Some people think that success is inevitable for successful people, or that some people are just lucky. In reality, success is something more like dating. The vast majority of first dates are probably going to be terrible. Even fewer make it to the long term relationship phase, and (with any luck) there’s one winner whom you marry. Even then, those marriages can fail. Business is the same way, and it is just as true for the adult industry as it is for any other. We have all seen huge launches fail, small amazing projects never see the light of day, and a mix of all of them grow into successful enterprises.
In reality, everyone falls down and in many cases it’s the people who are more resilient to failure who find success. More importantly, discover that success is more like the end result of a string of bad ideas, bad attempts, and failures. Those failures happen for a lot of different reasons ranging from bad ideas to bad execution. As much as they are at odds with each other, in many cases success cannot exist without failure.
We have all seen huge launches fail, small amazing projects never see the light of day, and a mix of all of them grow into successful enterprises.
Freshly entering a messy divorce from The Blonde nearly four years ago, a good friend whom I had known for years (let’s call him Stephan) had been pursuing the dream of owning a bar and restaurant. After all, years earlier we were both in the middle of separations and divorces when we met randomly sitting at a bar. Even though we came from two different worlds, he had ambition and a hustle. We became good friends and most of that time was spent in restaurants, bars, and clubs as I navigated my divorce and newfound freedom with him as my wingman. He had my back at all times during those misguided years.
Stephan seemed to know how the restaurant business worked, knew a lot of people, but didn’t have the finances needed for a serious venture. A local dive (which was probably the roughest bar in the city) was being sold because the owner was looking to retire. In the economic client at that time, nobody was buying and so there was a huge opportunity.
With my day-to-day of running JuicyAds (the advertising network I founded), getting divorced, and dating like it was a full-time job, I was already doing too much. This bar appeared stable after its ten years in business and the finances looked good. Everything seemed to check out, and I remember choosing Lamborghini colors for when the takeover was a success. Naturally, my Lamborghini was going to be orange, but I was still reluctant to invest and friends and family voiced concerns. However, at that time during the divorce, how I felt about money had been re-evaluated in the face of losing it, and it was the right time for big risks and breaking free from The Blonde, because she would never have supported me doing it. There was also the fantasy that owning a bar and restaurant might just drop some panties of the women I was dating. Clearly, I had only the most noble reasons for being interested in the venture.
The thing that set this bar apart from anywhere else in the city was it was adult in nature -- they had dancers every Wednesday night. I say “dancers” because the liquor laws stated that if there was alcohol present, dancers cannot strip. Conversely, if the alcohol is removed, it’s not prohibited. This created an environment where there were clubs that had “less than attractive” strippers who made their money dancing, and bars that made their money on alcohol sales from the highly attractive women dancing. This was the only bar in town that offered dancers and alcohol, and those nights were the most profitable.
At Stephan’s house-warming party, I was introduced to the chef who would run the kitchen. He had previously owned his own restaurant, one of the most popular in the city and I had dined there in the past — many times. The food was excellent and the restaurant was always busy. I was impressed and knew the current food at the bar was laughable at best. Combined with Stephen who had street smarts and knew how to handle people, myself who knew business, advertising, marketing, and how to do strategy, it was a pretty solid foundation. The seller was motivated, the business was cash positive. I agreed to back the project (and, yes, some panties did drop).
Failure to Launch
With my efforts needed elsewhere and at the time jetsetting around the world to every porn convention possible to get away from The Blonde, it was obvious I would be the silent investor providing the cash, and Stephan would run the business. There were meetings, strategies, and plans made.
Whether it was the former owner or customers and people who didn’t know any better, the word got out the place was closing. The last night that February was a grand affair. That’s when a flaming hoop for us was lit on fire. Stephan had believed that the liquor license would be transferred, and that was not the reality. It left a gaping hole in the transition plan. Instead of being closed two weeks for some renovations, the place was closed and empty for six weeks when people had already believed it was closing and not just changing management. Lesson learned: Ensure our transition plan is solid.
Despite the early problems, there was still a plan and we continued. As the weeks drew on and on, we accelerated the improvement plans because we had nothing else to do, and with that we deviated from the original plan of keeping things similar until investment was recouped. After doing everything we could do force the licensing through the powers that be, when the license finally came through, the grand opening was launched while I was down at The Phoenix Forum. It was a grand extravaganza, the place was busy, we were featured in newspapers and magazines. It was when I returned home, I started to find out what was really going on.
People didn’t come. The old customers who did come back to their old drinking hole simply felt things were different (and they were) and went somewhere else. The people who did come, often didn’t come back. With the worst reputation in the city, we were not just starting over, we were now starting at a disadvantage. Unfortunately, foot traffic and patrons to a brick and mortar business aren’t like the banner ads, popunders, and mobile redirects we sell every day at JuicyAds. You can’t just send billions of people to your offer at the click of a button. We had counted on the existing client base to continue with us but we had changed the name and everything about the bar and grill that had made it unique. Lessons learned: Stick to the business plan, and don’t make something less of what it is to appeal to more people.
Our saving grace was our kitchen was pushing out great food that people were talking about and there was a large amount of lunch business to be had. However, things would go astray with Stephan. A series of struggles would arise that would threaten the entire venture.
To be continued in next month’s edition of XBIZ World.