Home Interviews Stephen Bryson of Home Instead: How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur

Stephen Bryson of Home Instead: How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur

by Christina Gvaliant
Stephen Bryson of Home Instead: How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur

Being a founder, entrepreneur, or a business owner can have many exciting and thrilling moments. But it is also punctuated with periods of doubt, slump, and anxiety. So how does one successfully and healthily ride the highs and lows of Entrepreneurship? In this series, called “How To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur  we are talking to successful entrepreneurs who can share stories from their experience. I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephen Bryson.

Stephen Bryson grew up in Glasgow, Kentucky, and graduated from the University of Kentucky. After college, Stephen served for eight years as an officer in the United States Army, including deployments in Operation Enduring Freedom. As the franchise owner at the local Home Instead Senior Care office, Stephen is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the business, including managing all employees as well as serving all his clients. Stephen’s wife’s family also experienced the challenges of caring for a family member early in Bryson’s married life. Searching for a career to love and change lives, the couple opened their first office in Owensboro, Kentucky, in 2010. They also opened offices in Henderson, Kentucky, in 2015 and in Paducah, Kentucky, in 2019.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Stephen Bryson: I have always had a heart for serving others. As a child, the Boy Scouts of America played a role in my life, and “Do a Good Turn Daily” was the slogan, which I took seriously. That often involved assisting my only surviving grandparent, my grandmother, Virginia Bryson. I attended the University of Kentucky on an Army ROTC scholarship and continued my life of service as an Army officer in the 3rd Infantry Division, including deployment during Operation Enduring Freedom. After my Army service, I was in pharmaceutical sales, which provided well for my family, but I wanted to serve people more closely. After praying for a new direction, I found Home Instead through dear friends at my church, who are also Home Instead franchise owners to this day. Home Instead has provided me with the service commitment I have always searched for in a career.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led to the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

Stephen Bryson: I enjoyed my first post-military job in pharmaceutical sales, but I felt too disconnected from the people I was helping. After meeting Brad Cannon, a Home Instead franchise owner who had just opened his franchise, I witnessed firsthand the trials and rewards he experienced from his career and community service. Brad and I had been friends for years, so I asked him to go to lunch with me, and I explained my interest in becoming a Home Instead franchise owner. That was my first step toward a new career as an entrepreneur.

In your opinion, were you a natural born entrepreneur or did you develop that aptitude later on? Can you explain what you mean?

Stephen Bryson: I was 100% NOT a “natural-born entrepreneur”. I was simply looking for meaningful work in my life, specifically serving others. Through my parents, I learned that honesty and hard work are cornerstones to being successful in anything I would endeavor to do in life. Rather than take credit for being a “natural-born entrepreneur” or being smart enough to open and run a business, I was absolutely the opposite. I knew nothing about running or owning a business. I first and foremost credit God with placing this desire in my spirit and also giving me the stubbornness to never quit when faced with challenges. Service in the Army prepared me to lead others and work hard with a “never surrender” attitude. Although I didn’t initially have the knowledge to succeed, I had the desire and willingness to work hard to overcome any obstacle in my path to success.

Was there somebody in your life who inspired or helped you to start your journey with your business? Can you share a story with us?

Stephen Bryson: Brad Cannon, a friend, and Home Instead franchise owner was my inspiration. I saw him open his business in 2002–2003. He is a great franchise owner to this day. We started as friends on the church league softball field and our families became close. He proved to me it was possible to walk away from corporate America and succeed on your own.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Stephen Bryson: Our company stands out because the people who work at Home Instead, the world’s leading provider of in-home care services for older adults, really do love and care about the people they serve. One of our clients became a dear friend of mine. His name was Hayward, and he had dementia. While our caregivers assisted Hayward, I was often called when there were problems. One night I was called at midnight when Hayward had become agitated and was wandering from his apartment complex. Our caregiver kept him safe, and when I arrived, we shared a Bible study to calm him down, and then I helped put him to bed. He became a close friend, and upon his death, his family asked me to be a pallbearer at his funeral. I will always love Hayward.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Stephen Bryson: 

Be Humble. Never think you can do everything yourself. True leadership comes from the ability to inspire people to collectively achieve a common goal. Running a business is a team activity encompassing a lot of individual tasks, but ultimately focused on a common goal. When our company achieves a goal, I always try to give credit to the entire team. Our franchise became the №1 producing “Hours per Senior” franchise in the entire Home Instead network. That means we provided thousands of hours of service to our community. This takes tremendous teamwork and is far beyond what anyone person can do, including me. Again, be humble!

Be Committed. Serving others takes a sincere commitment. In our line of work, people don’t only ask for your help when it’s convenient. If you have a service or product that people want, you have to commit to providing it to the best of your ability. For example, we often get asked for help on Fridays when someone is being released from the hospital. Everyone wants to go home and enjoy the weekend, but our service is helping people and that doesn’t end on Friday afternoon. We do what it takes to help — ALWAYS.

Be Stubborn. It is important to be stubborn about doing the right thing. You should have values in your organization that aren’t open for debate. If you do the right thing, even when it’s the most difficult, it will serve you and your organization well in the long run. Sometimes people might want to cut corners, but when leaders stand for the right values, ultimately you win respect, and you can feel good about what you do every day.

Often leaders are asked to share the best advice they received. But let’s reverse the question. Can you share a story about advice you’ve received that you now wish you never followed?

Stephen Bryson: “Don’t stick your neck out too far.” I’ve heard this suggestion many times, where essentially you should avoid taking risks As a young officer in the Army I had the opportunity to train for the “German Proficiency Badge” but it was extremely difficult and competitive. I wasn’t sure I could do it, so I didn’t try. The decision to “not try” has haunted me ever since. To this day I always wondered if I could have accomplished that feat. Now I value that lesson. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t get the badge, but it truly matters that I learned to take the risk and push myself to achieve more than others think I can. I take calculated risks, not foolish ones. There is a difference!

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them create a work culture in which employees thrive and do not “burn out” or get overwhelmed?

Stephen Bryson: I think “Leadership by Example,” part of my military training, is key to being able to lead your team and not create burnout or overwhelming conditions. It is easier to do a job that is explained and demonstrated for you rather than simply being told to do it. People follow leaders more effectively when the leader shows the way and sets the example through their actions.

What would you advise other business leaders to do in order to build trust, credibility, and Authority in their industry?

Stephen Bryson: I believe it is important to always do things the right way. Be bulletproof and beyond reproach. Be the person and company that people can call and count on to get things done! This comes down to your level of commitment and how much you are willing to do to meet the expectations of the people and community you serve.

Can you help articulate why doing that is essential today?

Stephen Bryson: That’s simple. It is essential that we help older adults have the personalized care they need to be able to live out their lives in their homes through Home Instead — literally! Without our CAREGivers and our home care industry, the old model of the facility and hospital care would be completely overwhelmed and unable to function. Our company and our CAREGivers are truly essential, more now than ever!

What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?

Stephen Bryson: People try to do everything themselves. We as individuals have a finite capacity. You must trust people to do more on their own, without you holding their hand.

Ok fantastic. Thank you for those excellent insights, Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about How to Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur. The journey of an entrepreneur is never easy, and is filled with challenges, failures, setbacks, as well as joys, thrills and celebrations. This might be intuitive, but I think it will be very useful to specifically articulate it. Can you describe to our readers why no matter how successful you are as an entrepreneur, you will always have fairly dramatic highs and lows? Particularly, can you help explain why this is different from someone with a “regular job”?

Stephen Bryson: As employees in a company, our employers need to structure things for their employees so that it is predictable. For example, salaries need to be predictable for the company to know labor costs, and the employee needs to know what they will make. Much like the salary, the risks are similar. As an employee you have fewer risks, you can always get another job. As an entrepreneur, you have to be fully invested to succeed well. As an entrepreneur the risks are larger, but so are the rewards. With this wide gap from employee to entrepreneur comes the dramatic highs and lows. As you grow as an entrepreneur in business, you find that you have to take bigger steps than you did last year to continue to grow. Often those bigger steps involve bigger risks. When things work well, the reward is big; when it doesn’t, it can result in sleepless nights (the lows). Either way you have to decide if you are willing to accept these dramatic differences. If you can’t or don’t want to, take the “regular job.” If you are looking for an exciting ride (both the good and bad), then you just might be an entrepreneur.

Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually high and excited as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.

Stephen Bryson: It was in 2010 when I first started the business. One day, after the franchise had been open for several months, I saw that my HR Coordinator was teaching a new hire class and my Scheduling Coordinator was getting other employees where they needed to be. For a brief moment, I watched the business functioning without me. I saw that what I was building was a machine that was beginning to work as intended. It was a super-satisfying moment. It was a brief experience, but I will always remember it. After the success I felt at that moment, I got back to work “on the business,” not losing myself “in the business.”

Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your own experience about how you felt unusually low, and vulnerable as a result of your business? We would love to hear it.

Stephen Bryson: It was literally a dark day. It was very rainy, and our services did not meet the expectations of the family we served. I personally drove down the street to the client’s house and went to their doorstep in the rain and asked to come in to talk about resolving the issue. The family declined to let me in. They weren’t interested in talking as they had already formed an opinion of my company. I was literally left standing in the rain. I vowed to myself to get better and never to allow that to happen again. Sometimes low points can be the best learning points.

Based on your experience can you tell us what you did to bounce back?

Stephen Bryson: Never quit. Always work to improve.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “Five Things You Need To Successfully Ride The Emotional Highs & Lows Of Being An Entrepreneur”? Please share a story or an example for each.

Stephen Bryson:


Don’t get too high with the highs. Stay grounded, don’t get carried away, and overestimate how good the day is.


Don’t get too low with the lows. Again, stay grounded and don’t let yourself drown in self-pity.


Be an example to others. Make sure that you teach the same things you believe in to your employees.


Stay balanced. People need to see stability. Their leader needs to have emotional stability, as well as professional stability.


Never give up. When things look their worst, that’s when you have opportunity to shine the most. It’s easy to be a leader when things are going well, but it takes someone of strong character to step up in challenging times. It can be done, but you can’t quit.

We are living during challenging times and resilience is critical during times like these. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Stephen Bryson: Simply not giving up is my definition of resilience. We all face challenges, but what matters is what you learn from those challenges and how you respond. Tenacity, stubbornness, loyalty, and positive thinking are all characteristics you will need to be resilient.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Would you mind sharing a story?

Stephen Bryson: As I was growing up, the family was the most important thing in my life. This was modeled to me by my own parents My parents were blue-collar workers who had high school education. Their experiences after high school taught them that high school wasn’t enough and that education was important. At an early age, I was always told that “going to college” was really important. Education alone is not the only key though. My parents raised my two sisters and me through hard work. My parents both worked, and we were expected to help around the house. My sisters cleaned and cooked, and I was responsible for cutting wood and bringing it in for the woodstove, as well as feeding animals and mending fences on our small farm. Writing that seems like we might have been in a different century! The bottom line is that we had chores and responsibilities and were taught to work and get the job done. Usually, we weren’t paid, it was just part of being a family. Working hard has led to my resilience. Seeing my parents work hard and teaching me has always made me feel that I am responsible for myself.

When I was commissioned in the U.S. Army, I wanted to be a pilot, yet that didn’t happen. I was crushed. Still, I decided to be the best Army officer I could be, and I left the Army with top ratings and awards in my Combat Engineer Battalion by simply working hard and doing my best. Later when I lost my job in pharmaceutical sales, I decided my new job was to find a better one. I worked full time for two days and found a new, better, and higher-paying job. Anytime a door has closed, one has opened because I have been taught to work hard and see things positively. My faith in God has allowed me to be resilient both professionally and personally. I credit God’s blessing in my life. He is the one that gave me the will to succeed.

In your opinion, do you tend to keep a positive attitude during difficult situations? What helps you to do so?

Stephen Bryson: I certainly try to, but I’m human, and I can struggle with negative thoughts, but I don’t let myself stay there. My faith in God and my wife’s encouragement help to get me through difficult times. My wife is great at reminding me of God’s love and compassion for us. That is my true comfort.

Can you help articulate why a leader’s positive attitude can have a positive impact both on their clients and their team? Please share a story or example if you can.

Stephen Bryson: Negativity is infectious. It is cancer. The cure is positivity. When you are focused on being positive, there is no room for negativity. During a snowstorm in 2018, my staff and I were working through the night and early mornings. They were long days. Instead of being negative, it was a time of bonding. We had pizza and wore blue jeans to work. We laughed and joked while getting work done at midnight. We chose the silver linings and embraced them. I wouldn’t want to repeat that work schedule, but we proved it can be done, and the mood was always light and good. A great memory of a great team!

Ok. Super. We are nearly done. What is your favorite inspirational quote that motivates you to pursue greatness? Can you share a story about how it was relevant to you in your own life?

Stephen Bryson: I like this quote from Yoda — “Do or do not, there is no try.” I love that. Yoda is the great Jedi Master! The message is simple, just make up your mind and do it. It might not be easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. I love the Yoda quote. I use it to lighten the mood with my team sometimes. They understand my point, and it’s hard for them not to smile!

How can our readers further follow you online?

Stephen Bryson: Our Owensboro, Henderson, and Paducah Home Instead Facebook pages. We try to update them often. Here are their links:

  • Owensboro: HomeInstead740
  • Henderson: HomeInsteadSeniorCareHendersonKY
  • Paducah: HomeInsteadPaducah

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with
this. We wish you continued success and good health!

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