There are plenty of challenges that come with running a small business – Any thought leader will tell you that.
But there are also countless benefits, not the least of which is the closer-knit relationships and exceptional experiences you can provide for clients.
In this episode, we’re joined by speaker, financial expert, and owner of Get Looped, Chris Lautenslager to explain his “Get Looped” model.
This model is comprised of three “loops”: prosperity, integrity, and community.
Here, we break down the topic of his first book and the first loop, “Prosperity,” which centers around the idea that we have the opportunity, as small businesses, to scale the “unscalable” to make our customer experiences as rich as possible.
Put simply, in a large company, we’re all just numbers. But, in small and medium-sized businesses, we have the chance to make real connections and, in doing so, be more prosperous.
Learn how you can do the same in this jam-packed episode!
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Show Notes 📓
✅ Learn more about Chris’s work at Get Looped: https://get-looped.com/
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Read the Transcription 🤓
Intro: You know those moments when you’re doing what you love in your business, maybe it’s standing onstage or creating content, whatever it is, you’re totally immersed, and time just seems to slip-by. This is called The Flow State at Speaker Flow, we’re obsessed with how to get you there more often. Each week we’re joined by a new expert where we share stories, strategies, and systems to help craft a business you love. Welcome to Technically Speaking.
Austin: All right, boom. We are live.
Taylorr: We did it.
Austin: Chris, welcome to the show, man. We’re so excited that you’re here. Thank you for carving out some time on a Friday for us.
Chris: It’s a pleasure being here. I listen to your podcast all of the time and I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to be one of your treasured guests, I guess.
Taylorr: Treasured is life.
Austin: Treasured guests is how we describe it too. Yeah, exactly.
Taylorr: We’ll see how the show goes first, Chris.
Chris: Oh, boy.
Austin: Yeah. Hey, well, you’ve given us praise on the podcast since we started working together, so it’s meant a lot and it’s an honor now that we get to have you on ourselves. So, yeah, thank you.
Austin: All right. Well, we have a lot of good stuff to talk about today. You are an interesting character, in my mind, because you’re building your business in, I would say, probably more of an intentional way than a lot of people do, and it’s because you have this background in the business world that I don’t think as many people have the luxury of coming from as it relates to building a business no. Can you give our, our listeners that may not be familiar with you, just a little bit of background about where you’ve been and how it’s led to you being on the show with us today?
Chris: Sure. Actually, it all started with my family. My father had a small business and I grew up in a family that revolved around that business. If you’ve ever been in that environment, you know that every single person is part of the team and we’re all pitching in and it becomes a way of life. When he passed unexpectedly when I was in college, that kind of transitioned me into, gosh, I’m on my own and I need to go and make my way in the world. And so, I did what most traditional people do is go out and get a job and we’ll come back to the pluses and minuses associated with that. One of the pluses is though, is that I was able to get experience and literally world-class guidance in how to run a business. After I graduated from Northwestern, I got my MBA there, I went to Wall Street and worked at some world-class organizations and they literally have best practices and they have people that are really smart and work hard and try to make an impact in the world.
Austin: Yeah, well, I like it. Wall Street too is the most intense form of that, right? I can only, the image that I have in my head is the most businessy businesspeople that you can find. I don’t know if that is a fair assumption or not, but.
Chris: It’s a very fair assumption. They have sort of an implicit contract, we’re going to pay you well, but we’re going to expect that you give your all, and they do mean all to this organization. So, you are committed, you are there, full-on, completely focused. It’s a very high level of expectation and caliber of performance. So, it’s an education and I feel grateful in the sense that I received that education. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend for many people to go and pursue that route. I think small businesses offer such a more well-rounded approach to a life and to contribution to society, and that’s why I’m such an advocate for small businesses.
It’s not just about the work anymore, Austin. When I went to go to work on Wall Street, it was about the check, and I’ll be the first to admit that I was pursuing the money. It’s not the best path. There are so many better ways to get fulfillment from life than just getting rich. Money is nothing more than currency to be able to have impact, but you need to want to use that currency to create impact. That’s the big difference with a lot of small business owners that I know is they have a commitment to leveraging their platform to have an impact on the people around them.
Taylorr: When did you realize that you mentioned that you were chasing money for a while there. When did that kind of realization dawn on you that there is more to this whole thing and how did that segue into the rest of your professional career and now establishing a thought leadership business?
Chris: So, late, it came literally during the pandemic. So, I’m kind of a poster child of if you’re retired and you think you’re done or you’re too old to learn or you can’t make a contribution anymore. False, false, false, okay. Your life is still fully ahead of you. So, during the pandemic when we were locked down and I was seeing all of these small businesses being defined as non-essential, what a heartbreaking bureaucratic phrase, non-essential. And knowing coming from a family of small business owners that they were going to be hurt if not destroyed, that their dreams, their life savings, their commitment to their families was going to be severely impacted for the good of us all, as it was proposed at the time.
I knew immediately that I had to get involved because I think we were all in it when we were all supposed to sacrifice. But then when I started seeing, well, Walmart doesn’t seem to be sacrificing and Walgreens doesn’t seem to be sacrificing and all of these other really large box stores seem to be having record profits, that doesn’t quite seem fair to me. So, coming from just a fairness perspective, I came out of retirement and said, how can I make a difference? How can I get involved and how can I help increase the awareness of the importance and value of small businesses on our communities, on our lifestyles, and that each and every one of us has the ability to have an impact based on our purchasing dollars. Every dollar you spend goes somewhere, how do you want it to go?
Austin: Yeah. I think this probably ties into one of the questions that we came into this conversation wanted to ask you, which is this redefining of capitalism that, especially on your website, you talk a fair bit about, and I think this must tie-in somehow here. So, can you tell us more about like what that phrase means to you? What is a healthier version of capitalism, if that’s kind of what we’re in pursuit of, it seems like?
Chris: That is not an oxymoron. Healthy capitalism can and does exist, okay? But it’s shifted over the years. It shifted into an unhealthy environment. When I graduated, I got my MBA from one of the better schools, finance and economics. I was a born again capitalist. I was Mr. Free market literally. And then I went to work in the free market and I saw that not all decisions are made equally, and that not all representatives in the free market have a seat at the table. And that’s when I started to see that there were some disadvantages that were going on. And that’s actually really shifted over the last several years where those that have wealth, that those that have access, that those that have connections seem to have a leg up in the game.
Whereas the regular mom and pop stores, the regular citizens that are showing up every day doing their very best, striving to get ahead, doing the right thing, seem to be falling farther and farther and farther behind. So, we can impact this. We don’t have to accept this as saying, oh, well, it’s just the way it is. Capitalism is a tool for all of us. And why I love small businesses so much in regard to this is it’s about the re-humanization of capitalism. A lot of large organizations will have you believe that it’s all about just buying and selling stuff. It’s just a transaction. And they’re missing the secret sauce. And the secret sauce is the people, it’s the humanity, it’s the interaction of you and I during that transactional process that builds our society, that builds our communities, that builds our families, that builds our character. That’s what capitalism is really about.
Taylorr: Where did it go wrong? And you say re-humanization, I think was the phrase, was it ever humanized?
Chris: Yes. When you go to, I don’t know where you live, Taylorr, but when I lived in New York City. Even in New York City, I knew my local bodega guy, okay? But I don’t know the people that are on some very large websites that have me simply buy and sell books, for instance. So, now I actually order my books from the local bookstore and I go and pick them up at the local bookstore instead of having them delivered to my mailbox. I have a connection with those people that are at the bodega, that are at the local bookstore, that live in the community, that have kids in the community that are going to the same schools as other kids in the community. They have a vested interest in investing in that neighborhood. They want there to be protection in the neighborhood. They want there to be parks in the neighborhood, whereas shareholders, they want to maximization of return on their investment. And I understand that.
And based on the laws that we have today and the way that public shareholders interact with hedge funds and other activist investors, that’s going to be very hard to change. But on the smaller level, private business owners who do have face-to-face, who do have connection with you and me, when we go to the bookstore or we go to the coffee shop or we go to the grocery store, I buy from a local grocer, those people care. And I personally really enjoy having them say, hi, Chris, how are you? How’s things with your girlfriend? How’s things with your kids? And I can do the same for them. I like being human. I like being a person. I like that connection. It gives me a sense of reward and purpose. So, yes, I think that from way back before technology that there was a lot of main street USA that did exist.
And I think technology and also just the lack of personalization. I think one of the keys that I talk about in the Prosperity Loop, my book, the Prosperity Loop, for how small business owners can actually improve their business, is to personalize their interaction with their customers. I tell a story about how growing up, my dad owned a small paving company, and at the end of every job he did something that I didn’t see a lot of other people do, but which made the hugest difference. We would at the end of the job, go and meet with the customer and say, thank you for your business. They always appreciated it. They always appreciated it. And guess what? I appreciated it. That connection between us led to referral after referral, after referral, after referral.
And I’m going to do a shout-out in regards to Speaker Flow right now. I’m a customer, I’m a client, and I signed up for their annual subscription service to be able to provide unlimited support and services, which I use rigorously and is fantastic. But in signing up for that service, you did something that I don’t see done a lot. I got a nice gift basket from you saying thank you. That really touched me and it really helped solidify my connection to your service. That and the fact that it’s a really great service.
Taylorr: Thank you.
Austin: Well, it feels good to know that we’re hitting the mark. This reminds me, this whole train of thought reminds me of this quote that Taylorr and I pass back and forth sometimes, and it comes from Gary Vaynerchuk, actually, of all people. But he said that the benefit that a small business has, or the advantage that a small business has relative to a large business is the ability to scale the unscalable. And the example that he gave for this was Taylor Swift. And he was like, if you look back at the trajectory of Taylor Swift over time, there are a bunch of unique things that she’s done. But one of them is she’s the person where when an awkward teenager tweeted at her that they were going to prom and asked her to go, she said yes and went and hung out with that fan and went to prom and blew their mind and made a lifetime memory, right?
And you can’t do that with everybody, obviously. His point is the ability for Taylor to be able to use that influence that she has to make a really truly memorable personal experience for just one person, created all of these ripples. And so, as small businesses, we have these opportunities to do things like that, that a large company with all of the red tape and bureaucracy and BS that goes along with a huge enterprise like that, has to put way more effort into being able to do consistently. And that gives us a huge advantage. We can create a much more personalized experience, a much more tailored relationship-focused experience than you can if you’re just a cog in a machine. And I don’t know if this industry, thought leadership, the people that are listening to the show, recognize that advantage that they have, which is a huge one. Would you agree?
Chris: Absolutely. It is. The superpower of small businesses is being able to interact, learn from, and build your personal relationships. Your brand is your people. Whether it’s the people that are, I’m building out a team, I have an administrative assistant, and I make sure that she’s completely onboard with not only Speaker Flow, but with the brand that we’re creating, that we are advocates for small businesses, that this is our mission. And I talked to her about her experiences in small business in the interview process. Could I possibly have the most professional, high-level, administrative assistant in the world that worked for some investment bank on Wall Street? Possibly, but I don’t want that. I want someone who understands that the person that they’re talking to has needs and issues and concerns, and what can we do to help them through that, to help them identified their value proposition and going out and building their own business.
Taylorr: One thing I’ve been thinking about, we’ve been talking largely about this in the context of the external, your customers building a relationship with them and so on. Does this apply to the internal, the team that’s getting built, the company, the culture that you’re building? How does all of that relate?
Chris: So, leadership comes from the top, culture comes from the top. I personally invest two hours every morning into my personal development, whether it’s meditation, reading, journaling, which has been an amazing surprise in regard to helping me clarify my thoughts and exercise, health. So, that’s the most important thing, is investing in me. And I think every business owner should recognize that they are the most important investment in their organization is themselves. Then how you interact with anyone is how you interact with almost everyone. If you’re only putting on your best face with the person that you think can transactionally help you, they know. And just as importantly, you know.
When you start reaching people, particularly in the thought leadership industry, we’re about reaching other people. And transformational change, support, insight, when you approach people from a transformational perspective instead of a transactional perspective, it changes the dynamic of the relationship and it changes the dynamic of the dialogue that you have within yourself. So, the investment in myself isn’t just about getting smarter or learning the best business tricks, it’s about how do I improve the dialogue, the discussion, the conversation that I have with myself, which invariably is the conversation that I have with all those around me.
Austin: I feel that in here, Chris. So, I’m sure this connects to the model, the get looped model in your three loops. Can you help us connect here? How does what you’re talking about right now factor into this model that you’ve built to help people with this?
Chris: So, I talk about prosperity, integrity, and community, and it does build into those three models. Prosperity, I have a friend, he’s a very successful private equity guy. And as he says, no profit, no business, no impact. So, prosperity, yes, your business needs to make money, okay? I’m a capitalist. I believe that you need to make money. You do not give your service away. There are value exchanges, but you need to generate revenues and be good with that. You’re providing a service. And we reward that by paying you. You create prosperity in regard to the people that you surround yourself with and that you support.
I’m working with a marketing person and I got a draft, it’s brand new. Brand new, just working with her, get my first draft back from her and knee-jerk reaction, oh, I want to change that. I want to change that. I want to change that. I want to change that. And it’s almost like I have this default belief. How can she not be reading my mind? I’ve talked to her. And then, I take a step back and oh my gosh, it’s my responsibility as the head of this organization to, first of all, I want her to be proactive. What’s the message that I’m providing her? I want her to feel confident in trying things. I want her to be successful. I want her to be successful. If I’m criticizing, what’s the end game of that? Is it really just because I want to feel better about who I am?
So, I’m going to criticize you? No, prosperity is about creating a profitable model and having a positive infinite loop of support for that model. Okay? And then integrity, as I had mentioned, it all comes from the top, culture comes from the top. If you are advocating, in this case, I’m an advocate for small businesses. I believe in small businesses. I want to be a representative, a positive representative of what a small business can be like. That means in my interactions with others, that means in my transactional activity. Having integrity lays the definition of whether or not people trust you. It’s really that simple; you do what you say, you say what you do. And trust comes from actions and the reactions from that. Okay? It’s not just what you say, it’s what you do. And all of that is based and tied to your community.
So, millennials are talked about endlessly in so many forms. They’re the generation from 1982 to 2000. They’re 20, what? 23 to 41. Okay? They’re your customers, they’re your employees. They’re the people that are surrounding you. 77% of millennials believe that purpose is important for who they’re going to work with and who they’re going to do business with. 8 out of 10 people, of your customer base, your workforce believes that what you’re doing is important. So, I like to mention to small business owners, it’s great that you have a service and a product that people use, that people approve of.
But imagine a world in which you’re valued for more than just the goods and services, but for the contributions that you make to those around you. To your employees, to your vendors, to your customers, to your community, imagine how that feels when people acknowledge that you’re creating positive experiences for more than just your business. And then I always like to remind them, imagine what it feels like when your family tells you how proud they are of you, because they will. So, purpose has value, it has value for what you do and who you are. And it all ties into helping the community. So, those are the three loops.
Austin: So, the prosperity loop, the integrity loop, the community loop, those are the three?
Chris: Yes. Yes.
Austin: Okay. I’m curious about the word choice there. And especially with prosperity, I’m sure that there was a lot of time and energy spent figuring out what those three broad categories could be summed up by, what word they could be summed up by. Why did you choose prosperity for the prosperity loop?
Chris: Because it’s more than just about making money, it’s more than just about profits. And I listen to my inner voice. When you journal at night and say, I’m thinking about what are some ideas? And then you wake up in the morning and you meditate, and this pings in your mind, this is how creation works. And you’re like, yes, yes. Then you do a little research and you talk to some people about it. You’re like, yes, I resonate with that. That is who I am. That’s who I want to be. That’s who I’m hoping others can be also. And so, yeah, it’s the creative process. And every one of us and small business people are the kings and queens of the creative process. They’re the hardest working, most dedicated, most contributing people that I know. And they’re open to ideas and when they come, they embrace them.
Austin: I like it.
Taylorr: How do you know when you’re doing it right? And I guess and second to that, how do you know when you’re doing it wrong?
Chris: Again, that inner voice, when you start to be in tune, when you start to have integrity and that inner voice starts talking to you, there’s the on the shoulder, the devil and the angel, the old analogy. It’s more conscious than that. I think you first have to be aware that you have that inner voice. There’s an awareness, a consciousness that you’re having a conversation with yourself. What’s that conversation saying? And when you are helping someone, great, all good, but what’s your motive behind it? And how does that make you feel? Are you simply being nice to this person because they’re wealthy and they think they could be a good customer of yours? Okay. But I promise you that you can do that and approach it from a perspective of integrity, of what’s the value contribution that I can have in this interaction? And that just feels so much more rewarding when you’re in tune to that inner conversation. It becomes really a lot easier, Taylorr, to be able to say yay or nay to it.
Austin: Yeah, that makes sense. Do you have, you gave the example of a gift or just a sincere thank you, even, earlier. What are some other practical things people can do to flex this advantage they have as a small business,
Chris: Small businesses ask me about how do I expand my client base? And they love talking about technology. They love talking about new ads and new technologies and ChatGPT and how they can leverage all of that. And the reality is, is that 70, 80% of all your business comes from referrals. When you’re a small businessperson, it’s referrals. So, building relationships with people and the whole referral process, I simplify it quite a bit by saying, Hey, if you say thank you to your customers, it makes a difference.
But there are actual systematic processes that you can put in place, like Speaker Flow, that pings you to remind you to go and do things, that pings you to remind you that you need to send out this document, that pings you to remind you that you need to say thank you or follow-up after three months to see how this certain person is doing based on a conversation that you had with them. Oh, her mom was sick. I’m going to put a note to myself that I should call her in two months just to make sure that she’s okay. It’s the caring for other humans that is the foundation of really building your business, your client base. That’s how most small businesses grow. Technology is great and there’s a role for it, but if you’re a local small business, it’s about listening. It’s about caring for, it’s about contributing. I grew up in an environment in which I belonged to the local auto dealer baseball team. And guess where we bought our cars from?
Chris: It actually matters.