BrightStar Care's Shelly Sun: From Frustrated Consumer to CEO
What was the best piece of advice you received when starting the business?
Sun: We really tried to spend time and talk to entrepreneurs. What we heard from them most frequently was starting a business is hard; it's going to take resilience, but if you're really passionate about what you're doing and you stay committed, then you can be successful. The best piece of advice that I got was a realistic expectation that there would be good and bad days, but with hard work and resilience, positive attitude and a passion for what we were doing that would see us through.
What do you think are the biggest challenges for women-owned businesses today?
Sun: For any business owner -- and women are no different -- capital access is a challenge today. I think the regulatory environment and the shifting sands of that is difficult for businesses today. The impending cost changes with health-care reform and tax changes make it very difficult for small-business owners to predict the viability and the growth of their business model in the near term. We've been in business for 10 years now, and I never remember a period of time where I had less confidence 12 to 24 months out. I have a lot of confidence 36 to 60 months out.
Why are women good business owners?
Sun: Small businesses succeed in the long term because they understand in the very beginning that cash is king and you have to make sure that it's not about the egos or seeing your name on the side of a bus or a billboard. Generally women tend to have lower egos and tend to be fiscally conservative of making sure that an ounce of this is going to last a week versus trying to use it up today. In terms of small-business owners, it's the long marathon, it's not the sprint. Women can be very well-positioned to run the long-distance marathons because of that fiscal conservatism. Rarely will I see a woman hire someone just because it would be nice to have. They do it when there is no other way around spending that money and creating that position. They tend to be more resilient and tend to have more financial reserves.
What lessons did you learn from Undercover Boss?
Sun: As a CEO, it definitely taught and encouraged humility. It's very emotional long days -- in my case having to wear scrubs that don't look good on any woman -- but also really causing an ability to embrace a continuous process of improvement. What I was pleased to see about the show is that I would have hired any of our caregivers to take care of my children or to take care of my own loved ones. But also seeing that there was still an opportunity to do what we do great even better.