Probably the hardest lesson in entrepreneurship is learning how to hire. Sure, you can comb over resumes for the skillsets and experience you are looking for, but what do you look for beyond that? What is the key tell that promises loyalty and engagement?

Beyond Skillsets

We learned the hard way. After years of hiring for skill sets and having problems with engagement and turnover, we finally got it. Entrepreneurs can’t afford to hire anyone who doesn’t have the entrepreneurial spirit themselves. In other words, employees have to bet their salary on their own production. Anything short of that has the owner paying for attendance. And with that program you can expect to hear, “I was there. Pay me!”

So, what do you look for when you are a cash starved entrepreneur and you can’t afford to just pay for attendance? What do you look for when you must pay for production? How do you know you have the right candidate?

In Chapter 9 of our Business Audio Theatre production of The Barefoot Spirit you can join us as experience actors play the parts in telltale scenes that demonstrate some answers to these critical questions. The chapter is aptly entitled, “A Smaller Slice of a Larger Pie.”

Mastering Michigan!

When Barefoot Cellars needed a territorial sales manager for Michigan, several qualifying candidates balked at the job. Even though the job paid a guaranteed base and had commission structure with no limit, several candidates complained.

One immediately whined, “I can’t live on that guarantee.” We did not expect him to. We wanted him to be enticed by the big commission we offered. So we stood up, shook his hand and said, “Thanks for applying at Barefoot! Good luck with your job search!” and showed him the door. Another complained right away, “That guarantee of yours is just too low.” You guessed it, same bum’s rush out the door.

A third candidate didn’t start with even asking about the compensation package. Instead, he opened the conversation with, “You know, you’re getting your butt kicked in Michigan …but I can turn it around!” He went on to describe his skills, experience, and contacts. 15 minutes into the interview he finally asks, “So what does the compensation package look like anyway?” We told him, “It’s a flat guarantee with a no limit commission plan,” to which he said with surprise, “No limit?!”

We talked more about the market and the problems he saw. At one point, he interrupted himself mid-sentence and said “Are you sure there’s no limit?” After the third time he asked about the no-limit commission, we interrupted him and said, “We are sure there is no limit and you are so hired!” He single-handedly built the Barefoot business from scratch and made it one of the fastest selling wines in Michigan!

You see, what we had finally learned after 10 years in business was that it wasn’t enough to offer a big prize for performance. You had to wait until you found the candidate that was looking for the big prize, because they were a performer and were underpaid and overworked, and maybe, taken for granted in their last job! We found him! His nickname was “No-Limit Phil.”

Save Mono Lake!

This chapter is packed with stories like that, demonstrating the Barefoot Spirit approach to hiring and relating to staff in general. In one episode Michael and Bonnie are hiking along in a redwood park when an unlikely thing happens. Their cell phone rings. It’s amazing that they even had coverage, let alone forgot to lose the devise in the car while they were embracing nature.

A startled Michael answered while Bonnie complained, “I thought we agreed to never bring those **** things out on a hike!” It was Randy, their National Sales Manager. “I’ve got to quit!” he said. “I’ve just been given a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a docent in my favorite part of the world, Mono Lake!”

Tune in to find out how we handled that situation to create a win-win-win for Barefoot, Randy, and Mono Lake. Discover how we not only gave Randy the opportunity, saved his job, became Mono Lake’s favorite wine, and helped save Mono Lake itself!

Taming Truckers!

One day, a young woman who had worked for Barefoot for only a year or two walked into Michael’s office and announced, “You need a Traffic Manager!” “A what?” Michael said. He had no idea what she was talking about.

She went on, “We’re going to lose a lot of sales in Minnesota due to out of stocks. A truck from our Minnesota distributer just drove all the way out here to California and got turned away by our warehouse manager because he did not have an appointment and drove all the way back to Minnesota …EMPTY!” “What?!” Michael said in disbelief. She explained that the manager was loading 4 other trucks who had appointments and couldn’t fit him in.

Find out how this young lady was given permission to create and occupy a new job to basically babysit the truckers to follow procedures and maximize their loads. Find out how this significantly improved Barefoot’s sales. And find out how this young women overcame the initial verbal abuse from the truckers and ultimately had them sending her flowers and candy! It’s all there and more in Chapter 9!

Tune In!

You will hear and experience entertaining stories and learn valuable lessons as Hollywood actors play the parts to demonstrate how to treat your people, complete with sound effects, and an original musical score.

Today, we advise our clients, “If you are paying your people right, the producers can’t afford to leave, and the non-producers can’t afford to stay.”  And then we add, “Always take a smaller slice of a larger pie!”

Please takes us along on your next road trip and enjoy a free chapter on us.

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

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