Written By Bryan Flowers
(Bryan Flowers is Founder and CEO of NWG, The Pattaya News, Pattaya addicts Forum)
Over a year ago a Cambodian guy who owned a group of bars/restaurant/hotel came to visit me, he has many bars in Phnom Penh, I showed him around our bars and I told him I would go and see his bars, I have seen him several times and we keep in touch. A few of our moderators on Pattaya addicts live in Cambodia and many guys from the forum. Many customers, friends and our managers pop over often. When I arrived I was introduced to another bar owner called William who was involved in 7 bars in street 130. We kept in touch since and he’s been to visit our bars twice for a look. William is a great guy and is very open like me.
William has now sold his shares in other bars (different setup to us) We own our bars equally as a group. These are the current bars he is involved in.
I came back to visit Phnom Penh 3 times more over the last year. I came quietly by purpose then it would become gossip or news. I had guys applying for jobs already.
People keep asking me stuff about licenses, rent and all these other minor details. It seems most people put a lot of attention on the law of the land, the processes and details that I see are small. Its good for me to learn the rental prices in different areas, so I can jump on something fast, but when I answer I have no idea about licenses, I get strange looks…. Things like this are a small detail, we can pay people to sort that out. Nearer the time I will learn all of these small details. But for now I really need to get to know people, I am a long way off from buying bars there. (if we do at all)
Why am I visiting regularly?
We need to find an edge in Cambodia, I am not sure if just being well known in Pattaya is enough, our edge will also be bars that are slightly revved up. Having a good supply of girls is an edge that is enough. It could be some websites/forum also. I even looked at the Phnom Penh news to see if there was an opportunity.
The most important thing for me right now, is can we get a good team of people? This is what I am good at. We need to find trustworthy, hard-working people with the right work ethics. Due to me being known in Phnom Penh by some key people, being known from Pattaya and the forums, many doors opened for me, some cracking people reached out, restaurant owners, long term ex-pats, long term bar owners and other people that just want to help.
To find trustworthy people I need to spend time with them, put them through different tests, see if they can complete tasks for me, see if they have good work ethics, see if they read the books I ask them to read. It’s a slow process. Until I find a team then there is almost no point buying a bar.
I have looked at bars ranging from 15,000 USD to 80,000 USD. At 15,000 USD it’s not so serious, at 80,000 there needs to be more thought, checks and planning. But at that level, there isn’t much point sending all that money over when we are trying to buy more bars in Pattaya. I think street 136 is where I want us to be, which is more expensive.
What opportunities do I see in Phnom Penh?
I see many business owners laid back, (retirement age) said their customers are laid back, I see people marketing by price, staff not paid too much (yes it might be market rate), people aren’t using our recruitment methods yet, our advertising/marketing strategies. We have tons of processes, training methods, structure that we can apply in Phnom Penh. This is where everyone tells me you cannot do the same, it doesn’t work, but I get told the same over and over in Pattaya, then everyone tells me wherever I go that we cannot do on-site naughtiness, of course, we will respect what the locals wish. Despite what people think, I am not going to come and open a bar like soi 6 with things going on upstairs and “crazy” advertising on Facebook.
A few months ago I bumped into a friend that has night clubs around Asia and was he looking at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. But the question we have to ask ourselves is our money better used elsewhere?
I will move slowly, wisely and with consultation from experienced connected local people. I say “I” because it’s only me visiting right now and making the first steps, it will become a “we” later.
Why did I get tuk tuk advertising?
In Pattaya we pay around 143k a month for 51 baht bus advertising, when William said it was only 6 USD per month in Phnom Penh I thought it would be funny to get 10 with NWG on them and my friend Chris from La La land (soi 6) said he would get 10 also. I did this to test a key person that may help us later, this meant finding people, paying them monthly, checking them and building connections. I told this person we would pay 10 USD per Tuk Tuk per month so they can make money and try to sell to other people that don’t want to manage their own campaigns. (if anyone wants to advertise there bars in Pattaya for some fun, please let me know) You can get 10 for around 3000 baht a month.
I then used these Phnom Penh Tuk Tuk adverts as an excuse to write about Phnom Penh because people were already talking. I did a boost targetting people living in Cambodia speaking English that liked NWG page or friends of people that liked the page. (this should have been targetted enough)
Then NWG was immediately being talked about in a local Phnom Penh bar chat.
In a local Facebook group there was some negativity about driving up prices, but that’s what it takes in most cases, (to attract better staff and nicer girls) there were guys introducing me to people that I have been talking to for a year or so, more people contacting me, bar owners trying to sell bars to me. For 3000 baht a month I am getting people talking and trying to help me. I do find it slightly insulting people pointing out Phnom Penh isn’t the same as Pattaya, part of being a good business owner is adapting and knowing what works, it also means walking against the crowd in most cases, I was told a zillion times in Pattaya many things wouldn’t work, but I pressed ahead against even “investors” wishes and proven that I was right in most cases over and over.
People see limits in people, they see barriers everywhere and think only certain type of customers exist, but it’s (not so) easy to change peoples mindsets and expectations. I see things as obstacles and not barriers. What people say they want is different from what they really want, as a business owner you need to learn from what people do, not so much say. A lot of people are misled by their friends or these forums/groups where prices seem to be the main focus of a very select few vocal people. Most of the people with money don’t say anything about prices. (maybe they are busy working so they can afford to enjoy themselves more)
I will keep visiting Cambodia more, I am still looking for potential staff, building up connections especially more local ones. I am happy to meet bar owners, business owners in Phnom Penh when I am over there, especially business owners in other areas. I really want to meet any media guys, news guys, website owners or local “influencers”.