Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey – Barefoot Wine Founders

By Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey – Barefoot Wine Founders

People Want Entrepreneurial Culture!

People Want Entrepreneurial Culture! 150 150 MIchael and Bonnie Harvey

Suddenly, entrepreneurial culture is in demand by C-Suiters of large corporations. Why? They see small companies doing what they aren’t—moving fast and seizing opportunities. They see more and more start-ups taking industries by storm with innovative products, groundbreaking services, and fresh takes on consumer demand. And they want to do the same.

Large businesses are under pressure from stockholders and board members to make entrepreneurial culture happen, and they don’t understand why that culture is off-limits in their own companies. Slowly, they realize where they went wrong. They learn that their rigid structure, strict processes, and scale of standardization they’ve polished over the years have actually worked against them. Their own employees have become discouraged and disempowered.

An employee can’t be forced to feel inspired and invested, and C-Suiters can’t develop entrepreneurial culture overnight. This takes long-term commitment—it is not a fad or an item on a checklist. The basics of entrepreneurial culture contradict some sacred corporate cows, such as structure, compliance, and compensation. This shift will require you to introduce 3 new wild horses:

  1. Work like a two-division company. If your customer is at the top, how can customer service and sales be at the bottom? No matter how an entrepreneur’s company and office are organized, there is a permeating two-division attitude and structure. These are sales and sales support. Sales is on top, and everybody else works to support sales. This includes production, marketing, and administration. Even the CEO is in sales support. Why? Because every entrepreneur knows that employees are paid by the customer, through sales. To ensure that departments such as marketing and production do their best, keep them informed and in the loop. Sales and customer service know the most about the market, so why not use them to keep everyone relevant and updated?
  2. Pay for performance. This might be difficult for a large corporation to implement. Your employees will be doubtful of this shift unless they are already paid according to performance. But, in order to foster entrepreneurial culture, a portion of their pay must be measured by profitability, growth, and sales. You need to make sure that your employees are driven by much more than a stable paycheck. Paying your employees just for attendance tells them, “Whether or not the company makes a profit, you’ll get paid the same, so relax!” Dedicated members of an entrepreneurial workforce are eager to gamble their pay on personal productivity.
  3. Be mindful of the legal department. Corporations can suffer from the restraint of legal departments. Hidden in their good intentions to protect against liability is a tendency to halt creativity. In our opinion, legal should develop a system where strict compliance reviews simply are not necessary. Part of their pay should be based on growth, sales, and profitability, just like everyone else. Why should their pay stay the same no matter how competitive the company is? Their challenge should not be “Can we do this?” It should be “How can we do this?”

In our book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways to Engage and Empower Your People, you’ll find the tools we used to create entrepreneurial culture at Barefoot. These tools can be applied to corporations of any size. Released in 2014 alongside Jeff Hayzlett’s on-demand C-Suite TV, it is the ideal companion to our New York Times bestselling book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. Check ‘em out!

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