YPO member Carmen Sample talks about building success, managing diverse businesses, learning from failure and the inadvisability of slowing down.
“I wake up every day looking forward to solving problems,” says YPO member Carmen Sample, the Founder and CEO of Sample Supports.
That is undoubtedly a useful mindset for someone whose network of businesses features such diverse enterprises as a restaurant (along with a food truck and catering business), a metaphysical jewelry store, an event center and art gallery, a therapy practice and — soon — expanding into senior care with an assisted living facility, which will be housed in a renovated historic home.
At the center of this varied portfolio is Sample Supports, a social services agency she founded in 2009. Based on Sample’s belief that “every person deserves to be in the community,” Sample Supports offers comprehensive programs to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout Colorado, USA, especially those who have dual diagnoses that may include mental illness and substance abuse in addition to their cognitive disability. Sample’s other companies work in concert with Sample Supports by providing its clients employment opportunities, while also operating as standalone businesses.
Samples shares her sometimes rocky path to success and what she has learned along the way.
Why did you create Sample Supports?
I saw an unmet need. People with disabilities exhibit a broad range of abilities, functions and behaviors. After practicing in social work for a while, I noticed that most agencies tended to cherry-pick the “easier” individuals, so the people who were more challenging and never experienced a community setting were overlooked. They never got out of institutional life. Through Sample Supports, we deliberately targeted the more challenging individuals, the people no one else would work with.
It was difficult, but it paid off. The skills we had to develop to deal with these challenging individuals, while also building the business, helped us grow quickly. We became known for our ability to handle the hard cases and do it well. Since 2011, we have averaged 60 percent growth in revenues, compounded year over year, and the number of people receiving our services has increased from three or four in 2010 to about 500 today.
Has anything in your other professional activities been especially helpful to you in creating and growing Sample Supports?
When I was 22, I bought a business, which I ran into the ground. But I learned a lot of lessons from that failure, especially how much work it takes to build systems and manage employees to do the work rather than doing it yourself.
It is probably that lesson that makes me focus so much on employee training and retention now. I started as a social worker, and we are taught we will get our degree and work hard, but never make any real money. It does not have to be that way. I look for people who can be social workers and business people. In fact, half of our team has a master’s degree in social work, so they know that discipline; we are building their business skills. We are a competitive business and I believe strongly that competition raises the bar of care. We have to provide excellent service to grow. That is why I like to hire hustlers — people who are smart and can work quickly. They help keep us ahead of our competitors. My leadership team is also 80 percent female and I think investing in women leaders and the skills we bring to the table has been a primary factor in growing as efficiently and quickly as we have in businesses that are ultimately based on building and maintaining relationships.
My companies are fairly diverse, but at the end of the day, a business is a business. You have revenues coming in and expenses going out. Once you get those two things on lockdown, it is not that complicated.
Why do you think Sample Supports has been successful? Was there a particular moment when you knew it was going to make it?
I think the key to our success is that we provide everybody who is receiving our services the opportunity for a job — right away, from day one. This can be a challenge because for 85 percent of those we work with, this is their first job. But we are committed to them. We do not fire anybody due to their behavior issues or turn them away. If there are issues, we work through them. And we pay competitive wages, so they develop a sense of pride in taking care of themselves.
I think I first realized that Sample Supports was a success a few years after founding it, when someone said to me, “You realize you are never going to work for someone else again.” It caught me by surprise. In my mind, I was still hustling to make payroll. I did not self-identify as a successful entrepreneur. I think that mindset sometimes caused me to make poor choices: I was always preparing for disaster instead of taking advantages of opportunities. I had to retrain my mind to believe the growth rate would last, which then freed me to think about how to make the company what we wanted it to be.
What tips or lessons can you share with other YPOers who are juggling multiple businesses?
Choose the challenge. I get told every day by someone — a friend, a banker, a business colleague — that my pace makes them uncomfortable. I hear over and over, “You should slow down.” But I am successful because I do not do that. I capitalize on opportunities and seize the moment. Embracing the challenge is what makes people successful, so my advice would be to stick with it, even when people tell you to slow down. Remember, it is not you who cannot handle the pace, it is them.
Also, take advantage of YPO. I wish I had known earlier about the resources and the peer group YPO provides. I would have grown faster!
Original post - https://www.ypo.org/2018/04/sampling-success/
Original Author - Jane Seago
We don’t stop when we are tired. We stop when we are done.
I recently binge-watched all four seasons of Vikings on the History channel over the course of a week. I stayed up until 3am every night to do it. My husband watched me become increasingly obsessed to the point where I was pretending to be characters in full accent when I would respond to him…. “Yes, my Lord”.
“Ok…You seriously need to take a break from that show”, he would tell me.
All that said, I’m not really a TV person. He will come home late at night and find me working in front of the TV with Mickey Mouse still playing from the kids watching it three hours earlier. I tend to ignore TV altogether when I get into my “work mode”…..though my husband watched my growing obsession and rare avoidance of work and eventually said “I think you like this show so much because it reminds you of the way you grow businesses”. Yes, that’s it!
....It is definitely not because Ragnar is easy on the eyes….I mean, seriously…
….His brother isn’t that bad either…
Truthfully, the story line that I love the most and looked forward to watching was actually that of Lagertha. She is a serious Badass Bitch with her team of equally awesome female warriors.
My husband was right. Drama and muscles (and piercing blue eyes) aside, there was something compelling about watching the Vikings overthrow governments and push aside non-progressive communities in a quest to expand their empire. The plotting and pillaging was entertaining but every episode left me with the lingering question of “Why?”. Ultimately, the Vikings were kind of the bad guys, right? They were just going around burning bridges for….well, I don’t really know the reason. I watched all four seasons waiting without an explanation for the deep rooted philosophical understanding of their need to conquer.
Well, that’s not true. Their answer was: “Because we are Vikings”.
Right now in Sample Supports we are throwing around the idea of expansion… Where? How? When?
I have been sitting a lot with the ultimate question of WHY? I mean, we don’t HAVE to expand and conquer. We have a nice comfortable lifestyle without the quest of conquering. I have a safe little office space and positive cash flow. Why would I want to shake that up? Why would I want to take the risk? Why do I want the extra pressure? Why would I want to add more work? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?
For Fun? Because We Can? YES to all of that.
I love a good, fun challenge — it is just the way I’m built. My team likes the challenge too…. that is why we all make such a good team. We all like the question of “What’s Next?”
I enjoy experiencing the politics in new regions. I like to engage in the drama that moves a process forward. I like to build relationships and foster connections to develop something new. I like to watch an idea become reality. I like the reward of riches. More than the riches though — I love to create and I love to compete and I love to win. It is fun to struggle and to fail and to work on it and to ultimately figure it out.
I want to expand and conquer for the challenge of it…and ultimately, for the fun of it.Since the closest I’ll get to a good old fashioned hand combat war is business, I’ll try to do it to the best of my core Viking ability. I’ll definitely do it without the murder and the victimization of women... We aren’t the “bad guys” afterall. I promise that the nastiest I will get is maybe a harsh email every now and then if somebody tries to usurp me. I can’t say the same for Lagertha, who *spoiler alert* stabbed her future husband on their wedding day when she learned of his secret revolt….
Vikings Be Crazy.
We are going to expand because that is our way. Because we are Sample Supports and that is what we do.
You will know we’ve made it when I have a pet owl perched on my shoulder just because I can.
SHIELD WALL, all my badass bitches.