For the last decade we have been advisors to many businesses, big and small, start-up and build-up, build-out and enterprise. Most clients come to us with a very specific standalone question, like “How do I hire a sales rep?” But, come to find out, they have many bigger fish to fry before they should ever hire that rep.

The Answer is a Question

The question is often the wrong question for where they are and what they have accomplished, especially with clients with less experience. The right question might be “Do I need a sales rep yet?” Our reply would be a question to the client, such as, “Why do you think you need a sales rep?” and “How do you intend to pay that rep?” and then, “Do you have compelling sales program for the rep to sell?” This is how we answer the wrong question, with more questions that lead to the right questions.

Pandering to Laziness

The wrong question usually comes from well-meaning but inexperienced entrepreneurs who have oversimplified the entrepreneurial process and overlooked the necessary priorities and steps. They are looking for the shortcut “hack” that will send them skyrocketing to the top like they imagine so many other success entrepreneurs have done. And where did they get that idea? Simple: They have been pandered to by the media and service companies looking to sell products they really don’t need or they don’t need yet.

Hacking the Tree Down

There’s no glory in the slow slog to the top. The founder that took 20 years to succeed rarely makes the cover of the entrepreneurial magazines. But the overnight success is on the cover! They didn’t have to work for it, they just hacked their way to the top, right? So the question becomes, what is the hack to do this or that?

Never mind that there is true value in sustaining and succeeding in your entrepreneurial journey with dogged commitment to learning and applying lessons, building a solid foundation first, and then taking baby steps. No, now it’s scale fast, fail fast! And fail they do! It’s just not in the entrepreneurial magazines. Failure doesn’t sell, and success the hard way doesn’t either.

Inglorious Insights

So it’s no wonder why so many young entrepreneurs spend more time looking for the hack instead of understanding what they must do and the order in which they must do it. From our perspective, we have seen too many new businesses fail because of their lust for the hacks, instead of their thrust for the facts. And those facts are going to come from people who have actually done it, even if it took them 20 years to figure it out.

Do the Right Things

The fact is, because the (good) advisors took the time required to learn from their mistakes, they are now in a better position the share their sometimes painful experiences and save others time and money. It may not be a hack, but it’s a best practice that others will benefit from. These  advisors also have a more objective view of the process and understand what building blocks need to be firmly in place before taking the next steps or asking the wrong question! It’s not, “Just tell me the one thing,” it’s “Just tell me the right things!”

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