50 Best Companies to Watch 2020

Improve customer and employee engagement with a gripping story: Business Audio Theatre


Audio, in any form (podcast, audiobook, and music), allows people to escape some of the mundane tasks in life, and absorb knowledge while being active. It is not only the most widely used medium, but it has proven to be more effective than reading a book or watching a video. As audio fits into any mobile device and can reach a large audience quickly, businesses have an opportunity to communicate with their customers in an easy and relevant way.

A well-scripted, fully casted, entertaining, and professionally performed audio play in audiobook form is the best channel to reach your employees and target audience as it is highly measurable.

Taking this fact as an opportunity, Business Audio Theatre took the concept of business audiobooks to a whole new level. The company is focusing on creating intricate business audio plays for its clients. Instead of relying on strict narration, it employs professional actors to play the parts in scripted scenes that convey your message through story. Business Audio Theatre uses its studios, expert audio scriptwriters, actors, editors, sound effects, and music to create a lively audio performance for your brand story. In simple words, Business Audio Theatre gives your brand an entertaining format to demonstrate its history and what it stands for.

How it all started

According to Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, the founders of Barefoot, now the world’s #1 wine brand, “Turnover and lack of engagement are the biggest hidden costs for any business.” For seven years before they sold their business, they had virtually no turnover. This was a result of their unique business culture, which has been the subject of hundreds of articles, keynotes, and podcast interviews.

Starting with no money and no knowledge of their industry, they employed their own unique culture to overcome many seemingly insurmountable obstacles. They collectively refer to that culture as “The Barefoot Spirit.” Their book by the same name spent nine weeks on the New York Times Business Bestseller’s list. Readers accompany Houlihan and Harvey, on their entrepreneurial journey from the laundry room of a rented farmhouse to the boardroom of their acquirer, E&J Gallo, the world’s largest wine company.

Now they have taken their own story and created a totally new form of business audiobook they call “Business Audio Theatre,” (BAT). The Audiobook Publishers’ Association named The Barefoot Spirit as one of the Top Five Business Audiobooks of 2020. “We have produced an example of what we can do for other founders concerned about preserving and communicating their culture,” says Harvey.

Business Audio Theatre is a Forestville, CA based company founded in 2019. Houlihan says, “We are excited to make this process available to companies that want to preserve their founder’s legacy and business principles, to reduce turnover and increase engagement.” He points out, “The best way to convey business principles is through story. And the best way to convey story is through audio theatre.” Houlihan and Harvey are national radio network workplace culture experts. Now, they are offering an innovative way to train employees to reduce turn-over and increase engagement.

“When the cement is wet, you can move it with a trowel. But when it gets hard, you will need a jack hammer,” Houlihan explains. This is in reference to the first critical moments when a new employee on-boards. Harvey says, “Most new hires are already ‘brainwashed’ by the culture of their previous job. You inherit that cultural mindset - unless you do something about it right when they’re hired.”

They were looking for a digital on-boarding tool to help companies train employees in their business’ culture when their associate, Ryan Foland, a top business communications specialist, introduced them to Matt Weinglass of Sherwood Players Productions in Hollywood and Business Audio Theatre” was born. Using MP3 technology, they produce high-end, fully-casted, audio on-boarding and brand-building tools, designed to preserve the founders’ legacy, story, and principles.

The idea is to use story to not just show your people how to conduct business as the founder intended, but demonstrate the positive advantages of that behavior – not just what, but why? Business Audio Theatre is in an easy-to-use, audiobook format, available anytime, even while multitasking. The listeners are not tethered to a screen as with video and text. Harvey says, “When listeners experience the founder’s challenges and successes, they can better identify with the company!” Weinglass adds, “This is a fully cinematic, 3-D experience for your ears. It brings the stories to life!”

Today’s MP3 and mixing technology make it possible to engage Hollywood actors to voice parts in the founders’ stories and deliver remotely. If you already have a book with scenes and dialogue, it can be adapted for audio screenplay. But if you don’t, a BAT expert will take down your story and write an audio play. Then the production director conducts the auditions, casting, and recordings. Once all the recordings are complete, the editors go to work and do their magic with integration, sound effects, and music.

The result? A training and branding tool that can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere for years to come.

Meet the leaders behind the success of Business Audio Theatre

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey are the Founders of Business Audio Theatre. As Founders and thought leaders themselves, they appreciate the communication of business principles and are committed to preserving the legacy of other founders. Their New York Times Bestseller, The Barefoot Spirit has become a staple for more than 60 schools of entrepreneurship around the world. They keynote at numerous universities and organizations about their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS). They give classes, media interviews, and write articles on these principles in such business publications as The Business Journals, Forbes, Entrepreneur, C-Suite Network, and others.

Bonnie and Michael provide insights, guidance, and valuable connections to help companies on their journey from ideation to monetization. Although the lessons they learned came from the wine industry, their business principles are universal, including strategic planning, using soft skills to reduce the need for cash, problem solving, and the entrepreneurial culture.

They are headquartered in the beautiful Sonoma County wine country where they share their mini-estate with corporate execs, students, and others looking for a natural retreat where they can reboot in numerous ways. Here they provide programs on key subjects and tailor events to suit their clients’ needs. They also provide a unique insider’s perspective on the wine country in California.

Bonnie came from a serial business management background, and had a consulting practice to small business owners before founding Barefoot Wine. Her foot is on the famous Barefoot Wine label. After attending various schools, Michael pursued a career in Public Administration and had his own consulting practice before the Barefoot enterprise. They live in the heart of the Russian River Valley with two Bengal cats who tag along with them on hikes.

“Rather than strict narration, professional actors play the parts in skits that convey your message through story with sound effects and music.”