Bryan Miles is an entrepreneur, husband, father, backpacker, mountain climber, mentor, and writer. In addition, he’s the co-founder and CEO of BELAY, a premium staffing company serving businesses all over the U.S. He and his wife, Shannon, are proud co-owners and co-CEOs. They have enjoyed starting and running BELAY together as a team since the beginning in 2010.
The company has now exploded to over seven hundred team members – all of whom work from home. Without an office, BELAY has graced the Inc. 5000 list four times and was awarded the #1 spot in Entrepreneur Magazine’s Best Company Culture.
Before BELAY, Bryan was a sales consultant in the tech and construction industries. In 2010, he and Shannon saw the need for an innovative staffing model where people could work remotely from their homes. They gave their notices and resigned from their employers on the same day, October 1st, 2010. They cashed in all of their 401(k)s and just like that, BELAY was born.
Creating and fostering a healthy culture has always been close to Bryan’s heart. He has written about it for years and has put all of his thoughts in his second book, Virtual Culture: The Way We Work Doesn’t Work Anymore, which is available now.
Bryan loves to mentor other entrepreneurs and small business owners to reach their full potential. During these seasons of mentoring, he meets with a small group of men once a month. He digs into their lives to encourage them to be the best father, husband, and businessman they can be. Bryan sits on the board of Radical Mentoring and two other organizations.
The whole Miles family has their permanent residence in North Atlanta, but they truly live out the joys of working virtually. Bryan is often interviewing for podcasts, at speaking engagements discussing virtual culture, or supporting his amazing BELAY team. If they are not working from their porch, you’ll find them splitting time between the beaches on the panhandle of Florida and the mountains of Jackson Hole. He is keenly aware that he can’t do any of this without the support of his wife, the hard work of his team, or the kindness of God.
How did the concept for BELAY come about?
I was traveling most of the week and still working with an assistant. I saw that when working with the right person, the miles between her office and my location didn’t hinder productivity and success. I knew other leaders could benefit from the flexibility of having the support they need without having to add to their staff. So together with my wife Shannon, we came up with an innovative staffing model which gives leaders the help they need when and where they need it the most. The key ingredient in our secret sauce is the people who serve as virtual assistants, virtual bookkeepers, and website specialists. We only employ the most talented and experienced individuals. Fun Fact: BELAY accepts fewer applicants than Yale or Harvard.
How was the first year in business?
We learned a lot during that first year, mainly what our individual strengths are and how to work together as business leaders. To say it was all fun and games would be a lie – I’m not sure too many people would want to repeat their first year in business! I’m so glad we stuck it out during the bad days because it’s all been worth it.
What was your marketing strategy?
Slow and steady. BELAY is selective with the clients it brings on. Not everyone gets to be a client of BELAY. We rely heavily on referrals.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
There was (and still is) such a need in the marketplace for what we offer. We quickly became profitable.
How do you define success?
A happy home. It’s not a dollar value. And, when you see your desired mission in your business practically played out every day with your team and clients, that’s very rewarding. That’s success.
What is the key to success?
Focus, then cast vision often about that focus. Also, treat people like adults who work for you. Trust them. Empower them. Equip them. Resource them, then get out of their way.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
I have had leaders inside of BELAY, on rare occasion, imply I was the ONLY one who could do the task at hand. I have had to challenge that notion, leave my ego at the door, and encourage and empower other leaders to take the task for me. Multiplying yourself often means keeping your pride in check. This is counterintuitive, because leaders worth following are the ones who often give others permission to go before them to execute on the mission.
What are some quotes that you live by?
My dad, Dale Miles, always said, “You stand for something or you fall for everything.”
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
I had a good friend of mine leave the business because he didn’t like the decisions I made connected to our future and what was next. It was hard and I agreed with his decision to leave. Not everyone who starts with you will finish with you. It’s just a fact. Oftentimes, what got you here will not be what gets you there, and people on your team must often “re-up” or leave.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
My wife and I have a vision that is 25-30 years from now…and that vision is an image. It’s not a dollar value. It’s an image of what our family looks like then, and that is what we are aiming for. So, when the winds get strong, I lean into that future vision and walk straight towards it. We know what our vision is with clarity, and each day (good or bad) we are walking straight towards it, incrementally, one foot in front of the other.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
1) Trust your team – You can’t delegate if you don’t trust your team.
2) Delegate the result, not the task – Anyone can check something off the list, but if you share with them the result you are hoping to accomplish, then you’ve just empowered your team to approach it from their own viewpoint.
3) Explain the why – When you attach vision and let your team in on what it is, they are more likely to identify with it and implement it. Then, it’s not just you fighting and striving to see it unfold; you’ll have your team all working in the same direction.
This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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