January 30, 2017

What's in a Name? It's Time to Vote! (#4)

How do you come up with the name of a bar?

After coming up with the "Inflection Point" philosophy (see Post #2), it dawned on me that it was kind of a cool phrase.  While I may have a predisposition for nerdy mathematical terms, I felt that the combination of the geometrical and philosophical components would make for a decent name for the bar.  Sure, it lent itself to a bar with a concept that might be more intellectual (think: debating the best movies of all times with your friends!), mentally stimulating (think: strategy games like, umm,  Cards Against Humanity!), and technological (think: robotic waitstaff with cocktail delivering drones!) which, I fully understand could be perceived to possibly target too narrow of a demographic.  But nevertheless a good name!  "Let's meet up at to the Point!" I could hear them all saying...

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am in the research phase of this bar endeavor.  Over brunch a few weeks ago, my father mentioned a new website where you could pay lots of people almost nothing and get real feedback on ideas, marketing concepts or any "human intelligence task."  It's called Mechanical Turk and it's an Amazon service (www.mturk.com).  And the kernel of an idea began to form... I had gotten a B+ in Market Research class at business school (which makes me like a total EXPERT)!  So, without too much forethought, I went to the site to test it out (cost me $22).  I used wikipedia to find old bar names from movies, I made up some new bar names (turns out, I stole a few existing trademarks accidentally) and even threw some real bar names into the mix. And I asked 200 people to weigh in. [Funny side note: if you type "bar" too fast, it comes out "bra" - so for a moment I got distracted trying to think up new names for bras!]

Ummm, last place?  WTF?

Even worse... first place was... The Blue Parrot? (the rival bar in Casablanca)  The Blue Parrot???

Who were these absolute morons taking this poll?  I had a flash to the fundamental rule of market research: If you are not going to use the results, there is no need to conduct the research.  But thankfully, I also just remembered the second rule of market research... a new study means new results!

So, I have decided to conduct a new poll... a more accurate poll.  Based on you - who I hope to be my future demographic!  Feel free to answer as honestly as possible. Feelings will not be hurt! And besides, the poll is totally anonymous (if I can even figure out how to find the results it will be a minor miracle!  Blogging ain't as easy as it looks!)  What should the new name be?

What's the best name?

Rabble Rouser
The Inflection Point
The Provocateur
The Point
Wit & Sass
Wits End

So, not that it needs to be said, but when the bar opens, if you called the name right.... no free drinks!  I can't have hundreds of people claiming to have named the bar and demanding free rounds all night.  I have a business to run!

I doubt this will be the last discussion about the name, but I feel we are off to a good start.  Feel free to add other suggestions in the comments section! And now, the real work is about to begin. Until next time...


January 24, 2017

Conceptually Speaking (#3)

When I was in college, I took a class called the History of Technology.  The first assignment was to write a short paper on How Something Works.  Really? Anything? Can't we have a tiny bit more guidance?  Nope.  So I began to think. And to think and to think and to think.  Days went by and I came up with an endless number of "things" to write about... and then rejected each one as foolish. I ended up writing a paper on... how a beer keg works.  Yup, of all the "Things" in the world, that's where I landed.  And, surprise!, I got a terrible grade.  I'm not sure I even knew how a keg actually worked! (No Google in those days!)

So when I decided to embark on this bar journey, people started asking me what the "concept" for the bar would be. I would begin to stutter about how it was still in the works and my inner voice would say, "Uhhhh, it's just a... bar?"  Uh-oh.  That was a problem. I needed my hook. My angle.  My "thing."  But coming up with that one perfect idea from the vastness of all potential ideas is not as easy as it would seem - and I was immediately transported back to my History of Technology class. I was screwed.

I really do just want a great neighborhood-like bar that is warm, comfortable and relaxing.  A place to enjoy with your friends, spouse or co-workers, and a place that can foster new relationships.  A place to drink, laugh, tell stories, play some games, ponder life's deepest questions and debate noteworthy topics of our age (like, "Is it possible to swim through a pool filled with mayonnaise?"). And maybe drink some more.  Oh, and I want it to have cool, neat technology embedded throughout.

I also knew that I wanted the bar to be a reflection of my personality. So, for example, a music venue is waaaay out of the question.  But who am I?  Well, without too much soul searching, as it turns out, I am kind of a nerd.  Some who know me would say that I also like to argue - I prefer to use the word "debate" or "engage in witty banter."  Regardless, I wanted some of that to filter into the concept. Oh, and I'm super cool... and Voila! The "nerdy, but cool" bar concept was born.

Alas a "nerdy" bar (even a "cool" nerd) is also not really a complete concept.  But it's the beginning of one. Being the nerd I am, I thought about a way to refine it.  I made a list of desired characteristics:
  • Comfortable
  • Fun
  • Conversational
  • Laughing
  • Witty
  • Lively
  • Debate-y
  • Smart
  • Friendly
  • Cool
  • Thought-provoking
  • Energetic
(Which, in hindsight, kinda reads like the Boy Scout Law.)  In looking at this list and thinking hard, I unearthed the basis of a concept:

The bar will have a decor that is comfortable, cool and relaxed; a place where people can let down their guards and be their true selves.  The general environment will promote lively discourse, encourage debate and will always be thought-provoking.  There may be profound questions or topics posted around the interior.  I imagine a wall with an ever-changing list of the best movies, songs, actors (for example) of all time.  The rules of debate will be known.  Brain-teasing questions will be asked. Strategic (or otherwise) games will be played.  The cocktail and food menu will propagate the theme.  A joyous time will be had by all (yes, even if you are not nerdy nor a debater yourself)!

Defining and executing a concept is a balancing act.  Too much "concept" and you end up potentially too schticky and narrowly focused.  Too little "concept" and you risk not having an identity.  Ultimately, what will dictate success is not the nuances of the concept.  It comes down to a fantastic environment where you are infinitely comfortable not only in the space, but with the people around you.

And now that we are circling around a concept... it's time to revisit the name...


January 16, 2017

The Inflection Point (#2)

Before I begin regaling you with the trials and tribulations of my actual bar R&D pursuits, I would ask that you indulge me this one pedantic post as to how I arrived at this moment in my life. I promise subsequent posts to be more light-hearted (and ideally, good enough for a few laughs)!  But not this one!  This one is profound.  It is compelling.  It is the culmination of years of peer-reviewed research (well, maybe not years, and definitely not peer-reviewed, but definitely a few weeks-worth and, umm, I did drunkenly share the concept with a few guys on a ski trip once).  But I digress...

In everyone's life, there typically comes a few moments of self-assessment – moments of introspection and contemplation. "Am I doing what I want to be doing?" In many instances, the question is little more than rhetorical, as circumstances may dictate the need to continue on the path one is following.  But frequently, the answer to that question is a resounding “No.”  And if other life conditions are right (as mine happen to be right now), an individual can, at a specific moment in time, choose to alter the current direction of the arc of their life, and pursue a different path.  This all-important moment is The Inflection Point (in reality, it is not an instant in time, but rather on the order of many months or even a few years).

“Inflecting” first occurs during during your 20s and could lead to a variety of pursuits, like post-graduate study, a marriage proposal, joining the Peace Corps or enlisting in the military. I know folks who even decided to attempt to write screenplays for a living (let's call this one, more aptly, a brief inflection, followed by rejection, followed by more inflection). I would classify these decisions as life’s first major inflection (say, the leftmost point of the blue curve above). A monumental choice - a decision or group of decisions to guide the next phase of one’s life for years to come.

As one approaches their 40s, however, another moment of self-reflection often occurs (yes, for boys and for girls!).  Cynically referred to as a mid-life crisis, this moment is not necessarily a “crisis” defined by a new car, a new career, a beard, earring and new girl/boyfriend. No, in my story, it is rather a well-thought through decision to pursue something fulfilling in the next phase of life, that which the previous phase might not have afforded (ummm, and a new car).

It is at this Inflection Point, I have decided to (happily) leave corporate America behind and pursue a venture that will allow me to express myself and enjoy myself to the fullest.  I imagine I will be leveraging the skills I have developed over my first "life phase" in a new way.  I intend to maximize the opportunity to achieve the sense of accomplishment I crave, while ideally minimizing other stresses of life along the way.

At the change in the curvature of the arc of my life, I intend to pursue the opening of this bar, tentatively, but appropriately called, The Inflection Point (see how it all comes full circle?).

As mentioned, but definitely worth repeating, I have no experience in this!  So, my first step is research.  And the first step in my research is to go to a bar and get a drink!  Just kidding (I need to go to many bars and get many drinks)! I intend to talk to everyone I know in the industry.  And they'll both probably laugh and laugh at me. But it's where I am starting - good 'ol market research (maybe business school wasn't a complete waste of time and money!)... and, with that, excuse me, I have some work to do.


January 1, 2017

I'm Sorry, What Did You Say?! (#1)

"So, I think I want to open a bar."

The screech of the needle on the record was heard far and wide when I uttered those words to my family.  And the enthusiasm for the idea was, let's just say, slightly underwhelming.  My twelve year old responded with, "Aren't you going to lose all of your money?"  Hmmm... talk about getting right to the point.  I explained to him that it wasn't about the money.  My wife suggested that it was a hard business, which I may have misinterpreted into her saying she thought it wasn't a respectable profession.  "You'll never be home," said my fourteen year old daughter.  To which I replied that lots of jobs, including respectable ones like doctors... and, ummm, carnies, do not adhere to "corporate" business hours.

Skepticism persisted.  

I needed my ace in the hole.  And then it dawned on me, I showed them some scenes from the critically acclaimed standout of all bartending movies (or at least in the top 10), Cocktail (Coyote Ugly was a close second):

And who wouldn't want that kind of life?  I could tell - even though they insisted I was still nuts - they started coming around. I could tell.

But the truth is I had done my research.  Kind of.  It was not the research that would provide me any knowledge in the area of whether I could actually successfully do this (my only bar experience - aside from the ample time sitting in front of one - having been working for a lazy summer at The Cactus Club in Boston, ummm, 20 years ago), but the research I had done was more introspective.  A self-assessment, if you will:
  • I like people
  • I like having a sense of accomplishment 
  • I like multi-tasking 
  • I like beer
  • I like hard work with a commensurate reward
  • I like solving problems
  • I like process and technology 
  • I like cocktails
  • I like creating something from nothing
  • I like chatting, debating and laughing
  • I like beer nuts
  • I don't like sitting all day
  • I don't like being alone
And if that list doesn't scream out "Open a bar!" Honestly, I don't know what list will!
So, here my journey begins.  If you have ever thought that one day owning a bar would be "cool" or if you find it wildly humorous that someone who has spent about 20 years in the corporate world with zero restaurant/bar/food services experience would decide that this was their new path, and you just need a good hearty laugh at someone else's failures and poor lack of judgement - whatever your curiosities - I invite you to join me on this journey.

I expect it to be enlightening, humorous and even introspective.  And with any luck, 12 months from now, you can grab a drink with me and we can discuss how you foresaw the wrong turns I took, but decided not to add a comment on this blog (at which point, I will call you a wuss)!  And we can have that discussion... at my bar.