February 1, 2013

Management Techniques I Learned Watching Dalton (Swayze) In Road House

February 1, 2013

Management Techniques I Learned Watching Dalton (Swayze) In Road House

HBO has been showing Road House lately and the DirecTV blurb describing the movie reads: “Hired to tame a rowdy Missouri Bar, a PhD bouncer romances a doctor and tames the whole town.”

Genius begets genius I guess. On this note, I wanted to share a few management techniques I’ve learned from re-watching Road House once or twice while also being in hiring mode at work.

HIRE QUICKLY: In Road House’s opening credits, shithole bar owner Frank Tilghman goes to recruit Dalton (Patrick Swayze) from a former shithole now transformed into a semi-respectable 80s hangout with only a few knife fights per night. As Tilghman observes Dalton sewing up a knife wound on his own shoulder with no pain meds (because “pain don’t hurt”), he offers Dalton the job on the spot … plus a plane ticket even before Dalton can think. Deal closed. The lesson: If someone who’s a known quantity to you becomes available or you even think they might be looking, move on them immediately. Good people are never in play for long, and they’re (usually) good because they’re loyal and hardworking. If you’re not quite ready to hire because of budget or just fear, but the known quantity is open to change, move on them anyway. An ace may not transform your whole town, but they might just transform your whole team.

[And on a related note, DirecTV should promote the writer of the above Road House blurb immediately. If they haven’t already, I’ve got a job for that person as my Chief Tweeting Officer.]

FIRE QUICKLY: When Dalton comes to Tilghman’s joint, he stands at the bar studying silently as the patrons and bouncers destroy themselves and the place. When Tilghman introduces Dalton to the team as “the best damn cooler in the business” and their new boss, Dalton immediately fires a waitress for dealing drugs, a quick-to-punch bouncer for “having the wrong disposition,” and a bartender for stealing cash. Dead weight gone day one, and the remaining team is rattled into submission. Life outside the television is a bit more complex, but the management lesson holds: observe your team and if someone’s just not going to be where you need them to be within a year, better to end it now than continuing to convince yourself more training will change things. Decisions like this are disruptive to your flow today, but disruptions caused by a mediocre or careless employee just get worse. Don’t prolong the inevitable. And on the plus side, it’s such a relief and time saver to part ways with someone who’s not up to the job.

PUT THOSE YOU TRULY KNOW IN KEY POSITIONS: Dalton’s flow was certainly disrupted out of the gate and he told Tilghman “it’ll get worse before it gets better.” Indeed. Turns out the dudes Dalton fired teamed up with local kingpin extortionist Brad Wesley, who heaps all kinds of misfortune on Dalton and his girl and his cars. That’s when Dalton calls in Wade Garrett (Sam Elliott), his bouncer mentor consigliere to take the ultra-violence up to a whole new zen-like level. The lesson: you can only get through the worst and grow to be the best if your core team is made of people you can trust. This takes the ‘known quantity’ idea above one step further. If you have a key position to fill, you can’t settle. You must fill it with someone that you know AND have some working history with (as opposed to personal history) so you understand how they make decisions.

BE NICE: Dalton makes his team “follow three simple rules: One, never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two, take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it’s absolutely necessary. And three, be nice.” That last one transcends hillbilly bar culture. Actual fists may not fly in your sterile fluorescent conference rooms, but the same high hostility level generally permeates business culture. So the lesson here: be the nice guy who finishes first. People don’t know how to play that because they’re either too competitive or too paranoid to get it. You just have to be among the best at what you do, then there’s no reason to be hostile. You and your team just win. And make friends while your competitors are making enemies. And keep being nice … “until it’s time to not be nice.”

NOW THE BONUS MATERIAL: I started this post Wednesday and had to table it for work priorities. Then about 3:00 pm, one of my oldest friends Rob texts me from two states away:

“You need to leave work pretty much immediately. Road House just started on HBO. Kid got sent home for biting. So this is a nice silver lining for the killed work productivity.”

Of course I told him I’d recently partaken in the Road House bliss and was working on a post. Then today he sent me this piece in which he channels the arch villain of our favorite bad movie…


I’m Brad Wesley. Yes I’m a dead movie character, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a few things about business management from me. In looking back at my magnificent life, running a one stop light town with an iron fist, there were a few things Brad Wesley did right. Had I changed a few things about how I did those things, Brad Wesley would still be around right now. Maybe even in a sequel. Learn from Brad Wesley. Learn from me…

NEVER DO BUSINESS WITH FAMILY: My sister’s mouth breather son was skimming from the Double Deuce for, according to Dalton’s estimation, about a hundred fifty a night back in 89. That’s probably close to 250 bucks a night in today’s dollars. Did the ingrate let Brad Wesley dip his beak at all into that skim? No. And part of the reason I declared war on the crap hole bar was because they fired his sorry ass. Doing business with family is not smart. Listen from Brad Wesley. Avoid it whenever possible.

HIRE GOOD TALENT: I made the critical mistake of hiring mostly halfwits, include a lard ass that ended up being taken out by a fucking falling stuffed polar bear. Think about that for a minute. Rather than hiring dumbasses like that, I should have doubled up and hired another badass henchman that could pair sick ass ninja karate skills with stories about what he did to guys like Dalton in prison. Had I done that, I wouldn’t be dead now. Brad Wesley would be knee deep in acid wash wearing, big hair sporting, 80s skank punnany. God, Brad Wesley wishes he had a mulligan on that one!

SURROUND YOURSELF WITH YOUTH: I got this half right. I had a bunch of young people around me, which is the best way to get new energy and new ideas (and more of that punnany), but I just let them use me and my house and pool for late night parties. Freeloaders. I should have gotten some ideas from them I could use. Like not worrying about a crap bar like the Double Deuce, and instead opening up an ultra lounge with 500 dollar bottle service like in Vegas. Pretty sure one of those young idiots that was floating on an air mattress in Brad Wesley’s pool drinking Brad Wesley’s beer had that idea back then. Had I only used those young resources better, Brad Wesley would be alive right now and the king of bottle service. And acid wash jeans wearing big hair sporting punnany.

WEAR MORE LINEN: Yes, the slacks were mom jean style with high belts, but most of Brad Wesley’s best ideas came while wearing comfortable, breathable linen. Pretty much every mistake Brad Wesley ever made came while wearing something other than linen. In fact, the time I was driving and signing and weaving on the road and came about a hundred yards short of running Dalton into a telephone pole I was wearing a suit. Had Brad Wesley been wearing linen, I would have timed that weave better, ran him into a pole and ended him, ended the feud and Brad Wesley would still be alive and knee deep in you know what. Learn from Brad Wesley. Wear more linen.

THERE’S NO BETTER EXCLAMATION POINT THAN A MONSTER TRUCK: When Brad Wesley needs to make a point, it’s surely not going to end with no candy ass period. It’s going to end with a massive Monster truck completely fucking up your world. You don’t want to pay Brad Wesley his protection money? Fine. Gather around with your friends and watch as a gleaming blue pickup on 90 inch rims levels your place of business. When you face your enemies, bring the rain in similar fashion. Brad Wesley guarantees you won’t regret it – but your enemies will.

AND FINALLY: Always keep plenty of Aqua Net hair spray in your bathroom for the broads. Always vote Republican. And most important of all, never spook a horse with a gun when you can use a helicopter.
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