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Cara Hale Alter had built up a fully-booked business in leadership and communication skills—until the recession-induced crickets brought Speech Skills to a crashing halt and only 5 percent of their previous business volume. She and her business partner/husband used that time to really build up the business so that once the economy recovered, they came out stronger than ever. Cara talks with Clate and Scott about the tremendous burden of being an entrepreneur and the sole breadwinner in her family, saying “no” to clients who monopolize your resources, and how much more fun it is to run a business when you’re not your product.
“The Credibility Code” by Cara Hale Alter
“Conquer the Chaos” by Clate Mask and Scott Martineau
Cara Hale Alter: [Music playing] I was carrying this tremendous burden of being solely responsible for the income of our family and I recall going out with my family hiking and my kids and my husband were bounding from rock to rock like billy goats. They were just jumping around and having a great time and I explicitly remember thinking to myself, "I can't do that because if I break my leg we're hosed."
Male: That's Cara Hale Alter of speech skills talking about the burden of entrepreneurship and how she turned that into great success. Listen to the full episode of the Small Business Success podcast to hear more.
Scott Martineau: Welcome to this episode of the Small Business Success podcast. I'm Scott Martineau.
Clate Mask: And I'm Clate Mask. We're co-founders of Infusion Soft and we've got Cara Hale Alter with us of SpeechSkills today. Cara, great to have you with us.
Cara Hale Alter: Thank you for inviting me. I'm happy to be here.
Scott Martineau: So great. We were just describing -- our listeners can't see this -- but Cara has officially won the cleanest and most decorated office in the world. So good job, Cara.
Cara Hale Alter: Thank you.
Scott Martineau: So we have a bunch of small business listeners, Cara, who are in different places in their businesses, different industries and so forth, but this podcast is all about us exploring the journey that you've gone as you built your business. We're really excited to hear the highs and the lows and to go on that journey. To start out why don't you share with us just a little synopsis of what your business is?
Cara Hale Alter: Great. Well, we are a corporate training company and we provide workshops and seminars on leadership presence to help our clients project creditability and confidence, but especially when the stakes are high. It can be whether it's one on one with a new business partner or around the conference room table or giving presentations.
We definitely cover that topic too. But really it's about projecting a confident, credible image.
Scott Martineau: Great.
Clate Mask: Awesome. That is great. And so tell us a little bit how you got going on that business.
Cara Hale Alter: Well, even though I've had the business for 16 years it really feels like I have a start-up because we changed our business model in 2012, but back in 2000 when I started the business I was a stay-at-home mom, had a couple of toddlers. And my husband, Ed, who is now my business partner as well, at that time he had a different company. It was a small niche technology company and it was thriving. And I was just sporadically teaching night classes at UC Berkeley extension and I was teaching classes in creating a professional image and improving your speaking voice and those sorts of things. And because it was a continuing studies class they were business professionals and they would often come up to me and say --
"Can you lead these workshops at our company? Can you come and work with our teams?" And --
Clate Mask: Hey, that's great legion. Go be a professor at an adjunct and then have all these clients come in and have you work with them.
Cara Hale Alter: Well, ultimately that is absolutely how I developed the business. At first I would say at that time I said "no" because I wasn't really set up to do that and I still had those young ones at home. But at that point Ed's business -- he got an offer to sell his business. He was feeling really burnt out and I was absolutely feeling the opposite. After so many years with young ones under my feet it was really nice to try to spread my wings and reach my potential out there.
Clate Mask: Yeah. I bet.
Cara Hale Alter: So I got my business license and I started to say "yes" every time someone said, "Can you come on sight and lead these workshops?" And it really paid off because every time I taught a series it would result in one or two corporate clients.
Clate Mask: That's great.
Cara Hale Alter: And it just began to grow and grow and all that worked pretty well.
About two years in Ed, he was very tired of being a stay-at-home parent. So he was ready to have a little more responsibility after his time off and he joined the business. We became business partners and that was excellent. He's got a great business mind. He's an excellent sales person and in that first year the business doubled and in the next year it doubled again. And we actually stalled when we reached capacity --
Scott Martineau: Go Ed.
Cara Hale Alter: -- because we were using a dollars for hours model and we had a limited resource and that was me and my time. So we kind of -- we actually got to capacity, so that was the good news, where we were just full up and Ed was turning business away. And that was uncomfortable in some ways, but at that point that was 2008 we had a really great business going. And of course 2009 hit and that was devastating.
The rescission hit and we went from having the best year we'd ever had to just about five percent of our typical revenue. It was tough 'cause we're a training company and this is a -- for many times this is an extracurricular thing. So we were definitely the first thing to go.
Clate Mask: So in the recession that discretionary spend with companies on training dropped to the floor and your business -- you ended up having five percent of the revenue that you'd had in prior years?
Cara Hale Alter: Exactly.
Scott Martineau: Holy smokes.
Cara Hale Alter: It was difficult. Crickets because we had been so busy and then had days upon days of times on my hands.
Clate Mask: Okay. So I wanna -- you shared a bunch of things. I wanna come back to that recession induced crickets as you said. So we'll come back to that, but you shared a couple of things that are really important lessons I think for our listeners. So you said a little simple phrase there --
"Hired a sales person and then sales doubled the next year and doubled the following year." I think so many times for entrepreneurs where they stumble is trying to hire a sales person. That first sales person can really spell the difference between significant growth for the business or sometimes even put the business at risk of going out of business. So for you, you hired a sales person who happened to know you very well, could probably sell your speaking ability, your skills very effectively. But for many entrepreneurs they don't have that, so they look really hard to find that sales person.
When you look back and you think about that experience of hiring your first sales person, what lessons are there that you learned from that that would be useful for listeners? Where did things go well? Where did you have to kind of maybe make some adjustments in order to get the kind of growth that you did over those next couple of years?
Cara Hale Alter: Well, there were two things really and one was that we had to get really clear on what we were selling. And since it wasn't just me anymore we had to capture it and put it down into some pretty strong messages. So that was helpful. And then the second part, one reason why growth went up is that it's difficult to sell yourself. It's hard to be on the phone with a new client and say, "Yeah. I'm great."
Clate Mask: That's right. "Can't you tell?"
Cara Hale Alter: So it's so much easier for Ed to talk me up and it had to be organic. So that was very, very helpful. He could whole heartedly endorse our products without having this issue of sounding robust.
Clate Mask: Yeah. Like self-promotional. Was he able to -- just out of curiosity on my part -- were you able to increase your fees because he was selling and he was able to build you up?
Cara Hale Alter: Absolutely.
That was definitely a part of it. Good question. But I also wanna support not just the sales part of it. Every time we've taken the leap to hire someone new our revenue has gone up and it's scary because you think it's gonna go the other way. You've got this sense of, "Well, really can we afford a new adman?" And what I find is that just our capacity goes up. We have just more resources at our disposal so therefore we can develop more business.
Clate Mask: Turns out people really are assets, right?
Cara Hale Alter: Imagine that. Exactly. It's worth it.
Clate Mask: So you said you captured the process. Let me just go one click deeper there before we come to the dark part of what you alluded to. So for our business owners that are out there listening and they've got inside of them this, "I've got to get better at the sales function." Sometimes they're the one doing the sales and they're unconsciously competent at their process and they're not able to actually get it out of their head and get it on paper.
Other times they're not very competent of the sales process and they really need someone to come in and do -- run sales for them. How did you go about capturing the sales process? What specifics did you do that helped you to get really clear on how to go about the sales process? Can you remember back through that?
Cara Hale Alter: Well, we had a couple things going for us and that is -- one is that they already knew a little bit about the product before they'd even contact us. We didn't advertise. Everything was very high touch. So when someone came to us they had some experience of what we had to offer. They'd either seen me at a key note or a seminar or someone close to them had said, "Wow. This workshop is great. You should take it." So we had that to our advantage. You didn't have to start cold. And then the second thing is that we are a training company.
So we have a unique experience that not every company has and that's that at the end of every single day of work we are evaluated. You hand out evaluation forms and you say what worked and what didn't work. And so it means that we had pages and pages of client feedback that said what was working and what wasn't or what was most valuable about our workshops and that made it really helpful to find out what they found valuable. I have to say if I were to give my best piece of advice to companies out there that is get evaluations. In other words, seek feedback because that's where you find how to improve and also you really find out what's working.
Scott Martineau: Yes. I love that you brought that up in the context of selling 'cause I think it may be instinctive for some business owners to think about that as, "Oh, man. I got to go deal with all the problems," but that is the gold of what's working and helping to understand the problems people were facing that you're helping them overcome.
Clate Mask: Totally and going through the evaluation of that feedback. So for our listeners here couple -- these are some awesome nuggets. How you might do that, you might record your phone call and then listen to it afterward and find out what talk tracks, what phrases resonated with the listener, what didn't. You might go back to your sent box in your e-mails and say, "Okay. I sent this. This elicited a great response. I sent this. It didn't." You can start to get a feel just by evaluating your communications, your e-mail communications, your voice communications. And what I find out a lot of times is the process of unpacking your sales pitch is actually right there in the raw materials of what you're communicating every day, but you have to take the time to evaluate those e-mails, evaluate the phone calls where you record yourself and you're talking. And if you'll do that, as listeners if you'll do that you'll have a much better -- you'll get clarity on what works in the sales process.
And then the last piece, get that evaluation straight up. Ask for it from prospects. Ask for it from customers. Find out what resonated, what didn't resonate, and if you go through that evaluation process take it from a trainer here, that's the way to get your sales process identified.
Cara Hale Alter: Absolutely. Ed actually did that a lot early on. He would record his calls and part of it was exactly as you said so that he could evaluate what worked and what didn't. But it does happen spontaneously in the moment that we are brilliant and it just happens. And you think, "What did I say about that?"
Clate Mask: Right. "Why does that work? They're buying now and I'm not sure why." That's awesome.
Cara Hale Alter: _____. Exactly. So he could go back and find the things he had already done well.
Scott Martineau: Yeah. And I think one more concrete suggestion too, you sort of have the natural survey at the end of a live presentation that you can give. I think for businesses that don't have that natural interaction I think at some appropriate time after the delivery of your product or service I think just a simple survey to customers to ask them, "How are we doing?"
You're not gonna get 100 percent of people to respond, but the nuggets that you will get from that small percentage will be hugely valuable in helping to understand what's working and what isn't. So Cara, I wanna go back. I'm amazed. Five percent, so I don't know what the growth way. I don't know how to do that.
Clate Mask: That negative growth rate.
Scott Martineau: It's a negative 95 percent growth rate. Tell us -- I'm imagining -- there are some really cool benefits. I remember when we had no business we could play a lot of video games on Friday afternoon. It was really cool or not. And I'm not -- I don't wanna make light 'cause I really wanna hear what it was like. Describe for us, what was it like going home at night or maybe you were at home all day, I don't know, in the middle of this disaster in the business? What did that feel like? What was the experience like for you personally?
Cara Hale Alter: Well, it was really tough because it wasn't just that we weren't earning money, which was true.
It's that we had nothing to do in that we couldn't even provide trainings. Actually one good thing came of it and we had a couple of clients that couldn't pay us, but they still wanted training. So we had this mutual benefit where we made a deal that we would provide training for them, continue to provide training and they could pay us one year later. And that worked because then I had something to do. I had a place to go. I could continue working my skills.
Clate Mask: Well, and you can build off of that. I think one of the hardest things as an entrepreneur when things are so slow and you don't have things going it's hard to parlay any -- you can't make any kind of parlay into the next thing. When you've got some work, even if it's not the fee that you want or the -- you're not commanding the prices that you like or maybe the payment terms are a year out, at least you can take that and you can turn it into additional things.
You can get referrals. You can get those learnings and then turn that into the next gig, the next opportunity. So I loved that you kept doing that, that you found ways to stay busy and to deliver your service even when the market wasn't valuing at the way that it should have.
Cara Hale Alter: Yeah. Exactly. And we also made a lot of changes at home in that we were busy up to that point, meaning the kind of hectic lifestyle where you eat out all the time and everything is a matter of -- you really take advantage of convenience in your life. And so we went from that kind of lifestyle to every meal made at home, don't spend a dime on anything that's not a luxury. So actually this is a wonderful learning lesson for us just in terms of getting back to basics in life. We'd a little bit spiraled out of control with that busy lifestyle. So it was a good news, bad news situation.
Clate Mask: There's a great lesson in that too. That's great.
Scott Martineau: So what was the dynamic between you and Ed?
Is it like lots of time to blame each other for the -- what the recession? "It's your fault, Ed. The recession is your fault." No, but that --
Cara Hale Alter: No. It was so clear to us what the issue was in the world. It was a devastating time and we were feeling it on so many different levels. We were sad with our business, but all of our friends were low on their business. It was just -- it was a bad news time.
Scott Martineau: Wow. So tell us what happened from there. What was the turnaround? How long did it take and what were the things that started to click?
Clate Mask: And I'm interested were you at the mercy of the recession and it was just -- you just had to ride out the recession or were there things that you did to fight the recession?
Cara Hale Alter: Well, to some degree we were at the mercy of the recession because we are training and I know that it does take a while for that venue to come back up online for training. I did take advantage of a couple things. We did a lot of reevaluating.
We had plenty of time to evaluate what we did right and what we did wrong in our business up to that point. We made some classic mistakes up to that point and one is that well, again, the peer dollars for hour model. So bottom line is you're giving up your time and that's a limited resource. So we evaluated how we could do that differently and we began to put some initial seeds in place to have some online programs and I began to write a book so that I could capture my training methodologies and my intellectual property into something other than just me. Another classic mistake was before the recession we had followed the money, which means that any client that said to us that they wanted to book us we would jump right in there. And we weren't paying attention, but one of our clients was taking up about 70 percent of our time. So when they went away we couldn't diversify.
It was tough. So when we got back -- when things began to roll again we made certain that we had a wide range of clients and not just allowing one client to take too much of our business.
Scott Martineau: Yeah. I love it. Wow. That's great.
Clate Mask: Yeah. That's a huge thing when you get too dependent on any one client, any one product, any one solution. That can cause a real challenge. You said something when you were talking about -- by the way, I love classic mistakes. We might start calling these stories "classic mistakes" 'cause these are classic and you are not alone in making these mistakes. Let me assure you. But as we draw these out that's part of the reason why we do these -- the Small Business Success podcast is to help entrepreneurs avoid some of the classic mistakes. So I appreciate that you called that out. But when you were talking about, you said, "We followed the money," so tell me a little bit more about what you mean by, "We followed the money."
Was it just that you kind of went after this one big client and it got bigger and bigger or were you also perhaps pursuing business that wasn't really in your purpose, your values or something that wasn't maybe what you felt you were born to do? Was there something there as well?
Cara Hale Alter: Not exactly that, although there were some clients that -- you've heard the term you can fire a client. We never fired a client. We just always accepted the job.
Clate Mask: And that's a classic mistake, right?
Cara Hale Alter: Absolutely. Even if that client was really difficult to deal with or they were taking much more time. I had one client that would send us so many e-mails that when we did the tally we found that we were getting more e-mails from that one client than from 25 other clients just in terms of them taking so much time. We just continued to say "yes" to what came our way.
We weren't strategic about how we were growing the business or -- but especially in regards to noting if we're giving up too much of our resources to one client.
Clate Mask: Yeah. Oh, go ahead, Scott.
Scott Martineau: I was just gonna follow on the story a little bit. When we started our company we had a season of exactly the same thing. We were this software company sort of and yet we would chase anything that moved. It's like the neighbor was looking to get some wire pulled. We're like, "Well, will you pay us? Of course we'll do it." And we would just do anything, which I think it part of sort of the survival instinct. I love that you took this season, which by the way, is a season that could be extremely depressing and you leveraged it to really think. It makes me think of my wife and I have a cabin up in Utah. The reason is because she loves the impact of the seasons, which we don't have in Arizona. We only have two. It's either perfectly beautiful in the winter or it's extremely hot and hellish in the summer.
But one thing that's fascinating is you sort of leverage and appreciate the seasons. That's one of the things that we've found as we've gone to a place and I think businesses are no different. There will always be seasons. I don't know of any business owner -- I don't know how many podcasts we've done. There's no absence of winters and here you are in the middle of winter in your business and you're planning, "What are we gonna do with the flowers when spring comes?" I love it. It's awesome.
Clate Mask: Yeah. That is. That is really cool. And I also -- we laugh sometimes about the classic mistakes that we all make, but I totally understand how you can do that. When times are good and you're busy and you're rushing and things are -- you said your lifestyle is taking advantage of the convenient, as you put it, which I really appreciated that. It's in those moments where we don't take time to slow it down, evaluate what's happening, identify where is the good business in our company and where is the not so good business in our company --
and so it kind of can snowball and then you get to a point where you're very dependent on one client and suddenly you've got a problem when that client stops bringing you business. So I could see totally how it would happen, but I echo Scott's comment. I think it's really cool that you use that winter of your business to prepare for how to get out of the hours for dollars' business and how to actually leverage the skills that you have in different ways and productize what you do. That's a really cool thing.
Cara Hale Alter: Yeah. I really do feel like that in retrospect we look back at that recession and it was perhaps the best thing that happened for us. There was one other aspect that was happening at the time that we didn't really until retrospect looking back at it and that's that I was carrying this tremendous burden of being solely responsible for the income of our family. And even though Ed was a full partner in the business I was the product we were selling.
And so we didn't earn the money unless I showed up on sight delivering whatever it was. And I recall going out with my family hiking and my kids and my husband were bounding from rock to rock like billy goats. They were just jumping around and having a great time. And I explicitly remember thinking to myself, "I can't do that because if I break my leg we're hosed." And so I get this sense of, "No, I'm stuck to the path. I have to do this. I can't get on those rocks and have fun."
Clate Mask: Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. I can feel our listeners nodding and also having the pain of what that's like. That is so -- it's so integral with being an entrepreneur particularly in the early stage of a business or in those tough times that you just feel that burden so heavily and it's so ironic because --
most of us as entrepreneurs start the business because we want freedom and we end up feeling just this crushing burden at times that is like, "Really? This is really why I'm doing this?" But there are pay offs and there are benefits and so we keep trudging our way through it, tolerating this burden and tolerating this heavy weight that we're bearing. So I can only imagine -- I had the benefit of having two partners. So the three of us had a crusher burden that we were trying to carry. But I think that most entrepreneurs have felt what you're describing at one time or another. So thanks for sharing that.
Scott Martineau: We got to keep this story going. I'm dying to hear what happened. So back to 2009.
Cara Hale Alter: Yeah. So we got smart. We tried to put some things into place. As I mentioned -- well, the business did come back to us because just past the deepest part of the recession where people had no money, once that was over companies wanted an advantage. They really had to leverage their talent.
And so now our type of training which was leadership presence and projecting creditability, this became a hot topic. And so the business began to warm back up again, but as it was warming up we were also trying to put some other things in place. I wrote a book. So again, I captured my intellectual property and the book is called The Creditability Code. I created a train the trainer program so that now I can teach my clients how to deliver my workshops to their people and it was more cost effective for some of them. I trained more trainers on my team. So now we have six trainers that can deliver our core materials as opposed to just me and I created an online program that captured the core materials in video products. So that's the diversity we were looking for in terms of just not putting the sole responsibility on one product and having it be so necessary that I survive and not get a cold or not break my leg.
Clate Mask: Yeah. So how does that feel to go from having all the burden on you to now having six speakers and a train the trainer program and an online program and not feeling like it's all on your shoulders? How is that?
Cara Hale Alter: Well, it's pretty exciting. It's also just so much more fun. Just being able to create again. You mentioned that you become an entrepreneur because of freedom and that's true and then I was locked into this job, this day to day get the job done, and so now that I've disentangled myself from that I have more freedom to create and I can do what I feel I do best now rather than just be the product.
Clate Mask: That is awesome.
Scott Martineau: Love it. So do you frolic on the rocks now, Cara?
Cara Hale Alter: As a matter of fact, I have done things like that. Yes. I actually take vacations now and I feel free to hike and explore.
Clate Mask: Hey, that is success. If you're able to go and be with your family and go on vacations and hike and explore and have fun where before you felt like you couldn't do any of that, that is what we're talking about with Small Business Success. What does it mean to the entrepreneur? You've made that very vivid for our listeners. So thank you for that. That's awesome.
Scott Martineau: And congratulations to you and Ed. That's awesome.
Cara Hale Alter: Oh, thank you.
Clate Mask: Let me just dry out one thing you said there that I think is interesting. You talked about the various ways that you got smart. You talked about a book and an online program and a train the trainer program and then having six speakers. In particular, you glossed over this real quickly when you said the train the trainer program. You said because that might be more cost effective for some of my clients. I think a lot of -- I just wanna commend you for that because you didn't make a classic mistake there. The classic mistake of so many entrepreneurs who have a great skill that they go teach is they don't wanna share that.
They hold on to it and they -- it actually is the thing that ends up imprisoning them and keeping them from getting to the freedom. And instead what you did, even though it wasn't going to bring perhaps the most revenue for your business, you actually empowered your clients to then go train people where some might have looked at that and said, "Oh, no. You're gonna lose revenue. You're gonna lose sales. You're not gonna make as much from that account if you take that approach." But I think it's pretty obvious what actually happened for you. The business grew. You grew. You were able to hire other people and you got out of being locked into the place where you are the product. And that's an awesome thing. So good on you for that. That was pretty cool.
Cara Hale Alter: Yeah. Exactly. I feel like to be truthful the big block that was in our way as a business was absolutely me in that I had a limiting belief that it couldn't happen without me. And then when I began to shift that mindset --
So that I could actually recognize, "No, I have a strong enough methodology, a strong enough curriculum that it really can live without me." And once I was willing to accept that well, not only did the business grow, but I started to have a lot more fun.
Scott Martineau: Yeah. And this only happens in 100 percent of situations that we see. And I think the transition that you've gone through is you've become a leader. You're recognizing and acknowledging that you have the ability to -- and by the way, it's the key to freedom that we talked about earlier -- but you have the ability to go influence what others do and Clate has said many times leadership is an exercise in relinquishing control and you got to let go of the white knuckle grip you have on. Certainly nobody could -- by the way, it won't be perfect and they won't probably do it as great as you will, but they can do well enough.
Clate Mask: And sometime said they'll do it better. There's certain things they'll do and it'll blow you away. You'll be like, "Wow. Actually that's better." That's so cool.
We have that experience all the time where we see people do things that are way better than we can do them. It's awesome.
Cara Hale Alter: Well, I'd love to tell a quick story about that in that a client tried to book me to do a large group seminar and I wasn't available. So one of our trainers, Lisa, went to do the seminar and they loved it and then they wanted to have more. So when they called in to have more she wasn't available. And so Ed said, "Cara can do it." And they said, "Oh, well we don't want Cara. We want Lisa."
Clate Mask: Love it. That's fantastic.
Cara Hale Alter: That was one of those perfect moments of letting go and thinking, "Yeah. Well, you can do it."
Clate Mask: That is total success and it's funny because it actually offends the ego for the slightest moment and then you realize, "Who am I kidding? This is exactly what we want to have happen." So great job for you. That's really cool to hear and as Scott said, it happens in 100 percent of the cases where the creator is the limiter to the growth. And we don't want to -- we think that it depends on us, it relies on us.
I still make this mistake all the time where I'm like, "No. I got to put my input on this." No, not all the time. There's certain places where we do need to give our input, but it really is an exercise in relinquishing control and I just really excited for you and the success you've achieved. Thanks for sharing with us kind of the dark side and then the success and what's happened for you. We'd be happy to answer a question if you've got one for us and then I'm gonna ask you the question of what characteristic you think has led to your success more than any other characteristic. But before we go there, any question that you'd like us to address?
Cara Hale Alter: I'd love to learn more about how you came up with your system of talking about -- so I went to Elite Forum. That was really eye opening to me. And when you came in and you talked about the different levels of business and here's the problems that are experienced at this level and here's the challenge you were absolutely talking to me.
It was a little bit mind blowing because it was exactly in line with what my experience was. So I wonder, how did you gather than information? How did you come by that kind of analysis and that kind of -- that template?
Clate Mask: Yeah. Scott's laughing here. I'm not actually not quite sure why. So when we -- you're referring to the stages of Small Business Success. We talk about this all the time. We'll put a copy of the Stage of Small Business Success in the show notes and I know our listeners have had some questions sometimes about it. So we're gonna do a podcast just on the stages, but what I would say is it really came from the passion we had for helping small businesses succeed that we had been injecting into our business for many years and we got to where we were just seeing consistent patterns and almost predictable challenges that were on the way for the entrepreneur coming right around the corner.
So part of it was what we were seeing with our customers. Part of it is the things we'd gone through. And then when Scott and I decided to write Conquer the Chaos several years back we really took that as an opportunity to go research it because we were feeling it, we were seeing it with customers, with many businesses that we would speak to at events across the country. But we hadn't really taken the time to simulate it all and to look at some data and say, "Does the data confirm what we continue to see?" So we did research on a bunch of different things, but the thing that was the most useful was really studying the U.S. Census Bureau data and that raw data combined with a lot of other anecdotal pieces of reports and things that we found really augmented and validated our experience that we were having and that we were having through our customers.
And then we kind of worked on refining it. What I shared at Elite is something that is version four or five over the last few years is I've just talked with different people, shared it with different people and refined it to a point that I think it's about -- it'll never be done, but I think it's about 80 to 90 percent of the way there in terms of its accuracy for people.
Cara Hale Alter: You just used the term "validated your experience" and that's exactly what I experienced as the small business owner listening to you talk about is I really felt validated all the challenges that I'd gone through that it wasn't just me, but this is a process that's a part of the natural grow and that was great to know.
Clate Mask: Cool. Very cool.
Scott Martineau: Yeah. The only thing I'll add is I think small business, it's unlike a lot of other things that we see in the world. There's no requirements for certain education or experience. It's just kind of the Wild West so to speak.
And I love that one of our objectives is to change the trajectory of small business success and I think it starts with at least starting to identify and call out for people the stages that they're gonna go through as they grow their business. It's powerful just to see it. Just to see here's where I am and I can make to the next -- we have analogies in education, for example, in different types of degrees and they're sort of standard and so forth and we see it in a bunch of other places. But it really didn't exist for the small business world. And so that's why we decided to create it.
Clate Mask: Yeah. We saw a lot of waste where people -- when you've got 27 million small businesses in the U.S. alone at least that number in addition across the globe probably -- some estimates are as high as 100 million -- you can't treat small business as one thing. There are definite stages. You've got to stratify it. You've got to create the distinctions and then only when you do that can you hope to serve them effectively.
And what I've found over and over that just drove me crazy is companies and governments and nonprofits and different folks, corporate America, doesn't serves --
Scott Martineau: SMB. SMB.
Clate Mask: Yeah. They call it SMB. It's not SMB. These are small businesses, a totally different thing than a midsize company. It's a very different thing than a venture backed entrepreneur. It's just a totally different thing. So we just wanted to create some clarity.
Scott Martineau: In fact, there are five stages in the S in SMB, right?
Clate Mask: That's right. Exactly. So thanks for asking. So let me ask you this, what characteristic do you feel like you owe your success to more than any others?
Cara Hale Alter: Well, we have in our values the top value says our driving value to be truly helpful. And I live by that. I believe in that. I carry that with me every single day and be truly helpful means no lip service. No pretending to be helpful, but not really.
No offering solutions that aren't really viable out there even though they sound good. So I think that that's the philosophy that I use when I'm trying to put a program together for my clients. I always ask, "Is this truly helpful, really practically usable, helpful?" And then here in our office we use it as a way of interacting with each other. "Okay. Are you being truly helpful or are you just pretending to be helpful?" That serves us well.
Clate Mask: That is great. Well, thank you for sharing that. Just that sincerity, that authenticity, it's probably not a coincidence that your Creditability Code book is written by an author that has that value. So pretty awesome. Thanks for sharing it.
Scott Martineau: Cara, thank you so much for being with us today, giving us some of your time. We really appreciate it.
Cara Hale Alter: It's truly been my pleasure. Thank you.
Scott Martineau: Your journey is remarkable going from having success to literally --
five percent and then building it back with much more wisdom and actually creating the freedom. It was a remarkable journey to hear about. So thank you. I know our listeners will appreciate this and we're gonna call this a wrap for this episode of the Small Business Success podcast and we wish all of you listeners success like Cara. Let's go out and do great things in the world [music playing].
Male: Thanks for listening. Don't forget to rate us, write a review, and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, and if you're looking for more ways to grow your business check out our knowledge center at learn.infusionsoft.com. That's learn.infusionsoft.com.
Clate Mask: And we are excited to have Cara Hale Alter with us of SpeechSkills. So -- sorry. Let me start over. I was looking at -- it is SpeechSkills. That's right, right?
Cara Hale Alter: That is correct.
Clate Mask: I'm gonna start over. Sorry about that, Cara. Go ahead. That's the first time we've screwed that up.
Scott Martineau: I know.
Cara Hale Alter: Well, can I ask a question before we go?
Clate Mask: Totally.
Cara Hale Alter: Are you gonna edit this so if we really do mess something up royally we can edit it out?
Scott Martineau: Normally we like some blemishes so it doesn't sound so perfect.
Cara Hale Alter: Oh, okay. I'll put something.
Scott Martineau: We don't do a lot, but if it's egregious of course we'll edit it.
Clate Mask: Like not pronouncing your company name right. All right.
Scott Martineau: All right. Welcome to this episode of the Small Business Success podcast. I'm Scott Martineau.
Clate Mask: And I'm Clate Mask. There's something about SpeechSkills that's getting me. I've never done this before. Go ahead.
Scott Martineau: If you don't get it on this one I'm doing the whole thing.
Clate Mask: Go ahead. I will never forget the irony of jacking up the intro for the business owner of SpeechSkills.\[End of Audio]