DiversityEquity and InclusionI AM CEO PODCASTInnovation

IAM1932 – CEO Helps the Underprivileged Yet Aspiring Individuals

Podcast Interview with Becky Sharpe

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”:

In this episode, the guest is Becky Sharpe, owner and CEO of three companies, including International Scholarship Tuition Services (ISTS).

Key Points:

Becky's Story: Becky started her entrepreneur journey in 2002 when she bought a company. She is an avid learner who seeks ways to identify limiting behaviors and blind spots. She serves on various for-profit and non-profit boards and is the President of the Nashville Chapter of The Private Directors Association.

ISTS: This company provides a full-service management creating an online application process for applicants seeking scholarships.

Business Impact: Becky's businesses focus on helping people to be their best, with particular emphasis on assisting underprivileged individuals who show exceptional aspiration and talent.

Secret Sauce: Physical health is a priority. She emphasizes enough rest, a good diet, and regular exercises.

CEO Hack: Becky advises listening to audiobooks in double time, thus facilitating faster learning.

CEO Nugget: Pay attention to your intuition and surround yourself with people who allow you to be yourself.

CEO Defined: Becky defines being a CEO as being sincerely focused on making the team feel important. She believes in inspiring them, motivating them and reminding them that everyone is equal.

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Becky Sharpe 00:00

No, I think, what I'm very aware of and try to remember regularly is that it was not just me at all. I had people helping me all along the way, pointing out my multitude of face plans and mistakes and areas where I needed to learn more.

If it weren't for all these people, I refer to them as my co-pilots. I would just be doing something different.

Intro 00:21

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you, precisely the information you're in search of.

This is the I AM CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:48

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we hit 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year. We're doing something a little bit different where we're repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics or as I like to call them business pillars that we think are going to be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners, or what I like to call CB nation architects who are looking to level up their organizations.

This month, we are focused on innovation, disruption, women entrepreneurship, DEI, gig economy, remote economy, even the cannabis industry. Think about these industries and these disruptive technologies that really sometimes aren't as disruptive, but there are people that are just paying attention to what the market needs and they're providing that. So really think about the things that are quote and quote outside of the norm, but really help entrepreneurship to grow and fully develop.

I think it's an extremely exciting time when you're talking about any type of innovation or disruption, because I think that there are so many opportunities and needs that aren't felt that are starting to be filled by different groups, different organizations, or even different industries. So what I want you to do is sit back and enjoy this special episode of the I AM CEO podcast.

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast. I have a very special guest on the show today, Becky Sharpe of International Scholarship Intuition Services. ISTS.

Becky, it's great to have you on the show.

Becky Sharpe 02:13

Hey, Gresh, happy holidays. So glad to be here. Thanks for taking time this morning.

Gresham Harkless 02:17

Yes, I appreciate you for taking some time out. You're doing so many awesome things. So truly appreciate you for spending a little bit of time with us so we can hear about all the awesome things that you're working on. Before we do that, I wanted to read a little bit more about Becky so you hear about some of those awesome things.

Becky is the owner and CEO of three companies, all of which focus on helping people be their best. She is an avid learner and in constant pursuit of ways to identify limiting behaviors and blind spots, but she serves on several for and not for profit boards and is the president of Nashville chapter of the private directors association.

In her spare time, Becky loves to listen to podcasts, audible books while hiking, walking or riding her bike. She has been married for 33 years and has three adult children. Becky, you are a busy person. You have so many things that you're doing so truly appreciate you so we can learn a little bit more about you.

Are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

Becky Sharpe 03:09

I am ready. Let's bring it on, Gresh.

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[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 03:11

Let's make it happen then. So to kick everything off, I wanted to rewind the clock a little bit, hear a little bit more on how you got started. What I like to call your CEO story.

Becky Sharpe 03:19

Sure. So, it's interesting when I was reading the notes, it was like, how did you start your business? And I didn't actually start my business, but I bought it in 2002. So I was lucky enough to be introduced to a business person. This guy was born like, 100 years too early. He, in his mid 60s was just determined to have a business partner who was a woman. And this is like I said, in 2002. So he gave me a shot.

I didn't have any money in the bank. I had a husband in law school and three young Children. I think all of them were in diapers. So it was thanks to his just complete generosity and support of me that let me step into this role of being a business center.

Gresham Harkless 03:58

Nice. I love that. So many times we forget that there are opportunities around us, whether it be starting, whether it be buying, and there are so many ways that we can get into entrepreneurship.

Becky Sharpe 04:06

So many ways, and I think what I'm very aware of and try to remember regularly is that it was not just me at all. I had people helping me all along the way, pointing out my multitude of face plans and mistakes and areas where I needed to learn more.

If it weren't for all these people, I refer to them as my copilots, I would just be doing something different.

Gresham Harkless 04:28

Yeah, absolutely. I love that phrase.

Becky Sharpe 04:30

It's so true. In fact, I'm writing my first book right now and I make some analogies about helicopter flying and running a business because there's just no part of the business that isn't necessary or to say positively. Every person and every part of the business is just as important as the CEO because without it, the business will fail.

So I think sometimes CEOs, not everybody, but they can let their ego get the best of them and think they're the most important and it is whether it's someone in a call center or someone that helps keep the office clean. Every single component is just as worthy and valuable.

Gresham Harkless 05:05

Nice. Yeah, I love that. And I think that true leaders and I'm very much of the same are able to have that ego. Sometimes we're able to say, I feel like we can do better. We could create something better. We can make an improvement. But at the same time, you have to be on that balance beam and not let that ego take over to say it's my mind, is all about me and what I do.

You have to be able to lead and power people, put people in a great position to succeed.

Becky Sharpe 05:27

Yeah, it's so true. I think that I remember one time Gresh a person I had hired actually was talking about wanting a special parking spot and I don't know why it just bothered me and I kept thinking about like, why is this bothering me? And then I realized and was like so are you telling me that you can't do your job unless you have a special parking spot? If you can't do your job without a special parking lot, doesn't everybody need a special parking spot?

I think sometimes there are excuses made maybe are out 10 year or ability that people use to get entitlement and preferential treatment when we all need that proverbial special parking lot. For some people, it might be flexibility about where they work or being able to pick their kids up on time. Somebody else maybe may need a special desk because of a physical limitation and all those things. I think as leaders, we need to take seriously.

Gresham Harkless 06:15

Yeah, absolutely. People see success, they see maybe even fulfillment might be a better word in different ways and define it in that way. So if you're able to meet people where they are, actually have those conversations, speak and understand exactly what success is, what helps somebody, get up and feel purposeful and excited about what they do, then you really go to another level when we talk about in terms of leadership.

Becky Sharpe 06:36

You do go to another level. I think also that I don't know about you, but sometimes along the way I maybe heard somewhere, maybe it was just in the ether that I was supposed to do it all by myself. And as I've gotten older, I'm like, that just doesn't make sense. I have a stack of books over here. I listened to all these podcasts and I just want to be better.

But if someone can provide me the material, if I could learn from them, I don't need to do it solo, but I think many people think that they're not supposed to ask for help or they're somehow supposed to solve all the problems without other people's input. That's just not realistic.

Gresham Harkless 07:08

Yeah, that makes so much sense. And I definitely would agree with that. The saying is, teamwork makes the dream work. So you have to have that team in place and those people so that you can lean on to make sure that you're succeeding.

I wanted to draw down a little bit more, hear a little bit more on what you're doing. You talked a little bit about your book. I want to hear a little bit more about your companies, how you're making an impact, how you're serving the clients that you work with.

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Becky Sharpe 07:28

Sure. So the company I'll talk about is International Scholarship and Tuition Services, and that's the business I bought in 2002. What we do is we manage scholarship and tuition reimbursement programs for organizations that offer them. So think of any Fortune 500 company or any large membership group. They may have a scholarship program or tuition reimbursement program for their employees children, or it could be the general public.

So they hire us to provide a full-service management. We create an online application process for the applicants, process the applicants. We do that and I believe 13 different languages right now, pick the winners or approve the reimbursements. and then distribute the funds. At the end of the day, the privilege that we have is we get to play a role in people who are trying to improve themselves or through education.

They may be learning a new skill or talent, or they may be going to college for the first time or to your school or trade school. We play a role in helping them find money so they can do that without debt.

Gresham Harkless 08:26

Nice. I love that. And I think so many times and I imagine you probably hear this more than a few times. Sometimes we don't know that something is possible where we're like, we're not going to be able to advance ourselves as far as like education and be able to do all the things that we hope to do.

But I love how you're bridging that gap and making that impact to help people I guess open the doors up to their possibility in the course advancement of themselves as well.

Becky Sharpe 08:47

Oh, yeah, it's phenomenal. And if I'm ever having a bad day, I'll just pull an application and read someone's essay. I remember one that still chokes me up. A young woman who was graduating from high school was just writing an essay about her college, her expected college experience. And then at the end, she said, but the thing I'm most excited about is my dad and I are starting college at the same time. I was like, Oh, my. So can you just imagine what that experience is going to be?

And then I got to read that. I still get a chill. So I'm like, oh, my gosh I got to play a role in that, that we are distributing the money to help these people. It's just phenomenal. It's easy that imposter syndrome. I surely have it at sometimes where I get that head trash again about I'm supposed to do this without help. And then I just have to like, take a walk and go. No, I can call Gresh and ask him something because he has experience in this area. And you can call me and ask me, where I made a face plant and help avoid a problem.

I think just realizing that people really want to help each other and asking actually is a respectful thing to do.

Gresham Harkless 09:46

Yeah, absolutely. I think as excited as we are to give, I think sometimes we forget that by asking, you're giving people the opportunity to give as well too. So you're giving people that exciting feeling that they have to be able to help out somebody. So I absolutely love and appreciate that.

I wanted to ask you now for what I call your secret sauce. This could be for yourself personally, the business or a combination of both. But what do you feel sets you apart and makes you unique?

Becky Sharpe 10:10

This is gonna sound crazy, but I think prioritizing Physical health. So I'm a big sleeper. I'm like, an 8 to 10-hour sleeper and I remember I was in a meeting one time and I'm regularly the only woman in a meeting and that's fine. But I remember these gentlemen were introducing themselves and everybody was focused on an 80 hour work week and how exhausted they weren't. It got to me. I was like, no, no, no, no. I'm trying to do under 40 and get a good 8 to 10 hours every day and have time to exercise and meditate and do anything else.

There was a little bit of peer pressure to be exhausted. And so I really view my body as a temple and I try to eat well, nutritiously, hydrate cleanly, and get a lot of good sleep and movement. I do think it, although it's simple, it can be really hard because sometimes it's tempting not to do those things and to somehow feel like that is, I don't know, not hard working. You're like, you have some sort of core value problem, but this is the only body I've got.

So why not keep it strong and healthy.

Gresham Harkless 11:13

Yeah, absolutely. And we have these opportunities to do that, especially, being on zoom and so many different teams and all these different platforms that we have that we can still move around and be active. I think it's so important to do that. So we're definitely kinder souls in that way. So I appreciate it.

I wanted to switch gears a little bit and ask you for what I call a CEO hack. You might have already touched on this, but this could be like an app, book or a habit that you have. But what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Becky Sharpe 11:40

So when I found out I could listen to audible books on double time, I felt like I had discovered a new species of animal. I was like, what? Because I really want to learn and the good side of it is you can consume an 8 hour book in 4 hours, which is awesome.

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The negative side is I found myself a little frustrated for a little bit of normal conversations because my ears were used to double time. But man, I love doing that. And you're just the way mine is maybe I'm an audible learner. You can do it on 1. 25 1. 52 whatever it is. But finding out just imagine that you could just shift the button and increase your bottom line by 10%. All of us would do this. So that hack is being able to consume audible books a little bit more quickly.

Gresham Harkless 12:26

Awesome. So I want to ask you now for what I call a CEO nugget. This is a little bit more of a word of wisdom or piece of advice. I like to say it might be something if you were to hop into a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.

Becky Sharpe 12:39

So, it's interesting. I do keep a journal and I would say that when I look back at my notes I made when I was younger, one of the things I didn't do was pay enough attention to my intuition then. I think our intuition is something that's super important for us to prioritize. And so I wrote down things like, 5, 10 years ago, why do we have to have office space? Or is there a way to communicate? Things like that. So I would say, listen to your intuition. It may be telling you what not to do.

It may be saying someone else has this, is there genius to do this thing that you need to get done? And it may be telling you what you need to do more of to really listen to that intuition and give it space to exist. Also, around that is fine to hang out with people. I like to refer to them as your entourage who get you as you are like people who get me know that I'm silly. I got my silly bird back here.

I don't need to be hanging out with people who view that with this day you want to be there with your crew, your people who gets you with all of your quirks and your genius and your brilliance and your mistakes and not those who just want you to be somebody who you're or not.

Gresham Harkless 13:52

Yeah, absolutely. What they say, be yourself because everybody else is always already taken.

Becky Sharpe 13:57

Imagine that in these days around diversity, equity, inclusion, I regularly will try to experience someone with my eyes shut. So, because it's so easy to stereotype and simplify, and if I could go back to my younger self, I would be like, okay, so really get to know the person and assume the absolute best of them and make them prove you wrong. Otherwise, they're awesome.

I think that sometimes that's just hard to do because we have these biases and if you can identify the blind spots, at least you can be more aware of when those biases are creeping in.

Gresham Harkless 14:32

Truly appreciate that. I want to ask you now my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. We're hoping to have different quote and quote CEOs on their show.

So Becky, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Becky Sharpe 14:43

See, being a CEO to me means being truly sincerely focused on making everybody who works with me feel and know they are important. I feel like my job is to inspire and motivate people and prove through my actions that I truly value them and that we are all equal.

Gresham Harkless 15:03

Absolutely. Becky, truly appreciate that definition. Obviously I appreciate your time even more. What I want to do now is pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional that you can let our readers and listeners know. Of course, how best people can get ahold of you, find about all the awesome things your team are working on.

Becky Sharpe 15:19

Sure thing. I'm on LinkedIn, Becky Sharpe and bsharpeapply@ists.com. I would say that one of the things just in terms of having the mic for a minute is I would love people to take some time over the holidays or whenever they watch this in 2022 and think about what 3 words really describe them as their absolute best. For me, I like alliteration. So it's fit, fun and focused.

And so I know that if I show up fit, slept hydrated, I can make light of things. I like, have fun and then focus that I'm really with you that's going to be me at my best. And so I encourage people to think about what those 3 words are. And then I actually have them written down on a task that jumps out and reminds me every day.

What are you doing to feed and nourish your three words?

Gresham Harkless 16:07

Awesome. We'll definitely have the links and information in the show notes. I truly appreciate that reminder Becky, and that homework, of course, as well, to your time, and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Becky Sharpe 16:16

Thanks so much great talking to you.

Outro 16:18

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO podcast powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co. I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community.

Check out the latest and greatest apps, books, and habits to level up your business at ceohacks.co. This has been the I AM CEO podcast with Gresham Harless, Jr. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(CEOBlogNation.com), podcasts, (CEOPodcasts.com) and videos (CBNation.tv). CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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