Carissa Reiniger | Helping Small Businesses to Pivot and Thrive
Smart Business Revolution

Carissa Reiniger is the Founder and CEO of Small Business Silver Lining Limited which she started in 2005. She also created a Silver Lining Action Plan called SLAP which is a methodology that has helped over 10,000 small business owners in nine countries to set and hit their growth goals. Carissa has worked with an amazing array of different organizations such as Google, The White House, HP, Intuit, Citi Cards, and Staples to bring more resources and support to small businesses. 

Carissa’s work has been featured in the New York Times, the National Post, and a bunch of other publications. She is on a mission to help more small business owners make money doing what they love because she genuinely believes that we can change the economy one small business at a time.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, host John Corcoran is joined by Small Business Silver Lining Limited’s Founder and CEO, Carissa Reiniger, to talk about the impact that small businesses can have in the economy and why it’s important to support. Carissa also shares the work that she has been doing over the years to support small businesses, the role of softwares and manpower in small businesses, and she goes into details about what her company’s SLAP program is all about.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • What inspired Carissa Reiniger to start working with small businesses and help them grow
  • Carissa shares how her methodology and framework has evolved over the last 15 years and the changes she made to her business model to scale and increase her profit margins
  • How Carissa developed her financials skills and why she pivoted into software development
  • The vital role that software and humans play in helping small businesses with accountability and staying on track
  • Carissa explains what her company’s SLAP program is about and how the software determines how to best communicate with clients
  • How was gaming incorporated into the SLAP program?
  • How the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Carissa and her clients’ businesses and what she did to support them through challenging times
  • Carissa talks about the importance of mindset in managing small businesses and shares examples clients who have been thriving in 2020 
  • The people Carissa respects and admires in her industry and those she acknowledges for her achievements and success
  • Where to learn more and connect with SLAP

Resources Mentioned:

Sponsor: Rise25

Today’s episode is sponsored by Rise25 Media, where our mission is to connect you with your best referral partners, clients, and strategic partners. We do this through our done for you business podcast solution and content marketing. 

Along with my business partner Dr. Jeremy Weisz, we have over 18 years of experience with B2B podcasting, which is one of the best things you can do for your business and you personally. 

If you do it right, a podcast is like a “Swiss Army Knife” – it is a tool that accomplishes many things at once. It can and will lead to great ROI, great clients, referrals, strategic partnerships, and more. It is networking and business development; and it is personal and professional development which doubles as content marketing

A podcast is the highest and best use of your time and will save you time by connecting you to higher caliber people to uplevel your network.

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:14

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran  0:40  

All right. Welcome, everyone. John Corcoran here. I’m the host of this show and you guys know my story. I’m a recovering political hack and a recovering lawyer. I spent years working in politics, including working stints at the White House for California Governor and spent years practicing law as well. And I discovered this cool medium of podcasting 10 years ago. I’ve been doing it ever since because I get to talk to really cool people, like my guest here today. And so you’re gonna hear from her in a second, a really smart person. I’m also the co-founder of Rise25, where we help b2b businesses with the strategy and production they need to create a podcast that produces tremendous ROI and connects them to their ideal prospects and referral partners. 

And so I’m excited because my guest is Carissa Reiniger, hopefully I’m saying that correctly. Yeah, Reiniger. Reiniger, sorry, sorry, sorry. She’s the Founder and CEO Small Business Silver Lining Limited. She started Silver Lining in 2005, and created a Silver Lining Action Plan called SLAP. It’s a methodology that has helped over 10,000, that’s amazing, small business owners in 9 countries to set and hit their growth goals. She’s worked with an amazing array of different organizations from Google, to the White House to HP, Intuit, Citi Cards, Staples, you name it to bring more resources and support to small businesses. I think that’s an awesome initiative. Her work has been featured in places such as the New York Times, the National Post, the Globe and mail and a bunch of other places. But she’s on a mission to help more small business owners make money doing what they love, because she genuinely believes that we can change the economy one small business at a time. And given the global pandemic we’ve been in the midst of for the last 7, 8, 9 months, as we record this in November of 2020, I can think of few other things that are quite as important except maybe getting a vaccine sure that that’s important. 

So before we launch into this, this episode is brought to you by Rise25, where we help b2b businesses to get clients, referrals and strategic partnerships with done-for-you podcasts and content marketing. We specialize in helping b2b businesses with a high client lifetime value. So to learn more, go to rise25media.com or you can email us at [email protected] All right, Carissa, so you’ve got an interesting background for someone who is now running a platform that has a big SaaS component to it. And I want to get into that, because I’m always interested in the kind of non-technical founders who didn’t have a computer science degree or anything like that. So I’m sure there are some struggles along the way. But before we get into that, where did this passion for small businesses develop from? Were you the child of a bunch of small business owners? Or, you know, how did you develop that particular pattern?

Carissa Reiniger  3:15  

Yeah, it’s an interesting question. I’ve always been very committed to causes. And so sort of, even in university, I had four full time jobs, and lots of them were working with youth and my degrees in psychology and my minors in criminology, and I didn’t work in prison systems. And, and I’ve always, I’ve always been sort of enamored with this idea that different people are born into different circumstances. And each of us respond to those circumstances in very different ways, and sort of then create our life. And so I’ve always been sort of fascinated by consumed by, you know, engaged in this question of what does it mean to create the life you want. And out of university, I graduated with a psych degree, I moved to Toronto, I got a job doing business development for Canada for a global ad agency. And I realized very quickly, I kind of stumbled into a number of landmines being very young and very female, being, you know, two of those things. And, and so I realized I wasn’t going to make friends at work, I was maneuvering, the politics of a lot of gender stuff, and age stuff, and all the things that happen. And so I started going to small business networking events to make friends, it was sort of my strategy, I thought, you know, who are these people that I’d probably like to be friends within a new city. And, and as I met all these small business owners, I that same part of me that sort of is struck by wanting to help people create the life they want, was really that that chord was really struck and I and I was sitting in this dichotomy at that point in my life 15 years ago, where I was in this corporate job that for all intents and purposes was amazing. You know, it was you know, a good salary and a cool job and travel and this and that, and, you know, more senior than my age, probably, you know, then then would be seen as normal for my age. And, but then I was meeting all these small business owners who We’re passionate and committed and had sacrificed for it. And we’re, you know, literally living their dreams and sacrificing almost everything for it. And I just thought to myself, you know how shameful it is but in my corporate job, so many people have forsaken their passion for security, money and status and whatever else they’re doing. And then all the small business owners had to forsake so many of those things security, stability, financial success, you know, for the pursuit of their dreams. And for whatever reason, it just, I couldn’t let it go. And so I started talking to small business owners nonstop trying to go for coffee, trying to help them and basically got to the point where, when I looked at these two versions of what I was doing with my time, I was selling advertising, you know, just was so unfulfilling. And the idea of helping these business owners live their dreams, and actually make money doing what they love was so fulfilling that I went

John Corcoran  5:54  

there, huh? And what was version 1.0? Like, because I imagine, probably a lot of changes and iterations along the way.

Carissa Reiniger  6:05  

Yeah, our journey in the last 15 years has been, I think I used the word arduous before we started filming, it’s been complicated. We basically started with me in my apartment in Toronto at 22 years old, and meeting with small businesses and coffee shops and asking them questions, and then trying to help them figure out a basic structure to build a financial plan, right? Like, how many how much revenue Do you need to make to pay your bills, you know, how many sales will that require, you know, the most basic of basic sort of financial plans and business models, and then really trying to use any business development skill that I had to help them think about how they’d go find those customers. And my brain is very process oriented. And so over the course of about six months, just so that I could get through those meetings faster, and talk to more people and be more productive with the time that we had together, I built basically a framework for the questions I had to ask to sort of fill in the blanks to get to the point where we had that basic plan in place. And it was all being done, you know, literally, you know, in my notebook, in a coffee shop, but I got, I basically built a framework for what is SLAP in those first six months. And then for the better part of nine years, we were implementing it manually almost in an agency and education training type format. And you know, it took how we delivered, it took different forms, and we learned different things. But the methodology itself that really literally started not in a napkin, but in a notebook, in Toronto is the methodology we still use today. So that’s how the methodology came to be. And then, as we’ve alluded to already, and we’ll talk about, you know, the challenges that our business model was flawed. So the methodology, the framework that we use to help the businesses was pretty good from the beginning. But I’ve been on a sort of a very extended and arduous journey of figuring out Well, how do you how do you actually help a small business owner in a way that is, you know, robust enough to create results and be actually helpful, but at a price point they could afford and not and that was the journey that we went on to really think, look at this sort of, we started as consulting, we moved to training, and we’ve landed as SAS. And but you know, there’s many things we will talk about along that journey.

John Corcoran  8:12  

Yeah, I mean, that I can relate to that. Because it is a challenge, you know, in many ways, I mean, I was practicing law, helping business businesses, trading hours for dollars, which is a challenge, you know, and you’re constantly trying to, you know, get a new client, you know, what you’re also fulfilling? Did you scale it up at some point where you had other coaches working for you. And then you kind of had to rebuild the plane while I was flying at 30,000 feet?

Carissa Reiniger  8:40  

100%. So yeah, within about four years, had offices in four cities and two in Canada to in the US about 4040. Team members, good, good sized revenue, I mean, hundreds of customers. And but the problem was, and of course, I mean, you would understand this for sure. And, I mean, we had to charge a certain amount of money to cover our overhead, right? We had four offices, we had middle management, because now we had all these different, you know, account managers. I mean, we basically were, we were basically an agency for small businesses, but the metrics just don’t work. So even though we had scaled, I always say like, you know, we had great revenue, we were winning awards, I was the youngest one in Canada that had done this, and that, I mean, there were all these sort of things that were telling the story of great success. And if you looked at sort of very specific factors, like revenue, you know, revenue growth, and staff count and client count and new offices launched, we were very successful. But when you look deeper, which is what I encourage our businesses to do, right? If you look at profitability, if you look at scalability, if you look at sustainability, and those numbers were terrible, because there was no way that we could basically charge enough money to build a consulting machine and keep it affordable for a small business. And so, you know, and also my personal opinion, which I’m sure lots of consulting firms would disagree with. On, but the quality starts to wane at a certain point, right? I mean, scaling service in the, in the purest form is always going to have a quality issue, you know, quality consistency issue. And some people are very good at solving problems that it’s a solvable, but it’s an issue. So I was sort of watching us grow like crazy. Get all these accolades, get all this sort of, you know, surface level success. But really, I sat there thinking to myself, like, I don’t think this is a good business model. I’m not convinced that we can actually help 1000s and 1000s of people and keep our quality as high as I think it needs to be. And, and ultimately, that means that we can’t be at the best service to our customers. So then what’s the point? So that’s when I started to tear it down and

John Corcoran  10:41  

rethink it. It was there a moment where you went to your team? And you said, Guys, this is not working, we need to completely tear this down. Is there a moment that you stood in front of your entire team and said, we’re completely rebuilding this? Or did you have to lay off a bunch of people? What was that? Like?

Carissa Reiniger  10:59  

Yeah, there was. So there was a moment. So we got into this cash flow cycle. So one of my greatest strengths and weaknesses is that I have a bleeding heart. And I really, I have really built silverline. Because I really want to help. I mean, that is that is genuinely true about me. And so we had a number of our customers who couldn’t pay. So our profit margins were already tight. And then we had about $400,000 in receivables.

John Corcoran  11:22  

And was it so that you started in 2005? So was it maybe, you know, eight or nine was it during around?

Carissa Reiniger  11:28  

Exactly around Oh, nine. And I, you know, in retrospect, I didn’t even at that time, I wasn’t directly correlating that to the global financial crisis, but I am sure that there is a correlation, right, the time I was just like, Oh, my gosh, my business sucks. But you know, my insight is 2020. And so basically, we were, we were, we were in trouble from a cash flow point of view. And, and I either had to go negotiate a big loan from someone, and or, you know, take some shark money to get us through the next 30 days to buy myself another minute, or start to try to leave, you know, lay people off, shut down, and really sort of shift what we were doing, and be honest about the fact that, you know, if a portion of our receivables couldn’t come in, and we couldn’t sustain that, then obviously something bigger was wrong with the model. And so I made a pretty rash decision, I am known for making big band aids and, and making the decision. So we shut down three of the four offices, we were running at the time, we were we went back to just Toronto. By that point, I was starting to go to New York really regularly. And so I was sort of debating Toronto versus New York as a centralized hub. And, and we did lay off a number of our team members, we downsized how we were serving our customers, because I didn’t ultimately believe that it was the best it needed to be anyways. And around the same time, by random sort of design, we became the Small Business spokesperson for a lot of large corporations, some of whom you mentioned, and, and there was a huge demand for basically us to teach the methodology that we had created. And so we moved into more of a training model, which was very profitable. And basically, for the next couple of years, we did that we touched and worked with 1000s of small businesses, but with a much smaller team with much higher margins, paid off the debt we had. And but you know, at the end of that is a sort of as I went through that I had this other issue, which I really believe strongly in, which is that training and sort of that short term support is awesome. I mean, it’s good, there’s a place for that. But if I go back to my psychology background, right, and if I really say like, what does it take to create real change, right, because we’re not going to change the economy, through workshops, I mean, we’re not going to change the status quo, turn the success of small business around by, you know, six week boot camps. It’s just that it is just not true. It’s not going to work. And so as I was really committed to what it would really take to help these small businesses, I sort of had this consulting experience. Now behind me, I had this training experience, which again, looked very good and very flashy. And, but I didn’t genuinely believe it’s what would help people for real I thought it would offer, it would be helpful, but I didn’t think it would actually turn the tide of small business success. And so about six years ago, is when I said, All right, let’s tear it apart again. Let’s go back to the drawing board. And so and that’s when we started the journey of building software and building the model we have now, which is dramatically different, same methodology, same mission, very, very

John Corcoran  14:24  

different. So it’s your own business model perspective, you know, going after, it’s a completely different pricing model and everything I want to get into that. But first I want to ask about, you had a BA in psychology, I had a BA in English, I’ve always kind of felt like it’s a little bit of a liability, you know, because I don’t have I don’t naturally have a deep understanding of accounting numbers and stuff like that. It’s just been something I’ve really had to work really hard on. I’ve been active in an eo accelerator program here in San Francisco through Entrepreneurs’ Organization, which has been very helpful but you know, for you, you seem like you have a deep understanding of that now. Did that come once you’re in business once you’re helping other businesses, how did you develop that, you know, deeper understanding of that critical side understanding numbers for businesses? 

Carissa Reiniger  15:08  

Yeah, it’s a great question. So I’m like a weird nerd. So two things I would say. One is I’m so proud of my arts degree, I actually say to almost everyone, if you don’t know what you want to do, and even if you think you want to do business, get an arts degree. And I think that, you know, business degrees teach a very narrow perspective, right, this is how business works. And I think some of the most amazing entrepreneurs I’ve ever met, don’t have business degrees, because and they enter, they approach the challenges of business from different points of view. And I don’t know if I would have ever built silver lining the way it is today, if I had a business degree, right, it’s actually my it’s my psych degree that has really influenced the way that we’ve approached what we do. And so I think that I think arts degrees are phenomenal. Just as a funny aside, the, the Dean of Business at the school, I went to the University of Alberta has called me multiple times to get me to come and do this or speak at this thing, or, and I always feel like, I’m not a big business graduate. We always have a funny conversation about it. So I’m a fan of the arts degree, all that to be said, and the business side, and like the number side, I do, I am kind of nerdy in that way. Like I actually really enjoy it. My brain is very detailed. And so I find spreadsheets and data, really interesting. But I have no formal training in it to your point. And, and so, you know, looking back, would I have made less mistakes, maybe if I had had more formal training, probably. But I think my bigger problem and some of the mistakes that I made, was not having experts around me, right, like, someone like you who’s a lawyer, right? I don’t think it isn’t, there needs to be an expert in law. But they need to know enough that they don’t know what they don’t know, and then have a lawyer on their side, right? Same as an accountant, a bookkeeper. And, and I do believe that there’s no better way to learn than with a great expert in your corner, and then through real life experience. So I feel I feel quite confident when it comes to numbers and finances, and we teach our small businesses a lot about it. And I’ve had the benefit of learning with, you know, 10,000 businesses. I mean, I’ve just seen so many businesses, and so many examples. And so my learning curve has been dramatic, in my own experience, but also the experience with the businesses that we’ve worked with.

John Corcoran  17:21  

So speaking of learning curves, I imagine pivoting to the SAS model with your arts degree was not the easiest pivot. So what was that like going from? You know, we went from consulting, to training to SAS developing software, never an easy thing.

Carissa Reiniger  17:40  

No, and we did not raise capital, which is a whole, we should we should put a pin in that and come back to that, because I think funding around these types of conversations is important.

John Corcoran  17:48  

A good question whether that makes it easier or harder, open debate.

Carissa Reiniger  17:53  

I think it’s and I think it’s easier and harder. And so yeah, so the journey, so I’m not a technical founder, I am not an early adopter of technology, I don’t buy the newest phones, like I know, I’ve always got a secondhand phone from four versions ago. And my computer’s, you know, three years old. So I’m, you know, I’m the antithesis of the tech entrepreneur. And so my approach to it was, again, to try and hire experts. Now, you know, the short version of our long story is that we have wasted, I know, a couple million dollars, probably we’ve built and thrown out entire code bases, three times, we have outsourced our developers and brought them in house and done that back and forth. In two full cycles of that. We are on our fourth version of our software, which we just released a couple of months ago, which I’m so proud of. It is like the vision is realized. But it was really hard. And the reality is that as a non technical founder, you don’t know enough to know. And if you’ve got good developers or not if your code is decent or not, if you’re following best practice or not. And, you know, we’ve had tons and tons of failures, right? And all the mistakes that one could make, I have made, right building a product because you think it’s going to be perfect. And then users using it like that’s not what we need at all. Why did you build that, you know, building code and having no one outside look at it, and then realizing the code spaghetti. And if you want to add a new feature, it crashes the whole thing and you gotta throw it out. And you know, hiring really expensive developers thinking if I spend more money than that will solve it and just losing more money instead of less money, hiring, outsource and every mistake possible. And we’ve made it And so again, I’m a really big believer in especially in sort of a post COVID world, I think almost every founder is going to have to become a non technical entrepreneur, even if you’re running a small business with an e-commerce platform or whatever. And I don’t think I need to become a developer like I do. I’ve never got to that point where I thought, oh my god, I just need to learn how to code myself. But it does. It does go back to the same thing. I would say actually about finance, right? I’d become much more savvy to the point where I can sort of, I get it, I understand now how software development works. I mean, I can get it. And you know, I have come to be much more specific and much more. What’s the right word much more weary of who I really trust, and I find people who are really good at things I’m not and I trust them to really help me make sure that I’m getting it right. So it’s that combination, I think of, you know, learning myself through lessons, lessons learned, right, good and bad wins and losses, successes and failures. So learning through just real life experience, which I don’t think any of us can hijack or replace. And then really having people we trust entirely that are experts in areas we’re not that are good people who are going to give us good advice, for good reasons to be almost that outsource that outside counsel, the combination of things that put us in a much different place. But yeah, it has been an expensive and a long journey.

John Corcoran  21:01  

Right. So what so what role can and does software play? And what role can and do humans play in helping small businesses? Keeping them accountable? Keeping them on track? You know, where do those two mesh?

Carissa Reiniger  21:19  

Yeah, so the really fun news, the punch line? And then I’ll answer the question, the punchline is we brought our product price from basically $2,000 a month down to $300 a month, we brought our profit margin from basically like 2% to 63%. And we brought our basically like our effectiveness rate, you know, the number of customers who succeed from about 50%, to about 80%. I mean, we have had dramatic, dramatic shifts in our business, which is, which is the exciting part. And then going back to the role of software or service. So in psychology and behavior change science, basically what behavior change science says is that if any of us humans want to set a goal, and then actually hit that goal, right, and you’re going to hear when I say this, the 12 step program of Fitbit, Weight Watchers, right? All of these are based on the same behavior change science that SLAP is built in. And basically behavior change science is pretty straightforward. It says, if a human wants to set a goal and actually hit it, chances are they need some outside structure and support. Right, very few humans are so deeply structured and so deeply self motivated, that they can say I want to lose 20 pounds, and then they lost 20 pounds, right? We need the structure and support. That’s why these programs are so important. So so it’s it basically says, If to gain commitment, you have to set modest goals, you have to rigorously track your behavior, you have to basically and ultimately build self efficacy right start to learn, start to get some small wins and learn that you actually can when you need outside counseling and support, you need pure community. And you ultimately instill new habits, right change doesn’t happen for the long term in bursts. Change happens because you’ve instilled new habits based on sustained behavior over time. So if you take that structure, you can see how that plays out exactly in the 12 step program. Weight Watchers, right. So if you think of that translation to SLAP, we have what we call the five fingers of the slop experience. So we have the software inside of the software, you build your plan. So you go through a three hour process where you build your year growth plan for your business, including a time budget, you set your values, you create your priorities, you figure out who your customer is, you build a profile, you go through your finances, you set a one year financial goal for you know, your revenue, your profit and your actual sales goals. And then you build your 12 month action plan, you know, the things that you need to do over the course of the next 12 months to hit those goals. So you build your plan. That’s three hours, right? Most small business programs stop there. Okay, now you built your plan. Yeah, right. Like, we always say, who cares about your plan? Did you do it, that’s all that matters. So they build the plan, which is like 1% of the process. Then for the next 12 months, we wrap those pillars of behavior change around the business owner to help them succeed. So they rigorously track their behavior in the software. And they have a monthly SLAP expert call, which is with someone who’s built a multi million dollar business who’s certified in our methodology, and they get that strategy, the outside counseling and support. Our site manager team is available 24 seven via text phone, chat, email, and basically are there to hold them accountable. It’s an accountability team. And like I was saying to you, it’s a customer service team, except that we think of ourselves as proactive. We call it our PPS team’s proactive, persuasive support, instead of waiting for the small business to call us asking for something because they never will. The software’s running algorithms and spitting out tickets saying hey, John said you can’t do it call John right now, right away and say this specific thing to him because we think that this will resonate with him based on the data we have about John.

John Corcoran  24:54  

So that’s fascinating. That piece is really fascinating because you know how you people react well to, you know, a bunch of you know, ping getting pinged again and again and being reminded again, and other people will react poorly to that. So how does the software figure those pieces out?

Carissa Reiniger  25:11  

So it’s a very, it’s a very elementary attempt at that, right? So we do people’s personality profiles, we ask them what their preferred communication method is simple, but actually makes a difference, right? So sometimes we can email someone 10 times and they ignore us, we text them once, and they’re back to us in four seconds, right? So communication method matters, we actually asked them to articulate their preferred communication style. So both in their onboarding form in the software, but then also in their first call with us, we have a conversation to say, our job is to hold you accountable, we want you to succeed sometimes in spite of yourself. And that’s going to be annoying, you’re not going to want to hear from us when we’re trying to remind you to do the thing you didn’t do like, you don’t want us to call you to remind you of that. So how do we do it in a way that will work for you? You know, do you need tough love? Do you need direct communication? You know, a four word text, John, do the thing you said you would that’s probably more like six words? Or do you need emotional support? Like, hey, John, are you okay? I see you didn’t do the thing you did? How can we support you? Like what what and so when someone is basically coming at it at their most motivated level, which happens when they’ve just signed up, and they’re in their most sort of clear thinking, none of the shame and the guilt and the annoyance and the attrition, you know, their own brain has happened yet, we we gain that together, we plan with them, we ask their permission for how to reach out to them in those moments. And so we work really hard on that, because to your point, when people are busy and overwhelmed and tired, and then feel embarrassed and ashamed, because they didn’t do what they said they would. And then we have so much emotion around our finances, and you put all that in a big stew. And it’s just easier to ignore us. And some people definitely do that. And you know, and we lovingly pursue them until they finally take our call.

John Corcoran  26:53  

And you mentioned gaming. So that’s kind of a buzzword gamifying things. Have you worked that in or have you played with that?

Carissa Reiniger  27:03  

Very much so so some of the most interesting stats that we have. So we collect a lot of data now. And one of the data points that we gather all that data into is we call SLAP score, so the customers know their sleep score, and we know their SAT score, and the slot scores out of 100. And basically, it’s the culmination of all of their key behavior and results. So it’s taking into account in different weights and different variables, how often they log in, when they do their positive reflects how they’re tracking gets their financial goals, how they’re tracking against their action plan, if they’re showing up to their calls or not, if they’re taking our calls or not accepting the accountability, all of those pieces that we know are crucial to ultimately get them to results. We’re looking at all of those things in different weightings and different categories. And coming up with an overall score. That score we then use there’s a public leaderboard of the top 10 small businesses in the global community, you can see where you are in the list. And then we run contest

John Corcoran 27:56  

revenue. This is also

Carissa Reiniger  27:59  

the revenue public, just this last score. And that’s a great question, though, because we had thought about that a lot. We were going to do the leaderboard with revenue. And then this gets into a whole bunch of things. Number one, obviously, that can be very confidential. People don’t want that share, too. We’ve been really focused on economic justice the last couple of years, you know, what does it mean to serve any small business equally, regardless of where they come from. And so we’ve done a number of things, like we introduce pay what you can pricing, we’ve done a number of things to basically say, if what we have really works, and if we have our data proofs, which it does, that if any human gets the right structure and support and accepts it, they can increase their chances of success. by charging $300 a month and requiring your credit card, you’re basically eliminating a ton of the population that might actually be most needed. And so how do we make sure it’s accessible to everyone. And so because of that some of our small businesses have a financial goal of making $50,000 a year or if they’re in Uganda, $8,000 a year us right, and some have goals and making $2 million a year. And we didn’t want there to be any discrimination or any perception that if you making more revenue, you’re somehow more important or more successful, we really wanted the soft score to gamify, right to drive motivation around the right behavior and the progress towards the goal that is right for you. So if your goal is 50,000, and my goal is 10,000. But you’ve generated 25,000 and are missing all your calls and being badly behaved but I’m making all my calls and tracking towards my goal. And I’ve made 6000. We actually want to reward that behavior more than the person who just made more money. So that’s a long answer to your question. But

John Corcoran  29:36  

yeah, not a simple thing to build into software, all the things that you just described.

Carissa Reiniger  29:42  

Yes. And we couldn’t have done any of these things without being software Right. I mean, this is this is where the vision that I have always had for being of service and the vision I’ve always had for creating access inequality, and the desire I’ve always had for people to be able to live the lives of their dreams and at scale, and you know, I am, I am probably the least likely candidate to be running a tech company. But I really believe that my vision could only be realized having shifted to a SaaS model. So I’m yeah, I’m an interesting person in the tech space, because my motivation is quite different often than other tech entrepreneurs. And my business model looks quite different. But but very much empowered by, you know, leveraging the tactics of tap tech. Right

John Corcoran  30:29  

now, this sounds like an amazing solution for, you know, companies in the day to day where they’re working to build normal day to day challenges, getting customers, clients, that sort of thing. But my mind goes to what happens if something intercedes. And as we record this in November of 2020, something major intercede is that we have this global pandemic. So first, take me back to February, March, 1 of all, you’re recording this in Australia, because you were visiting Australia, still there haven’t left,

Carissa Reiniger   30:58  

yet, I cannot get on an international flight. So yeah.

John Corcoran  31:02  

So that changes plans? How did it affect your business? How did it affect all the clients that you’re working with?

Carissa Reiniger  31:08  

I mean, massively, that’s that’s like the, that’s the quick answer. And we had a team meeting, and I, you know, I could not be more proud of my team, we had a team meeting in early March and sort of said, this is going to be a big deal, you know, this is gonna, this is going to be a massive deal. For every single business we work with all over the world, we have customers in multiple countries, I mean, there will not be one that’s untouched. And, and that means that this will be a big deal for us, because our entire business is working with small businesses. So we did a couple of things that I’m really proud of. One is, we had always had this pay what you can model where if you came from an economic reality, where you couldn’t pay the 300, you could basically go literally, you can go into the software, and you can enter the amount you can pay, it’s totally dignified. There’s an application process, you know, you don’t have to prove anything, we were basically doing it in honor. So we made that available for every small business, including our existing customers, we sent an email to them and said, we know that we’re, you know, this is hard, but we’re going to get through it together. So pay what you can. So we did that. And you know, we went from 20% of our customers to 99% of our customers using some level of pay. And so that had, you know, that had a positive impact in that I felt like we were living our values of being a small business. First, it had a positive impact that our customer base has grown and had a positive impact and that it allowed our small businesses to stay with us. You know, we haven’t lost any customers in the last seven or eight months, which is incredible in and of itself. But of course, it had a massive impact on our income, right, our revenue went down dramatically. So we made that decision. The second decision that we made is that basically, we had to go back to every single person’s plan and help them re strategize. So the interesting thing about SLAP is, you know, you build that plan, you figure out who your customer is, and what your revenue streams are, and what your expenses are, and you know, you build your sales goals. And so in sort of March to June, we did a campaign where we helped all the businesses that we work with, basically go back to their slack and say, okay, is this the right plan? Does it make sense? Do I have to pivot completely? Do I basically have to throw this plan away? Start new? Do I need to basically build like a concession plan, adding a couple of substitute revenue streams, get a part time job, you know, do something that I wouldn’t usually do, but just do it for the short term? Is there an opportunity to actually really do much more, right, some of our small businesses, that a couple of things that they were doing that were a small part of their business that now you know, are basically all of their business in a post COVID world so and so really, the first step was to go back to that plan and, and use that as an organized framework to rethink these businesses. And, and one of the things that I, you know, I believe very firmly, and I continue to believe, as we go, is that the businesses that are going to get through this, right are thinking of this as a marathon, not a sprint, and are approaching it, they’re we’re responding to it right, but not reacting to it. And so, and we’ve seen some incredible businesses that, quite frankly, probably would be fine. I mean, maybe they see a dip in their revenue, but they’re fine. And those owners are freaking out, right? I mean, like, you know, basically, they’re living in anxiety and fear, and they’ve lost sort of perspective. And then they’re just they see, all they see is Doom, you know, so I can do an amazing guy yesterday, who’s in the travel industry, his business has gone to 0%, literally, and probably won’t come back for at least a year. And he’s doing Uber driving one day a week. And he got a part time job two days a week, so he can keep his business alive, and basically get through another 12 months of this and then get back and build this business again. And he has got a great attitude, and he’s grateful for the opportunities he’s been able to find. And so we’ve really been trying to sit in this sort of balance of one being as accessible as possible to people to just doing the necessary re-strategizing from a rational point of view that everyone really does need to do right now. And then three, trying to remind our customer base and the businesses that we work with that so much of getting through this pandemic will be about mindset, which we talk about all the time anyways, mindsets, one of the big sorts of principles of SLAP. But even more clearly, in the last couple of months have I seen that mindset matters more than strategy, quite frankly, and, and so we’re really trying to help the group, collectively support each other, collectively stay together, you know, be in it together, you know, show up with extra accountability and extra support. And, but But again, the big tenant of what I that I believe is happening is I believe the leaders that will work their way through this and come out stronger for it will be approaching this from a point of thinking about the collective being grateful where they have being a player and making the world better in this moment, not sort of getting into anxiety, or greed or selfishness or you know, freaking out ness, that’s not a very good technical term.

But you know, everyone’s been affected. I mean, that’s the bottom line, people have been affected differently. But one of the crazy things we’ve seen is that there’s not a strong correlation that we see between the people who have what I would call the worst mindset. And the people who have businesses that have been most negatively impacted. There’s not a direct correlation, it, we can’t tell you that in our customer base. All the businesses that have had, you know, revenue cuts of 75% or more are also the most stressed and anxious and freaking out. That’s not true. There’s the business reality. And then there’s the sort of mindset reality of the owner, and they’re not highly correlated. 

John Corcoran  36:27  

So I don’t like to be devil’s advocate on that point, then if they’re not highly correlated, why do you say that mindset is so important?

Carissa Reiniger  36:34  

Because I think that there are people whose businesses have been decimated, who have a great mindset, who are going to be okay, they’re going to build back, they’re going to figure it out, they’re going to keep coming up with new ideas. And I think there are people whose businesses have not been decimated, quite frankly, that have been caught or that have been affected, but are sort of going to be okay. But the business owner will hurt that business, right, the business owner is decreasing their chance of getting through this relatively unscathed because of the mindset that they’re living in. And so I very much again, I very much believe we have to think about access. So everyone gets to this together, I very much believe we need to re strategize, of course. But I think what we’re not talking about enough, and what I think is probably the most important piece of us, is that mindset, how do we stay strong mentally, to deal with what is a genuinely very difficult time? And, and sort of keep perspective so that we can keep our businesses going? And that’s what we’re seeing? Really? Yeah, in a very compelling way in our customer base.

John Corcoran  37:32  

Yeah, it’s amazing. Some of the stories of business owners I’ve met talked to over the last seven or eight months is some of the amazing stories or any other success stories that come to mind of businesses that have thrived through this, maybe through a pivot or maybe through doubling down in some segment of their business, that wasn’t a big portion, but they moved all their chips on the table over to this part of the that was doing well. Yeah, it’s

Carissa Reiniger  37:57  

really interesting, I think it’s been, I think, 2020, ice included, has been sort of like coming to a head year to write things that weren’t working have been cut, because we just can’t survive them anymore. Things that had potential had been accelerated. And so I can see, you know, a couple of really interesting examples, like a lot of our customers that are in more of a service delivery, business, you know, a professional trainer, or a IT company, where they used to spend so much time traveling and in pitch meetings and this and that sales cycles have increased. Basically, if someone needs something, they’re going to hire you instead of having five coffee meetings before they make the decision. And, and you know, wasted billable hours have gone dramatically down because you just get up and you deliver. So for some of those businesses, their revenue is skyrocketing, quite frankly, because so much of the wasted time has decreased. And definitely, obviously mean, this is an obvious one, but e-commerce right, all of our customers who, you know, sort of struggled to get things online, we’re thinking about this, we’re doing that, you know, that’s how that’s all just been done.

John Corcoran  38:59  

And now it’s done. All the delay got kicked out the door.

Carissa Reiniger  39:03  

And we’ve been talking to some people who you know, fit, we’ve got three or four people I can think of specifically her fitness instructors who have said, Oh, I’m going to build an online program. Like Ben and Ben, they did in March, you know, they’ve been literally talking about it for years. And so that’s been interesting. I think, also, like there’s been a global illness, that’s been really cool. You know, a lot of our businesses that were hyperlocal you know, lots of businesses we work with are very local. All of a sudden, now you’re, you know, a cycle studio in Harlem. Well, now you’ve got someone in Portugal taking your cycling class, because it’s online. So there’s a really beautiful thing that I hope we keep, I hope we get back to, you know, in communities need in person, small businesses, I mean, we need to get, you know, main streets and localized businesses back thriving as fast as humanly possible. And, I think there’s this really interesting hybrid that I hope stays where, you know, local communities are thriving, and this globalization starts to happen because there’s really interesting cross pollination. A lot of our small businesses have done partnerships with each other that never would have been possible before. Because, you know, they were to separate physically. And, you know, so there’s a lot, there’s a lot of opportunity in this for people, I really, I really, really do believe that opportunity to reach more people to become more global to have a bigger footprint to deliver in new ways that people wouldn’t have accepted before, right, people would never have accepted a sales training or resume before, right? on a plane, be away from your family for four days, you know,

John Corcoran  40:28  

and to use your example, they’re more willing to spend money to sign up for a fitness class, that’s from someone they’ve never met in person that’s half a world away, you know, or to spend more money on other things, too. So totally.

Carissa Reiniger  40:40  

Yeah, I think it’s, I cannot always I’m a very positive person. And so I come across as sometimes sounding overly positive. I cannot I cannot overemphasize, you know, the devastation that this has been for small business. I mean, anyone who doesn’t understand how hard this has been, first of all, business, has not talked to a small business owner in the last nine

John Corcoran  41:02  

months. I mean, a lot of it just disappeared entirely.

Carissa Reiniger  41:06  

Yeah. It’s been terrible. And it will, it will, it will continue to be like, I don’t think this goes away in a couple of months, I think that it’s going to take us, you know, yeah, two to five years to sort of understand the true damage that starts to build back. I mean, we’re at the beginning of a long cycle. I, in my opinion, so I’m very realistic about that. And, and to your point, I mean, I have so much optimism, because I think that there are new opportunities that have emerged that are limitless. And, and I think that if you’ve got a good mindset, and you stay strong, and you stay positive, you will find them. I mean, that is the beauty of being an entrepreneur, right? You’re creative, you’re tenacious. And so if we can keep those things that make being a business owner, you know, the character traits that make business owners who they are, and then choose is the opportunity, because there is what we will get through this. Um, but it’s not to minimize how ridiculously difficult it has been

John Corcoran  42:03  

for sure how I’m going to wrap things up with the two questions I was asked, which is number one, looking around at your peers, your contemporaries, others who are maybe serving the small business market with the same depth of conviction and passion as you have. Who else? You know, out there do you admire? Do you respect who you are doing, you know, kind of walking on that same path as you? Yeah, it’s

Carissa Reiniger  42:25  

such a good question. And we’ve been doing a lot of interesting work with a couple of organizations Lately, I’ve been really impressed with GoDaddy, actually, I don’t know if you remember the GoDaddy ads of like, 10 years ago with like, bottles of the cars. And I also like how small, but I don’t understand what this is. And, and there’s been a phenomenal CEO there that has really had the whole organization thinking about diversity inclusivity, and they’ve built this program called Empower, where they’re bringing all of their resources to small businesses to basically help underserved small businesses build an online presence, you know, use the GoDaddy materials to get online. And, and I’ve just been, I’ve been really impressed with that work. I think that they, they’re, they’re living what they’re saying, and they’re practicing with, you know, they’re not just doing it for the press release. They’re really good work. And so that’s one of them. And then I would just say, you know, I feel like, there are so many good people on the ground in communities helping small business owners, and they are often the unsung heroes, you know, we often talk about the banks or this or that, and, and, you know, we just we work with tons of economic development agencies, CDFIs, community banks, and they all use our program to help small businesses in their communities. And there are just so many good people doing very hard work around the world that just, you know, whose names will never hear. So I would, I would, I’m inspired by them every day more than the talking heads, and the people that get all the PR, they’re lifelong servants to the cause of helping other people. And it’s really so inspiring.

John Corcoran  43:55  

Yeah, very cool. And then one other question, so let’s pretend we’re an awards banquet, much like the Oscars of the Emmys, and you’re receiving an award for lifetime achievement for everything you’ve done up until this point. And you know, who do you think were the mentors? Or the coaches? Who are the business partners? Who are the people along the way?

Carissa Reiniger  44:14  

Yeah, there’s a lot, I will give all I have to give special credit to my parents. Both of my parents have come to work at Silver Lining in the last year. They’ve covered retirement, they are working with me to try to help with this moment we’re in and it’s been a huge gift. And so yeah, so they’ll always get credit for that. And they have been genuinely very helpful to our team. And so then, then, in addition to that, there’s a wonderful man named Warren Rustand and who actually has a book coming out in January called “The Leader Within Us”. He’s involved in EEO. So maybe

John Corcoran  44:45  

I know, I’ve wanted to interview him, so maybe I can now that he has a book coming out.

Carissa Reiniger  44:53  

Yeah, I’ll introduce you guys. Warren’s incredible and one of the most powerful things that ever happened. He was mentoring me and he basically said to me, he’s like, Carissa, you’ve got a lot of talent, you’re very capable, I could care less I am not impressed. And you know, great choice. And he just was like he’s like, so matter of fact about it. And he said, You know how you spend your time, time is the great equalizer. how you spend your time will dictate how successful you are in life, and how you spend your time as a choice that is not about anything other than you and having focus and discipline. And so I live that mantra every day, you know, greatness is a choice. Have I been choosing greatness today? Am I using my time in the most effective way to drive, you know, a life that I can be proud of forward. And you know, of course, that’s not true. Every day, I have good days, I have bad days, but that lesson has been life changing. And then the other person is a guy named Dr. Henry Cloud, he wrote a book called “Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality”. And I recommend everyone read Warren’s book and read Henry’s book. And, and basically what Henry says in his book is that we think of the word integrity as being, you know, moral, good or bad. And actually, the word integrity comes from the root word integrated to be whole and to be complete. And, and you know, we as humans will sometimes have these big blind spots and make terrible decisions, not because we’re bad people. But because we were not integrated, we’re not whole, we haven’t done the work we need to do to be whole and to operate from a place of being whole. So Henry has spent time with me, which I’m incredibly grateful for, and really was another force of challenging me, you know, what, what Warren and Henry and a lot of the people that I respect, who have helped me so much have in common is, you know, never, never commending me for who the good I have, although, although they, you know, they’re kind to me, but challenging me to be all that I can be right, challenging me to look at my gaps, challenging me to look at the weaknesses that get in the way of what I want to accomplish. And doing that with grace and kindness and truth and all of those things. So I’ve been really lucky, I’ve sought those people out. I’ve worked hard to get them to take my meeting. And but I’ve benefited greatly from, you know, those connections.

John Corcoran  47:08  

That’s great. I love that. Carissa, where can people go to learn more about you, connect with you and connect with SLAP?

Carissa Reiniger  47:16  

Yeah, so you can call us anytime at 844-393-SLAP, which is 7527. And you can email us anytime just at [email protected] And then our website is smallbizsilverlining.com. And if you just want to help support small business, we also run a global movement called ‘Thank You Small Business’. So that’s just thankyousmallbusiness.com. And on that site, you can buy Thank you small business merchandise, which funds initiatives to get prizes to small businesses, cash, gifts, resources, you can nominate amazing small businesses to get those prizes to get profiled, we just released a gift guide. And there’s all sorts of ways that you can go as a small business owner or an ally of small business to join this movement and supportive, helping small businesses.

John Corcoran  47:59  

So cool. All right, Carissa. Thanks so much.

Carissa Reiniger  48:02  

Thank you.

Outro  48:03  

Thank you for listening to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast with John Corcoran. Find out more at smartbusinessrevolution.com and while you’re there, sign up for our email list and join the revolution. And be listening for the next episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast.