We had the good fortune of connecting with Avivit Ben-Aharon MS Ed., MA CCC-SLP and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Avivit, how does your business help the community?
Telehealth, while not new, is an innovative rapidly-evolving field. Convenient, efficient, secure, interactive and effective are the main benefits of this online method of providing speech therapy services by linking the therapist to the client for assessment and treatment. The social impact of telehealth has been omnipresent, particularly for schools and individuals who live in rural areas where access to therapists was limited by geography. Online speech therapy services also filled the need for those without transportation or unable to travel because of inclement weather. It also offers easy access for busy professionals who need clinical services but cannot spare hours away from the office. Probably the most current example of the social impact of online speech therapy can be best illustrated during the coronavirus crisis. Schools were closed which meant that students were no longer able to receive therapeutic services in school. Clinical offices were shuttered as part of the social distancing program and therapists could no longer provide home-based therapy. It has been an amazing experience to provide needed HIPAA-compliant clinical services in the comfort of the client’s home or office and prevent disruption of services caused by social distancing protocols. As a company, we were also able to create jobs for speech therapists who were unemployed due to the coronavirus. The infrastructure was in place so we could accommodate the increase in staff and clients without the hiccups of going from in-house services to virtual ones.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Founded in 2014, Great Speech Inc. is an innovative online speech therapy solution which utilizes video conferencing technology to provide live, interactive, highly individualized services across the United States. Our mission is to be agents of change, to teach children, teens and adults to be effective communicators, with the confidence to express themselves effectively. By utilizing video conferencing technology to provide online speech therapy anywhere in the world, we are innovative. Yet we are traditional in our expectations of consistency in treatment and our definition of success. As Founder and Clinical Director of Great Speech Inc., I know personally how speech therapy can open doors and change lives. But in more than a decade of work as a speech therapist, I had seen countless situations where people could not access the therapeutic services they needed for so many different reasons. Some struggled with transportation or had to cancel because of inclement weather conditions. Others found it difficult juggling the needs of the family and work schedule. Schools often were challenged to provide tailored services to a diverse student population. I knew there had to be a better way, but it was a long and challenging journey. As I searched for a solution, I realized that technological innovations were poised to completely transform the profession. With online speech therapy, the transformation is complete. There are so many advantages. Now, a grandmother in Chicago, who suffered a stroke, can connect online with a speech therapist from Houston, while her daughter in Cleveland monitors the session. Parents no longer have to leave work early or bring the entire family to a speech therapy session. Instead, they can prepare dinner while the child is working with the therapist, in the comfort of their home. A therapist who moves out of town can continue to provide services to the same clients. Equally as important, in a class of 15 students with varying disabilities, each child can work individually with a therapist trained to address a specific need. HIPAA compliant, secure, personally tailored, highly effective therapy is now accessible, affordable, and convenient for children, teens, adults and seniors. There are still challenges ahead. While approved by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association as an appropriate method of service delivery in 2005, public perception, lack of controlled substantiated research proving the effectiveness of the telepractice model and the general absence of private insurance reimbursement for service are still obstacles in the growth of this field. Education and advocacy are needed to push this cause forward and fill in the gaps. What sets Great Speech apart from the others? I am both the founder and clinical director of Great Speech. The fact that I am a licensed speech and language pathologist with extensive experience as a clinical practitioner is a unique qualification in an industry dominated by entrepreneurs. It also allows me to be very hands-on with both the clients and therapists with whom I work. Additionally, while some companies hire speech therapy assistants, each of our speech therapists has a Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology, a certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and is licensed by various state licensing boards. But most importantly, it is the time and effort we allocate to the client-clinician matching process. By strategically pairing the client with the clinician who is best trained to treat the disorder and offers the best personality match, we can empower greater communication and better results. What are you most proud and excited about in your company? Starting my own online speech therapy company, Great Speech Inc., has always been a huge source of pride for me. While the innovation behind the initiative has always been exciting, the Covid-19 pandemic has really highlighted the need for telepractice services and I am extremely proud that we were ahead of the curve. As pioneers in the telepractice industry, we have put in place a sustainable infrastructure to support not only our current clients and therapists but others who need services and jobs during the crisis. Our ability to extend our model of telepractice excellence nationwide when it was most needed has truly been gratifying. What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way? It’s been a long journey, from the aha moment when I identified the need for online speech therapy services to this point in my entrepreneurial career. There have been so many challenges along the way. From dealing with the logistics of starting my own business to selecting a HIPAA-compliant platform; from hiring telepractitioners and training them to creating a marketing plan to retain and attract new clients. What I have learned is that everything is figureoutable, to quote Author Marie Forleo. While the solution is not always readily apparent, I have discovered that patience is indeed a virtue and have also realized the importance of active listening in meeting client needs and expectations. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story? There are three takeaway messages I hope people will remember about Great Speech Inc. 1. We were pioneers in the field. Thinking about how we were one of the first online speech therapy companies just brings a smile to my face and is an ongoing source of pride and joy. I am thrilled to watch the industry evolve and am happily anticipating future innovation. 2. Online speech therapy is as effective as traditional clinical services and was approved by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association as an appropriate method of service delivery in 2005. Right now, the limiting factor are the private insurance companies. My hope is that the need for telepractice services, highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic, may prove to be the impetus insurance carriers needed to provide coverage approval. 3. What makes Great Speech stand out in the industry is the white-glove concierge service that is a trademark of our company. We are truly committed to help our clients transform their lives and optimize their communication skills and abilities. One of our most successful strategies is how we match up our therapists with clients. The lack of geographical limitations is a bonus and allows us to connect the client with the therapist who has the skills and personality to promote client success.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
The best time ever for me would start at the beach. Whether we took a walk in the early morning with an amazing cup of iced coffee in our hands or enjoyed a picnic sushi dinner at dusk, I know we would spend hours just chatting with the Atlantic Ocean as our backdrop. I tend to take guests to places where I feel a connection. Inspired by the hysterically funny movie, The Birdcage, which was filmed at The Carlyle Hotel, I would definitely make a stop in South Beach, probably after an afternoon visit to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (I’m a huge Chihuly fan) or Coral Castle. I would definitely try to sneak a two-day getaway to Key West. I just love the actual drive there and the conch train tour is my all-time favorite. The sunsets are breathtaking and there are multiple cruise options from which to choose. My husband and I are big fans of the Living Room at the W Hotel and I’m sure that would be an evening destination along with the Guitar light show at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. A night of shopping at the Sawgrass Outlet mall is always a fun experience for out-of-town guests (and me). The final piece of the week-long itinerary would include places and activities I had always planned to do or visit but never managed to fit into my busy schedule. Miracle Mile, a helicopter tour, or hot balloon ride or all on my bucket list, though it might be kind to ask my best friend what is on hers.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I am a huge reader and books have helped propel my career forward. I was initially inspired when I read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill; but what really pushed me to take the leap from employee to entrepreneur full time was, Think and Grow Rich for Women by Sharon Lechter. I particularly liked the mastermind questions/ ask yourself that were included in this version. Napoleon Hill shared wealth building principles that resonated with me. He taught me the value and importance of harnessing the power my mind possesses as a way to achieve my dreams. I grew up believing that working hard is the only way to achieve success. Napoleon Hill taught me that working smart and using the power of the universe is so much more effective and efficient. I learned to visualize and see my goals and go after them. And I’ve never looked back.