December is upon us. It’s a very short month due to the holidays. It’s also a very strategic month …if played right. December is the time for closing out the year past and planning for the year ahead. This year, December is even more auspicious.

The Perfect Storm

The past year barely got started before we were hit with the worldwide pandemic, followed by economic collapse, continuing political upheaval, several massive fires, biblical floods, numerous hurricanes, and human rights atrocities. Whew! But it closed out with a rededication to democracy, and a new administration with a commitment to address rights, climate, professionalism, and national pandemic policies. Further, the pharmaceutical companies have announced breakthrough vaccines and treatments. Hope is in sight.

Rapid Change

Also during this year, many of us lost our jobs, lost our clients, lost our homes, lost loved ones, and lost what little savings we had. We were forced into the 21st century, kicking and screaming, with the rapid adaption of video conferences and work-from-home situations. Many of us were forced to reconsider our jobs and even careers. Some of us were forced to go into totally different industries. The “perfect storm” left its toll on all of us. What now?

5 Planning Strategies

And that’s exactly what we should be thinking about this December, how to proceed. We offer some tools that work for us. We hope they will help you make the most of your past and help you plan for your future.

  1. Clear The Decks

December is a great time to get organized. The first thing to do is clean up and eliminate all that clutter. A clean and organized area with efficient storage spaces will not only lift your spirits, but it will help you focus on the new challenges ahead. File it, trash it, or give it away, but remove all visual confusion and physical obstacles. Cleanliness and order sends you a psychological message that you are ready for something new and ready to get to work!

Do the same with all time wasters. If folks are not loved ones, close friends, productive or satisfying, you might be ready say goodbye. A good rule of thumb that we use is, “Does this person give us energy or take it away?”

We can no longer afford to put our professional time into contacts that take our energy without some kind of return. You will need more time to uncover opportunities, research and follow up on them. It’s amazing how busy we can get out of habit or just wanting to feel like we are doing something. This next year we won’t really have that luxury.

  1. Take Inventory

If you were shipwrecked on a remote island, the first thing you would do is go through the boat and take anything that you could use for survival. Well, for many this has been a shipwreck of a year. What can you take with you into the new year that can help you not only survive, but prosper?

Make a list of your skills, not just the ones that are specific to your industry, but the adaptable skills that can benefit others from other industries. Make a list of your top 10 contacts, the ones that have provided you with introductions, advice, and support. Basically write a resume, not necessarily for an employer, but for yourself, to really remind you of what you have to offer. Be sure to add your unique skillsets and talents. Keep it handy for the New Year. Don’t be afraid to add to it as you discover hidden assets that you may have overlooked. Make a list of your physical assets like your home, office, and the territory in which you are located.

  1. Take The 10,000 Foot View

If you feel like you are in a box, the fastest way out is straight up – the 10,000 foot view. And what do we see from there? A broadening of our perspective beyond our own industry.

We see that all the upheaval of the past year has actually benefitted several industries including healthcare, fire prevention, flood control, construction, real estate, online entertainment, personal protection equipment, pharmaceuticals, video conferencing, tech hardware and software, recreational vehicles, e-commerce, fulfillment, HVAC, solar, wind, home food delivery, home improvement, alcoholic beverages, and the list goes on!

Look for growing industries that can benefit from your skills, talents, goods and services. And look for industries that are poised to blossom after a vaccine has been widely distributed, such as alternative energy now, with a supportive administration,.

  1. Identify Strategic Allies

“Who gets rich if I get rich?” and “Who else benefits when I solve this problem?” Those should be the questions you ask yourself when looking for strategic allies. And what can those strategic allies do for you? They can open doors, provide financing, credit, and terms. They can help you grow your business. They can help provide intelligence, customers, and security. Just make sure you understand what they want first …and give it to them.

Typically, strategic allies want empathy, loyalty, information, status, and performance. Think of them as unofficial business partners. They want to know how they can help you, so you can buy more from them. They may provide support or supplies rather than actually produce a mercantile brand in that industry. They may be a competitor who can benefit from your goods and services.      

  1. Stay Positive!

If you don’t believe you’ll find the car keys on that rainy, hurried, morning when you are running late, you will never see them, even when you are looking right at them. Why? Because you are panicked and expecting the worst. After searching the whole house, there they are, right in the drawer where you first looked. But you told your brain to filter out any information that was not consistent with your preconceived notions, in this case, “I can’t find my keys!”

Opportunity is like that. You can be blinded to it from anxiety and negativity. No, opportunity seldom arrives in a shiny package with stage lights and a trumpet fanfare. It can be covered with mud, off in the corner, hidden in the shadows, and ignored by the crowd. You have to believe that it is there and that it is coming to you, so you will look for it and expect a positive outcome.

One way we have found to stay positive in trying times is gratitude. By training yourself to be thankful for what you have (like that inventory we were mentioning), you will become more confident. If you believe the solution is there, you will be much more likely to see it when it appears, no matter how obscure it may present itself.

So Get Started!

These strategies have worked for us time and again. We hope they will work for you. Our wish is that we all land on our feet in 2021 …even if it is on a different path! It’s time to start planning!




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