Tenacity is considered to be the single most important ingredient in entrepreneurial success, but there's something else that supports, fuels, and even justifies tenacity.
We were recently asked what kept us going when we were under-financed, ill-prepared, and monumentally challenged building the Barefoot wine brand. We were up against a staid wine culture at the time, with little appreciation for a fun approach, let alone a non-vintage upstart with a foot on the label! Our price was low, resulting in low profits. So we had to produce and sell hundreds of thousands of cases per year just to break even. We took every extra dollar and put it into expansion to keep on growing. What kept us going? Just stubbornness? Just ignorance? What was it really?
It was the same thing that keeps all entrepreneurs going - it was YOU! We were cheered on by the relatively few folks who knew about us. They kept telling us, “You guys are doing the right thing. We love it! Keep it coming!" This constant feedback, even from a limited number of customers, was more powerful than all the no-sayers, challenges, and hardships we had to endure.
When you buck the system, cut the pie a different way, or attempt to offer the market a product that is new, you become a missionary. You not only have to sell your product, but now you have to sell the reasons why there is a demand for your product. This may take years! You know that the eventual user wants it and can appreciate it, but you have to go through a well-established system of distributors and retail buyers set in its conventions. You have to convince decision makers and gatekeepers that their own customers really want what you are selling.
At first, they may not even give you a chance. You may have to sell around them for years to document the demand for your product in secondary or foreign markets. Finally, when one of the established buyers brings in your product, you had better perform quickly or you will be discontinued and not given a second chance!
But during that missionary period, what keeps you going is that your product is selling in the markets where you have managed to place it. But, better yet, your product is getting rave reviews by end-users. Without the constant positive feedback, appreciation, and encouragement we received from some of our first customers, there would be no Barefoot wine today!
So, yes, tenacity is king, but without the validation and encouragement of the folks who first bought it and supported our efforts, tenacity would be cold, tiring, and tedious. When you understand what drives tenacity, it is easier to see how it's preserved. It takes constant encouragement from fans and their belief in you, your product, and your ability to perform to keep entrepreneurs going, year after year without instant reward.
Today we speak to colleges of entrepreneurship and to disabled veterans about what it takes to be a successful business owner. Validation, no matter how small at first, will help them secure the tenacity they need to overcome the obstacles and see their dreams become reality.
Thanks to all of you for your encouragement to help us build the wine brand and, more recently, write The Barefoot Spirit, the story of what's behind the brand and what we learned. You are the fuel for our tenacity!
Who Are We.
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 in 1986, to the board room of E&J Gallo, where they successfully sold their brand in 2005. 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 offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful and help corporations achieve entrepreneurial cultures to engage and empower their people.
Currently they travel the world keynoting at universities, corporations, conferences and symposiums. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals; along with being FOX News Radio Network’s Workplace Culture Experts. They are also the recipients of the 2014 Distinguished Entrepreneur Speaker Award from the Turner School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Bradley University. Visit their popular brand building site at www.thebrandauthority.net. To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact .
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders