Every year we are delighted to be part of the Nanyang University in Singapore’s U.S. Immersion Program. The students visit businesses in Silicon Valley and the East Coast with a trip to the Sonoma County wine country. This year we hosted 120 international graduate students studying for their Masters in Technopreneurship and Innovation.

What could we give these aspiring entrepreneurs that would help them the most in their journey? How about a “Count Down to Success”? This is our best list of understandings necessary for a successful launch and happy landing:

FIVE! The Top Five Guiding Principles for Success (GPS)

  1. Make Mistakes W-R-I-T-E. (Not just Right) Write down all your mistakes, and more importantly, identify all the documents that need to be created, changed, or improved so there will be no repeats.
  2. Put Yourself in The Other Guy’s Shoes. In every relationship with your people, your vendors, or your customers, ask what is important to them. Then give them what they want first to get what you want.
  3. Forge Strategic Alliances. Ask, “Who benefits if I benefit?” Those are your potential allies. Vendors can be bankers by extending credit and terms. Customers can be bankers by paying in cash. Threat them like partners and share your plans.
  4. Sales Is King. Achieve a positive cash flow as soon as you can. Don’t expand too quickly. Start small and learn how to get your act together before you take your show on the road. Without sales, all else is moot.
  5. Service What You Sell. You are not judged so much by how well you do when everything goes right, but by how well you do when there is a problem.

FOUR! The 4 stages of Business Development

  1. Startup. Goal is proving the viability of the concept. Danger is chewing up investment money on overhead and production without sales.
  2. Buildup. Goal is securing a few big customers that can sustain the business without more investment. Danger is having all your eggs in one basket and being discontinued.
  3. Buildout. Goal is diversifying your customer base so you can sustain a significant hit. Danger is spreading yourself too thin, not servicing what you sell, and significantly underestimating the cost of sales.
  4. Enterprise. Goal is continuing to deliver high quality and service until you get noticed and become an acquisition target. Danger is losing the entrepreneurial spirit and taking sales for granted.

THREE! The 3 Core Competencies of Any Business

  1. Cash Flow Management. Goal is reducing your need for capital by identifying and working with strategic allies, growing slowly, and relying on cost accounting. Danger is too much debt, not enough income, too much focus on production, and inadequate sales.
  2. Personnel Management. Goal is hiring good people, building great people, reducing turnover, and engaging your people in finding solutions. Danger is high turnover, and loss of communication, knowledge, and customers.
  3. Distribution Management. Goal is discovering and satisfying everyone who touches your product. Danger is your product gets stopped in the system on its way to the eventual customer.

TWO! The Two Division Company. All businesses have only two divisions.

  1.  Sales. The customer can only give you payment and feedback. Feedback goes to your Sales and Customer Service people. Danger is that this feedback never gets to your production and marketing people who can keep your products relevant.
  2. Sales Support. Everyone who is not in Sales is in Sales Support – everyone! Everyone’s check comes from sales. Everyone’s job should support sales at some level. Danger is that non-sales people think they are more important than Sales and won’t listen to their feedback.

ONE! Have Fun!  

Don’t take yourself too seriously, lighten up and have a little fun!            Your employees, vendors, and customers will love you for it!


We wish all the Nanyang students happy launches and landings in their new businesses!

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 www.consumerbrandbuilders.com.

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact sales@thebarefootspirit.com.