SuperCity: Interns to the rescue
BY CHRISTA WITTMIER / Special to the Star-Advertiser
It was a dark day at work a few weeks ago when I learned our marketing intern had gotten a full-time job elsewhere and I would need to find a replacement.
I had finally found my rhythm to be able to spend the time I needed with her and effectively utilize her awesome and enthusiastic skill-set when I got the news. No more neatly organized binders left on my chair or smiley faces in e-mails.
I really, really miss her.
When I pulled together my birthday pool party at the Modern Honolulu (then the Edition) in 2010, I was also lucky enough to have someone working with me that day.
I wasn’t as skilled at delegating back then, so he just stuck by my side the entire time, doing his best to remain one step ahead of me. By doing things like checking on my boyfriend and not even batting an eye at the girls from Michelle’s Bar & Lounge occupying my daybed, he had completely won me over by the end of the event. These types of people are extremely rare.
I have seen people expertly pull off arming themselves with interns recently. One of those people is Flash Hansen at The Republik, who re-introduced the “Iron Bar” contest concept and expanded it to include rounds for not only bartenders, but barbacks, servers, security and — beginning Aug. 6 with “Iron Disc Jockey” — club DJs, too.
The “Iron Barback” contest was by far the most grueling event I have ever seen as far as execution. It required 40 tires to be set up and stricken each week as an obstacle course with various bar setups. Each week.
Barbacks who were selected were invited in person with a backpack of gifts, which made a huge impact. It took an army to compile, confirm and invite the selected list. Follow-ups with people in the service industry can be grueling at best, as many work late in to the night and don’t spend as much time during the day looking at their e-mail or answering their phones.
What’s the secret to arming your team?
“It needs to be a two way street (and) not slave labor,” Hansen said. “You need to realize these people are all temporary, so accept them moving on to bigger and better things, hopefully in part due to the fact that they interned for you.
“You need to be very up front and realistic with your expectations and theirs. “Both sides usually want too much,so you need to manage everyone’s expectations.”
When Fresh Cafe owner Tiffany Tanaka needed some extra help, she posted an ad that generated more than 40 resumes. She ended up bringing in 10 interns, and her program has expanded with the assistance of Dayna Kalakau to create a twice-a-week class called the School of Fresh.
“They all bring a cool, unique perspective to the cafe and to the group.” said Kalakau. “Working with them has been a lot of hard work, but so much fun.”
In addition to the bi-weekly classes, interns are required to each host a panel discussion. The panels offer a unique perspective as they bring in experts in their respective fields to engage with both the interns and general public.
I make it a point to ask anyone I see who is successful in their work what their top pointers are, and every single person said learning how to effectively delegate is key. The good news is, there are many up-and-comers out there who want to learn, and the best way to do that is to get in the trenches and just do it. The trick is to manage both your time and their expectations.
“More than anything communicate and be appreciative.” said Hansen. “These poor people are usually working for love and passion. That is rare enough in this world already, but they are also doing it for no financial gain. You need to always be cognizant of that fact.”
Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young’s Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for POW! WOW! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular “Bacardi Pool Party” on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.