We recently had the pleasure of spending the day with 65 MBA students from Nanyang University in Singapore. 25% of the class were part-time students who were already running their own businesses. They asked most of the questions because they obviously had the most immediate concerns.

One question that was particularly telling was, “How do you to get the most out of your employees?”

We’ve given many talks and worked with many companies on this issue, plus we have our own experience building the Barefoot Wine Brand. We had virtually no turnover during the last several years before we were acquired. These were also the same years that the brand made leaps and bounds in the marketplace and overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Most of those solutions came from our own people.

“What was the most important thing that made the difference?” they asked.

We told them to “overkill on orientation.” First, your employees have to know where the money comes from and how it gets to them.

Don’t just show your new employee the bathroom, the coffee room, and their go-to person. Take orientation to a whole new level driven by two concepts:

  • You can move wet cement with the trowel, but when it hardens, you’ll need a jackhammer. Your people will create their own ideas of how things should be done if you don’t provide them early and often with your way of doing business. Their preconceived misconceptions are at the root of most engagement issues.
  • Most people can instantly grasp an image yet struggle over dialogue and written text. Use graphic simplicity to present seemingly complex ideas in pictures, charts, and process maps that are easy to understand.

Use these concepts by presenting them on day one with two such infographics:

  1. “The Money Map”.This is like a treasure map that shows the employees how the funds to pay their salary, bonuses, and benefits come into your company. It graphically demonstrates every transaction that must occur between the ultimate end-user and all the players and stakeholders your company must satisfy in order to pass those funds up the chain, step-by-step, to your company. It shows how each player must cover his overhead, make a profit, and purchase your products and services.

The money map not only shows new employees where the money comes from, but it shows them the bigger picture. For one thing ,it eliminates the idea that the employer is some kind of a sugar daddy and clearly demonstrates how dependent the employee’s income is on the performance of the company.

By demonstrating all the key relationships, the employee begins to clearly see how they can fit in and how they can make a difference. It’s hard to engage people when they don’t understand the wider business process at play. In fact, they will make their own assumptions about the nature of things. Over time, these misconceptions will harden, and ultimately you as their employer, will need that jackhammer.

  1. “The Two-Division Company”.Unlike the typical pyramid structure organization chart with many layers and silos indicating status divisions of labor and chain of command, we gave them a very simple organization chart with only four boxes stacked vertically.

The top box was labeled “The Customer”. The next box was labeled “Sales”. Below that was a box labeled “Sales Support”. The final box was labeled “Not Employed Here!” So, in our company, everybody who is not in Sales was in Sales Support. That included most of our employees.

This gave everybody the message that we should be listening closely to what the salespeople and the customer service people had to say about the customer and the marketplace. After all, they were the only people in the company that were in direct contact with the customer and marketplace every day. And as they learned from the money map, that is where their salary came from.

This form of orientation quickly and clearly shows your new employees how they are positioned to make a difference before they develop entrenched and counterproductive misconceptions. If they don’t get these simple concepts early on, it will be much more difficult to engage them in problem solving, innovation, and disrupting initiatives. But when they have a firm foundation and understand how it all works, they will not only be engaged, they will be empowered!


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 www.consumerbrandbuilders.com.

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact sales@thebarefootspirit.com.