Tag Archives: business

SURFING THE TRUMP DISRUPTION: 4 Keys to Success as America Changes in 2017

Whatever your opinion on Donald Trump, everyone can agree that there are huge changes coming to America and the world, starting January 20.

How can a business person or any other citizen adapt and prosper in this volatile time? Since the election November 8, I have come up with a few ideas. None of them involve Tweeting after awards shows.



The US government is the largest organization in our nation. It is about to drastically transform. A multitude of new businesses will spring up to manage the intentional and unintentional results of this disruption. I believe people are going to prosper in new  enterprises arising to exploit or even to oppose this radical shift in government.

It’s not simply that we’ve moved from a Democratic to Republican administration. Mr. Trump seems determined to disrupt the way governing has been done for decades, just as he broke all the rules of campaigning. Whether you love or loath the incoming President, it’s obvious that the next four years will not be business as usual. Is Donald Trump the Amazon of politics, a profound game changer? Or is he closer to Bitcoin or Google Glass, a passing sideshow oddity? Either way there are big changes in store starting right away.

Some of the sectors where the new administration and Congress will make drastic changes include health care, national security, energy policy, international relations, tax rules, business regulations, laws over individuals, and conservation. As these changes are instituted, businesses and jobs will be created to manage new challenges and exploit new opportunities. I expect an explosion of innovation as our nation grapples with the new Administration’s game-changing approach to government.

These opportunities will not be for business owners only. If you don’t own your own company, be on the lookout for openings your employer can exploit, and suggest new moves. You could end up leading a new division of your company! And look for part time side business ideas as well.

There will be opportunities for Republicans and Democrats alike. Innovative enterprises aimed at fighting Mr. Trump and Republican control of government are already emerging.

The Trump Disruption will have no borders. There will be opportunities not only for Americans but people the world over. As America is disrupted from within, other nations will have new chances to excel and challenges to overcome. You could write a book about Russia alone.

I advise everyone to look at every upcoming change, and ask the question: “what’s my opportunity to help?” Particularly focus on areas relating to your experience and expertise. There will be many ways to add value, through businesses, government and non-profit civic causes. Opportunities are there whether you favor or oppose the Trump Administration.



Government regulations of businesses are going to be loosened. That’s a sure thing with the new power structure. For my own businesses (hospitality, retail beverage marketing and event services), fewer regulations will be a catalyst for growth, innovation and profits. But while a more permissive regulatory environment will present opportunities, it also creates more openings for fraudulent operators. As regulations fall, new scams are sure to crop up. It will be increasingly important to read the fine print and do due diligence on every personal and business deal. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!



The blunt, unfiltered approach that works for Mr. Trump is 99% likely to backfire for the rest of us in our daily lives. Even if you are a Trump fan, it’s important to avoid insulting, arrogant, thoughtless behavior in business and personal interactions. You are not a billionaire TV star.

The satirical magazine The Onion was on point with this spoof:

REPORT: It Is Still Nowhere Near OK to Act Like Donald Trump

ITHACA, NY—In the hours since the Republican nominee’s stunning election to the nation’s highest office, reports have confirmed that, regardless of circumstance, it is not even remotely close to okay to act like Donald Trump. “Just to be perfectly clear, speaking or behaving in a manner similar to President-elect Trump is just as unacceptable now as it has ever been,” the reports stated, adding that in zero percent of cases is it even borderline permissible to conduct oneself either personally or professionally in a fashion akin to Trump, and that has not changed in the past two days. “In fact, acting like Mr. Trump does for even a moment will result in a wide range of negative social—and in some cases, criminal—consequences for you personally.” – THE ONION satirical media site



Eight years of divided government are over. Republicans are in control of all Federal branches and the majority of State Houses. Similar to the first term of President George W Bush in 2000, there will be a huge shift of resources toward Republican-preferred programs and away from those seen to benefit Democratic constituencies.

This shift will create two new sets of opportunities:

First and most obviously, Republican favored programs flush with new funds will offer new jobs and contract opportunities for businesses.
But also, Democratic favored programs losing funding will be searching for creative ways to continue their endeavors. This too is an opening for entrepreneurial minded people to step up with creative solutions.

Just don’t expect the government to shrink in total size and spending. Even Mr. Trump is not that radical. Rhetoric always comes in second to self interest, regardless of who rules! So count on plenty of ways to profit working with the new boss. Same as the old boss.

Our Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel famously said “Never let a crisis go to waste.” Whether you think Trump will “make America great” or be a “disaster,” unprecedented opportunities are on the way with the “huuuuuge” changes we’ll all be experiencing. Welcome to the uncharted territory of Trump’s America.


If banks were restaurants they’d all go out of business.

Dear banks,

We’ve noticed as you merge and grow your customer service goes down the drain.

You replace most of the experienced people we’ve gotten to know with barely trained robotic staff.

You make up rules that don’t exist and aren’t consistent branch to branch.

You use fraud protection as an excuse for bad service and no common sense.

You’d really prefer not to have lobbies or provide any services other than selling us stuff.

The only way for a business owner like myself to efficiently and pleasantly do business with a bank to pick one branch and only go to that one branch. Get to know the people so they can make “exceptions” that shouldn’t have to be exceptions. It’s like having to know the doorman at a nightclub!

When you merge, your original shareholders tend to get short-changed unless they are bank management.

If an independent restaurant grew into a chain the way banks do, they’d go out of business.

Then again, restaurants aren’t bailed out by taxpayers when they make bad decisions!




Excellent Read for Enterpreneurs or anyone trying something new!

Tim Ferris author of 4 Hour Workweek has a great blog post about the emotional roller coaster ride taken by Start Up Founders or any Entrepreneur, and how to handle the different stages. I found it enlightening and helpful!

Have an adventurous and profitable week!

PS Here’s another great read from Tim that reminded me about the “Hell Yeah!” theory I had gotten away from.  And Entrepreneurs be sure to read this too!

rollercoaster 1

#Business and Life Advice from the Grateful Dead #Dead50

Grateful Dead closed out their 50 Year Career in Chicago last night at Soldier Field (a mere 2 blocks from my home). It was the same location as their last show with Jerry Garcia in 1995. I’ve never been a big DeadHead but have appreciated their music, longevity, experimentation and also their business sense. They were one of the first bands to have their own record label and sell their own tickets, and everyone knows they are kings of merchandising and brand building. They changed the concert touring business as well with their traveling band of fans, long improvisational shows, and allowing fans to tape their shows starting decades ago.
Along with Led Zeppelin they were one of the rock bands that did the most to shape the music and concert business.
Over the weekend I tweeted some of my favorite Grateful Dead lyrics that also can be taken as good self improvement advice in business and life.
Fare Thee Well!

once in a while gdead

maybe you find direction gdead

gdead one man gathers

gdead silver mine

long distance runner c

are you kind gdead

To learn more about the Grateful Dead’s business innovations and lessons, read this short article from guy who wrote a whole book on it.  Or here’s another one.

What a long, strange trip it’s been.



On #EqualPayDay : There’s Gender Pay Gap Improvement to Celebrate

~~ Equal Pay Day is an important day for the hospitality business, as our industry has provided more management and ownership opportunity to women than most fields. Recent NRA research found more than 45 percent of today’s restaurant managers are women, compared with 38 percent in other industries. Further, the number of restaurants owned by women increased 50 percent between 1997 and 2007.

~~ Equal Pay Day is the day on which the average woman will make what the average man made in the previous year. So in all of 2014 plus every day of 2015 up to today the average woman’s earnings = the average man’s year 2014 earnings. There are many ways to calculate this and it is no where near an unassailable number or date. Yet the issues of why women lag in earning power are important and fair to debate. Here is a well-documented, balanced analysis from Pew Research Group, which shows improvements to be celebrated as the wage gap closes, yet still areas of opportunity for improvement.
~~ My take is that we have to be very careful not to choose “solutions” that will make things worse for women and the workforce as a whole, such as banning salary negotiation.

~~ To read more on the issue of diversity from the National Restaurant Association here.


Would it impress your Valentine if a drone delivered your drinks?

A restaurant in Singapore is planning to experiment with drones delivering food and drinks within the restaurant. Read about it here at WaPo. Sounds messy to me, so what do you think?

drone dining plan


The 25 Year Story of Chicago’s Largest Nightclub

NOTE: One year ago marked the finale of the largest, longest running nightlife project I’ve been involved with.  This is my personal recap and remembrance from closing week, January 2015.  The thoughts are mine and do not necessarily represent the official views of ACE or its owners.


“To sustain longevity, you have to evolve.” – Aries Spears

In the last week of October 1989 (about 1 month after Avicii was born), Excalibur Nightclub opened in downtown Chicago. This past weekend was the finale of a 25 year run under the same ownership and management. The club owners sold the real estate to a major developer, so now it’s closing time for Ala Carte Entertainment at this unique and historic castle-like location. ACE will now proceed with developing 4 new locations set to open in the coming year, in addition to their 20+ established locations.

A handful of well-operated bars, restaurants and concert halls can last generations, but pure nightclubs (large dance oriented, sound system/DJ driven venues) are only as good as last week’s party. They tend to resemble a flame that burns hot and dies fast. Longevity is the hardest thing to achieve in the nightlife business.

The majority of nightclubs strike like a match, flaring up to light a cigarette or a couple of candles. Alive only a year or two, most clubs rapidly burn out, having contributed briefly to the nightlife pageant. A few of those matches start a fire that burns and warms the night for a while; five years is a good run for a nightclub. These clubs host the fuzzy party memories for each wave of 20 somethings. A select handful of nightclubs blaze for 10 years or more, providing a beacon to multiple generations of clubbers. These are the places people call “legendary.”
But the nightclub at 632 N. Dearborn was one of an elite group of clubs in the world, going strong for 25 years, providing jobs for thousands, entertainment for millions of people from Chicago and all around the world, and like any big fire, it burned a few of us now and then.

“Nobody goes there, it’s too crowded.” – Yogi Berra

Excalibur was never trendy, yet it evolved constantly through the years.  It opened in 1989 as half dance club and half “barcade” with 10,000 square feet of bar games including an indoor golf simulator. Funny that 25 years later in 2014 barcades are a hot trend once again.
Chicago’s hipsters and self-styled A-listers over the years chose to judge the multi-club complex solely by the first floor Cabaret, which was tourist and party oriented, playing mainstream dance music for a diverse group of average Joes and Janes out to celebrate birthdays, company events, conventions, marriages, end of the work week, and visits to the Big City. There was a piano bar for a while, that evolved into “comedy you can dance to,” with performing MCs involving the crowd in games and stunts. Yes, the first floor could be cheesy, but it was always fun and welcoming to all visitors. Not many clubs can say they successfully threw a wild party 7 days a week across 2 decades.
Beyond the first floor, hundreds of thousands of clubbers found radically different entertainment environments to explore inside this 40,000 sq ft complex. While the giant Excalibur sign was out front for most of the 25 year run, inside was a ever changing series of themed clubs within a club. In the 90s the most prominent “sub-club” was “The Dome Room,” home of bondage nights, cutting edge bands and hard core industrial music. From 2002-2012, EDM Nightclub “Vision” occupied the biggest 2 club rooms, more than half of the total space in the Excalibur building. Vision brought nearly every internationally known DJ to Chicago, and featured the Chicago debut of stars such as Calvin Harris and Armin Van Buuren, and superstar sets by Tiesto, Paul Oakenfold and Paul Van Dyk to name just a few. Nearly every respected DJ played the Vision space over 10 years, and the club was acclaimed internationally for its bookings, sound system and crowd.
Excalibur and all its “sub-clubs” definitely hosted the most diverse crowd in the history of Chicago nightlife. All ethnic groups had frequent theme events in the various club spaces, including Hispanic, Greek, Russian, African-American, Indian, Asian and many others. There were also frequent LGBT events.

In 2012, the building needed a major remodel after nearly 25 years of hard partying, and the decision was made to freshen things up with a new name and concept for the building, thus Excalibur was retired and The Castle opened March 1, 2013, focusing on expanding the EDM standard set by Vision, with the ever reliable Cabaret format continuing to bring the party on the first floor as it had from Excalibur’s opening day.

“The few who do are the envy of the many who only watch.” – Jim Rohn

Through all those parties and themes, there were a few consistent keys to the longevity and success of Excalibur and all its sub-clubs:

  • First and foremost, a welcoming atmosphere of friendly down to earth customer service, year in and year out, from an excellent staff.
  • The absolute best professional club management, operations and security, constantly perfecting systems to make the club safe and enjoyable for all. A unique strength of Excalibur management was the operational skill to avoid neighborhood and city problems. Incredibly, in 25 years there was never a major negative incident. Bad security and community relations are two of the biggest shortcomings that cause nightclubs to fail.
  • Developing multiple streams of business, including private events, quality casual dining, special interest promotions, live music, ethnic specialty entertainment, bachelorette parties, charity events, community/political events, and multiple entertainment theme events. For many years, Excalibur was the largest non-hotel private event space in Chicago, booking millions of dollars annually in social and corporate events.
  • Constantly changing and updating music formats and entertainment to appeal to a wide range of tastes from mainstream to cutting edge, and hiring the best DJs and MCs.
  • State of the art sound, lighting and video systems, upgraded on a regular basis.  Castle’s main room sound system technology was named Best in the World in 2014.
  • Frequent promotional events that were innovative, entertaining and tied in with current audience interests.
  • Regular redecorating and re-theming of the various clubs within the building.
  • A consistent corporate level management team over the years, very low turnover at the highest levels of ownership, operations supervisors, marketing and entertainment management.

What’s next for the historic building at 632 N Dearborn in Chicago? A major Las Vegas club in Chicago? A giant arcade bar that harkens back to 1989 and the opening of Excalibur? Another progressive EDM megaclub? Whatever comes next, 25 years as Chicago’s largest and most successful club will be a hard act to follow.

Cheers, with appreciation and gratitude to Fred and Mark Hoffmann, the owners, and everyone involved in this phenomenal success story!
— Tim Borden, “TimTheBarGuy” @tbchicago1

In 1989 I was the 20-something “head DJ” of the 5 unit bar group that bought the Limelight, which was larger in size than all of our bars combined at the time. After a year that almost killed everyone in the company, Excalibur opened, and luckily it worked! Then, as Ala Carte Entertainment expanded to over 20 locations, I served as Director of Marketing and Concept Development for all ACE locations through the 1990s until 2006. Since 2006 I have been a consultant to Ala Carte Entertainment, managing their beverage programs and special projects, including consulting on concept development of the Castle.

NOTE: I plan to add more posts with personal stories about the club and the 90s nightlife era.  Please subscribe to the blog to get notification on those posts.

— Tim

2 ex buildings
The building at 632 N Dearborn in the early 1900s and as “The Castle” in 2013.
Timeline of the Landmark Chicago Building that became
Chicago’s Most Successful Nightclub
1896 – 2015

1896 – The Chicago Historical Society building is completed and dedicated. The building is designed by renowned Chicago architect Henry Ives Cobb and replaced the old Historical Society building destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
1931 – After 35 years, Chicago Historical Society moves to the Lincoln Park location it occupies today (renamed Chicago History Museum).
1931-1984 – The old building variously housed a magazine publisher, The Loyal Order Of Moose, Chicago Institute of Design and recording studios. It was vacant in later years.
1985-1988 – The Limelight nightclub operates for 3+ years in the building, the first Chicago megaclub. (Many Chicagoans say they remember “partying at the Limelight,” but you have to be at least 48 years old in 2015 to have been in there at age 21).
1989 – Fred Hoffmann purchases the Limelight and undertakes a breakneck 10 month, multi-million dollar remodeling that doubles the floor space in the building.
October 1989 – Excalibur opens to the public, featuring the Cabaret, “Club X” dance club, a restaurant, and large game rooms, capitalizing on the late 80s trend of high energy arcade nightclubs such as Baja Beach Club.
Early 1990s – Due to its unique space and exciting atmosphere, Excalibur rapidly develops a healthy private event business, becoming Chicago’s busiest non-hotel private event space, in addition to the booming nightclub business.
1990-1995 – The trend of megaclubs with multiple dance and party environments explodes after the opening of Excalibur, with Shelter, China Club, Crobar, Kaboom, Cairo and other megaclubs dominating the nightlife market. Excalibur becomes a favorite location for live radio broadcasts, TV coverage and celebrity appearances.
1991-1993 – Excalibur hosts official Chicago Bulls Championship parties hosted live by the Bulls players, with more than 5,000 attendance each year of the first Bulls Three-Peat.
1995-1998 – For the second Bulls Three-Peat, Excalibur again hosts the official Chicago Bulls Championship parties with more than 5,000 attendance each year.
1995-2000 – Megaclubs fall off in popularity, all closing other than Excalibur. Lounges and VIP oriented smaller club spaces start to dominate. Excalibur launches “The Dome Room” industrial alternative club, that is successful for several years. Later Excalibur subdivides into new variety of entertainment formats, including “Aura” in the Dome Room in cooperation with alternative radio station Q101. At first Aura features Q101 Alternative Rock music then gradually includes a mix of Trance and other early EDM as progressive dance music begins its rise.
July 1999 – Prince visits and falls in love with Excalibur, playing an unscheduled concert in the main club. He visits the club many more times over the next few years, and occasionally gives short performances.
2000-2002 – Excalibur is still profitable and popular on the first floor level and with private events, but after more than a decade, the larger dance club rooms start to fade. Raves in unlicensed spaces have their boom period, pulling business from dance clubs before being outlawed in 2003.
2002 – Vision Nightclub debuts in the building, featuring major International DJs and upcoming EDM artists. Opening night July 2002 features Paul Oakenfold.
2002-2012 – Vision occupies 2 out of the 3 main club spaces in the Excalibur building and becomes the dominant concept. Excalibur continues on the first floor and for private events and theme parties.
March 2013 – Entire building is remodeled with new world class sound system and re-launched as Castle. Excalibur name retired after 23 years.
2013 – Attracted by a booming downtown real estate marketing and the newly remodeled club, Castle owners receive an offer to buy the real estate and newly remodeled club for 12.5 million. Castle remains in the building for year 2014 and new owners opt to take possession of the building in January 2015.

Photo credits:  JenniferCatherinePhotography.com

Castle purple outside night