Most successful startup founders will tell you that it’s going to take a lot of tenacity to succeed. They will all generally tell you that persistence is the better part of valor when it comes to winning. We agree. It takes a great degree of resolve and patience to see the results you are looking for.

Sometimes you must persevere against the odds, struggle along until the time is right, and hold out for that big break. Perhaps the market will change, the buyer will change, or finally the amount of time you put in begins to result in traction.

Getting things started is difficult enough, but what about getting something new started, something the market hasn’t seen before, or doesn’t know it needs?

That happened to us. Our product was disruptive, broke all the rules, and identified a market no one was addressing. We had to spend several years doing missionary work just to convince buyers that they could make a profit on our product. What if we got tired of the uphill battle and quit? There would be no Barefoot Wine today!

Disruptive startups require founders who doggedly push on in the face of adversity and predisposition. But at what point does persistence become narrow-mindedness? At what point does priming the pump become beating a dead horse? How do you really know when it’s time to give up, pivot, or “rethink your drink?”

Here are 5 indicators to help you recognize the difference between determination and getting stuck in a rut.

  1. Small Successes. Are you having ANY success at all? Is there a direct relationship between the amount of time, energy, and money you put into an initiative and the rate of success? If you see increased sales each day, week or month, you may be justified in sticking to it. If not, move forward on another approach.
  2. Leapfrog Successes. Can you see customer demand beyond a nay-saying gatekeeper? In spite of what you are being told, do you have evidence that there is a need for your offering? Is it your offering itself that needs alteration? Or is it your approach to market penetration that needs a revamp?
  3. Time and Money. Sometimes the decision to pull the plug will be made for you. You simply can’t afford to continue to stick to the path you’ve chosen. You run out of time and money. If you can’t establish an increasing cash flow within a year, you may be forced to change your course. There are a ton of great ideas out there that never made it to the market because the founder simply ran out of runway.
  4. Blinded by Determination. Are you missing easier ways of succeeding because you are so dedicated to your course that you are narrowly focused on the path you’ve chosen? If an alternative presented itself, would you recognize it? Yes, most times sheer persistence is required, but keep your eyes open for more efficient ways of achieving your goals.
  5. Outside Opinions. Entrepreneurship is lonely, especially when you know your idea will fly and few others see it. Sometimes you just need some support to keep you going. Find a supporter you respect to help you shore up the path towards your end game. Share your approach to identifying and accessing the market. Ask for their suggestions. They may see something you don’t. They can give you an objective view.

Knowing when persistence has led you to being stuck in a rut is difficult especially when you keep hearing stories of other startups that finally got traction. What if they gave up right before that happened? After some amount of time though, there is a point of diminishing returns. The sales just aren’t there to support the enterprise. Do you stubbornly continue because you want to justify all the time, money, and energy you have put in so far? Or do you recognize that channel vision may be blinding you to alternatives?

We hope these indicators can help you make that difficult decision to push on or shove off.

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