Old School Vs. New School workshop seriesYour Staff
A fresh paint job and some new bar stools is great for updating your club, but what are you doing to keep your staff cutting-edge and service-oriented for your new types of customers? This was the central theme of the Old School vs. New School: Your Staff workshop at EXPO 2011. Boasting a collective 46 years of industry experience, our three “Your Staff” workshop speakers addressed the ways in which club owners can make sure that the staff they’re hiring and training will be able to meet and exceed the expectations of the “next generation” of club customers and entertainers.
The Old School vs. New School: Your Staff workshop speakers included John Gray of Houston’s Adult Quest Magazine, who has 17 years of industry experience and works closely with club owners, managers and staff; Myron Walters, GM of the 2010 ED’s “Overall Gentlemen’s Club of the Year,” the Crazy Horse in San Francisco, and a winner of the General Manager of the Year Award (Northwest Region) in 2008; and Charles Bass, co-owner of New Orleans’ Babe’s Cabaret, winner of the ED’s 2011 “Small Club of the Year/Central” Award, who brings the valuable perspective of a “small club” competing in major markets with much larger venues.
Here, we’ve printed the majority of these speakers’ comments.
myron waltersI started in the industry in 1998, and in those days, finding employees was a little tougher than it is now. We didn’t have company websites taking resumes, we didn’t run ads in newspapers; instead, we either hired from within the company or brought in employees from another club.
So when I started to run the Crazy Horse, I looked for ways to avoid those practices. I utilized a method for hiring that we might now describe as a “next generation” methods—I went out and recruited new employees. Similar to college football programs that have hundreds of athletes trying to be on their team, the key players on the teams are those who the scouts go out and recruit.
I wanted to take that approach, because I came from the hospitality industry and wanted people who were like me. I started going to restaurants, casinos, etc., and looked at their managers and hospitality staff. These were people who dealt with high volumes of money and knew how to deal with people. Then I had to figure out what to do with these people once they started working at the club; in other words, how do you make them better at their job? How do you get them to excel in this industry, which is so different from where they’re coming from? They have the tools to be great, but how can they be great with us?
I’d like to share a few examples of what I’ve done so that it makes more sense in the context of the panel topic. Tim was someone that I ran across at the movie theater. He was taking tickets at the door. He may not have appeared as a typical strip club employee, but I saw him as someone who was very courteous to everyone who walked in the door and made people very happy walking into his environment, and I thought that was someone who I would like. I was looking for a floor host and needed someone who was comfortable talking to people. So the next time I went to the theater, I approached him and asked him if he would consider doing something different.
Little did I know that Tim was the manager of the movie theater, and he only worked the door the first hour until his staff took over. So I knew he had the potential to work at my club. I brought him in as a floor host and paid him something a little more than I would pay someone normally, because I wanted to entice him. It was worth it, because in 1998 I hired him as a floor host—today he is the GM of that club.
Also, there are management companies out there, specifically the American Management Association, that help managers focus on certain areas and help them achieve more in their position. They feature courses on leadership, customer service, time management and/or interpersonal skills. But what’s important is you don’t have to go their class to get ahead. If you just join their website, you can watch their classes via the web casts. And it’s free; all it takes is your email. They are great tools that will help your employees deal with situations the right way.
It is important to have the right employees for your environment; however, if you don’t take the time to invest in them, you’re not going to have a return out of them. There are not many opportunities for you to put stock into something that you actually control the outcome of. You’re taking money out of your revenue stream and giving it to them [to train them], so make sure that there is a reason behind that and it is benefitting your business.
John GrayWhen (ED Publisher) Don Waitt called me and asked if I would be on this panel, he told me that he could only think of one person who has been to more adult clubs across the country, and that person was me. I have to admit, I couldn’t disagree with him.
You know, I run a magazine and I have to laugh when I read some of these other magazines that have these ads for clubs looking for employees that read, “Hiring General Management—five years of experience needed.” But this applies to many people in this room: Didn’t someone give you an opportunity once? Somebody took a chance on you, so maybe you should take a chance on someone that doesn’t necessarily have five years of experience in adult clubs.
I live in Houston, and I go to probably five or six clubs per night. To me, they’re like recycled like underwear. I know some people that have been working for different companies five times over. I was once told that there are three key ingredients that are needed for a really effective a club. They are personnel, interaction and group dynamics.
A club is only good as its general manager, and a club’s employees are a reflection of them. For example, when you walk into a club, who provides you with the first impression of the club? It’s usually the door girl. I have been to only one club in the past six months where I didn’t see the door girl texting, or on the computer, or reading a magazine, etc. And then there’s the tip jar. They want you to tip them for doing their job. It’s amazing. That is one of my biggest pet peeves.To give you an example of doing it the right way, about six months ago, I visited Polekatz in Chicago. A gentleman opened the front door and two young ladies greeted me inside and asked if this was my first time at the club. I’ve never been asked that when walking into a club. And the experience went uphill from there.
General managers have got to train their staff to treat every guest well, no matter who they are. When I was 18 I sold cars, and one day a guy comes peddling up to the dealership on a bicycle asking to test-drive a Corvette. My sales manager is looking at me like I’m an idiot for giving this guy the keys. The long story short is the guy had an insurance check in his back pocket for the Ferrari he just crashed. Not only did he buy the Corvette, but he also phoned his friend and his friend came in and bought another Corvette that night.
I want I encourage the GMs to tell their staff that really never know who they’re going to talk to, or who the new guy walking in is. You can’t judge someone based on a first glance. It goes back to an old saying that I heard here in Vegas that says, if common sense were so common, wouldn’t there be more of it?
charles bassWe are the next generation of club owners. We have a tendency of doing things very differently than the old school; but make no mistake, we were brought up in the old school ways. Personally, I learned what to do—and what not to do—from these old-school clubs and managers. But prior to being an owner, whether that was a DJ, manager or other position, I learned how important it is to treat the staff properly. The way we handle our management staff is of vital importance, since they run the day-to-day operations.
At our club, we have three principles when hiring. First is start at the top by hiring a good management team, even if that means bringing them from out of town.
Number two is understanding your environment and the pool of applicants that will be coming in. For example, in New Orleans, it is an accepted practice to walk into a club with a drink in your hand, half inebriated and ask for job. I really wish I was making this up, but I’m not. The truth is, one or two of those people who do that might turn out to be a really decent staff member, but you have to get your old-school thinking out of the way.
Third, and Myron mentioned this earlier, hire good people who can adapt. They need to be able to function in multiple positions. Sometimes, for example, you hire a good person and they work well in the position you hired them for. But you also find out that they have a skill set in a different area of the club as well, and you can train them for that other role as well.
Also, our ownership and management teams are expected to chip in at any given time. At our club, there is an owner in the club at every shift. If there is ever an issue or idea, our employees can go to that person and tell them directly. We expect ownership and management to work any position at that club at any given time—DJ, bartender, cook, working the door, whatever. That also helps because that person can train any staff member to do that particular job.
We encourage our staff to take initiative and not to be afraid to do something if they think it will help business. We’ve found that this technique is extremely effective because we treat our staff like family. Help your staff, care about your staff and do the little things to recognize them as people rather than people who just work for you. That will make them love their job and love working with you. And as an owner, that is a great feeling to walk into your club and know that your staff loves working for your club. They want to be there.
To extend my point about treating employees like family, think of the holidays. At Thanksgiving, we throw a party for all of our entertainers and staff. In our industry, not all of us have families to go home to, so we make sure that they have a proper Thanksgiving dinner. We do the same thing for Christmas.
For our security staff, we require all of them to go through a third-party certification course on how to handle customers and document incidents. We do mandatory background checks for them as well. Any member of your staff that has to handle customers really needs to understand that some customers who have been drinking believe they have “beer muscles.” This third-party certification course helps tremendously.
We encourage loyalty and promote from within. We believe in recruiting, but normally don’t have to because when you treat your staff really well, they’re going to come to you and say, “This person I know needs a job.” In my case, where we have 14 other clubs down on Bourbon Street, applicants come in because they know of our reputation of being a good club to work for.