Category Archives: True Story

What Bartending Taught Me About Business

When I began bartending at 18 years old, I looked at it as a way to make some fast, easy cash while putting myself through college.  I always knew that it was a temporary job; I would never be a career bartender, and in the beginning I didn’t take it too seriously.  I was just grateful to have a job where I could walk in, do my thing for a few hours, leave with a wad of cash and not have to take any work or stress home with me.

I quickly realized that I could make my wad of earnings much larger by doing a few things differently.  Damien, a former manager, once explained this to me and it made a lot of sense:

“You’re basically running your own business behind the bar.  We provide you with the ‘office’ and ‘tools,’ but how you run your business is up to you.  If you provide a great product (good drinks) that you know how to sell and upsell, and you give great customer service, I guarantee that you will make more money.  It’s all up to you.”

I became a hustler behind the bar, and saw my money grow almost immediately.  I loved the fact that I could give myself a raise on any given shift just by working smarter.  I got better and better at what I did, and by the time I graduated from college, the money was so good that it was almost painful to walk away and start at the bottom of the internet marketing rat race.

To create cocktails and call yourself a bartender is not hard- a monkey could be taught to pour beer and shake up a martini.  What separates an average bartender and a great bartender is not the competence to make drinks- it’s the ability to sell, satisfy the customer and keep them coming back.  I’ll explain each in detail as I share a few lessons I learned that I have used to succeed both behind the bar and in the real world:

Know your product and sell the hell out of it

I’m going to break this one up into two parts, because each is equally important.  It’s very hard to sell something you know nothing about, and even if you’re an expert on a product, it’s worthless unless you figure out a way to sell it.

It’s very simple: if you’re not selling something that people want, you’re not making money.

Cocktails in a bar sell themselves- that’s why the customers showed up in the first place.  However, the customer may not necessarily know what they want, and it’s up to you to inform and sell them.  This is your opportunity to upsell.  As long as you can convince your customer that Grey Goose is better than Crystal Palace (yuck) your sales will go up, and most likely so will your tips.

When you walk into a bar, it’s very easy to spot the great bartenders- they’re the ones who greet you immediately, make conversation and try to sell you their products with enthusiasm.

Bad bartenders on the other hand tend to have the same bad habits I’ve seen struggling business people have.  They’re either more worried about the drama in their personal lives, too lazy to put in the work, not interested in what they’re selling, or they fail to upsell.

When you’re trying to succeed and make money, it’s important to remember that selling comes first.  Everything else comes second.

You must make people feel comfortable

Have you ever wondered why bartenders are also considered therapists?  One of the main reasons that people go to the bar and pour their hearts out to an almost-stranger is because bartenders just listen without judging.  Think about it- how many people in your life hear you out and ask questions without judgment?

As a bartender, I never told people what to do or judged their motives or actions the way I might do to my friends. By doing this, I earned the trust of my regulars.  They were comfortable coming in and updating me on their lives (while spending money), knowing that I wouldn’t think any more or less of them.

Trust is huge in almost every facet of life, especially business.  When people feel comfortable coming to you, it is much easier to accomplish things.

When you’re a team player, the results are usually better

Although you might consider yourself to be running your own little business, I guarantee that it’ll run a lot smoother if you accept some help from time to time.  When you’re busy, it’s really helpful to have that extra person who supports you, whether it’s a bar-back refilling your ice, or a co-worker to share the workload with.

You can’t be everywhere, and you’re not going to be good at everything, so it’s important to surround yourself with a great team to keep you balanced.  Make sure you treat those people well.

Know that you can handle a lot more than you think you can

I remember feeling excited, but absolutely terrified, before working my first Winter Music Conference.  I heard stories from those who had been through it before of 18-hour shifts for five days straight, dealing with the most wild and drugged-up partiers ever.

In the days leading up to WMC, I rested, meditated and did my best to mentally and physically prepare myself for what laid ahead.  By day 5 I felt like I had run a marathon and calculated more prices in my head than a math team- I was fried. But it was so motivating to look over and see the cash piling up in the tip jar.

The moral of this story- you can keep going much longer than you think you can when you need to.  I’m not telling you to hustle for 18 hours every single day, but when the money is there, GET IT, because it might not always be.

Don’t let anyone disrespect you

Even though I was there to earn money, whenever a customer crossed a line and disrespected me, they were quickly shown the door.  It didn’t matter if they were spending money- no negativity was allowed.

I know this goes a little against everything I have already said in this article, but I’m a firm believer in removing anyone who causes a great amount of problems and stress.  This applies to both at work and in life.  These people end up sucking your time and energy, creating a bad vibe, and will often badmouth you to other customers or ask for a refund after you’ve bent over backwards for them.  It takes your attention away from the better paying customers, and in my opinion, it’s just better to remove these bad apples.

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How Profound

Today, instead of writing something new about internet marketing or my crazy life, I’m going to share a great message that I just re-stumbled across.  It was written by George Carlin shortly after his wife passed away, and if it doesn’t make you think at least a little bit you should definitely re-evaluate your life.

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much , and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things.

We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait . We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete…

Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.

Remember, to say, “I love you” to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you.

Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again.

Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

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My New Food Blog

As you may or may not have noticed from some of my other blog posts in the past, I love food.  I love it so much that I decided to start another blog devoted to giving my recommendations of the best restaurants in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade County (and maybe occasionally others when I go on vacation).

On this site, which I’ve named Wine Me, Dine Me, South Florida, I have a list of some of my favorite restaurants in each county for every price range.  I’ve also already got a few articles up about the following topics and I will continue to add more as I grow the site.

Cheap Eats in South Beach

Fish Shack in Pompano Beach

Bash Wine Cafe and Catering in Sunrise

Best Happy Hours in Delray Beach

To check out the articles, just click on the links and if this blog interests you, please like and follow it!

Thanks!

Casey

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Valentine’s Day Spending

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!  While today is no Black Friday or Cyber Monday, it is still a major retail and e-commerce event, and a boost for stores and shipping companies early in the calendar year.  With the help of the National Retail Federation, UPS , Ad Age and the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker survey, I’d like to present you with Valentine’s Day by the numbers.

U.S. consumers are expected to spend $18.6 billion overall on Valentine’s Day gifts.

Jewelry is the big-ticket item for gift givers.  $4.4 billion will be spent on diamonds, gold and silver.

$1.9 billion will be spent on flowers today.

$1.6 will be spent on candy; 51% of those surveyed give sweet treats to their loved ones.

Who would have thought- $1.5 billion will be spent on gift cards.

$815 million will be spent on the ones who love us unconditionally- our pets.

UPS will ship 95 million flowers for Valentine’s Day, with the bulk coming from Latin America on UPS temperature-controlled aircraft from Ecuador and Colombia (big rose-growing countries).

6,000,000 are expected to get engaged on February 14; that number is up from 4 million in 2012.

3,000 TONS of flowers will move through a massive refrigerated warehouse in Miami that UPS has set up to keep flowers fresh.

Can you guess what the average U.S. consumer plans to spend on candy, cards, gifts and more this year?  The answer is $130.97- up from $126.03 last year.

So how much is the average woman spending on today? About $88.78, which is less than half of what men are estimated to spend (an average of $175.61 on jewelry, flowers, and a romantic evening out).

40.7% of smartphone owners are estimated to have used their handhelds to shop for gifts.

26.3% of Valentine’s gifts are found online, up from 19.3% last year

29% of those surveyed said they’d post sweet nothings on Facebook.

Americans spend an average of $8.49 on friends for Valentine’s cards and gifts; they’ll shell out an average of $5.12 on colleagues.

7% of consumers who in a survey said they send their Valentine’s message via Twitter in 140 characters or less.

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Happy Belated New Year!

I never did get to wish everyone a happy new year on here, so if you’re reading this two weeks into 2013, HAPPY NEW YEAR!  Better late than never, right?

I rang in the New Year in several great ways.  With friends, we had a really fun house party with lots of good food and drinks.  It was nice to be with a smaller, more intimate group of friends rather than a bunch of drunk strangers at a club or bar.  We also didn’t need to spend a ton of money or worry about parking and traffic.  It was definitely win-win.

At work, my bosses nominated some of us for awards, which the staff then voted on.  I was voted the Best New Employee, which felt especially nice because it came from my peers.

All in all, 2012 was a pretty great year.  I graduated with my Master’s degree, got my first job in the real world, quit bartending, and traveled to New York City, Seattle, Portland, Willamette Valley, the Bahamas and Key West.  I can’t wait to see what 2013 has in store for me!

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Grandma Betty Update

From time to time I will post stories that I have written about my grandmother, Betty Collura. I lived with her for about 14 months in 2006-2007, and it was during this time that she started showing the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. It was an interesting time with many significant ups and downs, but I have a unique story to tell for almost every single day.

December, 2012
I am happy to say that my grandma came to spend Christmas Eve with the family this year. She refused to come last year when my uncle attempted to pick her up and bring her to my parents’ house. He begged, pleaded and tried to reason with her, but she refused to get dressed and leave her bedroom. I guess she was just having a rough day.

My grandma has been living in an assisted living facility that specializes in Alzheimer’s care for the last two years or so. Even with a woman living with her that watched over her and my mother visiting once or twice a day, her house became too unsafe. My grandma had finally reached the point where she required constant care.

Her heart, lungs and body are still in great shape. At 84 years old, the doctors say that if it was up to her body, she could live another 10 years. Her mind is a different story. My grandma is at the point where she does not know who any of us are anymore, and she really has no idea what’s going on around her. Sometimes when a family member goes to visit her, she will recognize them as someone that she has met before. But she is usually not able to recall their name, or her relation to them.

Every so often she’ll have a day where she is sharper than usual, and will tell accurate stories. Mostly they are old stories that date back to her childhood and teen years. But a majority of what she says is random chatter that doesn’t make sense. If a dog barks, she will make up an outrageous story about how it’s her dog, and tell it to us like she could actually convince us.

I often wonder if she believes herself as she rambles. The Alzheimer’s mind sure is an interesting little world. One thing I am grateful for is that at least in the case of my grandma, this little world appears to be a bright, colorful one that doesn’t seem scary or harsh. Like anyone else with Alzheimer’s Disease, she has a few cranky days here and there where nothing you do or say can snap her out of it. She acts like a big five year old and getting her to be nice or go anywhere is impossible. We’ve had to cancel hair and nail appointments for her at the last minute before, and last year we had to do Christmas Eve without her.

But overall Grandma is chipper, friendly and pleasant to be around. She smiles and giggles as she people-watches and will chat with anyone that approaches her. According to my mother, the conversations that she has with the other people at her home (who are in a smiliar mental state) are entertaining.

This Christmas Eve she sat in a chair near the middle of the room and enjoyed socializing with everyone around her. She also enjoyed watching and talking to Coco. Whether she recognizes my dog or not, she always gets so excited to see her. My grandma ate well and was in the best mood possible. I wonder if she understood that she was surrounded by family members who love her. Whether or not she remembers, I’m pretty sure she can feel the love.

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The Newest iPod Nano is Sweet!

My mother is pretty much the last person at the gym, aside from a few 80 year olds who go there to use the pool, who doesn’t listen to music while she works out. My brothers and I decided to buy her her first iPod (ever) for Christmas this year.  I went to the Apple store and bought her a Nano in her favorite color, purple, and then realized that my mom will have no clue how to set it up herself.

So I took it out of its package and hooked it up to my iTunes so that I can load it up with music, playlists and photos.  I haven’t felt the need to have an iPod Nano since the iPhone came out, so it’s been a few years since I’ve held one.  As I played with it, I couldn’t get over how different and cool the new ones are.

This seventh-generation Nano is the thinnest ever and roughly the size of a credit card, but its display screen is almost twice the size of the previous model.  Even though the screen is small, the photos that I loaded on it still look good. And, thanks to the accelerometer, photos auto-rotate as you go from portrait to landscape, which was nice.

The new Nano has a touch screen and is the first model to have a tiny home button, just like some of its bigger siblings. It has five buttons in all- a slender power button on the top and a three-way volume rocker that allows you to adjust the volume and, by pressing it in the middle, play/pause music or skip tracks.

Because my mom will be using the device while working out quite often, I will advise her to use the Nike+ function, which has been made better by having everything built-in.  Her Nano can track her walks and runs, and she can even connect a Bluetooth heart monitor wirelessly.

Overall, I was pretty impressed with the new design of the Nano.  I think it’s the best yet, bringing lots of functionality in a tiny package.  I look at it as $149 well spent, and I’m excited to give it to my mom and watch her fall in love with her first Apple product.

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Push For Pizza

pizza

The most creative thing idea I’ve seen today is pizza at your fingertips – literally.  Created by TBWARAAD Dubai for Red Tomato Pizza is a fridge magnet that orders your favorite pizza for you with just the push of a button.

The magnet was given to some of Red Tomato Pizza’s most loyal customers, and it has their favorite order preset.  If hunger or a craving strikes, all they have to do is press the button to place an order.  The magnet is connected to the Internet via a Bluetooth connection on a smartphone.  After pressing the button, Red Tomato Pizza sends them confirmation text and then delivers the pizza soon after.  If the customer’s favorite order changes, they can sign online at any time to change it.

Pretty cool!  What local pizza places do you wish would deliver at the push of a button?

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BMI Elite Buys Employee A New Car, Then Takes Staff to Bahamas

There’s never a dull moment around here at BMI Elite.  We’re back in the news once again, this time for surprising one of our longest and most deserving employees with a brand new 2013 Ford Escape for his 52nd birthday last week.  We’ve been on the front page of the Sun Sentinel’s money section, on the homepage of MSNnow, and many other news channels including CBS12, CNN and WPBF.

Chris Ninos has been BMI’s chief financial officer for the last two years and is one of the most loyal, honest, trustworthy and hardworking employees that our CEO Brandon Rosen has ever met.

“Chris will call me up at midnight, at 5:00 a.m., and on holidays just to talk about business,” said Brandon.  “He’s one of the hardest workers I know.”

Chris has been driving an old 1998 green Ford Escort for the last 11 or 12 years, and recently it’s been giving him lots of trouble.  Even though everyone around the office has been telling him to trade it in and get something new, Chris was determined to ride it until it died.  So last week, a few days before Chris’ birthday, Brandon and BMI’s president, Dan Lansman, decided to surprise him with the new Escape as a way to thank him for all that he does for the company.

Chris was told by some co-workers that they were taking him out to lunch to celebrate his birthday.  They said they needed to make a stop at the Maroone Ford dealership, and when they arrived at the showroom, Ninos was surprised with a new 2013 Ford Escape filled with balloons.

Before this all happened, BMI contacted the media to capture the moment as well.  Not only did Chris get a new car, but he also got the celebrity treatment for a few days.

If that wasn’t enough, BMI Elite is taking its entire staff on a cruise to the Bahamas this weekend for our holiday party.  I am excited and I feel lucky to be working at a company that is doing so well.  In less than two years, BMI has grown from two employees to 55 and next month, we are moving from a 4,500 sq. foot office to one that is over 21,000 sq. feet.  There are lots of big things to come!

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Man Uses Google Maps to Walk 5,000 Miles Across Asia

In the summer of 2010, my brother Ryan and I drove from Miami to Los Angeles using only the Google Maps on my iPhone3G (in a Mini Cooper).  I thought that was impressive until I just heard about U.S. Marine Sgt. Winston Fiore, who used Google Maps to walk 5,000 miles across Asia.

Using an Android phone running Maps, Fiore walked across Brunei, China, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam to raise money and awareness for the International Children’s Surgical Foundation, a charity that provides free facial reconstructive surgery for kids with cleft palates in developing countries.  He began walking last October and finished Monday.

In this journey that he dubbed the “Smile Trek,” Fiore said Google Maps was “the hub” of his entire trip.  He used it to find the most accurate and easy walking directions and it guided him through remote villages and along dirt roads.

“Walking directions in Google Maps were critical to my trek. The directions were accurate and efficient — it’s essential to take the shortest route when you’re walking 20-25 miles each day,” Fiore told Google. “But the best part was being routed onto roads and trails through areas I otherwise never would have discovered with, say, driving directions, or even a physical map.”

During Smile Trek, Fiore also used other Google products including Google Latitude, which allows you to find your friends and family on a map and share where you are with the people you choose, My Tracks, which records GPS tracks and shows live statistics such as time, speed, distance, and elevation and Google Translate.

In 408 days, Fiore raised more than $65,000 for the International Children’s Surgical Foundation.

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Casey Kurlander, Search marketing Specialist, BMI Elite