Business Management Tips: From a Bangkok Blues Bar Owner

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If you treat your business like a party, eventually that party will end.” Bangkok-based business owner Nikhil Pawa shares some business management tips he wish he knew before he ran his own bar.

At the age of 26, I was fortunate enough to own and operate a blues bar in the heart of Bangkok, called Apoteka. I hadn’t worked in the hospitality industry for five years, and going back into the industry was going to be a hell of a challenge.

But nonetheless, I accepted the challenge. Little did I know this door was about to open 101 other doors for me. As with anything you do in life, growth is learning, and here are 7 business management tips I’ve picked up in managing my first bar.

How To Manage A Business Effectively:

The sooner I understood these business management tips, the sooner my growth professionally and personally expanded. 

1. Don’t get drunk on your own merchandise

how to manage a business effectively

Just because you own a bar does not mean you can drink as much of your own supply as you want. If you treat your business like a party, eventually that party will end. Have a drink every now and then with your clients to make bonds that last a lifetime, but remember that you’re running a business, not a charity. Entertain your clients but don’t shower them (and yourself) with drinks.  

2. You’re only as strong as your team

This is one of the most important business management tips. The strength of your operations lies in the hands of your team members in your absence. Cultivate talent and work on weaknesses. Teach your team to strive for excellence and high service standards. Let them grow giving way to your growth.

3. Eyes lie, numbers don’t

If you really want to know where your business stands, your accounts will tell you 90% of what you need to know. If you keep track of your book keep and make sure that your cheques never bounce, sponsors will be 110% ready to back your business. 

4. Just because you want to believe the best about people doesn’t make it true

In this line of business, pilferage is common. Everyone has intentions, some bad, some good. You won’t know just by looking at their faces. The actions of an individual speaks a million more words about their ethics and character than whatever they’re saying. Listen or observe more, and talk less.

We had a brilliant cashier earlier this year, she was great at numbers, had great people skills, and treated customers as royalty. But we soon found out that she was selling drinks, and pocketing the money. She was playing accountant, manipulating numbers, transactions, and bills.

Now keep in mind that if I didn’t trust my numbers I would have never been able to see the clearer picture. As soon as we found out, we terminated her contract immediately, as well as the contracts of two bartenders who were her accomplices. But I was ultimately the one at fault for not spotting it earlier. I wanted to believe the best about my team, which was an expensive mistake to make.

5. Every structure needs a chain of command

how to manage a business effectively

As with every business, at the end of the day, the chain of command plays a big role. Your investors shouldn’t overpower management and give orders direct to operations, as that will mess up your structure. Boundaries need to be set, responsibilities need to be delegated and executed. Lead with passion and an iron first. Set targets that are realistic and execute via a set chain of command, from investors to management to operations.

6. Simplicity is often overlooked

Think practically when planning what you serve. More often than not we tend to think complexity is what sells. I learned this the hard (and expensive) way.

We had a new menu with dishes that were borderline extravagant for what was a blues bar. Our new menu offered racks of lamb, steaks, filet mignon, all plated like a fine dining establishment. As soon as our menu launched, we soon realised that even though we were impressing people taste-wise, aesthetically it was pretentious, unnecessarily complex, and out of place.  

7. Bad reviews are good

As with everything, there is a yin and there is a yang in business. In this industry, the only way to know what you’re doing wrong is to listen to what your customers are saying—especially the complaints. Don't ignore the Zomato or TripAdvisor negative reviews. Constantly focusing on positive reviews will just stunt your own progress.

Do you agree with Nikhil's business management tips? If you have any business management tips of your own, share it in the comment section below.

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