key relationshipsThis is the time of year when your key players are thinking about making some changes, changes that may negatively affect you or positively affect you. That’s why this is the best time to recommit yourself to the folks who hold your brand together and show them that you have their best interests at heart. Tell them how much you appreciate them and why. Remind them of what you have done for them, and how much it saved them in time, and resources. Assure them you don’t take them for granted!

So, who are these key players anyway and why are they so important to your brand? They are your strategic allies. They are the folks who believe that they will get ahead when you get ahead. It’s in your mutual best interest to work with each other, make allowances for each other, and ultimately enrich each other.

Your People.

Acknowledge your staff for a job well done during the previous year. Validate them for the improvements they have made, and encourage and inspire them to do better. Include them in the challenges of the business. Show them that they are essential to your business’s growth and success by asking for their opinions and suggestions. Make them feel like it’s their business, too. After all, your employees are your business’s most valuable assets. Its success is apparent in their paychecks, how they improve their skill sets, and how they achieve security. Take the time to lay out the year ahead and what it means to your company and their jobs. Remind them that you, their colleagues, and your customers are depending on them.

Your Suppliers.

Show them how you have increased your business with them, and how you have improved your policies and procedures to be easier to work with. Share your plans for the coming year and demonstrate how they fit into your goals, which will increase your business with them. Thank them for the allowances they have made to reduce your costs and your risks. Consider a long-term commitment based on further concessions and deliverables. Tell them what you need to increase your volume with them. Ask them how your company can improve its relationship and communications with them.

Your Middlemen.

Whether they are distributors, brokers, or jobbers, they make your product available in places you can’t cover. Thank them for making your brand a priority. Show them how your sales have grown and become more important to them. Share your plans for expansion and demonstrate how they fit in. Show appreciation by committing early in the year to having your representative work with them in their territories to improve your brand awareness and sales.

Your Retailers.

Present them with a business report that demonstrates how much your branded products sold in their outlets in the previous year. Show them your growth rate over last year. Remind them of any and all returns, refunds, or allowances they received. Demonstrate your dependability and how you have promoted sales of your products in their stores. Recount your in-store demonstrations and community fundraisers in their territory, and all the ways you have participated in increasing sales in their stores. Thank them for carrying your products and tell them how important they are to you and their community.

Your Consumers.

This is a good time to announce a customer loyalty program, provide discounts, and increase value. Thank them not just for buying your brand, but for recommending it to their friends and family. Use this opportunity to validate their purchases with information in your marketing material that shows the increasing popularity of your brand and the improvements you have made. Discover the causes that they hold dear and donate goods and services to their fundraisers. Let them know that you are part of their community and give them a social reason to buy your products.

You can make the right impression at this critical time and set the tone for the new year by renewing your commitment to your key players and reminding them of your value to them as well as appreciating their value to you. Let them know you are there for them, now and in the coming year!

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) & Shelf Smarts courses to help consumer product brand builders achieve success. 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 business site at

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact