Women in Business Q&A: Tammy Bingham, Brain Balance

Tammy and Bo Bingham had spent four years and thousands and thousands of dollars trying to help their sons overcome various behavioral and social challenges using methods such as dietary changes, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, nutritional supplements, intensive behavioral therapy, private tutors and more. But nothing was producing the results they wanted. After reading Dr. Robert Melillo's book, "Disconnected Kids," the Binghams made the hard decision to split up the family by Tammy and the children temporarily moving from their Nevada home to Georgia, so their sons could attend a Brain Balance Achievement Center, a leading supplemental learning and education center that implements a drug-free approach to help children of all ages overcome academic, social or behavioral challenges.

Their sons Wyatt, who was diagnosed with Autism at age two, and Brody, who displayed ADHD behaviors and symptoms of sensory processing disorder, entered the Brain Balance program in March 2011. By the end of the first three month program, they saw more progress, improvements and changes in their boys than they had seen in the previous four years combined.

After being unable to communicate, even after years of intensive behavioral therapy, Wyatt now follows instructions, can process information and is verbally communicating much more. He was potty trained in the first two weeks of the program and also started trying new foods, which was previously impossible to get him to do. Prior to Brain Balance, Brody was homeschooled because, although he was bright, he couldn't function as expected in a regular classroom. After Brain Balance, Brody is now enrolled in school and does well both academically and socially. He can now ride a bike, catch a ball and is able to focus and sit still which he could not do before. He is happy and confident and no longer displays the symptoms of ADHD.

After finding so much success with Brain Balance, the Binghams wanted to help more families by bringing the Brain Balance program to Utah. The Binghams currently operate Brain Balance Achievement Centers in St. George and South Jordan and a center in Pleasant Grove, Tammy's hometown. They also have plans to open more centers in the area in the coming years.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Growing up, I had always been involved in a lot of extracurricular activities/sports and the lessons I learned from those activities at such a young age shaped the person I am today. Those experiences also gave me an opportunity to develop some of the leadership skills that I try to use on a daily basis in business. Most importantly, those experiences at a young age allowed me to build confidence and establish a foundation and mindset that hard work truly does pay off. Applying that experience and those skills within the realm of Brain Balance was due largely to the life-changing experience we had in our family based on the program. That initiated a spark in me. I developed a passion which motivated me to help to lead and guide other families and individuals to success with the program. This has allowed me an opportunity to apply the leadership skills I have sought to develop in a very personal and meaningful way.

How did your previous employment experience aid your position at Brain Balance?
I have always had entrepreneurial roots in me, even since childhood. When I was young I would teach dance and guitar lessons to the neighborhood kids. As I got older those opportunities expanded. After college, I worked as a paralegal. My responsibilities were heavily on the operational side of the business which forced me to learn all aspects of running a business. I worked at three different law firms, the last being when I assisted my husband in starting his law firm. I was a part of the start-up and development of the firm from the ground up. So when it came to opening my Brain Balance franchise, I knew what it would take, everything from the construction of the center to the marketing and outreach efforts to help families discover the program. While the law and Brain Balance are completely different fields, the concept of what it takes to run a business is very much the same.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
This is definitely challenging. During the first year of operation, things were especially difficult. There were countless nights that I slept at the center, but I knew that I needed to invest the time and hard work up front in order to enjoy the fruits of that labor later on. This is the same thing we tell our Brain Balance families, and it really does hold true. Now, as an owner of a couple of established centers, the balance between work and family is getting better. My goal is to continue to develop a great business model and processes that can be duplicated and easily employed by others so that I am not tied up in the business and have time to be with my family. It is also crucial that you have great people on your team that catch the vision.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Brain Balance?
One of the challenges is finding the right people who have the passion to help struggling children. The recruiting process can be quite difficult but once you find the right people, they are the ones who make your business a success. In addition to the challenge of finding the right team members, there is the challenge of balancing the emotional work load. I am in the business of changing lives and helping children overcome learning and behavioral challenges in order to open the door for a bright future. Because I personally have been through the program, I have a passion when it comes to our work. There are countless nights I toss and turn thinking about the children and their families in the program, hoping and praying they follow our guidance and advice, knowing that at some point, whether they do or not, it is out of my control.

Without a doubt, the highlights are the success stories I hear from the children enrolled in the program and from their families. For example, we had a 14-year-old student come into the center and break down in tears thanking us for helping him. He seemed to recognize that we had helped him to create a whole new life path for himself. Even the small stories that parents tell us about how their family lives have improved in simple but important ways, how they can get through a family meal without an argument, the siblings are getting along, their child is on the honor roll, is a huge milestone. The work that we put into this program produces such amazing results that it makes all our efforts worth it.

What advice can you offer women seeking to establish similar achievement centers?
The best advice I can provide is that whatever you decide to do, you must really be passionate about it. Owning your own business takes a lot of effort day-in and day-out. You are going to be way more successful doing something that you love and feel passionate about. At Brain Balance Achievement Centers, families who come into the center can see the passion we have and that is what makes a business successful. The bottom line is that you have to really believe in what you are doing and genuinely care. This is above and beyond anything else.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I believe the biggest issue for women in the workplace revolves around the fact that sometimes we are not respected, listened to, or taken seriously. This is where confidence can come into play. I think more women in the workplace should act with confidence when they really believe in what they are doing. At least for the Brain Balance program, I know and have confidence in what we have to offer and the results can be seen in the changed lives of the children and their families.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
Truthfully, most of my reading has revolved around childhood learning and behavioral disorders since that has had a huge effect on my family over the past several years. I only recently got back into the business realm because of my children and you can be sure that Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book is next up on my reading list.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship is invaluable. It is an available resource that we all have access to and should all take advantage of. I have been mentored by several professional, personal relatives and friends that have personally helped make my life a lot easier. I have also been a mentor myself for quite a few people who have come through the Brain Balance program. Mentoring is something that is reciprocated. Be willing and receptive and you will stay ahead of the learning curve.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I truly admire my mother as a leader. I am one of 5 children and am a firm believer that being a mother is one of the world's toughest jobs. A leader is someone that you look up to, someone with real wisdom, someone who influences generations, and to me that someone is my mother. I have always looked up to my mother and tried to adopt her leadership skills, listen carefully to her wisdom, and take the lessons that she passed down to me and pass them on to my children. While the job of a mother is often overlooked, it has helped me in more ways than one to become the entrepreneur I am today.

What are your hopes for the future of Brain Balance?
I dream big and my hope is that every child with a learning or behavioral struggle will be able get the help they need. Brain Balance can help children overcome their struggles and become well-rounded individuals. I know the program works and I want to share it with as many families as I can. I also hope to help educate families on what is causing a lot of these problems in the first place so that they can avoid the harmful things that are impacting children, and reduce the number of children suffering. It truly has become an epidemic, as more than one in 10 children has ADHD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Brain Balance program is here to help with nearly 55 centers nationwide.

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