In the past few years we’ve spoken at over 40 schools that teach entrepreneurship. Only one of them teaches Sales – not sales forecasting, not sales management, and not sales analysis, but real, “get out of my office,” to “I’ll take two truckloads,” Sales!

As a society, have we gotten so focused on technology, engineering, production, and the next shiny ball that we have forgotten how all the goods and services that give us such a great standard of living get to us? It’s through sales!

Without sales, nothing happens: no engineering, no tech, no production, no salaries. Nothing. Zilch. So how did we get to a place where we think we can teach, of all things, Entrepreneurship, without teaching Sales?

We think it’s because, as a society, we look down on salespeople, and anything that seems ‘salesy.’ From the classic Music Man to a myriad of films like “Used Cars,” salespeople are depicted as devious, cut throat, sleazy types who will take advantage of you, trick you, and saddle you with something you don’t need and can’t afford. They are regularly portrayed as low lifers who couldn’t get a decent job. So why teach Sales to an entrepreneur? Certainly, they can find someone else, less educated, to tend to that tawdry task.

The one school we visited that did teach Sales including prospecting, qualifying, communications, opening and closing, was the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater. When we asked why they taught Sales, they responded, “One of our benefactors, a very successful entrepreneur, asked in a curriculum meeting on entrepreneurship classes, why they didn’t teach Sales?” They couldn’t give a good reason, so they began teaching Sales.

Like that benefactor, we also believe you can’t teach Entrepreneurship without a providing a solid foundation in Sales. More than 80% of the great ideas that fail do so because their startup companies could not achieve a positive cash flow before the investors pulled the plug! In other words, they couldn’t make more in sales than it cost them to be in business.

We like to say, “The day after the launch, the business plan takes a back seat to the cash flow report.”

We also believe that all companies are made up of just two divisions: Sales and Sales Support – where everybody, and we mean everybody, who is not in Sales, is working to support Sales. Sales is your paycheck, your security, and your reputation. Who wants to hire someone from a bankrupt company? So, let’s rethink where sales should rank in the scheme of things. Any successful entrepreneur will put it near the top.

A couple years ago we spoke at the Norwegian Technological Institute in Trondheim to predominantly Engineering students with dreams of starting their own businesses. The main question we got from them was, “What other courses should I take to prepare myself to sell my products and innovations?” Our answer would have been Sales – if they taught it, but they did not. So instead, we recommended the basis for excellent Sale skills – the Liberal Arts, also known as Liberal Studies or The Humanities. You know, communications, social studies, cultural studies, critical thinking, psychology, philosophy, history and literature. Sure, you can teach the tactical skills of Sales, but first you have to master the art of relationship building.

Now does this sound like a low-lifer’s profession? On the contrary, this sounds like a profession that requires a high level of education, plus respect and understanding for fellow human beings. Let’s put Sales back on the pedestal where it rightly belongs. And let’s teach Sales in our schools. When it comes to entrepreneurial success, Sales cure all ills.

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