Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Tricia Sciortino, CEO of BELAY, located in Atlanta, GA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Most leaders struggle to staff with the right people as they grow. They need a team, but let's face it, hiring is complicated. Not anymore. Because whether our BELAY clients need highly vetted U.S.-based Virtual Assistants, Accounting Services, Social Media Managers, or Website Specialists, we have the right person ready to help them grow their business without the added stress of having to do everything on their own.
We're an industry-winning, 100-percent virtual staffing solutions company established in 2010, and we've won countless awards for our culture and employee satisfaction. Our proprietary matching process pairs our clients with contractors who are accepted by standards more rigorous than Harvard's, only accepting just over three percent of those who apply. So now, instead of managing minutia better left to someone else, leaders can spend more time doing what only they can do: Growing their organization.
Tell us about yourself
I was the No. 1 District Manager at a large retail chain, and for 12 years, I was traveling and working 80-hour weeks, including weekends and holidays. Then, a pivotal life moment. I had my first daughter, and I (like many other parents) found myself struggling to balance my high-profile career with my new role as a mother. And after a year of trying desperately to juggle both being as present a parent as I could be while leaving nearly everything I had on the road week in and week out, I had had enough.
I walked in and gave notice, much to their surprise. I had no idea where I'd go and what I'd do next. All I did know, however, was that wasn't it. Three months later, we moved from New York to North Carolina, knowing no one and with no idea what I'd do, but it would have to be something because I was going bonkers staying home. Serendipitously, a temp agency found me a part-time job covering someone's maternity leave, and I stayed there for five years.
Life was good. But then a colleague and his wife had an idea. They wanted to start their own business and asked if I wanted to join them. I was going through a divorce, and the economy was tanking. I should've said no. Everything in my life was in an upheaval, and something safe and stable would've seemed like the right choice. Or rather the safe choice. Everything said, 'Don't do this.' But my gut? My gut said, 'Yippee ki yay!' So off I went, into the great unknown, with faith in myself to forge my own path, follow my passion and build a career around my purpose. And that and the people I lead and work with for whom I have so much respect and admiration motivate me every single day.
What's your biggest accomplishment?
I was the first employee hired by the founders, starting in November 2010, as their Executive Assistant. From there, I ran the sales department, then marketing, and so on and so on, until I was BELAY's COO. I was on a roll. So when, in 2016, one of the founders asked what my B.H.A.G. (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) was, I said I wanted to be BELAY's CEO. You have to shoot your shot, right? He said no. Just … no. He said he would always be the CEO. It was sobering and forced me to reevaluate everything. What was left for me at BELAY, if not that? But then I realized even if it took ten years; he would one day be ready to grow in his own B.H.A.G., which would require replacing himself as CEO. So I replotted my course. From that moment, I began to take on more responsibility, which over time, allowed the founders to take their first sabbatical in the summer of 2019. I exemplified what it meant to be a leader, and it showed. I believed in my future as CEO of BELAY early on, and this mindset dictated how I made decisions and how I skilled up, all to be ready for when they'd want me to lead as CEO. What did I learn? Never say never and always avoid always, right? And to be ready for when not if, the next opportunity presents itself.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a CEO?
I'm a very goal-oriented person. I have laser focus when I set my mind to something (see above for the story of my journey from EA to CEO for proof). So, like the rest of the world, I had my 2020 visions cast. I had my 2020 plans all laid out. I was ready for the new year, full of promise and hope. Then, a global pandemic happened. We make plans, and God laughs, right? But it's times like those. Times that don't go according to plan define us and our legacy. Not just as leaders but as people, too. Will you be rigid and unyielding, unable or unwilling to identify new opportunities and reimagine your path? Or will you instead humble yourself and recognize that life happens, and in response, we must remain agile and nimble? So I had to make peace with changing course. I've had to accept that it's OK to reverse decisions if I realize my original plan may no longer work. It's good leadership – confident leadership – that instead chooses to evaluate and reevaluate decisions based on changing needs and circumstances. And while that was a difficult lesson to learn, it was immeasurably valuable and has informed every plan and goal since.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Harness Your Grit & Trust Your Gut. Leadership takes courage and confidence, so people need to learn to harness their grit and trust their gut. Because let's be real, even the most capable people struggle with doubt, costing themselves and their organizations time, money, and opportunities. So this 'tip' helps remind us that we can defeat doubt, gain confidence, and achieve our goals so that if opportunity doesn't come knocking, we'll build ourselves a door.
- Delegate or Die. Delegation isn't simply a way of unloading your responsibilities. It's how business owners and leaders can benefit from the powerful, multiplying effects of entrusting others to do that for which they were hired. Because, as you delegate, you not only free yourself from a busyness mountain of your own creation, but you also, in turn, develop the kind of employees and leaders that allow you, them, and your business to grow.
- "No" Is A Complete Sentence. And you don't have to explain yourself or go into great detail. You can still be grateful and thank the person for the invite or opportunity while simply saying you can't do what they're asking right now. The demands on your time – combined with the sense of responsibility you feel for your clients, employees, vendors, and family – often compels you to say 'yes' to every request and stretch yourself so thin as you attempt to support everyone well. But you know who you fail to support – and who you actually say' no' to – when you say 'yes' to everyone else? Yourself. Because when you say 'yes' to everyone and everything else, you're saying 'no' to pouring back into yourself – and that's an investment you can't afford to skip. Most simply, it comes down to one banal platitude: You can't pour from an empty cup. And when all else fails, remind yourself that "it takes 'no' to grow."
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.