After we executed several pivots in a very short period of time, we had a colleague sarcastically remark, “I didn’t know you guys could dance!” to which we retorted, “We didn’t know they could shoot!” Not unlike the scenes in the old western movies where the bad guy is shooting at the boots of the hero, we had to learn how to dance and pivot fast …or get hit by those account payable “bullets.”

The chaotic response to the virus has hit small businesses hard. They are faced with everything from learning how to dance fast to learning a completely new act. The bullets keep coming and many businesses are already closed. Those that are surviving are solving problems faster than they ever have.

Our friends in Europe can’t understand why so many American businesses have yet to figure out a safe way to reopen. They can’t believe that the American public won’t at least save their own jobs by taking precautions. This is remarkable for a country that has been the leader in innovation and problem solving. It is doubly remarkable for a country that ended World War II due to their citizens’ sacrifices and discipline.

For what its worth, we though it might be helpful to reiterate our thoughts on problem solving in the hopes that it might help some small businesses survive in this unprecedented environment. We call it problem solving Barefoot Style:

The 5 Steps to Problem Solving – Barefoot Style:

1.Take Inventory

If you were shipwrecked on a remote island, the first thing you’d do would be to take inventory of everything you had available. You would begin to think about how you could use all your assets to survive.

Take the same approach to your business problems. Identify all your assets, including the hidden ones. Think about how they could be used to help you overcome the challenges you face.

Your assets are more than your property, money and products. They are also your partners, your customers and your suppliers. You may have a strategic advantage in a seemingly unrelated area. Don’t overlook any hidden assets, including your own knowledge and experience.

  1. Get Out of the Box

The quickest way out of the box is straight up! Take the 10,000-foot view. Look beyond your walls, beyond your business, even beyond your industry. Check out the entire landscape.

Who has already overcome a problem like this in another space? How did they do it? What similarities apply to your problem? Are you even defining the problem properly?

We believe one way to the solution is the best definition of the problem, so look at it from every angle. Look for different ways to restate the challenge you are facing.

  1. Consider Who Else Will Benefit

If you solve the problem, who else will benefit? And conversely, who is hurt if you don’t solve the problem? By asking these questions you can discover strategic allies. They share an interest in seeing the problem solved. They can help.

For instance, you may have a supplier who benefits by your growth. They may even be amenable to providing additional credit and extended terms to help you overcome a hurdle or grow your business faster, enabling them to sell you more of their products.

  1. Look at Your Other Problems

If you believe, as we do, that the elegant solution solves more than one problem, then reverse the premise and put all your problems out on the table alongside the one you are trying to solve. By looking at them all at the same time, you may begin to see relationships.

It is in those relationships that the solution often lies. We’ve been amazed how this tactic can turn on the lights with breakthroughs we wouldn’t have considered otherwise!

  1. Know the Need

Instead of putting your staff, your suppliers and your associates on a “need-to-know” basis by hiding your problems under the veil of security, practice “know-the-need.”

Involve your stakeholders in the problem-solving process. They have an interest in the solution and will appreciate the respect you demonstrate for their intelligence and creativity when you ask their advice. Wild ideas that come out of a fun brainstorming session often result in problem solving at its finest.

You can’t make all your problems go away, but when you are armed with a process like this, you will relieve some anxiety, sleep more soundly and feel more confident. So bring on the next problem and give this process a try. You may be surprised at the results. If it worked for us, it can work for you!

When the bullets start flying, use these steps to learn how to dance faster! We wish all small businesses the very best during these trying times!


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