As a part of our interview series called “Women Of The C-Suite,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Tylar Brannon.
Tylar Brannon, CEO of Optimal Bio, a wellness provider committed to helping people achieve optimal health through Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT). As CEO, Brannon expanded the business to five cities in North Carolina and Virginia, doubling patient count and developing new efficiencies to help more people achieve healthier lives. Prior to taking this leadership role, Brannon worked for a national company based in Washington, D.C.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
Growing up, I always thought I wanted to be a doctor, so it is pretty full circle that now I am part of a medical company. I am an attorney by degree, however, going into law school, I knew I wanted to be on the business side. I received by MBA while in law school. After graduation, I worked in Washington, D.C., before moving to Raleigh and joining Optimal Bio. When I first joined Optimal Bio, I initially thought I would just be there to help while applying for jobs. However, after putting processes in place and taking over the financials, I was advised to take on the opportunity to “stay and create my own company”. Now we have grown to five offices, with plans to continue to expand.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
This past June, Optimal Bio acquired a practice in Charlottesville, VA. It was both Optimal Bio’s and my first acquisition. An acquisition is a huge undertaking consisting of due diligence, contracts, auditing and getting acclimated to the team. This was an exciting and challenging opportunity as I had to have many hard conversations to convince someone to trust me enough to sell their business. Bringing your culture and systems to an already established office is a work in process. It’s been both exciting and hard, as well as a true team effort. This has set the foundation as a building block for our future growth at Optimal Bio.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Prior to going into the office on moving day, I was told that most of the things were already moved and everything else would fit in my car. Upon arrival, I quickly realized that was not the case as there were a number of larger items, including a few patient beds, that needed to be taken to the new office. Twenty minutes later, I rented a U-Haul, packed and moved the entire office.
I learned that day that there is never enough communication, respect and teamwork needed for company projects. In order to build a successful team, it must be based on respect, teamwork, initiative and communication.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Success is a team effort, all day, every day. I would not be the leader I am today, and Optimal Bio would not be where we are without Jim Baker, my mentor and business partner. Since 2019, he has challenged me, pushed me, encouraged and walked along side me. We meet weekly to strategize. Because we have a dynamic relationship of both mentor and partner, he allows me to make the final decision in order for me to truly lead, and learn from my decisions.
Additionally, the success I’ve had at Optimal Bio has is owed to our incredible team. Marylynn, our controller, has been my partner from day one. She encourages and supports me on both the good and bad days. Kristen, our practice manager, is truly my teammate. We have an incredible working relationship. Last, but certainly not least, its been an amazing opportunity and experience to work with and create something special like Optimal Bio with my father, Dr. Greg Brannon.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
As a leader, you have to make time for yourself, or you will not be the best leader your team and company needs. My daily morning workout is non-negotiable. It prepares my mind and body. Eating well and setting boundaries are key to a clear and calm mind. In order to be prepared for a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk or decision, you need to continuously prepare by taking care of yourself.
Prior to a stressful or high stakes meeting, as well as an important decision I have a strategy. I prepare by researching the necessary topics, having pertinent discussions as well as putting my thoughts on paper and then sleeping on it before finalizing my decision. The notes section in my phone is my best friend! It is the tool I need to be prepared and calm.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
I was raised and believe that every human has gifts. We believe that everyone at Optimal Bio brings diversity of thought, experience and their own unique talents. In my case, I have been fortunate to be in groups where I am the only female voice, viewing that as an opportunity where I can learn from them and they from me.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to truly create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society? Kindly share a story or example for each.
In order to create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society, one must not be looked at or judged based on race, sex, gender, but what gifts, unique abilities, talents and life experience they may have. When hiring or creating relationships outside of work, I look for honesty, respect, hard work, trust, care — who they are as a person in good times and bad times.
At Optimal Bio, when hiring, we look for a someone to add to our company culture based on respect, care, a good work ethic, fits our mission and meets the qualifications of the specific job opportunity.
When asked this question, my three youngest sisters immediately come to mind. They were adopted from China. Each of their beginnings, is something many of us cannot even imagine — filled with loss, tragedy and sadness at such an early age. Each one of them have an inner strength. I could only hope to have half of their strength. They do not focus on their hard beginnings, but rather put their attention of hard work, their family and their lives now. Their kindness and strength are a true example of what should be looked at when making an inclusive, representative, and equitable society.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
Everything falls on you, whether it be good or bad. You get the brunt of the majority of when things go wrong, whether it be customer service issues or employee relations. You are many positions in one and have to show up for your team and company, even when you have multiple fires going at the same time. You usually make the final decisions or support others’ decisions when you may disagree. You want to be a friend to your employees, but it is also your job to create discipline and accountability. You are the main person for upholding and creating the company’s culture.
Optimal Bio and the team are constantly on my mind, whether it is a specific issue, or how we can grow and be better or how I can be better. You have hard conversations every day, but not one day goes by that I wouldn’t want to be in this position. I am eternally grateful for this opportunity, experiences and growth each day and year after year.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive. Can you explain what you mean?
I often see articles on LinkedIn or memes on Instagram revolving around CEOs / executives, “don’t care, or it’s all about the money, or they don’t understand the day to day. We don’t work. Things don’t affect us.” I find these to not be a true picture of the day-to-day operations of running a company.
A CEO’s job is to hold people accountable, make processes, hire people, build a reliable team, handle customers as well as make the company better and keep it moving forward.
I can’t speak for all CEOs, however, I believe the majority of us truly care about their people and company. CEOs are on all day, every day. You are the walking brand and decision-maker. Many days, the CEO / executives have been working before they even walk into the office in the morning.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
I am very thankful to be surrounded by a team and people who respect me, and do not solely see me as a “woman CEO,” but rather as a “CEO.” However, I do believe that women are held to a different standard than their male counterparts regarding communication and emotion. There have been instances, that I believe if a man had a similar conversation, it would have been viewed differently. People think of women as emotional. If a woman has a strong belief about something or a hard conversation, people often take it as emotional or maybe a sense of an attitude, when in actuality there are no emotions or attitude that are tied to the conversation.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I don’t think anyone knows what leading a company/team will be like until they are in it. Being a CEO not only involves the business side of things, but emotional intelligence is key to be successful at this position. You are dealing with many people who have different emotions, thoughts and experiences. It is your job to remain neutral, levelheaded, caring, but still make the best business decision for the company as a whole.
Do you think everyone is cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
No, not everyone is not cut out to be an executive. In my opinion, specific traits are needed to be a successful executive: internal strength and joy, investment in your company and people, internal want to always improve. You need to have an innate respect for yourself and others as well as emotional intelligence, a good work ethic, sufficient energy. You also need to love to learn. You need to be okay with having the hard conversations, and having very hard days, weeks, months. You will do whatever is necessary for the company to be successful. Most days are hard, but you need to have the internal strength and joy to keep going to the next day. On the hardest of days, I would not want to be doing anything else. You go home debrief, breathe, and are ready to start the next day. I truly love my team, our mission, and being part of creating something bigger than any of us.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
- Discipline equals freedom.
- Take care of yourself — workout, eat well, sleep — get a massage and travel! In order to be the best leader, and show up for our team, we need to feel good and have a clear mind. Give yourself grace as we are always a work in progress for myself.
- Be a servant leader. Engage with your team daily, show up for them and above all, listen to them. It’s not always easy, but always one of my goals to do this and improve.
- Encourage and help your team to continue grow in their roles, and in the company. I’m a firm believer of internal growth and promotion.
- Plan team outings. I think it is essential for a team to grow and respect each other on a meaningful level, by getting to know and hang out with each other outside of work.
- Find people who support and encourage you. Seek guidance from others who also run businesses.
- Build a team based on respect and support — and then delegate!
- Celebrate wins and birthdays.
- Keep learning. Podcasts are my best road buddy as I am in the car a lot traveling to our offices.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
The foundation of me trying to make the world a better place, starts with my relationship with my sisters. I want to be someone I needed when I was their age. I know they are always watching me, so I try to be the best example I can do. Building on that, I volunteer, support charities close to my heart — like Lifeline Children Services, and I truly hope I make the personal lives of my team better.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Forge your own path. I think leaders currently have a unique opportunity to define our roles as leaders, as well as how companies run as a whole. I believe companies and job descriptions have been stagnant because that may be the “safe” way to run a business. I want to be the leader that my company and team needs, and not one that someone may think as CEO should be / or has been for 50 years.
2. Create boundaries. I am person who has a tendency to take on other people’s problems emotions, but if you do that you will be burnt out and not be the best you can be or truly find your potential.
3. Trust yourself. Your gut tells you a lot, so listen to it. Specifically, there have been some hires that I was not sure about and we probably should have taken care of things before we did.
4. Turn off your email notifications on your phone. In August of 2020, I went on a trip out West to Wyoming, South Dakota and Montana, so I decided to put an out of office email and turn off my email notifications. Within two minutes of turning off my email notifications, my stress level dropped. Upon returning home from vacation, I realized why do I need my phone to keep notifying me of my emails, when I already check my emails within a timely manner. My email notifications are still off more than a year later.
5. Have a mentor. I have a mentor and I’m in a business group of business owners and leaders which helps me learn, grow and be challenged, as well as create relationships. I would not be and Optimal Bio would not be where we are if I didn’t have a mentor — who I learn from every day, and he always challenges me to be better. Learning through experience and other’s experiences cannot be compared to a textbook.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I would create a wellness movement centered on education about food sources, nutrition and exercise. I truly believe if we all ate better and went for a walk the world would be a much better place. The lack of education regarding the impact our food and exercise has on our mind and body is having a profound negative impact on our country as seen through the high rise in mental illness and physical illness in our country. In addition, I would like to have counselors to connect people to trade schools so they can find a purpose, path, and structure for their life.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” This is relevant in my life because it gives me the strength and knowledge to know that life continues. There may be a hard day, week or month, but life is full of seasons, and other seasons will bring joy and happiness. Life is full of different seasons, and that is what makes life. This life lesson quote gives you the internal joy to keep going on the hard days and knowing hard days do not last forever.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them
Nick Saban. I could go on and on about why I love college football, but more specifically why I want to meet Nick Saban. Year after year, with a different team, coaches, number of five-star recruits, Alabama wins. Nick Saban leads the team with discipline, respect, hard work and the want to win. There are many teams with the same number of five-star recruits, but do not win because of the lack of discipline, respect and hard work.