30 Best Leaders to Watch 2021

Stephen Levi Carter, Sterling Staffing Solutions Co-Founder and CEO: ‘Our Efforts Focus not only on Providing Exceptional Patient Care but also on the Wellness Services and Community Outreach that Empower the People We Serve’


“Our goal is to grow Cartera Health, our master brand, to exceed $500 million in revenue.”

Operating a hospital in today's healthcare environment brings unique challenges to administrators and support staff. It can seem harder than ever to keep quality patient care as the central focus it needs to be while balancing operational and organizational requirements. One crucial area that is difficult to maintain, particularly in small-to-medium-sized hospitals, is inpatient physical therapy and rehabilitation services. Contract employment services can provide a solution to this dilemma.

Sterling Staffing Solutions is one such firm that provides contract employment opportunities for physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, nurses, and social worker positions across Greater Houston. Also, Sterling offers medical staffing services to home health agencies, hospitals, and rehab facilities.

The company is headquartered in Sugar Land, Texas.

In Conversation with Stephen Levi Carter, Co-Founder and CEO of Sterling Staffing Solutions

Q. When was Sterling Staffing Solutions incorporated?

Sterling Staffing Solutions, founded in 2011, staffs more than 1,000 physical, occupational and speech licensed therapists, nurses, and medical social workers throughout Texas and Oklahoma.

Q. You provide contract employment opportunities for physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, nursing, and social worker positions. How did this idea come to your mind? And how does your prior experience prepare you for this job?

Myself along with my brother founded Sterling in 2011, as mentioned above. We served in the US Army and fought for the country in Operation Desert Storm / Enduring Freedom, and supported other tours of duty as well. We were raised by a single parent.

We began with one home health agency client contract for services, one physical therapist (Dr. Sterling L. Carter, my brother and COO of the company) and serviced two patients twice a week for our first month on the southwest side of Houston…a grand total of 16 visits.

The idea came from my brother after sensing the need for quality therapists in the home health market in Houston, Texas. Dr. Carter was operating his first Outpatient PT clinic when Home Health Agencies wanted him to see patients in their homes but was unable to help as he was too busy getting his clinic off the ground. So, he would in turn refer friends and associates to the agencies as a favor. The light bulb went off, “why can’t I provide quality therapists to home health agencies for a fee?” He approached me to provide him the financial backing and the relevant business insight. The rest is history.

Q. What were the roadblocks that you had to overcome during the initial days?

Initially, the biggest obstacle was convincing skeptical medical professionals to trust that we would compensate them for the services which they rendered. Many clinicians had been burned before by shady staffing agencies and were unwilling to take a chance on someone they did not know.

Secondly, the market was tough to enter with many competitors that were already entrenched in our area. Hence, we started by doing the work that our competitors were unwilling to do and then slowly capture the existing market share from our competition.

Q. Delineate a short overview of the services your company offers.

Sterling Staffing is a leader in efficient, cross-discipline staffing solutions for extended healthcare organizations, including home health agencies, physical therapy facilities, hospice agencies, long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes. We help clients quickly select personnel from over 800 fully-credentialed clinicians across a range of disciplines and can efficiently manage the entire staffing process for our clients.

Q. 'Our company will make a global impact on every consumer or client that it touches in a way that allows them to fulfill their God-given purpose.' This sounds greatly constructive. How is it relevant to your business?

Employees, clients, and vendors alike are looking to partner with companies that have not only a profit goal but a societal desire to make a difference. To truly be successful in what you do, you must find your passion. Once you find your passion, you find your purpose. We encourage those that we interact with to work in a way that allows them to reach their ultimate passion and purpose. Goals are simply dreams with a timeline. We want to ensure that each of our stakeholders achieve their dreams.

Q. What do you think is the most memorable moment in your career?

In August 2017, we thought that we were on top of the world. Our staffing company had grown to be in the top three in our market. But, in a flash, devastation hit. Our hometown of Houston, Texas, was devastated by Hurricane Harvey. A storm that would go down as the most expensive and destructive in US history would force the closure of three out of 10 small businesses across Houston. We learned at that point what was most important. We focused on the well-being of our patients, clinicians, and clients and forgot all about profit. The results were that we rebounded and still ended with our best year ever at that time.

Q. If not a business leader, what else you wish to be?

A motivational speaker who encourages our youth to be better, do better, want more, and work harder.

Q. Briefly walk us through your future plans. Where do you see your company a couple of years from now?

For the past decade, we have been committed to improving the accessibility of healthcare to the masses through the application of technology and innovative approaches to healthcare delivery. We have focused on being leaders in the Extended Care category of healthcare, including providing innovative tools, services, and care within home health, physical therapy, hospice, long-term care, assisted living, and nursing homes. It all starts with putting patients and families at the forefront. Our efforts focus on providing exceptional patient care when needed and on the wellness services and community outreach that engage and empower the people we serve to take charge of their health—all delivered by a team of mission-driven clinicians, employees, and administrators.

In 2020, we formed Cartera Health as our master brand. Our goal is to grow this brand nationally to exceed $500 million in revenue. In the next five years, we will take the brand public and use it to increase the brand's outreach even further.

The Leaders at the Helm of Sterling Staffing Solutions

Stephen Levi Carter, MBA, and PMP: Mr. Carter, Co-Founder, serves as the Chief Executive Officer of Sterling Staffing Solutions. He has a record of accomplishment relative to operational success, visionary leadership, and business development. Combining his experience managing the finances of Fortune 500 corporations with his innate desire to build a product or service that answers a problem, he has transformed the business landscape everywhere that he goes.

Mr. Carter received his bachelor's degree of Business Administration in Accounting from Langston University. He received his MBA in Change Management and Finance from the University of Houston. Additionally, Stephen has a strong commitment to serving his community and his country. He has served as a Combat Medic in the US Army Reserves for eight years and fought in the Iraqi War: Operation Desert Shield/Storm and is now a decorated war veteran.

Dr. Sterling L. Carter, DPT, MS, and CSCS: Dr. Carter, Co-Founder, serves as the Chief Operating Officer of Sterling Staffing Solutions. He’s the visionary of this company and the clinical expert that established the operational foundation for the company’s business model.

"We help clients quickly select personnel from over 800 fully-credentialed clinicians across a range of disciplines and can efficiently manage the entire staffing process for our clients."