tbs100616Most companies, in their attempt to present the image of stability and security to their employees, will deliberately prevent them from knowing about the challenges the company faces. They fear their people will jump ship if they know that the company is facing difficulties. They put their people on a strictly need-to-know basis. This may keep them from jumping ship when times get tough because ignorance is bliss – till they get the pink slip.

We think there’s another way that may solve those challenges and even prevent the pink slip. We call it the “know-the-need” basis. The concept is simple. Your people can’t help solve the problem if they don’t know what the problem is.

With know-the-need you don’t have to go into every detail of the daily operation. It should never be a distraction. But it can be a very healthy team building and problem solving exercise when done with the right attitude. Think of your people as your most valuable asset, view them as such and never as “labor” or worse, as a “cost center”. They know your business, your policies, your procedures. They have an interest in seeing your business succeed, not just for their own security, but for their reputation. They want to work for a business that has its best days in front of it, not behind it. Changing jobs is traumatic and unsettling. They want stability. And they will participate to make that happen.

At Barefoot, we would have regular meetings between the non-sales staff and the sales staff. During those meetings the sales people would outline their challenges with the market, the competition, or with our own support. Folks who were apparently far removed from sales like accountants and receptionists would step up to the plate with suggestions. Many were completely off the wall, impractical, or down right crazy, but they all knew they had permission to say anything. Often, it got others thinking and innovative, disruptive, and practical solutions would bubble up. Everyone was thrilled when we hit upon something that worked. The folks who came up with the solutions were publicly praised. Others were thus encouraged to participate. It was actually great fun. We solved many of our biggest challenges as a result of some of these know-the-need brainstorming sessions.

In one of these sessions, our top sales person announced, “Well, we’ve got good news and we’ve got bad news. The good news is that we just got Barefoot into 400 stores in Florida. The bad news is that they put us on the bottom shelf.” This was the worse place to be in a retail set. Nobody looks down. To the bottom shelf, especially for an unknown brand.  And if we didn’t make a certain number of sales in a certain number of days, we would be discontinued … forever! What were we going to do?

One person piped up in jest, “Well, I guess we’ll just have to go after the “foot traffic” then. Everybody laughed because our name was Barefoot. But then, someone else said, “Wait a minute! That’s not so crazy. Why don’t we have wine stained footprints decaled to the floor and lead the shoppers step by step down the aisle and turn them into our products on the bottom shelf!” it worked so well we used it all over the county. And that idea? It came from the receptionist.

Showing your people that you respect their intelligence, team spirit, and ability to handle challenges apparently outside of their area of expertise, gains you solutions, teamwork, and an element of trust. Let your people help you solve the problems that ultimately affect their jobs. You may be surprised at what they come up  with … when they know the need!

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.