When we took on the building of the Barefoot Wine brand, we really didn’t understand the problems we would have to overcome to be successful. We had no idea how long it would take, the opposition we would face, or the enormous hurdles we had to clear in compliance, distribution, and personnel management. Every day there were new fires that had to be put out. Everyday there were unexpected bills hungry for bucks. And every road block challenged our very approach to problem solving.
After a while we began to develop actual problem solving principles that gave us structure and a set of standards we would apply to future problems. As we solved problem after problem we slowly improved our approach to problem solving itself. In fact, we began, in a crazy way, to lose our anxiety over the inevitable problems! It became kind of a game! We were challenged with something new and unheard of, but we took comfort in the knowledge that we had a set of principles to handle it, no matter what it was.
Here are our 5 Barefoot problem solving principles:
- Take Inventory. That’s right, just like a shipwreck on an abandoned island, take account of everything you have on board. Get ready to be resourceful. Think about how your assets can be used to overcome the challenges you face. Your assets are more than property, money, and products; they are also your people, your customers, and your suppliers. You may have a strategic advantage in a seemingly unrelated area. Don’t overlook any hidden assets, including your own knowledge and experience.
- Get Out of the Box. And the quickest way out of the box is straight up! Take the 10,000-foot view. Look beyond your walls, beyond your business, even beyond your industry. Check out the entire landscape. Who has overcome a problem like this in another space? How did they do it? What similarities apply? Are you even defining the problem properly? We believe one way to the solution is the best definition of the problem, so look at it from every angle.
- Who Else Benefits? If you solve the problem, who else will the solution assist? And conversely, who is hurt if you don’t solve the problem? By asking these questions you can discover your strategic allies who share an interest in seeing the problem solved. For instance, you may have a supplier who benefits by your growth, and may be amenable to providing additional credit or extended terms to help you overcome a hurdle or grow your business faster so they can sell you more products.
- Look at Your Other Problems. If you believe, as we do, that the elegant solution solves more than one problem, then reverse the premise and put all your problems out on the table with the one you are trying to solve. By looking at them all together you’ll begin to see relationships between them. And it is in those relationships that the solution often lies. We’ve been amazed how this tactic can turn on the lights with breakthroughs we wouldn’t have considered otherwise!
- Know the Need. Instead of putting your staff, your suppliers, and your associates on a “need-to-know” basis by hiding your problems under the veil of security, practice “know-the-need.“ Involve your stakeholders in the problem solving process. They have an interest in the solution and will appreciate the respect you demonstrate for their intelligence and creativity. Crazy ideas that come out of fun brainstorming sessions often result in problem solving at its finest.
So bring on the next problem and give these principles a try. They worked for us and they can work for you!
Who We Are
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.