Does Undercover Boss Shelly Sun Have Bright Star Power? (Video)

job interview Here's the question: When Shelly Sun, CEO and co-founder of BrightStar Care, one of the nation's fastest growing providers of private health care for adults and children, goes away for a week to shoot 'Undercover Boss,' does she hire any of her own employees to take care of her 6-year-old twin boys?

Her answer is that she didn't, but she would have if her in-laws and her husband hadn't been available. "I would trust any of my employees with my sons," she told AOL. "We all feel it's an honor to take care of families in their time of need."

Shelly and her husband, J.D., founded BrightStar Care in 2002, began franchising in 2005, and it has already grown to more than 11,000 employees working out of 11,000 locations in 37 states. They serve more than 10,000 families across the nation, providing care for people of all ages in the home as well as staffing for hospitals, nursing homes and doctors offices.

Unlike so many other companies, there wasn't the slightest power struggle or attitude adjustment when Shelly, who just turned 40, became the CEO, rather than her husband, J.D., who is a founding partner. "He's very supportive, and our skills are different," says Shelly. "We have completely different roles and responsibilities. I'm the manager, and he takes care of sales." He's also responsible for franchise development.

And they're off

Since they're a team, J.D. covered one of the four 'Undercover Boss' tasks. He went to Sierra Vista, Ariz. where he worked with George, a caregiver at an Independent Living Facility. Although J.D. helped with laundry, general cleanup and even did dishes, and although he was charming and had a ready smile, he was not nearly as popular with the residents as George was. When calling bingo, they complained that J.D. wasn't loud enough and was going too fast, so they vociferously called for George to replace him.

job interview J.D. learned that George was going to nursing school, and had one year left. So in the end, when Shelly revealed her identity as CEO in brand new offices that had not been fully moved into yet, she offered to pay for George's last year of school. In addition, since he was such an excellent employee, she created a new global ambassador position for him, so that when he'd finished school he could travel the world on behalf of BriteStar and help establish new franchises. George accepted gratefully and humbly.

Shelly's first job was also in Sierra Vista, Ariz., where she worked on an Army base with a care giver named James, providing child care to a family with a great need. BrightStar's Kid Care program, which includes babysitting, accounts for about 10 percent of their business, but they would like to up that to 25 percent. They started Kid Care in 2009, motivated by the fact that their twins were premature and in incubators for a few months. Once they brought them home, Shelly and J.D. wanted a private caregiver, not untrained babysitters.

The clients Shelly helped with had twice the needs she had had, because there were 2-year-old quadruplets who needed tending, while their father served in Iraq. Shelly and her supervisor took care of the children's needs from the time they opened their eyes in the morning, and set up a Skype moment so the father could communicate with his children on the family's computer. Shelly was overwhelmed with the difference between caring for two children and four, all at the same time, and was visibly repelled when asked to change a diaper.

Nice to have a man around the house

James took it in stride, however, helpfully coaching Shelly through it all. It was unusual for Shelly's co-worker on the task to be a man, since most of their child care providers are female. But she was extremely impressed with how he interacted with the children. He mentioned that he was having a hard time deciding what he wanted to do for a career, so in the end, Shelly paid for a career coach to help him decide how to spend the $10,000 seed money she also gave him. All that, plus a week long vacation for James and one other person of his choice, and $1,000 spending money. James tearfully accepted, and said he would be taking his mother.


Antioch, Calif., was Shelly's next stop. There she worked in a nursing home with Arlene, a certified nursing assistant in a temp situation. BrightStar provides temporary help when permanent employees are out sick or on vacation. Shelly learned to truly appreciate the hands-on skills of her employees and the fact that theirs are not easy tasks. She slathered so much cocoa butter on one patient he asked if she was planning to fry him, and found out how challenging it is to shower patients -- and even style hair.

Arlene had a very positive attitude, and told Shelly she'd had a daughter at 16, and was now 24 and didn't have a lot of time to spend with her, because she was working and going to school to become an RN. She also admitted to having the spirit of an entrepreneur, and had the desire to one day start her own business.

It wasn't a surprise when Shelly offered to give Arlene and her daughter a paid vacation at the family theme park of their choice, but that loud clatter you heard Sunday night was jaws hitting the floor across the country when Shelly offered Arlene a $47,500 franchise of her own in the area when she finished school.

Home care is where the heart is

AOL Jobs Asks
Undercover Boss Shelly Sun
5 Quick Questions

1. What was your first job? Working in a shoe store (and I still love shoes to this day)

2. What inspires you? Making a difference in people's lives

3. What is the most important trait needed to succeed? Positive attitude

4. What is your biggest challenge? Allowing myself to sleep (I usually get by on 4-6 hours)

5. What is the best career advice you ever received? Don't be afraid to ask for help

Finally, Shelly gave in-home care to clients, working with a licensed practical nurse, named Lisa in Centerville, Ohio. They checked vital signs, tested muscle strength, etc. Lisa was patient with Shelly as she taught her the necessary skills, and remarked that she was a fast learner. Lisa was infinitely kind, patient and professional with the patients.

Shelly was distressed to learn the nurse is thinking of leaving BrightStar, since the hours were not consistent enough and she needed all she could get since her husband was about to lose his job and they had six children to support. Shelly quickly came to her aid, starting a new, company-wide policy where workers from nearby franchises could be pooled and have more work. But that was just the beginning: Shelly also offered to send the entire family to Cancun, where the parents had been married, and pay the family's rent for six months.

"My husband and I got into this business because we really wanted to make a difference," Shelly said. Ever since the Suns began BrightStar Care, they've been making intense efforts to upgrade and improve, both their service to their clients and their opportunities for employees. Shelly says the 'Undercover Boss' experience was invaluable for both.

"I was able to see the honor and responsibility we have in caring for families," she said, adding that now they are more committed than ever to "making everyone's day as beautiful as it can be."


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Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell

Editor

Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award-winning multi-media journalist and author of Career Comeback--Repackage Yourself to Get the Job You Want.  Her work has been translated into 20 different languages, and she is a frequent expert guest and commentator on news and talk shows. She has been featured in The Wall St. Journal, on the CBS Early Show, NBC Today, CNBC, Fox Business News, Dr. Phil, Oprah.com and many other media outlets.  Lisa discusses her AOL pieces each week and interviews vital guests on the web TV show, This Week in Careers. Learn more on LisaJohnsonMandell.com.

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BudThePatriot

this show has made me boycott a few Corporations cause of the greed and not taking better care of their employee's...i think this show is more damaging to most Corporations that are on it..i can only say i trust one Company that may have actually changed and did better for Employee's..The rest i will do my best to go elsewhere and hope they treat their better.

March 13 2012 at 5:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
auntiebeth58

I loved the under cover boss of Shelly Sun. I have worked for a Health Care company for 25 years and they do nothing but, take,take, from us. I was told I can have only 1 weeks vacation this year and maybe a free weeken and they would let us know if the week we chose would be o.k. that was not a deffinate. We worked Easter with no time and a half and had to pay for our dinner. I would love to have Shelly for a boss !! I think she was a wonderful person and I would be so Happy working for a place like that. I feel like I have wasted 25 years for nothing. I have cryed with the familys and laughed with the familys and I give the same care to every patient as I would like my Mother of Father to have. I am now looking to go to a Health care place where I feel I would be appreciated. That is my goal this year. Thank you Shelly for being who you are !

April 28 2011 at 3:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Timboy

Id be careful with a company like Bright Star. Many of the caregivers have no significant experience. My 2 cents. These 2 saw an opportunity to capitalize on the aging population. It had nothing to do with their grandmother although that makes a nice "story" to try to capture the hearts of the elderly and the guilty.

Bright Star is a franchise and like any franchise care is not consistent. The people engaged in the franchise only care about 1 thing. MONEY.

I think what someone should ( Boss..hint hint) is visit your franchise offices and see how badly the support people are treated. Yes, working with a caregiver is important because they are the face of your business with clients, but miserable support staff is going to result in miserable service overall.

April 18 2011 at 10:11 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Timboy's comment
Shelly Sun

I just had to write because the quality of our care is so personally important to me. 95% of our caregivers have a certificate as a CNA or higher across the country. We require 1 year of home care experience before placing a caregiver in someone's home. We had no idea that we would enter this field when we risked every time in our checking account to start the business but I am grateful for the families and caregivers lives that we have been touched by. We screen our franchisees very carefully to ensure they are getting into the business for the right reasons and only accept .5% (yes, less than 1%) of those that apply to join. We do have a full team of corporate staff that visit every franchise office to ensure quality and we also were the first in our industry to have an independent company send surveys to every family to ensure their experience was high. We measure and monitor net promoter score (question that asks a client if they would recommend us to friends and family that corporate nor the franchisee are able to intercept as 100% of the surveys are handled by Press Ganey). Our caregivers receive free continuing education - up to 26 hours - so they do not have to pay privately for that and we have a brand standard to pay 2-10% above market for home care because we know that caregivers are the face of our brand and we only want the best.

April 23 2011 at 9:37 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Shelly Sun's comment
usa45bennett

Shelly , I think you and your husband are awesome. I just finished watching Uncover Boss., You both did a great job. I googled your locations in my area and the closest one is Venna .WV . I thought 2 weeks ago I would need to go to a rest home after I went in to the Muskinghum River on my motorcycle. At 66 you would think I know better to stay on 4 wheels . I'm a tough old bird I guess. This messed up my once a month visits to our 2 local nursing homes. I'm chaplan of our VFW Motorcycle Rides club, and Memorial Day is always special to me and to miss my visit this time was heart breaking, as I was home recuperating.
I lost my husband 4 years ago and did'nt get to his grave . I see a lot when I'm in the nursing homes here in McConnelsville,Ohio . One is all about money they other is all about their patients. To bad we don't have Bright Star closer. Shelly you and your company have big hearts, I enjoyed the show very much , been a while since I had a good cry. keep up the great work taking care of people. God Bless Margaret Bennett

June 01 2012 at 10:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
mcwhomper

i didn't even switch to boss when flipping through the channels but i bet i can tell you about the show like i bet at least one or more of the workers or boss cried and one or more of them are trying to get through school but has finantial problems and more than likely one of them is struggling to raise thier family if i'm right give me a thumbs up ok

April 18 2011 at 10:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ugograms123

I watched the program and thought it was realy great

April 18 2011 at 8:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
TomSr.

why would anyone , air out there private affairs, of which is so personal to the heart

April 18 2011 at 7:38 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to TomSr.'s comment
Shelly Sun

I can see how you may feel that way but now that I have been a "boss" I love the show even more. I had no idea what caregivers (or what states) were selected and I knew nothing about the caregivers when I met them. You are living in the moment with each caregiver and what you find out is about wanting to get to know them and really listening. All of the caregivers I met were wonderful.
As for my own personal journey, I wouldn't have probably chosen to cry on national TV (I don't know anyone that would) but as you are filming 18-20 hours per day, day after day and then trying to check in with the office to do "your day job" you are exhausted. Nothing is scripted. You are asked questions and you don't know what they will be and you answer them on camera. When asked about my Dad (not knowing that question was coming) I couldn't hold back the memories or sense of loss since it feels like yesterday that I sat beside him in his hospital bed rather than it being 18 months ago.
I just think it helps to understand the authenticity of the show to appreciate the personal journey is important to what makes the show special and makes the impact long-lasting for me.

April 23 2011 at 9:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mark Carter

People who decide to have SIX kids shouldn't be too surprised when making ends meet becomes difficult, unless they want to get their own reality show, in which case they can have dozens and dozens.

April 18 2011 at 7:27 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Mark Carter's comment
Shelly Sun

Lisa is a sweetheart and didn't have 6 kids. She has a "Brady Bunch" family combined with her 3 children and her husband's 3 kids. She is a wonderful person and it was an honor to meet her.

April 23 2011 at 9:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Shelly Sun's comment
difs

I give you tremendous credit for your transparency and the courage to experience your business from the ground instead of the corner office. Very moving, especially when you Skyped the soldier in Iraq with the quadruplets.
God bless and best of luck.

April 28 2011 at 10:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
yogurtma

i know how she fells be there. i know it hurts i lost both of my parents. i just lost my mom march 14 2011. so i know . i love my mom and dad. god be with her. .

April 18 2011 at 7:07 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to yogurtma's comment
Teresa

so sorry for the loss of your mother so recently. much peace to you and your family at this time.

April 18 2011 at 7:26 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Shelly Sun

I am so sorry for the loss of your mother.

April 23 2011 at 9:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
buckyboysmom

i watched the show and was impressed...something i am usually not able to find; i think they are a lovely couple with good morals, principles and work ethics. it is absolutely normal to "second guess" our actions when it comes to our parents; be assured that they are watching us and cheering us on and wishing us the best. i lost both parents in 2006 within 6 weeks of each other and there isn't a day that goes by that i don't miss them ....i ask their guidance and protection all the time. God bless .......

April 18 2011 at 6:45 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
lacamo2006@Yyahoo.co

i luv this show

April 18 2011 at 6:32 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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