Experience This! Podcast Business Audio Theatre
Michael Houlihan & Bonnie Harvey – The Barefoot Spirit (Audiobook) C-Suite Network 19:21
Birth of the Foot
The No Game
Buyer Part 1
Buyer Part 2
Over the years, I’ve written about, interviewed, and listened to Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, the founders of Barefoot Wine and New York Times bestselling authors of The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand.
Recently their latest project caught my eye, or should I say, my ear. Welcome to the world of Business Audio Theatre, where business audiobooks are not just narrated but performed! Last week I caught up with the dynamic duo at their California Wine Country home. I wanted to know more.
Robert Reiss: You guys built and sold what is now the world’s #1 wine brand. Wasn’t that enough?
Michael Houlihan: After we sold Barefoot Wine, our employees, vendors and buyers kept encouraging us to write a book about the unique principles we used to succeed. And we really wanted to share our hard-earned lessons with others so they would succeed faster. Our first attempt was like most business books, you know, the three things you’ve got to do, the five things never to do, and the 25 things your customer wants from you. We hated it. We threw the entire manuscript right in the garbage. Then we met Rick Kushman, who wrote down the various true stories that demonstrated those principles in a much more entertaining fashion. The Barefoot Spirit paperback was the result, and it has been used in over 60 schools that teach entrepreneurship. After about four years speaking, we noticed that our audiences where coming in with ear buds. We asked several what they were listening to. Was it hip-hop? Was it rap? No, they were listening to podcasts and business audiobooks. We thought, “Of course! It’s mobile and it’s multi-tasking friendly.” We wanted to get our message across to this new mobile generation. We started listening to business audiobooks, but most were simply narrated, and this left us underwhelmed. Like Barefoot Wine, we wanted our business audiobook to be fun and engaging.
Reiss: How you are improving the way we can listen to business audiobooks?
Houlihan: Most business audiobooks are simply narrated either by the authors, narrators or celebrities. This can create a single-dimensional and somewhat boring experience. We wanted to take the customer experience to the next level by adding color, fun and entertainment. So, we took our own story, The Barefoot Spirit, and adapted it to an audio play, complete with Hollywood actors, sound effects, and an original music score. It’s a true “3-D audio” experience. We call this new audiobook format Business Audio Theatre.
Reiss: What are the advantages of Business Audio Theatre over narration?
Houlihan: We believe the best way to convey business principles is through story, and the best way to convey story is through theatrical performance. You are not just hearing the story, you are there, experiencing it. You identify with the characters and are entertained by the action, dialogue, sound effects and music. It brings the story to life! We like the audio theater format because, unlike text and video, you are not immobilized. Audio Theatre creates a movie in your mind where you participate in the storytelling by curating images of scenes, props and characters from your own imagination and memory. It’s a form of experiential learning.
Reiss: Your talks are a lot about the customer experience. Who are the customers for Business Audio Theatre?
Houlihan: The BAT customer may be an aspiring entrepreneur or may already be building a business. The listener may be a new employee who is being onboarded by a company using this format as a training tool to preserve and convey the founder’s legacy, story and principles. This can reduce turnover and increase engagement. And, all types of customers can enjoy this form of edutainment on demand and on the move.
Reiss: So, now that you have produced your own Business Audio Theatre audiobook, what can you tell us about the production process?
Houlihan: Our book was already written as a business bio, so it lent itself to this new format. But, to create a learning tool, the message must be in story form with scripts and scenes, action and outcomes. Once this is done, we can cast the characters, add sound effects and write the musical score. Obviously, length is a big factor. For instance, our audiobook is over seven hours long and is broken down into 10-, 25- to 45-minute episodes. Each episode, or chapter, is further broken down into several 30-second to 4-minute mini-story segments. We engage clients in comprehensive pre-production interviews to determine their intended use, desired length and existing intellectual assets. Then, our entertainment industry production partners can develop a timeline with milestones, not unlike making a movie – without the camera, of course. To find out more about Business Audio Theatre or to listen to a free chapter of The Barefoot Spirit, go to www.barefootaudiobook.com.