The Barstool MBA excerpt: Introduction — What can working at a bar teach you about economics?

Click the image above to listen to Dan and I read this intro.


An excerpt from the introduction to Barstool MBA: Why Running a Bar Beats Running to Business School.

BOB: Before we go any further, let’s introduce ourselves. I’m Bob Sullivan. I’m a business journalist, and I’ve written several books on economics and technology. I also spent 20 years working at and CNBC. I’m also a musician, and from behind a drum kit and a microphone, I’ve spend hundreds of nights watching bar owners succeed and fail … for obvious and much less obvious reasons.


DAN: And I’m Dan Maccarone. I’ve spent 20 years running digital design agencies, helping launch products like Hulu and Rent the Runway; and 10 years owning bars in New York City.

BOB: So we both have one foot in the bar business and one in the digital world. 

DAN: It’s actually what brought us together to write… read this book.

BOB: True.  Originally, I was thinking of writing a book about the Irish bar industry, But when I first met Dan,  we talked a ton about all the great lessons that working in bars teachers you about life, and love, and most importantly business.

DAN: The parallels are kind of amazing. Bars are like startups on steroids. And people who work in bars, or used to work in bars, often make the best employees. They know about teamwork, and hard work, about dealing with difficult people, and about making decisions every day that make or lose money for the company.

BOB: Plenty of famous people got their start in the bar business TOO. Bruce Willis was once “the best bartender in New York City,” according to fellow actor John Goodman. Willis was slinging drinks on the Upper West Side back in the late 1970s. Goodman is convinced that’s where Willis really learned to be funny. Then there’s Ellen Degeneres, who relished her time working in bars so much that she once hosted her show from the National Bartenders School of Sherman Oaks, Calif. Sandra Bullock learned how to fake accents when she worked at bars. Jon Stewart worked at a club in New Jersey. Dave Matthews served drinks in Charlottesville, Virginia. And Mark Cuban’s outsized personality grew even more outsized when he moved to Dallas and established himself behind the bar at a place called Elan. Cuban has said that if he ever (somehow) lost all his money, he’d go back to bartending, too.

And, of course, being a bartender is a great preparation for becoming a member of Congress. 

“Bartending + waitressing (especially in NYC) means you talk to 1000s of people over the years. Forces you to get great at reading people + hones a razor-sharp BS detector,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said. Just goes to show that what some consider to be “unskilled labor” can actually be anything but.

Whatever think of AOC’s politics, bartending knows no political party.  Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida often talks about his father’s career as a bartender — the story was core to a 2015 campaign ad – and how growing up in Las Vegas as the son of a bartender and a maid instilled in him important American values.  

DAN: In fact, we meet people all the time in our day jobs that we think could benefit from working a few shifts — or a few years — at a bar.

BOB: After talking about this for years, we’ve decided to put it all down on paper…err, in the cloud. This book, The Barstool MBA, is the product of all our years working in bars and in tech. 

DAN: We’ll show you what it’s like to conceive, open, and run a bar. We’ll talk about picking the right bartenders, about dealing with staff drama — and yes, even theft.

BOB: We’ll talk about the finer points of customer service — hey, free drinks work wonders. About how to 86, or kick out, annoying disruptive people, with a smile. About dealing with Yelp reviews. About being prepared for anything

DAN: And we’ll even talk about how to say good-bye and close a bar. 

BOB: Along the way, we’ll relate all this to every other kind of business. Everyone has the getting-people-in-the-door problem, the customer retention problem, and the firing bad clients problem.

DAN: A bar’s goal every night is simple: if the bar makes money, and everybody has a laugh doing it, everyone wins.  Even before the doors open, that should be the goal for every business too. So whatever you call work, THE BARSTOOL MBA is our plan to help you do just that.

BOB: So, belly up to the bar, order your favorite cocktail, and let us share some of our best late-night bar stories with you. 

(Enjoying this excerpt? Please buy this book at Audible)


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About Bob Sullivan 1612 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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