Coaching and Turnaround

“Anyone can be confident with a full head of hair. But a confident bald man?—?there’s your diamond in the rough”?—?Larry David

I’ve started a 30 day blogging challenge (more about it here and please sign up to receive the newsletter). This is day six.

John Taffer

Today I’d like to try a different format and discuss coaching, but from the point of view of a different industry. In the American TV show Bar Rescue, Jon Taffer, a bar and nightclub owner for 3 decades, helps bar owners rescue their failing business. Bar owners apply to participate, and those that get selected, receive a visit from Taffer and his team of experts (normally a mixologist and a chef). I don’t watch much TV, but I happened to catch a couple of episodes when I was travelling. A bit trashy, and very addictive, but why I am telling you this? because I think it could translate beautifully to startups.

The show follows a similar pattern in every episode. Here’s are the steps for this short turnaround consulting gig to save a bar:

  • Taffer and his experts start with a reconnaissance mission and order a drink and food from the unsuspecting staff to evaluate its operational and service challenges (this involves hidden cameras installed in advance in the kitchen and service areas). The results are normally as bad as expected or worse.
  • Taffer samples the level of cleanliness in the kitchen and service areas, often finding unacceptable levels of hygiene
  • Then, he introduces himself to the owner and the team, shares the findings with them as well as his recommendations for the changes required to make the bar profitable
  • He also examines the bar’s financial statements to see whether he can find savings/efficiencies.
  • He confronts the owners with the truth (often with a very direct, brash style). That triggers a strong response from the owner (f**k this s**t) and in a follow up 1:1 conversation Taffer tries to understand from the owner what does the business mean to them, and why they need to fight hard to make it work.
  • The team of experts then train the staff on ways to: improve the food and drink preparation (often reducing the number of items on the menu and keep few tasty but fast food options as well as high margin signature drinks), improving customer service (by creating better systems and improving communication between the kitchen and the waiters).
  • The team get tested with a “stress test” of the new products and service operation. Often Taffer would shut the bar down and kick all the guests out after seeing the team returning to their old patterns.
  • Additional training is given to the staff by the experts, implementing the lessons from the soft launch. This includes changing the menu,
  • The bar is then closed for a few days to get a ‘face lift’ that includes deep cleaning, paint, structural work, and in some cases a new name for the bar.
  • The staff is invited to see the new launch and get motivated for a grand opening. They are also given new uniforms to match.
  • A big crowd is invited to the relaunch of the bar.

Here’s what I mean by John Taffer’s unique style:

Imagine if this kind of coaching was done regularly for startups. I’m sure such services exist (pardon my ignorance), but wouldn’t it be great to have a “Mr Wolf” to come and fix the problems of a startup (big or small), by rolling the sleeves and addressing both staff and management?

The following chart shows the top reasons startups fail:

Source: CB Insights

I’d love to see this kind of hands-on coaching with startups, to help investors, the board and founders avoid these pitfalls. Addressing issues with culture, product, sales, HR, legal, investors, traction can easily fall on the shoulders of the CEO (especially in early stage), putting a ton of pressure.

So, who in your opinion, is the John Taffer for startups?

Eze Vidra
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Eze Vidra

Chief Innovation Officer at Antidote
Eze is the Chief Innovation Officer at Antidote, a startup helping patients search and match to clinical trial, to accelerate medical breakthroughs. Previously, Ezewas a General Partner at Google Ventures Europe. Before GV, Eze founded and led Campus London, Google's first physical hub for startups, and was the Head Google for Entrepreneurs in Europe. He's an experienced product manager and startup mentor. In 2012 Eze founded Techbikers, a non-for profit supporting children education in developing countries.
Eze Vidra
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Latest posts by Eze Vidra (see all)

Eze Vidra

Eze is the Chief Innovation Officer at Antidote, a startup helping patients search and match to clinical trial, to accelerate medical breakthroughs. Previously, Eze was a General Partner at Google Ventures Europe. Before GV, Eze founded and led Campus London, Google's first physical hub for startups, and was the Head Google for Entrepreneurs in Europe. He's an experienced product manager and startup mentor. In 2012 Eze founded Techbikers, a non-for profit supporting children education in developing countries.

2 Comments

  1. There WAS a show with Peter Jones – the tall guy from Dragon’s Den UK as coach – called “SOB (save Our Business)” A little staged but it was fun to guess what Peter would recommend.

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