Always forgive yourself and be the best you can be! I have learned the true art of prioritizing and balance. Some days I know I will have to pay more attention to work items, and other days I’ll be a super mom. Overall, it balances out to be phenomenal at both. Give to each as they need you most and be intentional with small blocks of quality time that even a busy CEO can commit to.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Shelly Sun. Shelly is the CEO and Founder of BrightStar Care®. BrightStar Care® is a national private duty home care and medical staffing franchise with more than 330 locations which provide medical and non-medical services to clients within their homes, as well as supplemental care staff to corporate clients. 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.
Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?
I never thought I’d be an entrepreneur, but it all started in 2001 when I was looking for care for my grandmother. There wasn’t a high-quality, dependable care provider that I felt would take care of her better than we could. After I lost my grandmother, I 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, we opened the first BrightStar Care. When I opened my first BrightStar Care, I met with my first ever potential client to discuss his skilled needs. After we talked for some time, I asked him to please consider me for his needs, and with a smile, he gave me the opportunity. Over the years, he not only became a client, but also a close friend. When he moved away to be closer to his family, he wasn’t going to go anywhere unless my care came with him. I continued his care with a 24-hour nursing team and was there for him every step of the way. We expanded in 2005 through franchising after investing in a hotel franchise and believed BrightStar Care could franchise too. Serving families everywhere was always an important piece of the puzzle since the inception of BrightStar Care as I desired to provide a high-quality dependable senior care resource to families in need across the globe.
Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?
I am a hands-on Mom when I am not traveling, I take my kids to school and pick them up, make them dinner, and ensure they do their homework. Before the boys wake-up, I squeeze in a work-out, and I always focus on face-to-face time with my team during my workday. I believe a hands-on approach is the way to conquering balance with work and family. I always think it’s great to set parameters and rules and truly to stick to them. For example, when the boys get home from school, we spend quality time together. Whether that’s talking about our days, telling memorable stories, or cooking together, we always find time to connect. When it’s time to do homework, I will focus on catching up on emails. On the weekends, the boys love to play video games, and I’ll take that time for myself to focus on a couple of work items. We truly balance what we like to do together, and it works in our favor.
Can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?
Spending quality time with my boys is important so they know they are loved. As such, I make time for them to do the things they enjoy, such as Top Golf, archery, rock climbing, or hiking. I also think it is very important to spend individual time with my boys — especially since they are twins and rarely get individual time. I have focused on 1:1 time for college visits and then added weekend trips around their interests, such as theater or cooking classes. For us, it is all about quality time, verse quantity time. The time I spend with my boys is cherished, and I never take for granted a single moment.
According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children while balancing your career?
My boys and I plan our vacations together to share an immersive experience. I think it’s important to be fully engaged when we’re all together. We have gone to Peru, piranha fishing on the Amazon, hiked Machu Picchu, and went on a safari in Africa.
My boys and I also will take advantage of downtime. We frequently relax together to watch a TV show or movie that we all enjoy. I always think it’s important to soak up downtime with your kids, even if one of us might fall asleep sometimes!
It is incredibly important for me to share my work with my kids so they can truly understand the lives that BrightStar Care has had the honor to touch. They attend our annual Franchisee Convention to see my opening presentation and dance with me at our Gala. Last summer, my boys went with me to visit a quadriplegic client that I had the honor to take care of for 17 years. This was an eye-opening experience for them that allowed my boys to see why I work so hard. I love sharing these moments with them because I want them to see what it takes to make a difference. They were able to hear firsthand from my past client that Mommy was the reason he was able to watch his grandchildren grow up — and went as far as telling my boys that I saved his life. The wonder on my boys’ faces and the pride in their eyes was a moment I always will treasure. Sometimes in merging career and family, the greatest understanding and heartfelt moment could occur.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?
I believe there are many ways to be fully present, but my rules and strategies that have worked are:
1. No phones at dinner.
2. A planned four-hour activity on the weekend where we all focus on one another. I believe sometimes this is overlooked and should be a way to bond with your children. Mending your hobbies to fit into one activity.
3. I am all about planned vacations. We plan an active immersive vacation in the summer and a relaxed vacation around the holidays.
4. We plan time for their video games and my email checking, so we all have our time-out time and then we have our “fully present” time without the resentment or guilt.
5. Always forgive yourself and be the best you can be! I have learned the true art of prioritizing and balance. Some days I know I will have to pay more attention to work items, and other days I’ll be a super mom. Overall, it balances out to be phenomenal at both. Give to each as they need you most and be intentional with small blocks of quality time that even a busy CEO can commit to.
How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?
It’s all about quality over quantity. It’s important to remember that those small, memorable moments will be cherished and to never be hard on yourself. If you are attentive to your career and family in a healthy manner, you are a good parent. Being a parent of two children, especially twins, it’s also important to remember they are individuals. They both have different needs and wants, and you should be able to cater and personalize your time accordingly.
How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?
I teach my children that no dream is out of reach. I actively have them involved in my work, so that they can see firsthand what it’s like to be an entrepreneur. I think it’s important they see their goals before reaching for them. They are teens now, and we have started touring colleges because I think it’s important; they start to map out — what they want and what they are going to do to get it.
How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?
It’s all about giving your all. Some days I know I will have to be a better CEO than a Mom, and most days, I will be a better Mom than CEO, but overall, it balances out to be great at both. Success can be defined many ways, but if at the end of the day, you feel proud of your accomplishments with your career and family, then you are successful.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?
Recommendation: “The Gifts of Imperfect Parenting: Raising Children with Courage, Compassion and Connection” by Brené Brown
Brene Brown is one of my favorite authors and has written a number of leadership and personal development books that resonate with me. This book, in particular, has shown me we are our own biggest critic — and while we know perfect parenting does not exist — we struggle with the social expectation that being imperfect means we are inadequate. This book has helped me move past this. Another concept that is especially prevalent in my life today has been being able to explain the value of respect and hard work in a culture of “fun, fast, and easy.”
One of my favorite lines from the book is “It’s actually our ability to embrace imperfection that will help us teach our children to have the courage to be authentic, the compassion to love themselves and others, and the sense of connection that gives true purpose and meaning in life.”
Thank you for all of these great insights!