at the point of pour is the primary reason each bar highlighted have major financial issues.

Either your business is growing or it is dying. The only person actually being paid to figure which category it falls into is the owner, and that same person is ultimately responsible for leading it the direction of most benefit for the shareholders.