We talk a lot about the Barefoot Spirit. But exactly what is the Barefoot Spirit in essence? It is sales! Period! Presales before you open your doors; growth supported by sales; overhead justified by sales; new team members oriented with sales process maps; company-wide bonuses based on sales; and expansion based on the cost of sales. The Barefoot Spirit is a sales-driven culture.

Why this obsession with sales? It’s how everyone gets paid – everyone! Without sales, there would be no need for production, marketing, R&D, HR, legal, admin, and CEOs – nobody!

Why is the Barefoot Spirit so important today? Because many of us have actually lost our focus on sales in favor of engineering, programming, technology, legal, HR, and production. We have gotten to a place where we think that a killer app, a disrupting technology, or a new financial model is somehow more important than sales. They’re not.

In fact, in what we call the Barefoot Startup, the product itself is determined by sales. The design is not complete until after a thorough understanding of what the market wants and how the market will be accessed.

Today many believe that business success is based on securing financing. It’s not! You can secure financing and never make a sale. You can have a burn rate that quickly smokes investor dollars without sales.

We have allowed ourselves to believe that getting into a major box store is in itself  a recipe for success. It’s not. It’s only the beginning, not the end. Real success is staying in the market with sustained and increasing sales.

In fact, we have seen companies that have discounted the importance of sales and elevated marketing – who will gladly take a bow when sales are up and blame “those salespeople out in the field” when sales are down.

Today, you can even get financing with a cool idea, no real sales plan, and no sales experience. Startups are not alone in this thinking. Investors abound who take sales for granted. They shouldn’t.  The startup failure rate is on the increase. According to Small Business Trends, over 50% of small business startups fail in the first four years.

No one’s idea, no matter how brilliant, is going to sell itself. All ideas must be sold and more importantly resold on an ongoing basis.

Today, much of the focus is on the cost of goods, when it should be on the cost of sales. If you can’t service what you sell, you are soon off the market. If you can’t achieve a positive cash flow quickly, you are back trading more of your precious equity to the investor just to keep the lights on.

The current thinking seems to be that if you have a good enough idea, and a catchy marketing plan, you just hire some people to sell it. If they don’t, just fire them and hire some more. Right? Wrong. With that attitude, you never find out why your idea didn’t sell – until it’s too late!

How has this happened? Sales itself has gotten a bad name. Nobody wants to be “salesy!” Nobody wants to face personal rejection. Sales is generally not taught in school. And salespeople are seen as shifty characters, out to trick you, only after your money, and with very little to offer in return. Good salespeople offer excellent customer service, and should be the highest priority for a startup, not the last.

From startups to enterprise companies, the time is right for the Barefoot Spirit. Now is the time to focus on the top priority for success, sales!

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