Sarah Salisott is a trauma-informed parent coach who started The Foster Lane with the end goal of helping counties support their biological parents by offering to coach focused on eliminating their barriers to reunification, even if they struggle with mental health and AODA issues. We do this by meeting parents where they are while simultaneously taking them through a (weekly) evidence-based 4-month program.
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Let’s start with a brief introduction first. Introduce yourself to our readers.
Sarah Salisott: I am a business owner, parent to a spectacular adult child, wife, and dog mom who can often be found taking a spa soak to wash away a stressful day.
Our audience is interested to know about how you got started in the first place. Did you always want to become a CEO or was it something you were led to? Our readers would love to know your story!
Sarah Salisott: My wife and I signed up to be foster parents and quickly realize that there is not a lot of support for parents of children who have experienced trauma. I’ll spend the next couple of years reading every book that I could find, attending every conference I could, watching every YouTube video, and listening to every podcast that I could find. Eventually, a social worker of ours told me that I needed to do something with all of the knowledge that I had acquired. So I decided to start a business to help families get the support that we so desperately need ourselves.
“Selfmade” is a myth. We all received help, no doubt you love to show appreciation to those who supported you when the going got tough, who has been your most important professional inspiration?
Sarah Salisott: I would not be where I am today without the encouragement and support of our social worker and for Rock County for taking a chance on a new, small, business!
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How did your journey lead you to become a CEO? What difficulties did you face along the way and what did you learn from them?
Sarah Salisott: When the idea to become a parent coach first came to fruition I was working 60 to 70 hours a week at a global company. I had worked seven days a week for years for global companies and knew that it would be a huge difference to go from all of that support to doing everything on my own. I learned very quickly how to ask for support and to always lift anyone that I could do so. Not because I would necessarily get paid back for the kindness and support but because it was the right thing to do. The hardest thing is the financial instability of starting a new company in an industry that is not very well known or understood.
Tell us about your company. What does your business do and what are your responsibilities as a CEO?
Sarah Salisott: The Foster Lane offers parent coaching to parents who are struggling. Either the parents, the children, or both struggle with mental health or substance abuse. We help parents figure out what an ideal future would look like for them and help them build that future. We do this by way of weekly coaching either in our office, in the client’s home, or virtual. We also do work with the parent and child together to help build that relationship quickly. People have compared that aspect of the business to Supernanny!
My responsibilities as the CEO is ensuring that continuous contracts are keeping my team busy, ensuring that everyone is completing the best ongoing education that I can find, ensuring that my team is happy and feels well supported, and ensuring that we are delivering a superior quality service to all of our consumers. Of course, there is also all the tech managing and administration, and lease management. Hopefully one day soon we will be big enough to be able to have someone manage some of our technology.
What does CEO stand for? Beyond the dictionary definition, how would you define it?
Sarah Salisott: CEO stands for Chief Employee Optimizer. It is my job to make sure my team is happy, feels supported, and has all the tools and expectations required to deliver on their roles.
When you first became a CEO, how was it different from what you expected? What surprised you?
Sarah Salisott: I think the biggest thing that surprised me is all of the hats I had to wear. It always seems like there is a new thing to think of and a new problem to solve. Coming from large corporate America where everyone has their role it was quite a culture shock to be responsible for all of those roles myself. The thing that surprises me the most is how much I enjoy the fact that success or failure rides on my ability to do my job well.
There are many schools of thought as to what a CEO’s core roles and responsibilities are. Based on your experience, what are the main things a CEO should focus on? Explain and please share examples or stories to illustrate your vision.
Sarah Salisott: I think the biggest thing is empowering my team. I don’t want to have to micromanage everything that everyone is doing. An example is the parent coach that I recently hired. I gave her all of the education that I felt is required to build the base for a successful parent coach and told her to put her spin on it. That allowed her some agency in her work and inspired her to try her skills on in her way. It shows when she is working with her clients and I think it is received better than had I tried to control the outcome. The CEO has to keep the lights on. I think that happens by supporting a team that in turn supports the business.
Share with us one of the most difficult decisions you had to make for your company that benefited your employees or customers. What made this decision so difficult and what were the positive impacts?
Sarah Salisott: The hardest decision I have had to make for The Foster Lane was which counties to reach out to for contracts. The wrong culture fit would tank everyone’s enthusiasm. It’s really difficult because o the one hand, I want to grow the business quickly and on the other hand, I want to make sure to grow smartly. I am very pleased with the choices that I have made so far and continue to make. And I am happy to report that the team reports they are excited about those contracts as well!
How would you define success? Does it mean generating a certain amount of wealth, gaining a certain level of popularity, or helping a certain number of people?
Sarah Salisott: I would define success as being able to reunify families and or maintain children in the home in a safe way. As long as we can continue to support families in that way I feel like we are successful. Long term dream of success would include being able to support those same families in a multipronged approach. That would mean parent coaching, therapy, sound immersion, and parent-child interactions.
Some leadership skills are innate while others can be learned. What leadership skills do you possess innately and what skills have you cultivated over the years as a CEO?
Sarah Salisott: I naturally can put people at ease when I speak with them. The biggest skills I have had to cultivate during my time as a CEO is delegation and inspecting what I expect. Sometimes I put a little bit too much trust and a little too few details in my delegation.
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How did your role as a CEO help your business overcome challenges caused by the pandemic? Explain with practical examples.
Sarah Salisott: The pandemic hit hard. Not only did the pandemic shut down my face-to-face business but I also became ill with COVID-19 for a month. So not only did I have to pivot my entire business from face-to-face to virtual, but I had to do so while significantly ill. The great thing about that experience is I was able to learn new ways to serve more customers in a timely fashion.
Do you have any advice for aspiring CEOs and future leaders? What advice would you give a CEO that is just starting on their journey?
Sarah Salisott: I think the biggest advice that I would give to a CEO that is just starting on their journey is to put as much stock in the “little people“ as you do the people that you view as able to invest or take your business to the next level. I put great stock in honoring every contribution, regardless of the size, and I find that putting that positivity into my business yields significant results later down the line in ways that I never could have anticipated. Also, figure out your boundaries. While the new business takes a significant amount of time and energy, it would be devastating to burn out and have it all be for nothing. No amount of success will ever replace time spent with loved ones.
Thank you for sharing some of your knowledge with our readers! They would also like to know, what is one skill that you’ve always wanted to acquire but never really could?
Sarah Salisott: The biggest skill that I have always wanted to acquire is the ability to learn about social media marketing! That is my kryptonite.
Before we finish things off, we have one final question for you. If you wrote a book about your life today, what would the title be?
Sarah Salisott: Funny enough I did write a book. It is titled ‘Welcome to the Foster Lane’. If I wrote another book about my life as it is today it would be called “Soaking it all in”
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Sarah Salisott for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Sarah Salisott or her company, you can do it through her – Facebook
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