Here's How We Set The 'Bar' On Innovation

Any bartender or bar owner will tell you, the job isn't always glamorous. The challenges of staying successful go beyond keeping glasses full. While many nights are spent creating, entertaining and hosting guests there is also the task of inventory, management and liability all while keeping morale up, staying focused on business while creating an environment where people want to come, stay and invite their friends.

Victory Nola was created in 2010 with the mission of creating the most innovative and unique cocktail creations the city has seen. That goal, while not easy at first, was obtained and we now celebrate five years in business in the bustling downtown area of New Orleans. Keep in mind, New Orleans is home to thousands of bars. As business owners we always think of ways to top ourselves, to impress our guests and elevate our bartenders, who we call our "stars behind the bar." Keeping the staff motivated is key to running a long running establishment. We lead by example and we never ask the staff to do anything we wouldn't do ourselves, that includes plunging a toilet or two.

We often asked ourselves, how do we go to the next level, how do we stimulate creativity? We jumped into action in order to stay ahead of the curve. A couple of things jumped out at us. First, we had to fully maximize our hours of operation. In 2014 we opened seven days a week and encouraged the cooking staff to come up with great small plates. Culinary delights that didn't spill on shirts or dribble on sleeves. Voila! A vegetarian dish of spicy Brussels sprouts was born, an array of gourmet pizzas and a crab dip that will blow your socks off made it to the menu. The idea is to offer something for everyone.

For a bar owner, the skill of your bartenders is the difference between making it or breaking it. Their skills depend on strong leadership, environment, experience and education. So here's what we did. We support local markets by buying unique ingredients and encourage the bartenders to practice using different styles and methods of making 'over the top' cocktails. Just last week, bartender Loki Patterson from Australia, made a cocktail using infused eucalyptus, Bombay Sapphire gin and a sour mixture to compete in a cocktail competition. Once a week we ask bartenders Julian Joseph and Ian Julian to make us the most beautiful and delicious cocktail they can conjure up. The Raspberry Gin Spritz is a crowd pleaser. It becomes a friendly competition and gives them an outlet to express themselves creatively. Our concept is catching on and the crew loves coming in and being challenged. It's now our daily practice.

Stimulating creativity is fun and exciting. We are proud to have staff come in and show us and the guests what they've come up with and how they put thought into presentation.

Opinions and expression should be welcomed. Monthly staff meetings are a must. Of course everyone has a thought on how 'you' should be running your business. Take a good listen to what they have to say, weed out the weak ideas and consider what they're saying. We hire smart people, not so we tell them what to do...but so they can advise us on what we can do better.

In 2014, we strove to top ourselves yet again. Furthering our growth opportunity, we recently opened the first of its kind venue: The New Orleans Drink Lab in the heart of downtown New Orleans. It is tucked away right next door to Victory. It offers history, education and hands on learning of classic New Orleans cocktails like the Sazerac, Hurricane and the Ramon Gin Fizz. Here you learn the culture of cocktails, then get behind the bar and make them. It's a fun, interactive class that has lessons to take with you.

Our mission here is to not just give the guest a cocktail, rather a cocktail experience. Innovate ideas, constant creation, opportunity and forward thinking keep us in the game. We hope to create a longstanding legacy, a stop on the check list of visitors and a household name for locals and our loyal guests. It's a hard business in which liability should be taken seriously, but the rewards are worth every second. From bartender to craft cocktail lounge to a cocktail creative lab and school, we choose to lead with enthusiasm, education and encouragement. With a name like Victory, how can you loose? Cheers!!

This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.