engage your peopleWhen we sold Barefoot Wine, we received the Wine Industry’s coveted Top Brand award for multiple years, sold 600,000 cases per year in 25,000 stores, were growing in all 50 states and 28 foreign countries, had no turnover for 10 years, and did it all with just 40 employees. We got tons of awards for quality, growth, and innovation.

But it wasn’t because we were so clever, in fact we made most of the big mistakes! It was because our people were engaged and empowered to make a big difference. They came up with most of the clever solutions that got us through the tough times and over the seemingly insurmountable obstacles. They did more with less, improved our policies and procedures, and used innovation to disrupt a rather stuffy industry.

At the closing talk for the C-Suite conference in San Francisco this month, Michael shared 7 of the tools we used to build an outstanding team that was engaged, empowered, and committed to the success of our business. Here is a brief summery from the top:

1. Hire Good People, Build Great People.

Hire for hustle, integrity, and enthusiasm. Look for extrapolation learners. Test their comprehension. Be prepared to redesign the job to fit the talents of each employee. On the last interview, you do all the talking. Explain the business process and why their job is essential. Then ask for a summary by 5 pm the next day.

2. Overkill on Orientation.

When the cement is wet, you can move it with a trowel. But when it gets hard, you’ll need a jackhammer! Don’t let them develop and harbor early misconceptions about how the business works, where the money comes from, and how the customer must be serviced to get the funds that go in their paychecks.

3. The Money Map

Show them a “Money Map”. Start with the community from which the initial customers emulate. Show the transactions that starts the money moving as those customers purchase goods and services that effect your business. Show all the twists and turns that the money goes through on the way to their paychecks.

4. The Two-Division Company

Give them a second graphic that shows how your company is organized with the customer on top! Then, right under that, the only people they talk to daily, your sales and customer service people (The Sales Division). Then right under that, everybody else in the company, regardless of specialty (The Sales Support Division).

5. Know the Need

Contrary to the popular Need-to-Know basis that most companies use to keep their people in the dark, practice Know-the-Need to demonstrate respect for their intelligence and commitment to your company’s success. Share your sales and marketing challenges and ask them for help. You’ll be surprised at the results!

6. Public Acknowledgement

Communicate their accomplishment in writing. Copy the entire staff. Get more of what you are praising for. Get them the respect of other staff. Send a “message” that everyone can get the same kind of top-level acknowledgment when they perform as well as the one being singled out for admiration.

7. Staff Wide Quarterly Bonus

Reward on a quarterly basis. A year is too long (They’ll forget, sand bag, or give up). A month is too impractical (Months are more subject to anomaly and it’s difficult to get the numbers together that fast). Reward everyone to build team spirit. Make it based on sales, growth, and profitability. We used a variable 401K quarterly match.

Want more details or additional suggestions? Check out our short book on the subject, aptly named, The Entrepreneurial Culture, 23 ways to Engage and Empower Your People. It worked for us. it can work for you. You may just hear them say, “I love working here!”


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.