“How do you handle the unknown?” This is the #1 question we hear from students. They come from over 50 schools of entrepreneurship in the US and elsewhere who have heard us speak about what it is like to start a business and become a successful entrepreneur. Many of these students are considering taking the big leap into entrepreneurship. They are naturally anxious about the uncertainties, risks, and challenges of life without a paycheck. They want to know how we overcame the fear of the unknown.

Is there some formula, procedure, or process you can just cut and paste that will protect you? Is there a failsafe way to survive the dangers of entrepreneurship? Is there just “the one thing” you need to know?  In spite of the daily hype, pandering, and outrageous claims to the contrary, the answer is a flat “No!”

After we monetized our equity in the Barefoot Wine brand, we were encouraged by colleagues to write about how we did it; specifically, how we handled the unknown. The answer, in retrospect, was a set of guiding principles; some we had previously learned and applied from day one; some we learned by asking questions of others; and some we learned the hard way. There is no “just one thing!” It is a multifaceted approach to doing business we call “the Barefoot Spirit.”

A big part of the Barefoot Spirit is the Guiding Principles for Success, GPS for short. These are critical and learnable standards, attitudes and soft skills that we used to minimize risk, prepare for the unknown, improve the quality of our decisions, and reduce our need for capital.

With the information revolution and the advance of technology, we saw a whole new generation with a whole new approach to business. We saw new platforms, and new products and services. We saw the disruption of so many old ways of doing things that in the process, we may have inadvertently thrown out some classic business principles. A big mistake!

With an accelerating failure rate, loss of investor capital, and increasing inability for startups to achieve positive cashflow, it’s finally time to bring back those classic principles. When it comes to the past, take the best and leave the rest. The best of the past is a big part of the Barefoot Spirit.

When you start a business, prepare yourself for the adventure! Just like a seasoned sea captain, you wouldn’t dare go out to sea without being prepared for the unknown. You need radar, sonar, weather satellites, charts, a GPS and a sextant to back it up.

Being the captain of your “entrepreneur-ship” is no different. It doesn’t really matter how good your idea is if you run out of capital, lose your people, or lose your buyers. Just like the sea captain, you need a set of guiding principles and standards to hold your decisions up against to make better ones. You need to know how to gain the confidence of your investors, employees, vendors, and buyers.

We have identified 20 Guiding Principles for Success that, if applied, will mitigate your risks, and better prepare you for the unknown. They worked for us and they can work for you. Interested? Stay tuned as we explore them in the coming months. Like our audiences, you too may be saying, “I can’t wait to get back to my business and try the GPS out!”

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 info@thebarefootspirit.com.

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders