Do You Want To Get The Win, Or Do You Want To Get The Win *Your Way*?

Adaptation is an indispensable part of any success. Unfortunately, sometimes entrepreneurs have it in their heads that winning can only happen one way

I vividly recall watching an episode of Bar Rescue some years back. The episode was a about a pirate-themed bar in downtown Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. They had a cluster of problems, and as is often the case, those problems are easily diagnosed and corrected by other, from the outside, but the bar just couldn’t seem to get them sorted out. Those problems include:  

  • Their theme – a pirate ship galley – was out-of-place in the area, which was mostly professionals looking for a place to relax and socialize or network after work; a place to schmooze clients during the day. A sort of culinary Disneyland for adults, the themed bar included not just pirate décor and lighting, but full pirate dress for the servers and staff. 
  •  The male chef had some personality issues and wasn’t the most popular person at the restaurant, but he was protected by virtue of the fact he was in a relationship with the female owner, creating a kind of toxic political situation, with overlapping relationships (business and romantic). His input and whims mattered more than they should, and his mistakes were immaterial.
  • The staff were over-pouring drinks, and the business was losing money by effectively giving away alcohol.
  • The drinks were sweet island drinks and not really suited for the clientele or demographic in the area. The cost margins were also bad.
  • The bar suffered from low morale and high turnover. 
  • Lastly, the bar/owner was $900,000 in debt. 

So, the Bar Rescue TV show came to help them out.

It’s important to ask yourself: Do you want to win, or do you want to win your way? This can be writ small – in how you’re addressing your market’s needs – or writ large, by asking whether you’re in the right market or line of business entirely. Maybe your goal is to be wealthy, and *not necessarily* be wealthy as a world-renown rock guitarist. One of these objectives is decidedly more difficult to achieve. 

So the Bar Rescue team arrived and all got to work. Like The Apprentice, their schtick is to be so competent and experienced they can be rude, feeding the drama. Otherwise you wouldn’t have a television show.

They call the shots; and everything the advisors say makes a lot of sense. Again, it’s kind of easy to spot and cure other peoples’ problems

Working with the bar owner, they begin changing menus, staff attire, retraining employees, and remodeling the restaurant. I they called the new bar metro or something on-the-nose. The design was modern: glass and steel.

To wit: it no longer looked like a tourist attraction – oddly situated in the Financial District of downtown Pittsburg.  

They advertised and planned a grand reopening all over downtown Pittsburg. The day came and they were gangbusters. The changes were a brilliant success. 

The Bar Rescue TV show people moved on, went to focus on another bar in need, and checked-in after some months. 

The owner had reverted back to the pirate theme. Except, because they’d lost their lanterns and woodwork and ‘galley’ appearance, it was now people dressed as pirates, serving island drinks, in an industrial steel and glass, modern bar. 

They changed the menu back. 

They were back to drama in the kitchen, over-pouring drinks, low morale – and were a worst of both worlds hybrid of the pirate theme, and the ‘metro’ theme. 

They weren’t doing much business. And they were back to losing money. 

The bar owner didn’t want to surrender the idea of winning *her way*. In another location – or even city (Clearwater, Florida), this might have been a great success. 

It may or may not be a good idea to pivot every time the season changes. We’re not saying that. In fact, we address that in another article. But if you have a winning formula, going back to something that you know doesn’t work is basically self-sabotage. 

The take-home lesson here is: ask yourself if you’re insisting on getting the win, or getting a win, any way you can. The broader your objective, the more ways there are to achieve it, and the more flexibility you have.

In researching for this post, I learned the bar owner actually blamed the Bar Rescue show for the business closing a few years later.