We met on May 20th 1983 at a rock & roll club in Sonoma County, California. Our attraction to each was immediate, and we have been together as a couple ever since.
In 1985 we began working together, doing the research required to start our new business, Barefoot Cellars.
Couples love being in love! And business partners rely on the expertise of their partners! But, can these two ideal relationships be simultaneously successful with the same couple?
Folks ask us this question all the time: How do you make it work? Our first response is, “Kids, don’t try this at home!” For most couples, it generally doesn’t work well at all. But for those rare couples who successfully have both a romantic relationship as well as a business relationship, it is glorious!
We can’t accurately predict which couples will succeed at both, nor can we say exactly what they should do to keep both relationships healthy. But we will share with you what we did and didn’t do that worked for us.
First of all, we had respect for each other’s intelligence and motives. That enabled us to appreciate the other’s opinions and suggestions without wondering if they were self-serving. We were both headed toward the same goals, although on different tracks. That difference of opinion was welcomed! Two heads are better than one, they say.
Fortunately for us, we had different skill sets. Michael was good at seeing the big picture. Bonnie was keen on the details. Michael could talk easily with all sorts of people and boldly spoke in front of large crowds of salespeople. Bonnie worked well on a one-to-one basis with attorneys and accountants. She scheduled the bottlings, ordered all the necessary supplies, and oversaw the production at the winery. He made friends with everyone who touched our product along the way to (and including) the end user. She bottled it and he sold it.
Well, it wasn’t quite as easy as that, but by dividing up the responsibilities required and matching them with our natural talents, there was less disagreement. We weren’t looking over each other’s shoulders to make sure things were exactly this way or that. We agreed to allow decisions to be made by the other without interference.
The major goals were set by both of us. We preferred to go to a retreat, so we would not be interrupted during this essential planning phase. It wasn’t always possible. However, two of our favorite retreats were the island of Kauai and the historic Ben Bow Inn in Northern California. By removing ourselves from the day-to-day challenges, we could set our sights on the bigger picture – how to get from where we were to where we wanted to be.
These retreats were not only for business but for our personal goal setting as well. We keep “Goal Books” that go back to 1996! They include subjects such as home, social, spiritual, and health, as well as financial and business. These retreats always brought us closer together both romantically and professionally. We would plan them many months in advance, and get non-refundable tickets so we would not be tempted to cancel due to the “too-much-going-on-to-leave” syndrome.
We have identified many more ways of living happily as a romantic couple in business together, and we are planning a retreat for such couples at our home in west Sonoma County. Let us know if you are interested in joining us. It will be eye-opening! You will leave with a better understanding of just what it takes to keep your mate as the love of your life as well as your business partner. We know. We’ve been there, done that, and MADE the t-shirt! And best of all, we are still madly in love.
Who Are We.
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 in 1986, to the board room of E&J Gallo, where they successfully sold their brand in 2005. 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 offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful and help corporations achieve entrepreneurial cultures to engage and empower their people.
Currently they travel the world keynoting at universities, corporations, conferences and symposiums. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals; along with being FOX News Radio Network’s Workplace Culture Experts. They are also the recipients of the 2014 Distinguished Entrepreneur Speaker Award from the Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Bradley University. Visit their popular brand building site at www.thebrandauthority.net. To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders