cows1Corporations today say they want a more entrepreneurial culture. Some of the top search terms coming out of the C-Suite today are: entrepreneurial culture, employee engagement, and employee empowerment.

We have been asked to write a companion to our book, The Barefoot Spirit, which distills out the essentials necessary to create a positive, productive, and growth-oriented culture in corporations. Our new book, The Entrepreneurial Culture, 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People will soon be released. This book specifically targets the corporations and provides them with tools that successful entrepreneurs use to engage and empower their people.

Many of these tools can be applied directly to the existing corporate structure. But all culture and all change starts from the top, and the top execs have to be willing to change in order for these tools to work their magic. Many C-Suiters are fearful of change. They feel that it might cause a “revolution,” result in legal challenges, or run-away costs. So they stifle methods that can empower and engage employees that, in their minds, step on the three sacred corporate cows:

1 Corporate Structure: The basic structure of most corporations resembles a pyramid and is ipso facto top-down by its basic architecture and function. Within the pyramid are silos which are mini-pyramids. Each mini-pyramid’s turf is fiercely defended from perceived infringements by the other mini-pyramids. This top-down, turf-war-prone structure can prevent the upward mobility of good ideas and interdepartmental cooperation necessary for real breakthroughs. How can employees be empowered and engaged if they think their boss will sit on their idea, change it, or claim it as his or her own? How can employees come up with comprehensive solutions that involve changes to other departments if they are perceived as “off-limits?”

2 Compensation:  Most corporations today pay a salary which is basically paying for attendance, not necessarily production. Raises tend to be based on tenure, not great ideas, sales, or profits. This results in employees being viewed as “labor,” and as a cost center to be reduced, not as an asset to be appreciated. If two or more employees are responsible for doing the same job, they get equal pay regardless of the imbalance in their production. This discourages employees from working harder or being more engaged. Why bother? It’s not going to make a difference in their paycheck, or even in the appreciation and recognition they receive. Real producers tend to leave for better pay commensurate with their production. How can employees be truly engaged if their compensation plan discourages them?

3 Compliance: Corporate legal departments, in their well-meaning effort to mitigate liability, want “everything” to go through compliance. They look for reasons why things should not be done rather than ways in which things can be done. Of course this takes a long time, because when everything must go through compliance, that creates a backlog. Corporate employees know this and are discouraged from requesting approval for an idea or project. Legal doesn’t want to offer “safe” parameters inside of which ideas can flow without formal review since legal also gets paid by the hour. Some legal departments even recommend against any public written acknowledgement for a job well done in the fear that it may be used against the employer in a wrongful termination dispute. Yet public acknowledgement engages employees by validating their productive behavior, increasing respect from their colleagues, and demonstrating to others what garners appreciation.

Tune in next time to see how we recommend corporations achieve an entrepreneurial culture by removing the fear and introducing a few new cows!

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