As she stood up at the podium, Tanya Sarakinis admitted this was just her second time public speaking and asked the audience to be kind.
She needn’t have worried. She held their attention to every word as in her modest, down-to-earth way she shared her story. As she talked about the challenges of finding balance in her life – wanting a meaningful career while raising her children - the women were nodding their heads. They could completely relate to this desire, it was one they all shared with her.
From a young age, Tanya had always wanted to be a nurse. Seeing her younger brother who had spina bifida and the challenges he faced, she knew she wanted to help people feel better. So she realized that dream and became an emergency room nurse.
After a short hiatus after the birth of her first son, she found when she went back to nursing that the quality of care provided in ERs, was just not there. Identifying this gap in service, she set about starting a temp agency that would provide quality, trained emergency room nurses to local hospitals.
At first it was a hard sell and a bit of a catch-22. Did she recruit the nurses first and then secure the contracts, or get the contracts and scramble to get the nurses to fill the shifts? In the end she did a bit of both. Then out of the blue, one hospital phoned and placed 82 shifts with her, she knew then that the business was off and running. Tanya smiled and joked that no sooner had she hung up the phone from the hospital, than she called her husband, and said, “we’re screwed.”
But they weren’t. Since then she has grown the business to become one of the top 200 fastest growing companies, with Tanya being listed as one of the top 100 women entrepreneurs for three years in a row.
What struck me about Tanya’s story is she never rested, sat back and said we’ve made it. No, she was always thinking ahead, like the software they had developed so hospitals, nursing managers and nurses could schedule shifts online. Or the training she offered to nurses to bring them up-to-speed with latest technology and treatment options.
She also tackled her challenges head-on such as the slow payment turnaround at the hospitals, which with an ever-growing payroll to cover, could have dramatically impacted the business. She negotiated that they receive prompt payment instead of the typical two to three months experienced by other service providers.
She recognized the importance of diversifying, a lesson she learned the hard way when she lost one of her biggest accounts because of a change in hospital leadership. As a result, she broadened her scope, partnered up with other similar organizations to deepen her offerings.
And she did all this while raising her children – now four of them. “It is ironic that I did all this so I could have more time with my children, and that is not always the case. I have to work at it, to make sure it happens.”
Before she talked, Tanya shared with me that she wasn’t sure the women would find what she had to say of interest. She was wrong. The women left inspired, believing that one day maybe they too could build their businesses to become so successful.
We all need role models to show us that it can be done. And Tanya did just that.