You want your people to take pride and ownership in your brand, right? You want them to use their experience, intelligence, and imagination to move it forward, right? But if you think, “They are well-paid and it’s their job,” you would be overlooking important keys to employee engagement. Sure, they wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for the money. But you want (and need) more than that. You need to turn your people into advocates.

And you can. Here’s our short list:

  1. The Big Picture. Make sure your people understand the ultimate value of your brand, to the marketplace and to society at large. What does your brand do that is better than anyone else’s? What are the benefits your brand delivers? Remember, most employees want to know they are making a difference. They want to know they have a hand in making the world a better place. What does your brand stand for beside its mercantile value?
  2. The Thorough Orientation. Don’t just give them a job description, show them the coffee room, or introduce them to their go-to person. Show them graphically and exactly how their job effects sales. Sales is the backbone of a positive company culture. Everyone works for sales, either making them or supporting them – no exceptions, no lurking, no hiding out. Employees want to know their jobs are critical to the existence of the business. Show them how and why.
  3. The Help Request. Share the challenges you face with your competition, supply chain, distribution channel, and the changing nature of your marketplace. Ask for their help. When you respect their financial and time commitment to your brand by demonstrating your interest in their opinions and suggestions, they are more likely to be engaged in solutions. Everyone wants to feel important. Make them feel important and they will surprise you with their amazing insights.
  4. The Thank-You Note. A physical and public note of appreciation for suggestions that are used, copied to the whole team, encourages more of the same. The employee who solved the problem knows she made a positive contribution. The employees who were copied on the note know what she did, how it made a positive difference, and now have more respect for her. More importantly, the whole team now knows that if they contribute, they too will get the same recognition.
  5. The Rave Reviews. Make sure everyone on your team gets the latest accolades, third-party endorsements, and happy consumer comments. They need to know that your brand is becoming more popular. Everyone wants to be part of a winning team. This constant reinforcement will give them the confidence and credibility they need to share the benefits of your brand with their friends and families. Nothing builds a team like success! So, spread it around and often.

Many brand builders focus only on their ultimate customer. By seeing their own people as a cost center rather than as  an asset, they can easily overlook the gold mine of fresh, new, and relevant ideas right under their noses. Your people are customers and consumers too. They have a commitment to your company for their livelihood. Why not give them a commitment to your brand for their self-pride?

There are many more things brand builders can do to engage their people in the growth of their brand, but these are a few of the leadership techniques we used when building the Barefoot Wine brand. It worked for us and it can work for you! There is great joy and pride knowing your people go home and say, “I love what I do!”

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