Revolving Door: How To Hire And Keep The Best In The Business

In a city where cocktails rule, how to retain a talented team

New Orleans is touted as the birthplace of the cocktail, with the Sazerac created in the early 1800's. With that comes several cocktail establishments that rule the city and welcome thousands of visitors and locals every day. According to a article published in 2012, a study revealed, New Orleans ranks number one in the number of bars per 10,000 households. That only means there are hundreds of men and women bar owners and bartenders who hold the task of keeping your glass full. With so much competition, how do successful establishments retain a talented team? How do you keep your rockstar from quitting and going across the street?

1. Listen to your Team
Several fun and innovative approaches are used at Victory and The New Orleans Drink Lab. Owner, Daniel Victory insists "listening to what your team is passionate about is critical. Some of our team members request certain spirits to experiment with. Others want unique fruit or garnish to make a cocktail extra special. We honor and respect that." Keep in mind that the bar is a stage and many bartenders shine under the pressure. It's important to hear what they are interested in and what it takes to keep their creativity flowing. This helps nurture their growth and let's them know that you hear them.

2. Focus on Training and Trust
Great bartending is about attention to detail, skill, great service and caring about the craft. So, another important piece of the puzzle is continuous staff training and encouragement. There is nothing worse than ordering your favorite cocktail and the new bartender is fumbling through where to find tools or product. Customers notice the small things and you want to make sure training is done right. For Victory, repetition is the key. Continuous reinforcement will help your team member shine. "We not only train our new members but encourage the veterans to help the new one's along." Victory says fostering a comfortable work environment leads to a positive mindset, which in turn help grow your business, gains consumer trust and stops behavior that often times can hurt a business. Things to look out for are tardy employees, ignoring the policies in place, giving away drinks and below average customer service. This can be indicative of a frustrated team member. To help avoid this, training is needed. There is no excuse for an employer to not properly show someone the ropes. Respect goes both ways.

3. Staff Meetings and Off-Site Activities
Keeping staff updated on events, promotions and specials is a good way to keep them involved in company happenings. There is nothing worse than trying to grow your business when employees don't feel valued. A simple, "good job" or "thank you" goes a long way. It's not that you are thanking them for doing their job, rather a gesture that you are paying attention to them and the efforts they are making to keep your business running smoothly and successfully. Many times staff meetings can become a haven for complaints. You have to listen to your top dogs in order to learn what they need. The goal is to have people on board who don't feel stuck in park or frustrated. You want them to feel like they are part of the growth because in the end, they are front and center and are key to making your business succeed. Having an off-site activity is a good way to get to know your team in a more personal way. How many kids do they have? What do they enjoy doing outside of work? Co-owner of Victory, Camille Whitworth remembers taking a staff outing to Clue Carre, a live escape game. "We learned so much about our team. Their strengths and weaknesses showed. We became closer as a team and often laugh at the fun time we had. It was great team building."

4. Set Employees Up for Success and Growth
The goal is to make sure you don't end up with a shortfall in the talent pool. There is nothing more frustrating than training someone, only for them to take a job across the street. Even the best-laid plans can end in failure. But when you have and emerging star on board, someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty, recognize the action, manage them and react positively to their efforts. Don't assume your best employees are engaged. Ask them, stimulate them and if you see they are struggling, help build their confidence. Trust them and their opinions and try to make changes that benefit the team as a whole.

Keeping your rockstar talent and taking them seriously will help with longevity. Be as fierce in getting them as you are in keeping them.


The business duo, Daniel Victory & Camille Whitworth have been partners for four years. Both are from New Orleans and are graduates of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program as well as the 10,000 Small Businesses Goldman Sachs & Bloomberg LP Coaching Session.