Turning an idea into a multi-million dollar company with more than 300 locations over 10 years takes hard work, resilience and perseverance. It also requires a clear vision, an executable strategy – and solid leadership from the top.
BrightStar Care CEO and co-founder Shelly Sun sets a prime example of leadership on multiple levels, both within her own successful organization, as well as in roles such as Chairwoman of the International Franchise Association and on the Board of Directors for the Home Care Association of America.
While Sun has multiple pillars that guide her leadership style, she points to the following five approaches which have helped her reach success throughout her entrepreneurial journey. Some of the strategies, she says, grew out of important lessons learned along the way – lessons she passes along to help build future leaders in her franchisees, company employees and young entrepreneurs from all walks of life:
Be Careful of “Founder’s Syndrome”
It’s easy to get too attached to the business you built. But with growth comes the need to keep a healthy distance as a leader, as it becomes impossible to be an effective CEO while also managing daily operations. I learned this lesson after 10 years of trying to guide the brand’s vision and still have my hands in the day-to-day details of running the company.
When BrightStar Care began expanding internationally, I recognized it was time for me to pass the torch. We named a President and COO to lead more of the day-to-day operations. This “letting go” provided me the golden opportunity to think 10 years out, while he focuses on the upcoming year.
Don’t be afraid to take this step. It is critical to delegate responsibilities to expand your reach as a leader.
Have a Mentor, Be a Mentor
With over 300 BrightStar Care locations worldwide, I take every possible opportunity to mentor franchisees. I align myself with people who are eager to implement change as needed – who won’t resist advice that’s in their best interest. I work with franchisees to help them understand how each investment in improving their business can come back to benefit them ten-fold.
As a young entrepreneur, I called plenty of people in the franchising industry who were intelligent and well-respected to learn from them. I was hungry to excel and do better. You are never too big to forgo advice. Industry experts like David Barr and many others continue to play a central role in my business decisions as members of the board of directors for BrightStar Care.
Build a Trusted Board of Directors
Developing a strong board of directors has proved invaluable for BrightStar Care. Some of my mentors helped me research the cost of compensation for the caliber of members we needed on the BOD and helped me gather a group I really trust. We meet every quarter to discuss new ideas and mitigate issues that face the industry. We are particularly concerned with franchise development, national advertising and growth plans concerning senior living trends.
I rely on these additional opinions for the health of BrightStar Care and its expansion. It’s something I recommend every business owner develops, especially as they grow.
Learn to Compartmentalize
As a female leader, it’s important to recognize you can’t do it all, but you can prioritize a healthy balance. For example, in any given month, I’m a great mom and a great CEO, but on a daily basis, one is likely going to outweigh the other. It’s important to be realistic about this and not be too hard on yourself. You can’t be everything to everyone every day.
Conquer Financial Acumen
My education in accounting and previous CPA experience has given me the financial confidence I see as necessary to succeed in business. Unfortunately, many female entrepreneurs lack confidence in this area, perhaps because of old stigmas that stick in their head. I believe we are making headway in working to change that dynamic in our country, with more girls being encouraged at a younger age to pursue math and science careers.
Having a firm grasp on the financial aspects of business ownership is important, regardless of gender. Entrepreneurs should educate themselves any way possible to build this area of their business skills.