Managing a Nightlife Security Team…or How to be an Effective Leader

One of the unfortunate realities of the Nightlife Industry is that its communities are often transient: people come and go because of better job offers, life changes, and burnout. For many establishments, wages can be the deciding factor in retaining employees. But high – or even decent – wages won’t guarantee quality or loyalty. In an environment that can often be rife with high turnover, how can you build and maintain a solid team? Before you dive into the nitty-gritty of hiring, firing, or starting from scratch, think about the following:

What are your security goals?

How are you going to achieve these goals?

If all you want is a single doorman who checks IDs, you are pretty much set. But I’m guessing that you are looking for something more. You probably want a team of diverse individuals with varied backgrounds and different abilities who can accomplish a number of different tasks. Chances are that the team you build will probably be at different stages of their careers. And these varying skill levels can present challenges that not everyone will be able to easily accomplish the goals or tasks you’ve set out for them.

As a Manager or Head of Security, it is up to you to set the precedent in terms of behavior, customer service, and work ethic, as well as develop all of the policies and procedures that your team needs to do their job well. But none of this will matter if your team doesn’t understand the What’s and Why’s of their job or if they aren’t lead, communicated with, or disciplined when necessary.

1) Be a good communicator – Believe it or not, your team wants information. Nothing is more frustrating than showing up for a night on shift and not knowing what is going on. Or worse yet, receiving potentially stressful information just prior to and event – i.e. “By the way, we have a party of 100 people arriving in 5 minutes”. It is of the utmost importance that you pass along pertinent information, check in with your team, and encourage feedback. Communication goes both ways and your Staff should feel comfortable talking to you about EVERYTHING.

You should be holding regular meetings, debriefs, and brainstorming sessions with your team to both give information and critique and receive feedback and questions. Be an active listener. Don’t just give lip service. It will come back to bite you if you always say “Yes” but never follow up.

2) Stick to your decisions…and be prepared to make some bad ones

Don’t hesitate when making decisions. Flakiness is NOT a desired trait in a manager. And once you make those decisions, don’t back away from them. Feel comfortable asserting your authority. After all, you are the boss, right? But be diplomatic and respectful about it. Acting like a tyrant or know-it-all will lose you respect very quickly. But by the same token, no one is expecting you to be perfect. So if you make a mistake or a wrong decision – and you will – own it and figure out a way to move forward. Striving for perfection is great but not at the expense of not learning from your failures or stepping on people to get to the goal.

3) Don’t be afraid to delegate – Just because you are the boss doesn’t mean that you have to do EVERYTHING. The reason you have a team is for support. Find good supporting roles for your team members and let them own their positions. Have a great ID checker? Use them to train other people. Is one of your Roamers excellent at dealing with people? Make him a Zone Lead. People do their jobs better when they are engaged and doing what they enjoy.

4) Reward the good…but don’t be afraid to discipline – Ever work for a boss who only criticizes? It’s demeaning and frustrating. After all, there must be something that you are doing right. Tell your team when they are doing well. Give your team positive feedback and encouragement. Let them know when they are clicking on all cylinders and how much you appreciate them and their efforts. Some establishments go so far as to provide bonuses and incentives for the team members who perform well.

But now that you  will on occasion have issues. After all, this is the real world. When the team fails, let them know. Don’t berate them but show them where they failed AND offer solutions. People only learn from their mistakes if they are shown their errors and taught how to do things differently in the future. Should it be necessary to discipline an employee, don’t hesitate to do it; there need to be repercussions to bad behavior or failures in your protocol.  Discipline fairly and evenly. And don’t forget to explain why.

5) Quash conflict – Not everyone will get along all the time. But in a team environment, conflict can lead to a seriously negative atmosphere and unnecessary tension. If you see or hear of intra-team issues – there’s that whole communication thing again – deal with them either on an individual or team level. Make sure you gather all of the information from all sides before jumping into the fray. Be mature, be objective, and be decisive on how to deal with the problem

6) Develop positive relationships – This should go without saying, but you need to know your team as people, not just employees. The more you know about someone, the better your professional and personal relationship will be. Learn about your team, their interests, their hobbies, their plans, their other jobs, etc. Take the team out for a dinner or drinks. Buy them coffee. Don’t sit in your office and watch them on CCTV…TALK TO THEM!

7) Be a motivator – If you want your team to follow in your stead, you need to forge a solid path. Set a good example through your behavior, work ethic, and interpersonal skills. The way YOU act is going to be reflected in your team’s actions. By treating your team, your co-workers, and your clientele with respect, you set the precedent. And setting a positive precedent will motivate your team to strive for the same level of excellence.

Being a leader is more than barking orders. Being a leader means acting with maturity and having a clear, objective, well-communicated vision. Don’t separate yourself from your team, become a part of it. Step to the fore and lead your team to excellence.



Nightclub Security Fundamentals

In the wake of this week’s Orlando nightclub shooting, there has been much discussion about what could have been done to prevent a large-scale massacre. We must first recognize that shootings on this scale (over 10 people) in nightclub/bar environments have never occurred within the United States. To state that mass casualty incidents such as this one are the norm or increasing in entertainment venues is not only counterproductive, it is patently false. However, the stark reality is that there are incidents involving guns in and around nightclubs on a regular basis. At least every few days, there is a report about a shooting or altercation involving some type of firearm in a bar or nightclub. And while some would try to guide the discussion towards preventing these specific large-scale events from occurring, the more measured approach should be to examine how bar, nightclub, lounge, and nightlife venue security can be improved on the whole.

The ultimate goal for any owner is to provide a comfortable environment for people to enjoy themselves. But at the same time, they must reduce liability and deter or dissuade those with criminal or potentially violent intentions. No discussion about nightclub security can begin without first talking about the role of the security staffer. It is these employees whose part in the overall scope of security is critical to the function of any bar, nightclub, or nightlife venue. Security staffers act as the front line when it comes to reducing liability, providing protection (for both patrons and the physical venue), and dispensing solid customer service. They are usually the first – and last – individuals that patrons will encounter in an establishment, and the staff’s attitude and approach can mean the difference between a customer’s great night on the town or a ruined evening.

Security staffers will spot trouble before the CCTV system, respond to any issues before law enforcement, and take care of any number of problems before the manager can arrive to help out. But no matter how well trained the staff may be, their ability to provide a safe, secure venue for patrons is dependent on the steps that management takes to assist them in the performance of their duties. Every establishment’s security program needs to be built on the idea of “concentric rings of security”, of which the security staff is only one.

Your First Ring of Defense – The Exterior

The first ring of protection begins with the physical security measures in place outside of an establishment: CCTV cameras, secured places of ingress and egress, and visible security staff. People with questionable intentions – whether petty thieves, underage drinkers, or armed attackers – are often deterred by the mere fact that there is security in place. In the majority of cases, criminals do not want to be seen, heard, noticed, or remembered. CCTV cameras limit the criminal’s ability to access a location unseen or enact their plans without being captured on video. Externally locked and clearly marked exit doors not only limit access but can force troublemakers to travel in a direction that will place them in contact with a posted staff member or within line of sight of a camera. Dedicated entry areas force interaction with security staff providing an excellent opportunity for them to ask for ID, remember a face, or potentially bar access to the venue – again limiting options for the would-be criminal.

The physical design of an entry and layout of a rope line can also help to direct people to specific areas, forcing the criminal to figure a way around perceived obstacles. Separate staging areas (i.e. entry line, cover charge area, and coat check) provide additional opportunities for observation of potentially violent or illegal behavior. The more time a potential troublemaker is exposed in an open area or under the watchful eye of an individual or series of cameras, the less likely they are to take any chances. If a target is too difficult or time-consuming to get to, the criminal will choose another target.

Additional steps that can be taken at the front door include the addition of metal detectors (static or handheld), bag checks, and physical pat downs. Besides the potential discovery of weapons before they can be introduced into the venue, these stepped-up measures can reveal everything from illegal drugs to banned items. The obvious downside is that people want to go out for a night on the town, NOT take a trip through the TSA line in order to grab a drink! What some clientele may view as a necessary annoyance others might view as an unwelcome intrusion. Remember, what patrons experience at the front door is going to set the tone for the evening and as such, establishments should have in-depth discussions regarding the implementation of what might be interpreted by some as “extreme” measures.

The Interior Staff – Your Second Line of Defense

While front door staffers are keepers of the gate, interior staffers will be the ones holding the line once the patrons enter. Interior staffers are the eyes and ears of a venue and will more often than not be the first to respond to issues within the establishment. A visible, easily identifiable – whether by uniform, dress code, or name tag – security staff member acts not only as a deterrent but as a potential helping hand to patrons in need of assistance. Knowing that they can easily find and communicate with a security staffer adds to patrons’ comfort levels and thereby their enjoyment of the evening. They know that should a problem occur, there is a staff member there to help. Security staffers should always make it a point to interact with patrons. Extended conversations about the general state of world affairs aren’t necessary, but greetings and questions about how patrons’ evenings are going are a must. The smallest conversations can oftentimes help reveal trouble or brewing problems.

To that end, observation and communication are among the most important factors to successful security coverage. Too many times a potential issue is noticed or handled by staffers within the establishment and there is no communication of the incident to those working the front door, to management, or even to others working within the venue. Nightlife venues MUST have radios – and have staffers trained in their use – in order to rapidly and effectively relay important information. But keep in mind that no amount of communication will be of use if there is not a set of protocols, policies, and procedures in place should trouble of any sort arise.

From responses to altercations to dealing with dress code issues, venue security staff should be able to follow a set of steps to get them from Point A to Point Z. Ideally, these policies and procedures should be contained within a manual and used as the basis of training for both new and old employees. Constant training and reiteration of policies help to build the foundation of a security staff’s base of knowledge. Along those lines, staffers should know the location of basic emergency equipment: fire extinguishers, first aid kits, breaker boxes, and emergency lighting controls. Scenario training – everything from dealing with minor injuries to handling large scale fights – and evacuation drills will help to further reinforce any security staff’s knowledge base.

Finally, developing a good working relationship with local law enforcement is of the utmost importance. All establishments should already have the local police department or state liquor agencies training their employees in ID checks and how to spot intoxicated individuals. Management should also work in tandem with local law enforcement to develop a plan and train staff in what to do during an active shooter situation. Whether meeting regularly with the local Night Life team, speaking to beat officers about recent incidents, or hiring off-duty police officers to work within a venue, frequent contact with LEOs helps to extend an establishment’s rings of security.

Nightclub incidents like the mass shooting in Orlando are still an anomaly. But one would be foolish not to try and prepare for them. Designing a security program for any venue begins with an honest discussion. Owners and managers should take a careful look at their existing security framework: do they have “concentric rings” of security, set policies and procedures, and a viable relationship with local Law Enforcement? Studying what is already in place, discussing what can be improved, and figuring how to make those improvements while still providing customers with an enjoyable night out will only help in the long run. Flaws are only a problem if they remain unfixed. At the very least, enhancing a security program will protect a venue from potential liability and keep patrons safe and happy. In a worst-case scenario, it could save many lives.

*If would like to hear a podcast version of this blog, please visit:
Nightclub Security Fundamentals


Date Rape Drugs

Just last week, three women in Santa Monica, California prevented a date rape. They were fortunate enough to see the accused would-be rapist slip something into his date’s drink and notified both the woman and the restaurant’s management. Long story short, the man was arrested and is now facing criminal charges. As luck would have it, the restaurant caught the incident on video, which was one of the reasons they were able to act so quickly and notify Law Enforcement.

Unfortunately, Drug-facilitated sexual assault is something that occurs to both women and men. And as in the case above, 75% of all acquaintance rapes involve drugs and/or alcohol. How can you lower the risks of something like this happening in your (or other) establishment(s)? The answer is not so cut and dry.

First off, an understanding of the drugs and their effects is necessary. I have condensed some of the information from here and I suggest that you go to their website for a more in-depth analysis.

The three most common Date Rape drugs are:

  • Rohypnol*  (aka ‘roofies’)
  • GHB
  • Ketamine (Special K)

Their effects are similar and basic:

  • Muscle relaxation or loss of muscle control
  • Difficulty with motor movements
  • Drunk feeling
  • Loss of consciousness (black out)
  • Confusion
  • Feeling out of control
  • Impaired motor function
  • Can’t remember what happened while drugged

Recognize any of these symptoms? You should, as they are similar to what happens when people are intoxicated. And herein lies the problem: how can you tell if someone is drunk or under the influence of a Date Rape drug? You can’t. However, there is one thing that will absolutely mitigate the risk of potential Date Rape situations:

PAYING ATTENTION TO YOUR PATRONS – Because when you pay attention, you notice things!

  • When couples enter your establishment, try to gauge their level of intoxication. Is one more intoxicated than the other? As the evening progresses, has one of the individuals become markedly more intoxicated than the other? Many times, bartenders have a pretty good feel for who is at what level of intoxication and can gauge where people should be after a certain number of drinks. And as a nightlub security staffer you should learn to spot intoxication as well.
  • Are there single men or women sitting at your bar and standing around the dance floor/bar/lounge patio? Are they talking to anyone? Are they approaching groups of men/women or just single individuals? Are they purchasing beverages or approaching someone with beverages already in hand? Do they seem to be aggressively pursuing members of the opposite sex? This may not necessarily be a sign of someone drugging drinks but could be an individual who is making others uncomfortable.
  • As people exit the establishment what is their condition as it compares to when they entered? Obviously, if you have a huge crowd it is hard to gauge everyone’s state of sobriety. But if you watched the couple from earlier and he is carrying her out of the bar while he is dead sober, some flags should go up. Same goes for any individual who is being assisted on their way out.


Bad people do NOT want attention. They do not want to be seen, heard, noticed, talked to, etc. So ask questions. Not everyone is a suspect nor should they be treated as such. But predators want to work on their terms not yours.

I am a big proponent of having conversations with Patrons. Asking people how their evening is going, if they watched the game, where they are headed that night…all simple questions that can often lead to more detailed and informative conversations. A group of women might point out a man who has been “creeping them out” or a single man might casually mention that he’s “…seen the same two women in a few bars that evening, always taking to single men, and they are here now.”

When people are carrying their “friend” out of the bar, ASK QUESTIONS. Are they ok? Who are they? Do you know these people? If you are not satisfied with the answer, ask more questions! A simple conversation can shed A LOT of light on a situation. I have witnessed numerous situations resolve themselves when a “bad guy” was asked just a few questions. If something seems very questionable: CALL THE POLICE. Many police departments have specific “Nightlife” units that are close by to help with issues you may encounter.

You and your team need to share information. If something doesn’t seem right mention it to someone else. They may have noticed the same thing or it might trigger something they saw earlier. Don’t be worried about mentioning something more than once. The more you talk, the more information gets spread around. Spotting something questionable and talking about it makes it a focus for your entire team.

Keeping an eye on your Patrons during arrival and departure is a good way to maintain customer relations, develop a rapport, and monitor them for any problems or questionable activity. Don’t be passive in your approach, be engaged, be personable, and PAY ATTENTION. Next time you might be the one to spot the troublemaker.

*Authorities are finding that Rophynol is slowly being replaced by Xanax and Klonopin in many cases.


The Rookie.

The Kid.

The Newbie.

At some point in time, you have either been or will work with The F’ing New Guy. Some staffers will be happy to take the opportunity to teach the kid the ropes. But most staffers will groan when they have to train a new bouncer. Why? Because teaching someone new everything there is to know about working nightclub security is basically impossible. Every inch of the club that you know so well is a confusing, obstacle filled maze to the new employee. Whether it is who gets to cut the line or which bathroom is for employees only, the amount of information that the new guy or gal needs to process can be overwhelming.

What many experienced staffers can’t see is the opportunity for growth that training a new bouncer provides. New employees ask questions you many not have considered for a while – or ever! They may see the crowd that you are used to in a completely different light. They might spot things that you take for granted and have been ignoring. But most important, they give you the chance to spread a little wisdom and in doing so, improve the way you do your own job!


I always start new staffers out with a tour of the establishment: entrances and exits, bathroom locations, fire extinguisher placement, gear room, etc. I don’t go into heavy detail about each area, just point out the basics so they know their way around. They’ll have plenty of time to learn the rest as they move forward.

New security staffers need to be assigned the easiest tasks for a couple of different reasons:

  • The approach that a new employee  takes to doing something simple will test their willingness to learn and determine their attitude towards being assigned menial tasks. If they aren’t willing to do the simple things, they probably can’t handle the complex ones.
  • Learning the simple tasks helps build the foundation upon which further responsibilities will be laid. If someone can’t learn a simple task, they shouldn’t be saddled with the responsibility of a more complex one.

I like to place new staffers in “static” posts: guarding a hallway, watching a back entrance, or manning an observation platform. This allows them to get a feel for not only how the crowd flows, but lets them refine their people watching skills, develop their abilities to say “no” – as in “No, you can’t come this way”, and get used to standing in one place, often for hours at a time.


New employees will have a TON of questions. You should always answer them honestly and directly. If you don’t know the answer…do not make one up. Let them know you’ll look into it and get back to them. In addition, never discredit any question that someone asks! I recently trained a very fresh crew of security staffers and they asked me “When it’s ok to go ‘hands on’ with a patron?” Many people would go on a tear or even fire the crew for asking such a simplistic question. But the reality is that this crew was NEVER TRAINED in ejections. My job was to teach and train them, so that’s what I did! I asked them if and when they thought it would be ‘ok’ and took it from there.

Asking a new hire questions is just as important as answering their questions. Ask them about themselves as well as what you have been teaching them. They’re a part of your team, so get to know them and make them comfortable. When you ask them what they’ve learned, don’t try to be tricky or sneaky about it. Be direct: How do you do this? Where to you place these? When do we act in this way? If they don’t know the answers…tell them the answers! This is not about making them feel stupid, it’s about teaching them how to do a job.


New hires can’t stay doing the simple tasks forever. Once the staffer seems comfortable with the basic work, slow integration into the team is the best policy. Have them tail someone (or several people) for the duration of a night. Have them do the job while someone watches. Pick up glasses, clear the bathroom line, keeping the sidewalk in order, all tasks that will need to be part of their duties moving forward. Again have them ask questions and ask them questions as you move along.

I would highly recommend NOT placing new hires in positions – or given responsibilities -where they would have heavy contact with patrons: VIP lines, entry ways, or ID checking. There is too much potential for slip-ups that might rub regular patrons the wrong way or lead to liability concerns.


Most important is to make the new member feel like part of the team. Will they be treated differently? Absolutely they will, just by virtue of being the “new kid”. Just remember that the “new kid” might be the one to pull your butt out of the fire should things go wrong. The more knowledgeable your team is, the stronger they are and the safer you will all be.

Until next time…

Don’t be a “Bouncer”

Over the course of the past few years writing this blog, the importance of  being “professional” and all that might entail has been reinforced in a number of our posts. Instead of a long reiteration of said posts, I thought that a few quick sentences could demonstrate how not to be – or be perceived as – a “Bouncer”. Please understand when I say “Bouncer”, I mean what the general public believes “bouncers” to be: large, menacing individuals who would rather fight than talk, and who take pleasure in belittling Patrons because they are on a power trip.

Here is a basic list – which if followed – will at the very least help you keep your job in the industry and possible even help to burnish your reputation. Much of it will seem like common sense…unless you’ve spent any time in a nightclub, in which case many of the sentences are far too common.

DON’T start fights

DON’T lose your cool over small things

DON’T be rude to Patrons

DON’T argue with intoxicated individuals

DON’T sexually harass your Patrons

DON’T drink on the job

DON’T play favorites with your Patrons

DON’T work for tips

DON’T make fun of or belittle your Patrons

DON’T sexually harass your coworkers

DON’T ignore your Patrons when they are trying to ask you a question

DON’T argue with your supervisor(s)

DON’T fight with your co-workers

DON’T automatically assume the intoxicated Patron is wrong

DON’T complain about your post for the night

DON’T get on a power trip

DON’T expect to be let go early

DON’T pick sides in an argument between Patrons

DON’T get upset when Patrons call you, your mother, or different members of your family terrible names

DON’T act like you are better than anyone on the Staff or in the line

DON’T lose your cool over big things

DON’T go into work with a bad attitude

DON’T sell drugs or tell Patrons where they can buy drugs

DON’T expect that intoxicated people will listen to anything you say

And, most important…………


Until next time.


How To Become A Professional Bouncer

A little ways back, we dropped some knowledge about Looking for Work in the field of Nightclub Security. Well, let’s say you pounded the pavement, got yourself a shiny new job, and are slowly making your way up the ranks. Now what? Is there a way to reach greater heights? What are the greater heights? How does one actually become a “Professional Bouncer”?

Before we dig into the nitty gritty, a quick talk about the word “Bouncer”. Depending on where you go, who you talk to, and what you read (cough, cough – meaning this blog), you have probably heard any number of names for Nightclub Security Staffers: Bouncers, Coolers, Muscle, Guest Services, Event Staff. While I prefer the use of “Nightclub Security Staffers”; everyone, everywhere, knows exactly what is meant by the word “Bouncer”. And that is fine with me, as long as people understand that a “Bouncer” is not always just a body in a suit. Our goal here (and I believe it should be the goal of anyone who takes the profession seriously) is to change the general perception of what it means to be a “Bouncer” and slowly get people to realize that a name is just a label: it is the person wearing the label who attaches the negative or positive attributes to it.

“Is there such a thing as a Professional Bouncer?”, you ask.

The answer is yes. Technically, if you are getting paid to do the work, you’re a professional. But I believe that there are “professionals” and there are PROFESSIONALS. PROFESSIONALS carry themselves a little differently, think outside the box, take their jobs seriously, and not only do their jobs but assist others with additional responsibilities at the same time. A true professional is willing to ask Who, What, Where, When, and How. Not just “Why?”

So how does one become a PROFESSIONAL? It’s actually quite simple: do your job as efficiently and professionally as possible.

1) Get Certified/Licensed – In the United States (and many other countries), you need some type of certification to work as a Security Guard. Geting certified not only shows that you take your job seriously, but it gives you the basic training needed to begin to do your job well. If an establishment is willing to hire you without certification you might want to reconsider. Chances are they are cutting corners in a number of places. Not to mention that working without certification is illegal. In addition, should you find yourself involved in an altercation that results in some type of injury – especially without a license or certification – the jury will not look kindly upon you or your actions.

2) Show up on time – Even better, show up for your shift early. It comes back to taking your job seriously. By showing up early, you can find out what is going to happen during your upcoming shift, prep any gear that you haven’t dealt with already, do a walkthrough of the establishment, and check in with your Supervisor or Head of Security. Who would you prefer to work with, the guy who strolls in the door ten minutes late with a cup of coffee in one hand or the guy who is already suited up and ready to roll before the shift even begins? (Hint: it’s the second guy)

3) Dress appropriately and look the part – Amazing how many guys show up with their shirts untucked, dinner stains on their pants, hair tussled, and yawning. The last thing a customer wants to see is a Staffer walking to their post, tucking in their shirt, earpiece dragging behind them. Believe it or not, you are representing yourself and your establishment before you even walk in the door. It doesn’t take that much to be prepared before your shift. And if you aren’t prepared, refer to #2. If you show up early, you can head to the back and be prepped by the time your shift starts.

4) Prep your gear – It is your responsibility to be ready when the shift starts. That means having your flashlight, earpiece, duty belt, lapel pin, and assorted equipment prepped and good to go before stepping on the floor. Buy your own flashlight and batteries and have a back up set. Get your own earpiece. Have multiple shirts, pants, and pairs of shoes. Test your gear before you work and get back ups if necessary.That way, you are never caught without what you need to do the job.

5) Don’t get into fights – It seems ridiculous to have to say it but your job is to prevent fights, not start them. If your perception of this occupation is fights, fights, fights, you are missing the point completely. Your job is to keep the patrons, the establishment, and your co-workers safe. Period. If you are the bouncer who is always “mixing it up”, you’ll eventually find yourself on the losing side of the fight…or lawsuit. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t defend yourself, but if you are starting the problems…find another job.

6) Ask questions – If you don’t know the answer to a question, ask someone else. If you don’t know how to do something, ask. If you want to learn something, ask. By asking questions, you show that you are seeking clarification or are interested in gaining knowledge. Which in turn means that you take what you do seriously.

7) Be patient – No one is perfect. Not your boss, not your co-workers, not the intoxicated patrons, and certainly not you. When things go wrong or when there is yet another problem to deal with, take a deep breath and approach it patiently and calmly. Going into any situation – especially when dealing with an intoxicated individual – with a hot head will get you NOWHERE. Being patient allows you to listen better, be more objective, and hopefully solve any conflicts with a clear head.

8) Keep training – Learn new skills, constantly. Whether it is how to check IDs, learning more about intoxication, studying martial arts, or practicing conflict resolution, any new skills that you acquire will help you become more proficient at your job, which in turn helps you become a PROFESSIONAL.

9) Be a mentor…or look for one – Once you’ve learned some skills, start teaching others. Teaching someone is the best test of whether or not you really understand a concept. You need to have complete understanding of any concept in order to teach. You can’t just ‘kind of get it’ or know it just well enough to get by; you MUST know your subject.

If you are not ready to teach, find someone to guide you. Set your ego aside and admit that you don’t know it all and need some help in learning something new. Mentors allow you to grow and learn while they correct your mistakes.

Finally, take what you do seriously. All the time. Does this mean that you can’t laugh or crack jokes on the job? No. But it does mean that you approach every situation with a clear head, an objective point of view, and a serious attitude. Remember, this job can be dangerous at the most unexpected moments. And unexpected moments tend to occur when you aren’t taking things seriously. Get your head straight and take on the issues you run across in a positive, PROFESSIONAL manner. Behaving like this is bound to get you noticed for all of the right reasons.

Until next time…

Getting A Promotion…

I was having a discussion with a friend the other day and they asked, “How quickly does someone become a Doorman?” This lead to a discussion with a ton of different tangents, before returning to the basic answer of:

What is that individual’s experience and skillset?

There are few jobs in a Nightclub or Entertainment setting into which you can slide with no experience. Head of Security, Doorman, and Bartender are three of them. Each of these demands a specific skillset and at least some background experience. I can’t imagine having a bartender with no experience make me a complicated drink any more than I can imagine a Head of Security not knowing how to fill out an Incident Report.

So how does one work their way up the ranks in a job setting, especially in the field of Security? How do you put yourself in the position to receive a promotion?

Besides having the correct Attitude and Approach, the only way to truly advance is EXPERIENCE. You have to put in the time.  Only by putting in the time will you learn the intricacies of each position on the Security Staff, which will – along with some demonstrated initiative – allow you to advance and be considered for promotion.

By way of example, here is an excerpt from an Employee Manual:

Skill set:

  • Assist Patrons with any questions or concerns
  • Have general knowledge of  XXXXX Policies and Procedures
  • Monitor sobriety of Patrons
  • Circulate throughout XXXXX, evaluating the conduct and attitudes of Patrons and looking for inappropriateness and misbehavior
  • Monitor male-to-male behavior like rough-housing and possible early stages of altercations
  • Interdict and de-escalate verbal altercations between Patrons
  • Interdict and de-escalate physical altercations between Patrons
  • Maintain flow of foot traffic throughout XXXXX
  • Lookout for hazards to Patrons and Staff, including: broken glass, bottles, chairs, tables, and any other possibly dangerous obstructions.
  • Attend to the needs of over-intoxicated or physically ill Patrons
  • Attend to general cleanliness of  XXXXX
  • Advise Floorman/Zone Leads of any possible altercations or trouble
  • Assist Zone Leads with any work requests
  • Clear Front Sidewalk of Patrons post-closing

These are the required skills for the most BASIC of positions. By way of comparison, let’s look at the skill set for the Head of Security:

Demonstrated knowledge of all Roamer responsibilities

Demonstrated knowledge of all Floorman responsibilities

Demonstrated knowledge of all Door Out responsibilities

Demonstrated knowledge of all ID Check responsibilities

Demonstrated knowledge of all Zone Lead responsibilities

  • Formulation and implementation of XXXXX Security Staff Policies and Procedures
  • Interviewing and hiring of potential Security Staff candidates
  • Conduct procedural training of new and current Security Staff
  • Formulation and management of Security Staff schedules
  • Conduct Security Staff job performance and disciplinary reviews
  • Assist Management with any major Event or Promotion preparation
  • Assignment of nightly Security posts
  • Oversee Security Staff throughout duration of nightly shifts
  • Act as liaison between Security Staff and Management
  • Communicate with Zone Leads and Management to ensure continuity of service throughout duration of evening
  • Act as Liaison to VIP Hostess for any VIP Security needs
  • Act as Liaison to Law Enforcement during sweeps
  • Report all Incidents and responses to Management
  • Review and complete Security Staff paperwork, including Nightly and Incident Reports
  • Conduct end of night Security Staff meeting and Management debrief

A little bit more detailed, no? You’ll notice the first thing listed is “Demonstrated knowledge of…” Think about it: How can you possibly do your supervisor’s job if you don’t know how to do your job and the jobs of every other position on your crew?

One cannot expect to manage a Staff (regardless of the type of job) unless they know what the Staffers do!  For one, it allows you as the manager to “get in their shoes”. Why does guarding the garbage suck so much? You should know, you’ve done it. “How do I fill out an Incident Report?” You should know, you’ve done it. And based off of YOUR experience in the lower rung position, you might be able to make some changes, adjustments, or improvements to that position when you advance.

Finally, the most important reason that you should know how to do everyone’s job:


Someone might call in sick. Or get fired. Or really need to go to the bathroom. And you are the only one around to do the job. But that’s not a problem…BECAUSE YOU’VE DONE IT BEFORE. Learning how to do everyone’s job doesn’t just help you: it helps your co-workers as well.

Now you know to start soaking in information like a sponge. But what else does it take to get that promotion? You’ll have to wait for that information.

Until next time….

Taking your job seriously…


I hope that you all have a nice relaxing Holiday Season and are approaching 2013 refreshed and renewed.

We finished out 2012 with a post about the importance of showing up to work and having a strong work ethic. The begin 2013, I think it is important to have a brief discussion about taking your job seriously. Some people might ask, “Is there a difference between having a strong work ethic and taking your job seriously?” Well, many people show up to work everyday and do their job, but go about it in an unorganized or halfhearted way. They would consider themselves to have a strong work ethic (they showed up, didn’t they?). Others would say that the serious nature of their job (i.e. security) proves that they have a strong work ethic. But that doesn’t mean that they do the job well, work within a structured environment, or take the job seriously.

In my humble opinion, if you are working in the field of Security – regardless of environment – you have an obligation to not only take your job seriously, but to work as hard as possible to make sure that you do the job well. How does one do this? It is pretty simple actually:

  • Show up early for your shift
  • Show up in uniform or dressed to work
  • Show up with all your equipment in working order
  • Check in with your Supervisor/Manager immediately
  • Ask what you can do in addition to your posted duties
  • Take time before, during, and after your shift to figure out how not only how to improve your job performance, but how to help others improve their job performance
  • Work with others to solve problems
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help
  • Be willing to accept criticism
  • Minimize your distractions

Do keep in mind that taking your job seriously and working to improve yourself and others DOES NOT mean that you can’t joke with your co-workers or try to enjoy the work you do. After all, if we can’t let loose a little, we’ll burn out fast. But keep in mind that while you are on the job, your main focus should be WORK.

In other words:


Nightclub Management and Staff Meetings

How often do you meet with your Security Staff? Nightly? Weekly? Monthly?

How often do you meet with Managers/Owners? Nightly? Weekly? Monthly?

How often do you meet with your Head of Security? Nightly? Weekly? Monthly?

I raise theses questions to not only make you think about how often you do it, but to demonstrate how important it is that you stay in touch with your co-workers. Anyone who has ever worked a job should have experienced a workplace meeting at some point. I will go so far as to say that if you’ve never been to a work meeting, you are probably working for a disorganized establishment and that things are a mess from both a Managerial and Employee standpoint.

Work meetings are good for a number of reasons:

  • They aid in communication and are one of the best ways of passing along information – 7% of how we communicate is verbal. The other 93% is through physical cues and gestures. Want to get important information across? Do it face to face with your co-workers.
  • They help boost morale by showing your employees/co-workers that you actually care about what they have to say.
  • They develop leadership skills and work skills – If someone has never given a presentation or had to answer questions in a group setting, they will in a work meeting!
  • They are empowering, because they give your employees the opportunity to speak their minds.

That being said, anyone who has ever been to a work meeting knows that they can be spirit-breaking, soul crushing exercises in boredom and futility. Why? Generally meetings are not enjoyable for the following reasons:

  • They lack focus or direction – No one knows what to talk about or even who is in charge of the meeting.
  • Lack of preparation – No notes, messy notes, or no idea where the notes are located.
  • Too many meetings – If you are holding a meeting every day or twice a day, you are holding too many meetings, unless the meetings are project specific or tightly managed and directed.
  • Wasted time – A lot of sitting around with nothing being discussed or discussions that veer off on non-topic related subjects.

So, how does one make a meeting an incredible experience? Well, ok, how does one make a meeting at least tolerable? A few simple steps:

  • Have an Agenda – I’ve been to far too many meetings that begin with, “What are we talking about today?” Fail. Make a list of your topics and work your way down the list. Reign in any conversations that don’t deal with the topics at hand.
  • Start on time – No one wants to wait around while you get your act together. It shows a lack of respect for your co-workers and lack of professionalism on your part. Start – and end – your meetings on time.
  • Have fewer/shorter meetings – Meetings need not drag on for hours or take place 5 days a week. Some of the most informative meetings I’ve taken part in lasted no more than 10-15 minutes. Get your points across quickly and efficiently (that’s were the Agenda comes into play) and get out of there.
  • Give out assignments – You want your Staff to be involved, especially when it comes to getting work done. Each Security Position should already have it’s own responsibilities. Giving workers additional assignments will not only keep them busy, but will help you to get more accomplished.
  • Get feedback from your Staff – Ask for suggestions, comments, tips, pointers, and complaints from your Staff. It will allow you to gauge your leadership and management, discover problems, and think about fixes.
  • INCLUDE EVERYONE – Obviously, if you are holding a Management meeting, you will only have Management present. That being said, it is sometimes a good idea to bring in a random Staffer to let you know how the “regular” Staff are doing. You won’t necessarily get the straight story from your Head of Security or Bar Manager. And in your Staff meetings, it is often a good idea to include a member of Management so they can hear things from the “horse’s mouth”.

Hold a meeting! Get in touch with Staff, get feedback, throw around new ideas, and pass along some responsibility. Don’t waste these opportunities to improve your workers’ morale and your company’s managerial performance.

Until next time…

Deflecting blame…

I would love to make you feel better and tell you that every night that you work at a Bar or Nightclub was going to wonderful, free of incidents, and full of satisfied Patrons. But I’m not going to. The more likely scenario is that you will be bored, an ejection or two will occur, and at least a handful of customers will complain.

Handling complaints is one of the things that Nightclub Security Staffers have to do on a VERY regular basis. From too long a wait for drinks to a cover charge that is too expensive, someone is going to complain about it…and someone is going to have to deal with the complaint. Whether you are Head of Security or a Roamer, the person hearing the complaint will probably YOU, based solely on the fact that YOU are standing there to hear it.

Just because handling complaints is part of your job doesn’t make it enjoyable or even amusing. Well, sometimes it can be amusing. But the times that it is not amusing can make for very frustrating conversations. These conversations, especially when talking to an intoxicated Patron, often devolve into a back and forth that goes nowhere.* This is usually the point at which less experienced Staffers will lose their cool and begin the ejection process. There is however, a way to get completely out of the way of a conversation before it starts to devolve:


At most times in your life, deflecting the blame is often seen as using an excuse (which it is) or not taking responsibility for your actions (also a possibility), both of which can come back to bite you in the behind. But in a Bar/Nightclub environment this tactic can not only take the problem out of your hands, but make you look like the good guy/gal.

People view people in positions of authority with either disdain or admiration, depending on the authority figure’s actions. In the Nightclub setting, the authority figure is generally the Manager or Head of Security. And everyone who walks in the door knows that the final say will rest on the shoulders of either or these individuals. Why not use this to your advantage?

In some circumstances, a deflection of blame should be the first thing out of the gate! Should you have to approach a table full of loud individuals, which is the easier approach:

  1. “Keep it down! You’re getting out of hand!”
  2. “Excuse me, but my Manager was wondering if you could tone it down a bit. He’s been getting complaints.”

#2 will usually do the trick. It makes you seem like the Good Guy, just following orders.

Another example would be at the Front Door. An individual walks up out of Dress Code and you deny them entry. If they start to complain, which is the better response?

  1. “I already told you, you can’t get in dressed like that. Go away.”
  2. “I would usually let you in, but my boss is being really tough on us in terms of dress code. Sorry.”

Again, blame deflected. You would let them in, but it is not up to you! I have heard some Security Staffers go so far as to badmouth their boss to Patrons in order to make them happy. I personally wouldn’t go that route, but it seemed to work at the time.

The other bonus to deflecting blame higher up the food chain is that the HOS/Manager are usually “too busy” to hear the complaint that is being fed to you. That means there is no further recourse for the Patron. You’ve “done your best, but you can’t do anymore.” It works wonders. Add this deflection tactic to your bag of tricks and see how it works!

Until next time…

* We will be discussing “Circular Conversations” in the near future.