The first question we ask prospective clients is, “Why are you going into business?” This seems like an obvious first question, but most folks considering taking the big leap don’t really give it the attention it deserves. The answer can determine your strategy, goals, and even your recordkeeping.

When we ask, “Why,” we usually get answers like, “Well, to get rich, of course!” or “It’s always been my passion” or even, “I’ve always wanted to be my own boss”. Yet none of these popular answers really address the only three practical reasons why you can be in business: You can create a job for yourself; you can start a legacy; or you can build a brand and monetize its brand equity.

If you create a job for yourself, your “paycheck” is only as good as your time “on the clock.” If you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Sure, you can hire people to work for you to keep the business going in your absence, but this type of business is limited to trading time for dollars. You may build up some equity which someone may pay you for. But essentially, you have created a business that is operating on daily income and profits, with no long-term plan to monetize the brand equity through a sale or merger.

People who choose this kind of business usually tell us they are following their passion and well they should. But many also say they never want to sell and act like they can go on forever. If and when they do decide to sell, it’s usually because they have to due to age or health, or they finally tire of the work. Selling for them is an afterthought to achieving a business that expresses their passion.

The other group that “has no intention of ever selling” are the folks who think they are starting a legacy. Their plan involves their kids becoming vested in their business and wanting to continue their legacy.  This is a wonderful way to include your family’s future in your business. But only a small percentage of planned legacy businesses succeed beyond the first generation.

The last group, in which we count ourselves, is interested in monetizing their brand equity. They want to use their ideas, concepts, and products to build a viable business that attracts an acquirer. They take acquisition of their business very seriously.

These are the people we can help the most. These are the kinds of businesses that are designed from the get-go to have all the hallmarks of an acquisition target. They grow into something saleable. They can run without the owner. And they are set up from day one to satisfy their acquirer’s due diligence.

One of the guiding principles of the Barefoot Spirit approach to doing business is to ask yourself why you are in business in the first place. If your answer is to build and monetize your brand equity, then you must assemble a short list of who would want to buy your company, why and when. You must organize your books, records, and reports to reflect your acquirer’s due diligence. You must reinvest your “profits” into expansion. And you must determine how, when, and where you expand to get your peanut in front of the elephant. We share what we learned about this fine art in our Guiding Principles for Success.

We’ve been through it, from ideation to monetization. These are just some of the business decisions that become heavily influenced by your early decision to eventually sell. if monetizing your brand equity is why you are going into business, we can help!

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 To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders