So a little back story. Three months to the completion of my National Service, I realized that the organization I was working with were not going to retain me and of course dredging the fear of sitting at home doing nothing sparked an idea for me. I decided to start a bar with the help of my Aunt whom I was living with at the time. She had an uncompleted container which I successfully convinced her to convert into a bar. I successfully started the bar with her help and that’s when reality struck me hard. Here are just a few of what I learnt on the job.
Master your emotions
Being a bartender is one of the toughest jobs out there especially when you have to entertain some of the rudest people you will ever encounter in your life especially drunk ones. I had to handle drunk customers who would misbehave and rant about irrelevant issues and eventually forgetting what they were arguing about. The most annoying customers were the ones I would tolerate for long hours only for them to inform me that they did not have enough money to pay for their drinks. The nostalgia I am getting from just writing this is just overwhelming. It was through these experiences that I learnt to control my emotions and find solutions to some of the problems which of course were not always amicable.
Beware of friends turned customers
When I informed my friends about the bar, most of them were very supportive; giving me ideas and even convincing their other friends to hang out at my place. However, some of these friends became some of my worst customers, drinking on credit and taking forever to pay their debt. Earlier, I found it very hard constantly reminding them to pay on time due to the fear of losing them as customers. But then I realized later that I was hurting my business. This affected the quantity of drinks I could buy at a time and honestly it was just a head ache. So I decided to set some ground rules to protect the business and I didn’t care if I lost them as customers since they were already ruining my business.
Don’t get high on your own supply
When profits improved, I started to relax on some of the rules I had set for the business and eventually, I started consuming from the bar without paying. This started with a bottle of beer at the end of the day to three bottles daily! It took me a while to realize how this was affecting the bar since I presumed the bar was steadily growing and my “tiny” vice would not collapse the bar. “I am the boss and I can do whatever you want” is a one way ticket to the collapse of your business. Always pay for goods or services from your own business. Its good practice.
A month into the business, I started daydreaming about new ideas to make the bar better, new items to spice up the place which of course involved spending. I wanted to get a pool table, tile the floor and so many other ideas. This always made me find fault with the bar and blame its slow growth on the lack of some of these things. But then I realized that there were a lot of bars in town that my setup was way better than, but they had more clients than I did! The major similarity between those bars was that they had been in business for a long time. It takes a while for a new bar to grow clientele, but with excellent customer service, you can speed up the process. Sometimes, there is the likelihood to feel that your business is constipated, but just keep on and be consistent because it takes time to build a great business.
Develop a tough skin
Here I was, a graduate turned bartender and you can imagine the kind of conversations people would have with you about finding “office work”. I had seen my journey into entrepreneurship as an opportunity to grow an empire through small beginnings, but family and friends always had something pessimistic to say. It is tough branching out from the norm especially in this country where societal milestones have been set for us to achieve by a particular period of time. And I must say, this got to me hard. I was weak and as much as I fought, I finally gave up and got a job I did not like. Entrepreneurship can be tough! But if you really want to make it, you need to be able to think for yourself and understand why you are taking this journey if not, the “boos” will get to you and you will give up.
To the entrepreneurs out there grinding away I say, all the best in your journey and Godspeed!
Author: Francis Abagrey