Inkandescent Magazine Wrote a recent article on the art of leaning in after the book “Lean In” by Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg. Inkandescent asked us for insights on how we worked together to build Barefoot Wine and about our book “The Barefoot Spirit”
Here’s a partnership perspective from an entrepreneurial couple without kids.
We asked Barefoot Wine co-founder Bonnie Harvey for insights on how she and her partner, Michael Houlihan, worked together to build their business into what is now the #1 bestselling vino in the country. Not only that, but they co-wrote “The Barefoot Spirit,” which was published in May and is the June 2013 New York Times #2 Business Bestseller. Harvey said:
Working with your significant other in the same business is a challenge not recommended for everybody, but building the Barefoot Wine brand from nothing to a national and international bestseller with my business and romantic partner was a positive and profitable experience.
Skills. For one thing, we had different skill sets, and we each needed and respected the other’s contribution in order to succeed. He was front office and I was back office. For another, we did not micro-manage each other. We gave each other the freedom to do our own thing and control our area of the business unfettered.
Decisions. All of our big decisions were unanimous. If we didn’t both agree, we didn’t do it. Even when we had a proper board of directors, it was made up of two women and two men, and we all agreed that all decisions would be unanimous. If three people couldn’t convince one, then it probably wasn’t a good idea anyway. This policy avoids the I-told-you-so’s that can go on for years and hurt working relationships.
Space. We made sure our workplace got out of the domestic part of the house as soon as possible. Starting out, we couldn’t afford a washer and a dryer, so we had plenty of space in the laundry room. It was important for us to physically and behaviorally separate work from our private lives. We had rules. One was no business talk in the bedroom. We also gave ourselves some space and time away from business to keep the romance alive. Every January, we would plan, and buy tickets in advance, for a few vacations a year. Then we would look forward to the break and plan our work around those breaks.
Chores. We had different skill sets in the home as well. I cooked and he cleaned. We also decided when we met that one of the things we both wanted in life was services. So as soon as we could afford it, we got a regular house cleaner, gardener, and maintainence person. Sure we could have saved the money, but instead we saved the time and made more money because of it.
Working with your partner in business is not for everyone, but if you follow whatever rules you agree on together, you will have a much better chance of success.
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.