#BeBetter Podcast with Michael Kurland

Create a Culture of Empathy That Benefits All Stakeholders with Michael Walsh

Build your organization’s “why” into your business model

As the CEO and Co-Founder of Cariloop, a digital care company and public benefit corporation, Michael Walsh believes that now is the time to develop and cultivate a culture of caring. In today’s show, Michael shares the importance of being socially responsible and how he is focused on building an infrastructure that can support an aging population and its caregivers.

Michael Walsh portrait

“The role of a corporation is to create value for all stakeholders.”

—Michael Walsh


68. Create a Culture of Empathy That Benefits All Stakeholders with Michael Walsh

Key Takeaways

  • Prepare for the future of work by creating a culture of care and empathy.
  • Build stakeholder capitalism into your business model and strategy.
  • The caregiving model must evolve to address the changing needs of an aging population.

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Michael Walsh is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Cariloop, a digital care company and public benefit corporation based in Richardson, Texas. Since founding the company in 2012, Michael has successfully raised over $24 million in venture financing for Cariloop, empowering Cariloop to recruit an incredibly talented and compassionate team and support hundreds of thousands of caregivers, parents, and families all over the world. This foundational work has led Cariloop’s team to be able to provide the world’s first tech-enabled Caregiver Support Platform, which guides working caregivers, parents, and families as they plan for and manage the care of their loved ones. Michael holds a BS in Industrial Management from Purdue University and lives in Plano, Texas with his wife Melanie and 2 dogs, Izzy and Bailey.

“Give back to your community and be a part of the solution.”

—Michael Walsh


Podcast Transcription

Michael Kurland: Oh. Hello. I’m Michael Kurland, CEO, and co-founder of Branded Group, an award-winning facility, maintenance, and construction management company that services multi-site commercial properties such as retail, restaurants, health care facilities, and educational institutions. Welcome to the Be a Better Podcast. Each week I interview thought leaders from a variety of industries who will share their stories and the lessons they learn as they strive to be better for their clients, partners, employees, and their community. Are you ready to be better?

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Be Better podcast. I’m your host, Michael Kurland. Joining me today is Michael Walsh, co-founder, and CEO of Cariloop.

Michael, welcome to the show. Please tell the audience a little bit about who you are, and what you do.

Michael Walsh: Thanks, Michael, for having me. Real pleasure. Love the show. So, I’m the co-founder of a company, as you mentioned, called Cariloop. We provide what we call the world’s first tech-enabled human-powered caregiver support platform. I’m probably a bit of a unique topic for your show and the audience, but it’s a platform designed to help family caregivers and parents as they’re going through it. As you and I were just talking pre-show, like the inevitable journey of taking care of a parent or grandparent or a son or daughter or a spouse or maybe a friend or neighbor or domestic partner. Just especially the last couple of years, a lot of us have experienced this. It’s just a tough journey to have to go on and it can feel rather lonely and a bit chaotic and debilitating at times. We built the platform to pair families up with a dedicated care coach, a professional that’s coming from a health or medical background. Who’s going to go on this journey with you and your family and help you through all of these complicated decisions that you have to make? So just to give a bit of background on this story, Michael, 15 years ago I went through a really tough caregiving situation in my family with my grandfather on my mom’s side. So a little bit about me. I’m the oldest of five kids. It’s me. I’ve got four younger sisters. My three youngest sisters are actually nine, ten, and 11 years younger than I am. And so on 27, 28, I was just graduating from Purdue University and starting my career in the consulting space. And this happened with my grandfather and it just sent ripple effects through the family. Like my mom had to be with my grandfather on and off for about two years and he was in Michigan. We have a family business back in the suburbs of Chicago still to this day that runs. And when this happened, my mom, who was a stay-at-home mom, she had to go. That meant that I had to be working and I had to be for a period of time, like mom and dad to my sisters. And so this was my introduction to what happens with families and just again, how chaotic it can be. So, about ten years ago now, one of my best friends in the world, Stephen Feloni I mean, he had gone through a similar situation as well with his family and man, did it just feel really lonely to do this. And it was literally a cocktail napkin where we said we got to build something and can help make this better. So we’ve been at it now for just over a decade. Cariloop was actually founded in July of 2012 as we’ll celebrate our 10th birthday here next month. But I absolutely love what we get to do and the people we get to help. And it’s great to get up every day and do the work we do. So again, a pleasure to be here, and excited to dig in.

Michael Kurland: Yeah, totally. And I think, you know, pre show we talked about a few different things, but the first thing is it’s so relatable and I think it’s something that is, you know, kind of I don’t want to say it’s a faux pas, right? Because that’s not the right word, but it’s just very scary. Right. And it’s the thing that it’s the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. Right. But this happens in every family. You know, people are either going to have something happen where they need care or they’re coming to the end of life or they need care. And, you know, for some people it happens suddenly and it happens in a hospital room. And you don’t have to think about that. But for a lot of people, it’s long, long roads and. Excuse me. I just went through this with my aunt last year, and she had a long battle with breast cancer for over 20 years on and off and went into remission four different times. And she was, I think, 69 years old at the end of her life and had battled so long. And my cousin and my uncle wanted to be at home. She didn’t want to be in a hospital anymore. She didn’t want to pass that way. She wanted to be in the comfort of her own home. And so my cousin and his daughter and they had a care plan and they, you know, let her live her last days, moments in her home. And they were I stopped by for one day to say my goodbyes to my aunt. And it was like you said. It was just gnarly. It was very disruptive. She was, you know, she couldn’t even speak. She was basically, you know, in an infantile state. And she had to be given medicine every few hours to keep the pain away. And I remember walking out of there, like, distraught, because I don’t know how my cousin did that, right? And I don’t even know where he got the knowledge to do it. But now I’m curious if he may have used your platform because there were no nurses involved or anything. It was just him and him and his daughter doing the care. So.

Michael Walsh: My God, there are so many things you said that are just such an important point to bring up as it relates to this. This has actually become a bit of a tagline in a belief statement for Cariloop, just that we believe no one should have to go through caregiving alone because most people are. Michael, you just are talking about, you know, your family, your cousin. My guess is that he probably took a lot of this on by himself. And there’s this stigma around this topic and you and I were talking preshow about it. It’s a thing no one wants to talk about. Like you don’t if someone in your family is not doing well for a number of reasons that we can or can’t explain, this is just something that we don’t go around broadcasting like we sort of put our head in the sand and just kind of focus. And we feel like, first of all, it’s not people’s business. Like, that’s kind of the first thought. And number two, it’s like I’m going to do everything I possibly can to be there for in this case, like hearing it. So, we see it a lot. Michael, It’s just a really hard thing to be able to watch and or to have to watch. So, this is why we got into this space like it was a personal experience, but also just watching so many people struggling through with their family members just the ability to give them someone that’s in their corner who can be working behind the scenes. So in this particular example, like you and your cousin, you get to be there for your aunt and not have to decipher the really complicated health and a medical system that we all have to navigate. Like so, even the hospice providers that were set up and some of the things at home like those are things that Cariloop can help with so that you don’t have to figure all that out. You know, we can coordinate a lot of that for you. Yeah. I appreciate your sharing. Yeah, totally.

Michael Kurland: You know, I mean, thank you. And it’s not easy, but I think it’s important to share the story, especially with what we’re talking about right now. So I guess what just came to mind for me is awareness. What is Cariloop doing to bring awareness to the stigma of this conversation and make it a normal thing and normalize it?

Michael Walsh: This was a key question for us years and years ago, and it kind of drills down into the go-to-market strategy and the brand we wanted to create over the long haul in the early days of Cariloop. Our focus was a bit more on direct-to-consumer, like actually trying to reach these caregivers and create an experience for them individually. And what we found was that many of these folks that were using the early versions of Cariloop were seeing trends in our data and usage stats around when they were using it. And so most of the folks in the early days used it and still this trend holds to this day. I’ve actually just recently seen some of our data analytics on the platform and still, the trend line holds. Most folks are using our platform, Michael. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. that works. And so this was a big A-HA to us years ago about the opportunity to partner with corporations, small businesses, insurance companies, retirement administrators, folks that work in the corporate community, that create programs whereby employees, all of us, as you know, the workforce, have access to support mechanisms. And so we went to market about six, seven years ago, pivoting away from retail and B2C, starting to partner with companies to provide Cariloop as an employee benefit so that we could send a message alongside your employer to help to destigmatize this issue that your employer is behind this and supporting this. It is okay to ask for help. It is okay if you need to take a leave of absence to take care of a loved one, or you need to take a leave of absence for yourself and someone is taking care of you. It really became, how do we partner with businesses and the community at large to send this message that we get it and we know this isn’t a fad. This is something everybody’s going to go through and we’re going to support you through it. So we work with some incredible organizations from Fortune 50 brands all the way down to small businesses with 20 people to roll Cariloop platform out, and lots of different messaging and communication around caregiving and parenting to destigmatize it, to make it feel safe, and really drive a lot of these families to get help.

Michael Kurland: Yeah, that’s great information. And I’m really happy you brought that up. It brings a lot of questions to mind. I was on a podcast earlier today and we were talking about how business has shifted and conscious capitalism and things of that nature. And, you know, I don’t know. It seems like you’re in your mid-to-late thirties based on when you graduated. I’m in my early forties and so I think you are like an early millennial, is that correct?

Michael Walsh: I’m technically a geriatric millennial, if you are aware of the term.

Michael Kurland: I am not. You just told me something new, but that’s great. So I am like late Gen X, right, just on the cusp of being a millennial or so what we were talking about was and I’ll get to my point is when I started working 20 years ago when I graduated, there was no empathy in the workplace. There was no, oh, your mom’s sick and you have to take care of her at home. Well do that shit at 5:01 when you get out of here because the 9 to 5 you’re mine, and I want you to compartmentalize. I want you to just focus on your job. And the shift has happened since I’ve owned Branded Group, which is almost nine years now. That’s when I started focusing on it for us, leading with empathy. Right. And so you just said you’re about to celebrate your ten years and you said earlier, off the show, take care of your people so that your people can take care of your business. I thought that was a very good quote to use in this. And so my question, very long-winded, is when did you start seeing that shift, or has it always been for the past decade kind of the same? Have you seen a shift in the last ten years or has it always been kind of the same?

Michael Walsh: Without a doubt. But there were some things that I think we really focused on in the early days of Cariloop that I wanted to make sure that we were part of that solution, Michael, that we were a part of inspiring companies to embrace that empathy and to take more of that position and embrace that philosophy of caring for their folks and creating a culture of care within their organization. We internally Cariloop. We’re not always this way. Like, you know, this is the first startup I came from. That first job was in corporate America. It was just, as you described, not a whole lot of empathy. You know, you’re expected to be 100% chargeable as a consultant. You know, like there’s no if you need time off, you have PTO for that. Otherwise, we need you to be billing you, billing your rates out and working with clients and traveling everywhere, doing your job. So coming from that environment and the early days, that was what I knew and I think we were pretty early on there. We saw that, hey, if we’re really going to be successful and building and selling a product and creating a brand around this, then we have to double down on operating this way internally and we have to be the best possible stewards and examples for this movement and how we take care of our own people and the programs that we create is. This is what we’re selling. And if we’re not doing it, then why would anybody want to buy this from us? So there’s definitely been a shift. I’m hopeful that over the next ten years, we see even more work done and more progress in this area where more companies are recognizing that if they’re going to be the best-in-class employers of the future, they have to embrace this. They can’t ignore this. The time really is now to start to make this shift and build these tenets into your business.

Michael Kurland: I think that one of the main things that millennials are focused on as they become the majority of the workforce is that they want to have something to believe in. It’s not about just the paycheck. Right. You can, you know, for $5,000 more go somewhere else. But to have a shittier work environment, your generation is not going to take that extra $5K you want to work where you have the culture, you have the purpose. And I think that over the next ten years, if your business isn’t doing this, then you’re going to be archaic and you’re going to find yourself the way of the dodo.

Michael Walsh: So I completely agree with you and some of the names that probably our parents really idolized when we were kids. Some of the corporate names that you think about, the IBM’s of the world for just these models. They just don’t work anymore for today’s society for Millennials and Gen Z. You’re right. They want a purpose. They want to feel like they’re part of something, even if you’re a more traditional type of employer, it’s okay for a manufacturing company to then build in a mechanism whereby they support a certain cause or a certain issue that’s really important to their brand and their people like that. That’s the type of thing that you want to talk about in an interview with a prospective teammate is what you stand for. The job’s the job. Right. But what are we believing in, and why are we here? That’s going to become such a huge part, I believe, of the work experience of the future.

Michael Kurland: Absolutely. So a good segue. We talked a little bit as well that you are also a PBC and you’re about to become a B Corp. So tell the audience a little bit about what it takes to be both what actually a PBC and what a B Corp is and what it takes to become a little bit of both because I think those are important things that a lot of people don’t know about. And let’s bring some awareness to that right now.

Michael Walsh: Yeah. I appreciate you bringing this up. I mean, we have been looking at the opportunity to convert Cariloop from a Delaware C corporation, which is what we were founded to a Delaware Public Benefit Corporation or PBC. We had been looking at this for several years. We finally made the conversion in early 2021, so about 18 months ago.  What is a Public Benefit Corporation? It is a for-profit entity. We’re not a not-for-profit, we’re a for-profit entity. But what it allows, encourages, and enables us to do is to build more of a stakeholder capitalistic model into our governance structure whereby our management team, our board, and even our shareholders like it. We want to be mindful of all of our stakeholders, not just our investors, you know, the traditional corporation. The role of a corporation is to create returns for shareholders. That is the old definition. The new definition is to create value for all stakeholders. So who are your stakeholders? They are your shareholders, your investors. They are your team, your customers, and your vendor partners. They’re your community, your environment. Like there are all of these different groups that you have to be mindful of. So as a Public Benefit Corporation, what you often see and just to name a few that are a little bit more commonplace. Patagonia Toms Shoes, Bombas socks. Cotopaxi. In the retail and clothing space, these are companies that have lemonade in shertech space. So these are companies that have actually built giveback mechanisms into their business model whereby the more successful they are on the business side of it, the more they can give back to charities, and nonprofits and donate to issues that are really important to them as a company, as a brand. These are some of your best-to-work types award winners every year. These are the companies, Michael, to your last point like people want to go work for. So Cariloop made this conversion about a year and a half ago. It’s been a really great transition. We’re actually just about to put out our first impact report summarizing all the incredible things that as a result of our business and growth are the nonprofits we’ve been able to help, the volunteer time that we give to our team to go out into their communities and support the amount of free service we’ve given away to families who need help. They are just all of these things. And you mentioned we’re going through the B Lab Certified B Corp process. Now, we’ve actually been going through it for just about the same amount of time since when we converted to a PDC about a year and a half, and that will just further differentiate and elevate care, loops, mission and brand to the global stage. And in this really incredible consortium of companies that are building stakeholder capitalism into their business models and into their strategy. So it’s a really incredible thing to be able to look at and do and certainly encourage employers of all sizes to even if you can’t make these conversions or embrace these certification opportunities to embrace the principles and to take a good, strong look at like what they stand for and why I mentioned you pre show like these things don’t define Cariloop they were actually a really natural thing for us because this is what we were doing and how we were doing it anyway. So yeah. Thanks for bringing this up.

Michael Kurland: Yeah, totally. It’s something that we Branded Group align with you 100%. The only thing that we haven’t done is I didn’t even know PBC was a thing until we spoke and we looked at the B-Corp and we just haven’t started going down that route. We’re still on the fence about if we want to because as you mentioned, you started, you know, 18 months ago and you’re still not done. It was a very daunting task. And not that it’s not worth it, but I have a child on the way right now. And we had a bunch of other things that we were dealing with. We just didn’t know if it was the right time to make that decision. But we do the same. We know, we’re we, it doesn’t define us even if we did these two things because we currently do, you know, the things we give volunteer hours to our team. You know, we’re given every work order we complete. We’re donating a meal with Second Harvest or Food Feeding America or locally Second Harvest Food Pantry out here in Orange County. And we deal with a lot of other nonprofits with Habitat for Humanity, Orange County Coastkeepers, and the such. So I totally am aligned with everything you’re saying. It’s great. It’s great. I love what you’re doing. But I want to ask you, let’s boast a little about what’s on that impact report. What are the highlights? The audience wants to know.

Michael Walsh: To be honest, I’ve only seen the drafts of it so I can’t wait for myself to see the final report. But a couple of stats we can certainly share is last year, 2021, we donated to, I want to say just over 100 nonprofits as a result of our business. So it’s a really incredible good slide to see all of the different organizations that because of our growth we were able to support and we had our entire team kind of conspiring with us on this, helping guide us to the causes that are really important to them. So that was a really incredible thing. The number of volunteer hours that we’re giving to our team, it’s about 1% of all of our time. So if you assume that each of us has 2080 hours of work time in a year, that’s about 21 hours that we give and just time for folks to go volunteer in their community. So anxious to see the final stat. And we’re right there. But I know me personally, I volunteer at Children’s Health here in Dallas twice a month for four-hour shifts. So, I mean, what, about 10 hours a month, 220 hours a year? I’m down at Children’s donating time. So trying to set an example for the team that this is just a really important thing to give back to your community and be a part of the solution. So I mean, there’s a number of other factors that we’re gauging as well, like even just the impact that we’re having on our members and how much time we’re saving them. So back to your story that we talked about pre-show. Now just your family, all the things that have gone on. If we could have been a part of that journey and just save you and your family some time along the way, that’s impactful. So these are the things that we’re hoping to capture.

Michael Kurland: Well, I really appreciate that you yourself do 120 hours a year. Leading by example. It’s such an underrated thing for leadership these days. I really think so. It’s always been something on the forefront for me as the CEO is, don’t talk about it. Be about it. Right. Get out there, and roll up your sleeves. And when we go, we do a lot of food drive stuff where we’re at Second Harvest out here in Orange County and just repackaging their shallots, for example, into smaller bags and making sure that the bad ones get tossed away. So I’m out there with my team, sleeves rolled up, getting dirty and smelling like onions. So I think there’s something to be said about that. It makes you authentic. Makes you authentic. It’s not just words on a wall. So I appreciate that from you. So I wanted to ask you, where do you see Cariloop in this industry going in the next five years? What’s next? Like, what’s on the horizon? Because you’ve conquered a lot of big things. You’ve done a lot of great things thus far. Ten-year anniversary. That’s nothing to scoff at. So what’s next for you guys?

Michael Walsh: Oh, we’ve got a really ambitious and bold vision for where we see all of this going over the next five, ten years. And it’s, I’ll say, mostly supported by just the demographic trends in our country and in our world. There are just a lot more people every single month, every single year that need help with their families. Our country’s not getting any younger or healthier. It’s going the other way. And the way that we’re headed here in about 20 or so years, there’s going to be not enough of us to take care of those that need the help. So, again, for us, it’s how do we start to build into our infrastructure as a country and society ways that we can be helping families navigate these really tough times?  You’ve got to start now. It’s going to take a while. I mentioned we’ve mostly focused on employee benefits and working with employers. We need to expand that footprint and we need to take the story beyond just the corporate ecosystem. We’ve got to work with insurance companies, we’ve got to work with hospitals, and we’ve got to work with physicians. We’ve got to work with local communities. We’ve got to work with our politicians and governments. We need to make this a lot more of a stakeholder-driven effort and initiative to really change this. So while I’m incredibly grateful for all the success and the impact we’ve had on families in the last ten years since we’ve been around, we’ve still got a lot of work to do, and that’s just in the United States we’re talking about. There are certain parts of our world, Michael, that they’re hurting a lot more than we are just in terms of their family caregiving situations. How do we reach them? How do we get to them? How do we partner with organizations to bring care to those families? So these are things I’m thinking about. Just how do we take what we’ve built and really bring it to the masses? A lot of work to do, but it would be fun to do it.

Michael Kurland: Yeah, it seems like this should be a universalized platform for everyone. I mean, I can’t think of anyone that won’t at some point in their life use this platform. So I hope that your vision comes to reality, you know, and to your point here in the country, I was just watching the news, which I never do, but I caught a snippet of it on the walk before we started recording it. You know, 62% of Americans have moderate to moderate heart health right now, which is not good. 62% of Americans. I mean, I think me and you are probably in that 38%. But, you know, there’s more than half of our country that has moderate health, heart health issues. So.

Michael Walsh: Michael, take that, go down the mental health column, and just see how many folks are dealing with chronic anxiety, have bipolar issues, have just so much stress and emotional turmoil that they’re dealing with, so you bring up a physical issue, but you have to then multiply that to the nth degree. As it relates to the mental health crisis we have in this country. There are just a lot of people that need help and a lot of caregivers that don’t get the attention of the health care system because they’re really not recognized. And the system recognizes the patient, the provider, and the payer. But you and I, as caregivers, we’re not really part of the solution. We’re sort of outsiders to the system. So we got to change this. How do you bring everybody in? How do you make this a lot more integrated? There’s a lot of work to do there. So yeah, yet that’s a staggering statistic you share. There are a lot of scary stats as it relates to this, not just physical health, but mental health as well.

Michael Kurland: Well, I think you’ve got a lot of work to do, Michael. So thank you for doing what you’ve done to date. And I can’t wait to see where you are in five, or ten years. So it’s been a great show. Michael, I really appreciate you coming on. If you could please let the audience know how they can get a hold of you.

Michael Walsh: So, the quickest and easiest way to learn more about the work that our team is doing is to go to cariloop.com. I’m sure there’ll be a link posted here on the episode website that C-A-R-I-L-O-O-P dot com. Given that we do most of our work in the corporate sphere and community, there’s an entire section there about how we help employers. If you’ve got a company you work for or a company that you know might be really interested in the work we’re doing, send us an introduction to those folks on our website. We love to talk to them. Then for me, we can make sure that my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts are all linked up to the website for the episode as well. I’m extremely responsive on those channels. Would love to hear from you guys if there are thoughts you have on this issue. Maybe stories to share related to caregiving situations that you’ve all been through and how care could or might have helped. Always open to hearing about those ideas that you have. So again, Mike, I really appreciate you having part of this and love the show and love the work that you’re doing as well.

Michael Kurland: Thanks, Michael. And audience until next time. Thank you for tuning in. I hope that today’s episode inspired you to become a purpose-driven leader in your career or your community. There’s no doubt that when we lead with purpose, we can change lives. If you enjoyed today’s show, I’d be grateful if you would take a moment to rate us on your preferred listening platform. To learn more about Branded Group’s be a better experience and how we provide industry-leading on-demand, facility maintenance, construction management, and special project implementation. Visit us at www.branded-group.com Be sure to follow us on social media and you can also reach out to me directly on LinkedIn. Until next time, be better.

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