When Should I Admit Defeat?

How many times do you need to fail before you move on?

February 10, 2020

When should you admit defeat? I'm actually asking that question.

Unfortunately I don't have the answer myself. 

Since I bought the new business, I've been hired by a bunch of bars to do weekly events. At the moment we have a poker league on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and beer pong tournaments on Thursdays and Fridays. Between the 4 nights, I pull in about $200 a week. 

It's pretty nice side income especially since someone (not me) runs / hosts / manages each of these nights. My cut of $200 is a result of owning a business that holds the attention of over 6,000 members. But, it also means I need to deliver traffic to these locations.

These bars hire me specifically because they want us to bring motivated customers through the door. 

But sometimes that's a tall order.

On Tuesdays and Fridays, those leagues have been around for years, so they have a bit of a cult following, or at least an understanding that they exist, if someone has any interest of attending. The point being that they are already pretty well marketed and the bar seems pretty happy with the organic flow of traffic. 

Since I took over, I added the Wednesday and Thursday nights, both at two new locations each. My goal is to replicate the successful models of Tuesday and Friday nights (as well as double my weekly income). 

What I've learned is that this isn't copy and paste. Just because something works at one place, doesn't mean it will work everywhere. An average night of poker on Tuesday is about 30 people, and a handful of them asked me to do it another night, so I thought it would be safe to say that a second location would be pretty successful. 

Our first night of poker at the new location had about 7 people show up. The next week we had 9 people.

It's possible that this will grow, but my expectations for an overnight success didn't meet reality. Additionally, my only focus was on location (proximity) and not location (quality). I made the mistake of not vetting this place properly. A few comments I received the first night was that the food wasn't that great. Something I seemed to overlook at the Tuesday night location (the food is amazing). 

And then there's the mistake that we could find success on Thursday nights with a beer pong tournament. The decision was made based on a few factors. For one, we have a softball league on Thursdays nights and need a place to send our members to hang out after the games. Additionally, a bar reached out about wanting to do beer pong, but they weren't sponsor approved (they were sort of direct competition of our beverage sponsor). 

So I chose my favorite weekend bar as a location. It's a great place with a great amount of space. For this location, I made mistakes in the opposite direction. The location (quality) was great, but the location (proximity) was not. It's a downtown bar with our games being held on the other side of town.

Plus it's a week night. Not many people want to go downtown on a weeknight to consume alcohol when they have to be up early for work Friday morning.

So what I've found is that I can make it successful, but I have to call on a lot of favors from my friends. It is not a well oiled machine and requires that I be there each night. For $50 a night, suddenly, that doesn't seem worth it.

So thinking outside the box, I tried a few things:

  • Offering free drinks for the first 10 people who show up
  • Create Facebook events each week
  • Send out e-mail blasts
  • Pay hundreds of dollars on online advertising
  • Hand out flyers at games

Yet after all of that, the only thing that seems to work is to text my network of 20 friends and beg them to come out with me. It has become a situation where I'm getting paid to hang out with my friends, which doesn't sound that bad, but when I work morning and nights 5 days a week, I could do without it. And the problem here is that I'm potentially ruining friendships in the process. Constantly putting pressure on them to attend. 

So, back to the ultimate question. When should I admit defeat? Do I let it crash and burn and have the bar fire me, or do I take the gentleman's approach and admit defeat? Or is it too early to make a decision?

What would you do if you were me?

(wal•do) — Person
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