Small Giants Community – Stepping Up

STI’s President and CEO Elizabeth Glasbrenner is one of several purpose-driven business leaders featured in the Small Giants Community’s series Stepping Up, which highlights how leaders and businesses are working through the COVID-19 pandemic.  The core values of the people and the organizations are front and center.  This is an excerpt from Small Giants Community’s Stepping Up series:

Stepping Up: How Leaders Are Rising to the Occasion

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Turn on any news channel right now and the headlines are dominated by the health and economic devastation inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s no denying the urgency of this moment, and the imprint it will leave on our lives and organizations. But behind the headlines, there’s a different story unfolding. 

For purpose-driven business leaders, now is the time to step up and make the right decisions to protect your organization and team members. We’re seeing leaders retool their entire business model in a matter of weeks — and pulling it off. Next-generation leaders are stepping up to the plate to do their part to ensure the business survives. And when it’s time to cut costs, these leaders are skipping over the obvious choices and letting empathy guide them to more creative solutions.

We’re excited to introduce Stepping Up, a recurring series that will highlight the incredible stories coming out of this moment. Throughout the Small Giants Community and beyond, leaders are rising to the occasion to do what’s right when it matters most. These are their stories.

Taking Care of Team Members

All I know how to do is be flexible and show them I care — I try to check in with every single person every week.

“Can I buy you lunch?”

It’s a small gesture, but in a time of great isolation and uncertainty, it carries more weight. Elizabeth Glasbrenner, President and CEO of Smiley Technologies Inc., has been buying a lot of lunches lately. Although Smiley’s core business is stable – they work with banks and are deemed an essential business — their team of 40 employees is working from home and dealing with a myriad of personal problems in the face of the global pandemic.

“Everyone’s situation is different,” says Elizabeth. “One employee just had a baby last week. Some have spouses who lost their jobs. One employee lives alone in a 600-square-foot apartment, and another has preschool-aged children at home. All I know how to do is be flexible and show them I care — I try to check in with every single person every week.”

In the early weeks of working from home, Elizabeth had the idea to treat the team and their families to a week’s worth of lunches from a local restaurant of their choice. It was a way to help support team members while also supporting local restaurants. All week long, employees and their families enjoyed takeout lunches from local eateries, with Smiley footing the bill.

“The idea came to me after visiting our family’s favorite local restaurant,” says Elizabeth. “We walked in and I asked the woman working the counter how things were going, and she burst into tears. I wanted to find a way to support the small businesses in our community.”

The gesture inspired the team to start a #GoodNews channel on Slack where team members could share the pay it forward good deeds they were doing for others. Day after day, employees shared the ways in which they were paying it forward in their own communities: buying groceries for a veteran in the neighborhood, making and delivering craft boxes for local children, gift baskets with a roll of toilet paper to share with neighbors. Some employees even borrowed Elizabeth’s idea and bought lunch for another family.


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Our team members are showing up for work and putting in one hundred percent. I know they have challenges — I do, too. But we’re living our values and sticking together.

Though Smiley’s employees are physically isolated from one another, the team has never been closer. For Elizabeth, it’s the culmination of several years of work defining their culture, values, and mission. Seemingly overnight, all of that was put to the test.  

“This has sealed our culture,” says Elizabeth. “Our team members are showing up for work and putting in one hundred percent. I know they have challenges — I do, too. But we’re living our values and sticking together. Our employees will probably never be recognized as essential workers, but they’re keeping the banks running at night. I’m proud of them.”

The full blog post can be found here.

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