It’s not how you get the entrepreneurial spirit. It’s how you lose it! Every garage startup must have the entrepreneurial spirit to survive. Many successful businesses were once garage startups, and they once had that spirit. But somewhere between the four stages of businesses growth, our friend Jim Canfield of Renaissance Executive Forums calls “startup, buildup, buildout, and enterprise,” the entrepreneurial spirit can  lose its luster.

The entrepreneurial spirit is the spirit of the entire team, and is represented by their commitment to customer service, resourcefulness, and going the extra mile to make sales happen. There is no question in the minds of start -up entrepreneurs, in a garage, undercapitalized, and having to make do with less, that they must make sales happen no matter what or they will be out of business – fast! They all know the customer comes first.

Then, if they are fortunate, dedicated, and diligent, they progress beyond the startup phase and into the buildup phase. Now they have a few solid customers that keep them going. Their volume picks up. They begin to see some pressure on production, customer service, and supply chain management. In an effort to satisfy these demands, and in the name of efficiency, they begin to specialize their use of human resources.  Thus begins the degradation of the entrepreneurial spirit.

With a few more big customers, they enter the buildout stage. Now they are expanding their offerings and their markets. Division of labor is now a must. One of the divisions is called “sales” and another is called “customer service.”  But even though the customer feedback necessary to keep the company’s products and service relevant comes almost exclusively through these two divisions, they are now being relegated to the bottom of the pyramid, which is quietly and quickly growing on top of them. The focus is now on production rather than sales. Sales begins to be taken for granted by the other divisions of labor who no longer feel responsible for sales. In fact, they are convinced that what they do is as, or more important, than sales, even though their very paychecks come from sales! Now, when referring to sales, you hear, “That’s not my job!” The entrepreneurial spirit begins to fade further.

Now comes the enterprise phase where professionalism, compliance, status, tenure and structural procedures become more important than sales and customer service. Salespeople are “outside” in the field, and everyone else is “inside” in the office.  Inside office people have greater access to the decision makers and become even more removed from sales. “What’s the matter with those salespeople? Why can’t they just do their job?” is the common refrain when sales are down. But everybody in the office is taking a bow when sales are up! And who is the first to get laid off when sales are ‘bad’? Yup, it‘s the salespeople! What’s wrong with this picture? The entrepreneurial spirit is lost, a victim of its own success!

But by understanding how and why this happens, companies can begin to reverse engineer the entrepreneurial spirit back into their companies. They must start by returning to the backbone of the entrepreneurial spirit, sales. Put sales back on top! Think of the company as having only two divisions; sales and sales support. Sales support is everybody who is not in sales – accounting, production, marketing, HR, legal, admin, the receptionist, everybody! Enforce this relationship by providing quarterly bonuses to sales support staff based on sales, growth, and profitability. Acknowledge their contributions to these three essentials. And create official lines of communication between sales and customer service on the one hand, and sales support, on the other. Make sales everybody’s job – again!

Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact