Smart Talk Therapy Speech Pathology
Early in her career as a speech pathologist, Lauren Miko joined Smart Talk Speech Pathology as an employee, where she worked alongside the founder, Catherine de Beaux. A couple of years into this arrangement, they discovered they worked extremely well together with complementary attributes and decided to form a partnership.
At this stage, the speech pathology clinic hired another speech pathologist, and for a while, things were humming along just fine… and then the practice ‘exploded’!
In the last 2-3 years, Lauren and Catherine’s clinic has grown from being just the three of them in one location, to having 3 locations and 15 employees! They’ve also expanded their services to become a multidisciplinary paediatric centre which consists of Speech Pathology and Occupational Therapy services.
Lauren says she’s not entirely sure how they’ve grown so quickly, but says it all started with the decisions to upgrade their systems and office environment.
She explains that “we went from taking a very relaxed approach to the clinic, to actually deciding to treat the practice seriously and run it like a business.”
But what does that mean in reality? They decided to move into newer premises, start using practice management software, and upgrade their accounting software (from an installed system to a cloud-based system). In doing so, they also made the decision that they wanted to be as paper-free as possible. “Physically, we were surrounded by paper and clutter, with systems that didn’t talk to each other. We knew that had to change if we were to grow and become successful.”
They looked into several different practice management systems, but Lauren had previously used Power Diary in another clinic and found the interface to be the most user-friendly. Then, when she realised it integrated with Xero, they decided to switch their accounting software as well.
“It was really a ‘clean slate’ approach where we changed everything! We moved offices, started using Power Diary, moved our accounts to Xero, scanned all our notes, setup Dropbox, and went paperless – all at once.”
It’s a method that may seem a bit radical for some, but Lauren and Catherine haven’t looked back. Lauren says:
“The difference is incredible – we’re no longer surrounded by papers and nothing is falling through the cracks. Almost instantly after getting everything set up, we became so much more efficient, and I really think this was a big catalyst behind our growth.”
When we asked her to elaborate on what was actually so different, she reflects back shaking her head… “Oh my goodness, when I think of how we ran the practice beforehand, it was really clumsy! Google Calendar is great for personal use, but you can’t run a proper business like that. We were getting our receptionist to text reminders from our phones, which was so time-consuming (and meant that our clients had our personal mobile numbers). Also, our appointments were disconnected from the invoicing – I’m sure we missed out on invoicing lots of clients because of this, so there’s real money lost too.”
Lauren says that at first, they didn’t think they needed a lot of the features of Power Diary, but now, those same features are some of the ones they rely on most.
“Especially with different offices – we need everyone to have access to everything they need. The rosters are also extremely beneficial – we have therapists going between offices and at schools, etc, so it’s really important to have this in the system.”
She says the SMS reminders have also had a big impact on attendance rates. “We know how busy parents are and so these reminders have become essential. It’s very useful to see the history of messages and correspondence. And it’s great that clients can confirm or cancel by text – they can do this after-hours. We also give clients the option of email reminders which some prefer. And we LOVE the colour coding of the calendar, the ability to put flags on clients, and the alerts – sometimes these are really necessary for our clients.”
“The integration with Medicare also streamlines things a lot – both for us and also for our clients as they no longer need to make claims themselves.”
When we asked Lauren for her advice on how to grow, she says; “I hate to sound boring, but don’t under-estimate the power of procedures and efficiency. Streamlining our processes has been instrumental for our practice. When you have systems in place, it frees up more time to spend marketing or building the business.”
She also referred to Perry Marshall’s book on “80/20 Sales and Marketing” and says that this helped her realise the importance of good systems and processes. “The idea of $10, $100, or $1000 jobs really made sense to me and helped me set up the practice to use my time better.”
However, that’s not all they did. When pushed for advice she would offer to other speech pathologists wanting to grow, she says that they invested a lot in their website and in SEO. “Originally our website was outsourced and not done very well. We tried to fix it, but eventually, we decided to build a whole new website, and this time, we did it properly with a reputable firm. It’s really so important to have a professional website.”
Lauren and Catherine also encourage all of their team members to make a concerted effort in building personal connections with local GPs, paediatricians, schools, and anyone else that might be working with kids that would have a need for their services.
And of course, Lauren is the first to admit that the demand for speech pathology services has increased dramatically over the last few years. “It’s sad that speech and language difficulties are becoming more prevalent. However, the good thing is that we’re catching children at a younger age and using early intervention strategies so the amount of therapy they require is reduced.”