This article originally appeared on Authority Magazine 9/26/18.
“My favorite life lesson quote is “Live everyday giving your best and making a difference.” I might not be the BEST entrepreneur or BEST mom, at times, but I wake up every single day saying I’m going to give it my best. Some days I spend more time with my family, and some days I spend more of my time focusing on the business. As long as I’m leaving society better than I found it, I feel like I’m succeeding in every avenue of my life.”
I [article author Yitzi Weiner] had the pleasure to interview Shelly Sun. Shelly is the CEO and Founder of BrightStar Group Holdings, Inc., the parent company of BrightStar Care® and BrightStar Senior Living & Memory Care. BrightStar Care® is a premium healthcare staffing company providing the full continuum of care, from homecare to supplemental staffing for corporate clients such as nursing homes and physicians. Shelly served as the International Franchise Association (IFA) Chairwoman 2017–2018, was named IFA 2009 Entrepreneur of the Year, and is a Certified Franchise Executive. Shelly has also published her first book, Grow Smart, Risk Less, where she discusses her journey as an emerging franchisor through amazing growth, lessons learned and game-changing ideas.
Thank you so much for joining us! What is your “backstory”?
I never thought I’d be an entrepreneur, but it all started in 2001 when I was looking for care for a family member. There was no “Neiman Marcus” of the senior care space, or high quality dependable care provider that I felt would take care of our family better than we could. In 2002, I lost a dear family member and believed there had to be other families out there that wished there was a place to turn to for help and peace of mind. Within 6 months of the unfortunate loss of my grandmother, we opened the first BrightStar Care. We expanded in 2004 through franchising after investing in a hotel franchise and believed BrightStar could franchise too. Serving families everywhere was always an important piece of the puzzle since the inception of BrightStar, as I desired to provide a high-quality dependable senior care resource to families in need across the globe.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
BrightStar Care stands out among the competition because we are all about dependability and truly believe in delivering the highest quality of service. Our expertise within the industry stems from being a nurse-led concept from the very beginning. We recognize that our nurses and caregivers are the heart of our company. They make miracles happen every single day and we love honoring them. Additionally, we have an annual ‘Caregiver of the Year’ program, where we take time to recognize one caregiver for each of our four regions within our system for going above and beyond our expectations. We read all of the nominations and share those prior to our convention with our franchisees so they can honor and recognize everyone who makes BrightStar Care possible. These are the most heartfelt stories and we always love reading them as it reminds us why we do what we do.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
I am a big believer in keeping a strong professional network. Whether that be through woman organizations, Young Professionals Organization (YPO), the International Franchise Association (IFA), or any other organization that may be beneficial to your company and yourself, learning best practices will always make your organization that much stronger. For instance, I love connecting my CMO to other CMO’s, as it not only helps build their network, but helps them see different angles and points of view that may not have been in their line of sight previously. By connecting with like-minded individuals, you are able to learn the most effective practices when it comes to compensation, development, and so much more. I’ve also personally adopted the book, Traction by Gino Wickman, in my company to get everyone on the same page in terms of prioritizing and seeing the big picture. We brought the book into the organization in 2013 and since then it has been a tremendous leap forward for us all. I’d advise all CEO’s to adopt this into their business model as its proven to be extremely beneficial for us in the long run.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have particular client that has been with me since the beginning that I am extremely grateful for who has inspired me to keep doing what I’m doing. I wouldn’t be in this position if someone else didn’t believe that what I’m doing matters. In 2002, two months after we opened, I met with an amazing quadriplegic man who was completely transparent from the get-go about this meeting just being a screening, as we were brand new. Knowing I didn’t come from a nursing background, he was hesitant, but our meeting ended up lasting for two hours and I expressed how deeply I cared about the cause, how I always keep my word, and how I would be there for every need the family had. He saw something in me and gave me a shot. This chance set me into motion and I was able to comfortably build a business with enough cash flow to keep us afloat. We have a mutual gratitude for one another and it’s been an honor to care for him and his family. Til this day, we remain close and just recently I was able to make a trip to see them, bringing my twin sons along. Having my sons see why mommy may not be around all the time was something I will always cherish as my boys were able to see what I do makes a difference in people’s lives. At BrightStar Care we are all about honoring and serving our clients. Relationships are everything in this business and our deep care for our patients is something we keep at the forefront of our business.
What are some things you wish someone told you before you became a CEO?
I wish someone would have told me how mentors would benefit me in the long run. Being a CEO can be a lonely place, as you have to be up for your clients and your employees, even when you may be a little scared of the next steps in your business or when you’re having a rough day. Having an advisory board, where you can have these conversations is important. I was on my own for longer than I should have been and didn’t realize this until 2004. I knew that having a group of people with whom I could be myself, discuss business and events, and vet some of my frustrations to would benefit not only myself, but the overall business. When I built the company, I wasn’t thinking of the challenges that come with being a CEO, but rather tried to focus on bringing a service that we lacked to fruition. At first, I underestimated the motivation from my past supervisors being something that really kept me going. As a CEO, no one is telling you that you are doing a great job — you have to live day by day motivating yourself.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
The obvious answer would be the fact that BrightStar Care brings a service to the world that helps the lives of families. That said, another accomplishment has been — by building such an amazing team — in 2017 I spread my passion for franchising and knowledge within the industry I care deeply about. I deeply desired to make an impact for the International Franchise Association because I’ve truly lived the American dream by being able to grow through franchising. By helping franchisees be more successful they are able to multiply the number of families that BrightStar Care can serve — this is the power of franchising. It’s been a very impactful year and I love having the voice to stimulate the growth of franchising and attract more potential franchisees to begin their American Dream because of franchising. I have tremendous pride and joy in franchising and the American Dreams franchising makes possible and I love being able to stimulate franchisee success in my day and night jobs (BrightStar Care and IFA).
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote is “Live everyday giving your best and making a difference.” I might not be the BEST entrepreneur or BEST mom, at times, but I wake up every single day saying I’m going to give it my best. Some days I spend more time with my family, and some days I spend more of my time focusing on the business. As long as I’m leaving society better than I found it, I feel like I’m succeeding in every avenue of my life.