Is there a goal that you would love to achieve for your small business, but it just keeps eluding you? When it comes to our professional goals, sometimes intention isn’t enough to bring them to fruition and we need to carefully reexamine our current strategies. This is where a business owner can benefit from a bit of behavior change science. In this episode, Jon Aidukonis and Gene Marks along with Small Biz Silver Lining Founder and CEO, Carissa Reiniger, discuss how behavior change programs can help small business owners finally achieve their goals.
0:39—Today’s Topic: How Can Behavior Change Science Help Me Achieve My Small Business Goals?
0:59—SLAP™ (Silver Lining Action Plan) is a program that enables small business owners to develop a 12-month action plan based on their specific goals as well as their current situation.
2:38—Behavior change science is a specialty within psychology that focuses on the different techniques that can be used to modify an individual’s behavioral patterns.
4:24—In order to follow through on your goals, you need to make sure that they are very specific and that you have a clear deadline for completing them. Once you settle on your goals, you need to break them down into smaller quarterly goals and determine exactly what actions you need to take to accomplish them. Lastly, make sure that you have the proper resources to support and hold you accountable.
9:29—The characteristics that determine your level of success in the SLAP™ program are your ego, your discipline and your attendance at their mindset calls.
13:45—The most common goals among small business owners are usually related to cash flow or capacity.
15:50—One way to determine whether you’re being intentional enough with your time is to create a time budget; this will enable you to see if you’re actually devoting enough time to your goals or if your attention is being diverted elsewhere.
20:05—SLAP™ requires participants to dedicate 30 minutes a week; an hour every month; and two hours every quarter to reflect their business. Small Biz Silver Lining currently allows business owners to pay what they can for this program.
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Gene: Hey everybody, and welcome to the Hartford Small Biz Ahead podcast. My name is Gene Marks. I’m here with my true partner in crime, Jon Aidukonis. Jon, want to say a quick hello?
Jon: Hello, people of the internet. How are you today?
Gene: We’re continuing our conversation. Jon had spent a good amount of time with Carissa Reiniger. Carissa is the founder and CEO of the small biz, Silver Lining. And now it’s my turn because I’ve got some specific questions, Carissa, to ask you about my business and some help maybe you can provide me. So your punishment for being involved in this podcast is that you’re about to give me some free advice, but hopefully, I can give you free advice as well. So Carissa, first of all, just let me ask, I know I’m talking to you, you’re in Australia right now. You’re running your business from there. I’m assuming small biz, Silver Lining. What exactly is your business? How do you make your money?
Carissa: Yeah, so first of all, thanks for having me. And so Silver Lining, I started the company 16 years ago, which makes me feel very old, but my background is in psychology. So we developed a methodology called SLAPP Silver Lining action plan, which is a process that small business owners go through to set growth goals for their business. So looking at sort of their mindset, their values, what they want to accomplish, and then actually looking at their financials, setting sales goals, profit goals, sustainability goals, and then an impact goal.
And then once the goals are set, actually creating a 12 month action plan to accomplish those goals. So listing the exact steps that need to be taken in order to hit the goals. And then once the plan is built, which only takes a couple of hours, the real work starts and for the next 12 months, because it’s a one-year plan, we wrap all the pillars of behavior change science around every small business owner, giving them accountability, a monthly strategy call, connection to other small businesses, training, resources. Basically everything that that business owner needs in order to get full structure and support to not just set that plan, right, not just set those goals, but actually hit them.
So that’s what we do. So we’re a SLAPP business. So we’re technology enabled and data driven, which allows us to provide really cool and very customized support to every business that we work with. But our whole mission and our whole business is to take small business owners around the world through our program to help them accomplish the goals that they have for their business.
Gene: Okay. So you mentioned behavior change science, right? Am I saying that right?
Gene: Tell us what that is.
Carissa: Yep. So behavior change science is largely what it sounds like in the field of psychology. There’s a whole body of work around how you help people change their behavior. Politicians use behavior change science to think about how they can get votes to go in a certain direction. Financial institutions use behavior change science. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt to help people modify their spending habits so that they can increase their credit score, let’s say. Weight Watchers is a behavior change program, right? It’s about helping someone set a weight loss goal and then getting the structure and support required and the right triggers to actually change their behavior so that they get their results. Basically, the theme in all of this is as humans, we have goals, we have objectives, we have things we want to accomplish, but in order to accomplish those goals, right, as we all know, actually we have to change our behavior.
We have to take a certain set of actions in order to get the outcome that we want. And as everyone who’s ever joined a gym on January 1st and then never, ever gone to that gym knows, right? The intent is not enough. And so what behavior change science looks at is what is the formula basically that needs to be wrapped around a human in order to support them taking the actual steps needed to accomplish the goals that they want? So quite literally, it’s the science of how you change humans’ behavior, hopefully with the moral goal. Hopefully, right, with an ethical goal at the end of it.
Gene: When we talk about goals, I mean, Carissa, I run a 10 person company outside of Philly, right? And we sell technology services and software, and I’m constantly scrambling for new work and dealing with client issues and employee issues and all that kind of stuff. I have all these headaches. I have specific financial goals. I am like your client, man. I mean, you work with a lot of lunatics like me and I have specific financial goals. I might say okay, I’m starting out this year with a hundred dollars in my bank account.
And at the end of the year, I want to have $110 in my bank account. In the end to me, I’m doing all of this for cash, for my livelihood, for my family, for retirement, for my kids’ education. So if I were to come to you and I said, “Listen, I need some help, Carissa. I want to increase my… I have a financial goal of increasing my cash in the next 12 months.” What are the types of advice that you would give a guy like me short of drinking heavily and seeing a psychiatrist 10 times a week?
Carissa: Well, a lot of our businesses has called us their business therapist. So I might be able to help you with that basically. So when we talk about goal setting, and again, this comes back to the science and this is something that we talked to every one of the businesses that we work with. And like you, every business should be trying to figure how to make more money. I always say I’m both a capitalist and a socialist. I’m a bleeding heart. And I believe in businesses that make money and ultimately, hobbies cost money and businesses make money. So there is no shame. And in fact, the entire purpose of owning a small business is to make sure that it’s profitable and sustainable and it can sustain and support your family and your team and all the work that you want to do in the world.
So first of all, for the business owners listening, I know oftentimes there’s all sorts of funny relationships we have with money. You can and should have financial goals. That is a good thing as a business owner. Gene, going to your specific question and your point when we set goals, specifically financial goals, there’s a couple of sort of minimum requirements that we want to make sure are in place. Number one is it needs to be very specific. So in your example, right, I want to make sure I have $110 in the bank. Okay, great. The next is there needs to be a deadline. So by when? Right, I want to make sure I have $110 in the bank December 31st or by November 15th. So we need a specific goal. We need a deadline by when it will accomplish. And then we actually want to take that goal, break it into quarterly goals.
So in order to have $110 in the bank by December 31st, I need to make sure I have $108 in the bank by October 31st. And in order to hit that goal, I need to make sure I have $106 in the bank by August 31st. So breaking that annual goal, having an annual goal is not enough. It needs to have a deadline, but then again, it needs to be broken into quarterly goals. Then the part that is really important, right, is that we need to understand exactly how we’re going to get there. So it’s not enough to say I want $110 or I want 106 by August 31st. We need to actually understand, well, how were we going to do it? Right? Well, I’m going to sell three of these widgets and I’m going to sell four of those things. And I’m going to sell three of these things.
And after I pay my expenses against those sales, I’ll have this much money left in the bank. And so that will go towards that number. So it’s about being incredibly specific about exactly how we will do it because one of the ways we go wrong is we set a big goal. I want to grow my revenue by 5% or I want to make a million dollars. That’s lovely. But without specificity, we can’t make it real. Our brain can’t basically process it and then action against it. So we need to make sure that not only do we have that goal and do we have milestone objectives, we have specificity about exactly what behaviors, exactly what outcomes we’re going to accomplish to hit that goal.
And then the last part, which I won’t talk a lot about now we can talk about world later because I don’t want to get too off topic, but it’s really the structure and support and accountability of what it takes to then make sure you take the right action to accomplish those specific goals. But to go back to your original question, really, it comes down to utter clarity with the deadline, broken into milestones, and then with unbelievable level of specificity about exactly what needs to happen for that to be accomplished.
Gene: Hmm. I’m disappointed. I was kind of hoping you would just say, listen, I don’t have the time for this. Let me just write you a check.
Carissa: If you really need $10, Gene, I am happy to send you $10 if that’ll make your life easier.
Gene: Firstly, it’s funny. Okay. So I told you okay, that’s what my goal would be. We know each other. We’ve met before. We don’t know each other that well, but I don’t know if you feel the same way as I do, but I used to coach little league when my kids were younger and I swear to you, I was a very discriminating coach. I mean, I could throw… I could have a catch with a kid for literally a minute and I could know right away whether he or she was a ball player or not, just the way they throw the ball, the way they react, the way they move to it. I don’t know. If you know baseball, all right, this kid’s a player. This kid is definitely going to need some work, that kind of thing. Right?
When you talk to your clients, particularly prospective clients using that example, how can you tell which ones of them are players or not? What I mean by that is they come to you with what they want. I’m going to give you another example. Gordon Ramsey, his original show in the UK. It was like a restaurant rescue show. And it was great. And this was when he was yelling and screaming profanity at his worst. And he would go into rescue some of these restaurant owners and my wife and I would look at each other and be like, this guy is wasting his time. These people are never going to be rescued. You know what I mean?
There’s just like, you could see there’s deer in the headlights when he’s giving them advice. So what sort of characteristics of business owners that you meet that you say to yourself this person is probably going to need a lot more work. This is going to be a long-term client to get them to their goals. If we ever do versus the ones that you’re like, all right, this person just needs a little nudge. And I think they’re going to be fine. What makes one person over the other?
Carissa: I have two very clear answers to that. The two things that prevent a small business from succeeding. And to your point, we can tell within three minutes of playing ball with them is ego. So you cannot basically accept structure and support and therefore embrace the structure behavior change, and then therefore modify your behavior and therefore hit your goal. If you think that you are better than everyone else, or you have too much shame or internal insecurity to be open to other person’s help. I always say I have three therapists, I’ve got two business coaches. I’m the first person to sign up for anyone’s class. I want to learn, there’s so much I don’t know. I know that I do better when I have external accountability. I believe that in order for me to be my best, I need outside support.
That is just a belief I hold. When someone is operating with ego and basically is still trying to prove that they know everything and they’ve got everything figured out. And well, I don’t know about that, or I’ve already tried that, whenever we hear that type of language, it’s a huge warning sign that basically there’s no way we’re going to be able to help them unless they put that guard down. That sort of ego guard prevents anyone from getting any type of help. And as I always say to them, I have been doing this for 16 years. We have worked with 10,000 businesses in 25 countries. I built this methodology and I don’t think I know what it’s like. I don’t think I know everything. So I don’t know how you do, but if you think you do, that’s your journey.
So, I think that there is a humility and just a recognition that as humans, we need outside support that is required to hit your goals. The second thing is just basic courtesy and discipline. And then number one, and this is true because we’re a tech company, we’ve got lots of data. The number one predictor of whether or not someone will hit their sales goals or financial goals or not in our program is if they show up to their mindset calls. So when someone has a SLAP with us, they have a monthly strategy call with someone who’s built a multimillion dollar business and they just talk strategy. And then they have an unlimited number of mindset calls, which are sort of accountability calls.
If people attend those calls and they show up on time, they have an 85% chance of hitting their financial goals. Literally regardless of the country they live in, the color of their skin, their gender. All the things that we think make a difference, our data shows that those things actually matter less than whether or not they just show up. If they consistently miss those calls, they’re late, they’re always rescheduling. They forgot, it is directly correlated to whether or not they’re going to hit their goals.
Gene: You said worked with 10,000 business owners and you’ve got a lot of experience, Carissa. This is anecdotal, but based on all of the work that you’ve done with these business owners, what are some of the most common goals that you say, it can’t be that easy?
Carissa: Hmm, no, no. This is one of the beautiful things about being a small business owner. And as a business owner myself, we are so similar in so many ways, right? Where the world is struggling with reconciliation of where prejudice and bias and difference is so important for us to recognize and acknowledge so much of being a small business owner unites us actually. Our aspirations and our dreams are oftentimes to provide a good living for our families, to make the world better than it was before we got here, to try to contribute to our local communities, to create good jobs for people. There’s so much that unites us as small business owners, regardless of our background. And I think that that’s actually beautiful. I think there’s a real humanity in being a small business owner and at a very practical level, it always makes me laugh.
And I mentioned these numbers earlier, the two things we hear the most from small businesses in terms of finances are I just want to make a million dollars. That’s what every business does. And I always say, well, okay, but there’s more to the equation than that. What if you’re losing? What if you’re spending 2 million? Let’s not just talk about revenue. Let’s talk about profit and sustainability. And the second thing that every small business center says is I just wish that I could work a little bit less. I wish I had a little bit more time for myself. I wish I had a little bit more time for my family, but I feel like I have to work all the time. So cashflow and capacity are the two things that sort of every single small business owner is trying to solve for. How do I make a little bit more money? And how do I have a little bit more time, is basically the two things that we hear every day, all day long, regardless of every other factor.
Gene: It’s funny when I talk to people about problems in business, you hit it right on the head. I mean, again, in the 25 years I’ve been running a business with all the baloney I’ve had to deal with. I’ve learned that all problems of business come down to two things, which is time and money. It’s only those two things. You gave some advice on improving my cashflow from getting from a hundred bucks in the bank to 110 bucks in the bank. And that was really helpful, but let’s talk about that other big problem, which is time. So again, what are some of the common things that you advise, that you recommend your clients to help them reach that goal of being able to spend more time with their families or have more personal time?
Carissa: Yeah. So one of the first things that people do when they built their SLAPP is they actually built a time budget. And as we say to them, time is our most critical asset. It’s not money. We spend a lot of time worrying about the amount of money in our bank account, and we don’t have the same sort of seriousness and the same urgency around the number of hours we have in a day. Time is actually finite in a way that money is not. So I’m a really big believer that protecting our time is actually more important than protecting our money and thinking very consciously about how we invest our time is actually 10 times more important than thinking about how we invest our money. And so I’m really glad you asked this question because I think it’s something we don’t talk about enough as business owners.
So if we have a time budget and we’re aware that we’ve got a finite amount of time, we’ve got a finite resource basically to allocate, then we’ve got to be really, really honest and clear about our priorities, right? How much time in a week do we want to spend with our family? How much time in a week do we need to spend working out? How much time do we need to spend sleeping? What percentage of our time do we want to spend running our business versus trying to grow it, right? Finding new customers versus taking care of the customers or the work that we’ve already sold. If you don’t have that level of intentionality about your time, time just flies away. Quite literally. So it starts with a time budget. In my opinion, the second is calendar blocking and just calendar management. I’m not a big believer in balance, and I’m not really a believer in time management.
I think that both of those things have sort of gone a little wonky. What I am believer in is intentional time allocation. So if you ever had a chance, I hope you don’t have to because it’s overwhelming. But to look at my calendar, you would see that every single 15 minute block is booked and color-coded against my time budget and against my priorities so that I can see visually in a glance, where is my time going right now? How much of it is in alignment with my highest priorities and how much of it is getting pulled in other directions? And so my team would certainly attest to this that I am rigorous about where my time goes. And if I can’t see that my time allocation is directly related to my biggest priorities as a business owner, I know that my chance of hitting my goals is gone out the window.
I believe the last thing I can say on this, because I don’t want to overstate it, but basically the number one skill a good business owner learns is the ability to say no. And when I look at one of the first things, going back to your question about when you’re playing ball with someone, how do you know? I look at someone’s calendar and the second I look at the one’s calendar, I can probably guarantee a 99% accurate prediction on their success one way or the other. Is there a bunch of things that are overlapping? Are they running from five networking events to the next? Are they basically running around like chickens with their heads cut off? Or do they have clear structure and flow in their calendar? Are they clear about their time? Are they intentional?
But this topic is something I feel like we could talk about for five hours. I’m very passionate about this. Small business owners waste their time. It’s not that they don’t have enough. It’s that we are wasting an incredible amount of time. And if we could just say no to the waste and reallocate and reinvest that time against our priorities, we would see the success rate of small business increase dramatically.
Gene: I’m sorry. I was just surfing the internet and reading some articles while you were talking.
Carissa: Multitasking totally works, Gene.
Gene: You’ve been fantastic. So, listen. If I was going to work with you, this is a commitment. Talk about time, about time and money. So can you give me an idea, Carissa? What kind of a commitment would you expect from me? And if you’re comfortable, I’m kind of curious. What kind of financial commitments would be expected of someone like me to work with someone like you?
Carissa: Yeah, no, I’m happy to talk about both of those things. So the analogy for something like this is the gym, right? So I always say having a SLAP doesn’t take any time. Growing your business takes time. SLAP is just the structure to help you grow your business fast. So just like going to the gym doesn’t take time, but working out does take time, right? So if you want a six pack, you’ve got to work out five times a week. Let’s say that that takes you five hours. You can try to work out at home, not guided, or you can try to join a gym and work out there. So SLAP is like that. We’re like a gym for your business. And so our belief is that you should be thinking pausing and reflecting critically thinking about your business for 30 minutes a week and an hour every month, and then two hours every quarter.
And so we give you the guided basically structure to do that in your mindset calls and in your strategy calls. So that’s how much time you spend on calls, basically. The point of those calls is to help you optimize your time. So that every other minute of your day, your week, your month, your quarter is being spent doing the right things. So the significant majority of our small business owners would say that they feel like they have way more time after they have SLAP because the time they’re spending in that structure we give them is really focused on optimizing their behavior to help them hit their goals. In terms of money, the program is usually $300 a month, and that includes everything, unlimited access and support. But when COVID hit, we were really clear very quickly how dramatic the impact was going to be on small businesses.
Before COVID, we had a pay what you can policy, which was that if you were born into an economic reality, or if something happened in your life and your economic reality changed, and you just don’t have $300 a month, no questions asked. You could just go to our website, enter the amount that you could pay and we would accept that. No problem. Before COVID about 15% of our customers used the pay what you can policy. In early March of last year, we made pay what you can available for absolutely everyone. So if you go to the website and sign up, there’s literally a pay what you can button front and center. You click on that. You enter the amount you can pay. No questions asked. So we’ve got people paying everything from $1 a month to the full 300 based on what their current economic reality is.
Gene: Carissa Reiniger is the founder and CEO of small biz, Silver Lining. Carissa, great information. I know I’m talking to you, you’re in Australia right now. That means, I guess you’re you’re 10 hours ahead of me. Is that what the time difference is?
Carissa: It might even be 14. The time difference is dramatic.
Gene: Okay. Well, if it’s 14 hours, can you do me a favor? So it’s 14 hours ahead of me. Can you tell me, did the Phillies win tonight?
Carissa: I can tell you that the future is bright. Gene. That’s what I could tell you. The future is bright.
Gene: That’s all you need to say. I’m putting my money down as soon as we finish this conversation. Carissa, thank you very much for this great information. Obviously, we’re having you back. As Jon had mentioned before, we’ve got some other, I’ve got a bunch of questions to ask you. And so does Jon. So again, thank you. Thank you everybody for listening to our conversation so far. This has been the Small Biz Ahead podcast. If you’d like more advice and information and help in running your business, please visit us at smallbizahead.com or sba.hartford.com. You can find all sorts of information including this podcast, but you can also get this podcast on Spotify and Apple and all the places you go for podcasts. Thanks for joining us. My name is Gene Marks, we will be back shortly. Take care.
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