by DJ Edgerton (@wiltonbound)
Everything I needed to know about running a client-centric business I learned from bartending.
Sounds simple if you own a bar, but I don’t. I run a digital innovation firm, and although Zemoga staff have been known to consume their fair amount of Spirits and Pilsner, we build applications not Appletinis.
However, the success of a bartender is often due to the same skill set that comes in quite handy sitting across from a client at a conference table. A familiar view for this reformed mixologist. I call on these pearls, learned 20 years ago behind a bar in Brooklyn, NY, and apply them every day.
Here are just a few I’d like to share:
Your tip jar capacity is directly correlated to your listening capacity.
Bars are often places where people go to vent their problems and the welcoming, non-threatening ear of a barkeep is an attractive depository for all of life woes. The trick is to really listen, even if you don’t really care. In business, the same holds true. There is little difference in a bartender suggesting a girl terminate a dead end relationship and a IT firm suggesting you drop Cold Fusion as a platform. I do suggest, however, that you hold off on the “I told you so” finger wagging and make a suggestion to move the relationship to a more “open source” platform.
Clients will always return for a high quality, efficient customer-centric experience.
If a bar patron feels that no matter how long the bar backlog is, a mere nod and wink from the barkeep to will make everyone else and their problem (the drink order) disappear, you’re golden. They know the bartender has got their needs covered and they no longer have to clamor for attention. The same holds true for clients – who know that when a time sensitive business challenge is presented to a trusted vendor, the “We’re on it” is as reassuring as it gets. Now you just need to deliver.
Unexpected moments of “buy back” delight go very far.
It’s not news that the bartender who does a “buy back” (that’s barfly speak for a free drink) needs to devote more time to count the contents of his tip jar at the end of the night. That unexpected moment of delight has driven the relationship between bartender and patron for centuries. It is what makes people return, not just for the economics of free beer, but the fact that at that particular moment in time, when the rest of the mad world was spinning out of control, they were special. We don’t need to get into the reasons why. Just the simple utterance of “… on the house” are words enough. Now I am not suggesting you start to give your product or service away every 4th project, but I do suggest you figure out what item or insight of value in your business arsenal you could share with a client, and give it to them when they least expect it. Expect nothing in return other then their appreciation of the fact that you care about them. To steal from Baudelaire, that gesture alone will get you “drunk on virtue” and help keep your clients regulars.