Talking Business Decades before the concept of “leaning in” existed, one SLP launched her own business doing something she’d never heard of anyone in her profession doing. In the Limelight
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In the Limelight  |   August 01, 2017
Talking Business
Author Notes
  • Shelley D. Hutchins is content editor/producer for The ASHA Leader. shutchins@asha.org
    Shelley D. Hutchins is content editor/producer for The ASHA Leader. shutchins@asha.org×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Professional Issues & Training / In the Limelight
In the Limelight   |   August 01, 2017
Talking Business
The ASHA Leader, August 2017, Vol. 22, 30-31. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.22082017.30
The ASHA Leader, August 2017, Vol. 22, 30-31. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.22082017.30
Name: Katie Schwartz, MA, CCC-SLP
Title: Founder and director, Business Speech Improvement
Hometown: Durham, North Carolina
One week after Katie Schwartz started a new job, the hospital where she worked closed its entire speech department. The hospital gave Schwartz three months’ warning of the closure, and she took the time to figure out the right career move.
The speech-language pathologist knew from working in hospitals and schools that she enjoyed working with adults and wanted enough flexibility to spend time with her family. She also wanted to do something different.
“During those months, I noticed several people who work in my community—the bank manager and other professionals—had speech disorders,” Schwartz says. “So one night after I put my daughter to bed, I decided to try to start my own business being an SLP for businesspeople.”
This was 1991 in Reading, Pennsylvania, and not many people had heard of a corporate SLP. But Schwartz set out to build a practice doing just that. One night, she perused her local directory of female businesspeople to find someone to introduce her to the business world. Flipping through the pages, she came across someone listed as a corporate trainer.
Schwartz called the woman, and, after they talked for a while, the woman offered her a consulting opportunity. Schwartz had exactly the skills this person needed to expand her department’s services, including helping clients with accent modification, articulation, rate of speaking, conversational skills, communication between employers and employees, public speaking, and nonverbal communication.
Spreading the wealth
More than 25 years later, Schwartz still works as a corporate SLP and runs her own company—Business Speech Improvement. She now lives in Durham, North Carolina, after living and working for years in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Holding licenses in multiple states gives Schwartz a broad geographic client base. Keeping up with her own professional development allows her to treat a variety of speech and language disorders, in addition to coaching people on clear communication and public speaking.
Although she usually works with one or two clients at a time, Schwartz doesn’t always know exactly how she’ll be helping until she meets the client in person to start their sessions. Her most common services for business clients include coaching for more confident public speaking, along with speech rate, business communication skills and accent modification.
“As an SLP, I bring the ability to analyze many aspects of communication simultaneously,” Schwartz says. “I understand the micro aspects of pausing and diction, as well as macro skills like rate of speech and nonverbal communication. I can determine how the way someone answers the phone might impact a customer.”
Schwartz thrives on the variety of ways and places she can help people as a corporate SLP, but maintaining skills for working with people on so many different types of communication issues was demanding. She often had to brush up on specific topics quickly. In addition, she received calls from potential clients living in states where she wasn’t licensed to practice.
Feeling it wasn’t good business practice to simply turn them away, Schwartz realized a few years into this venture that she needed a network of SLPs who provide similar services.
So Schwartz founded the Corporate Speech Pathology Network (CORSPAN) in 1996. The organization links corporate SLPs together to share resources and provides a platform to promote their expertise. The members can tap a mentorship program, exchange ideas on a Listserv, share articles and videos, and refer clients to one another.

As an SLP, I bring the ability to analyze many aspects of communication simultaneously. I can determine how the way someone answers the phone might impact a customer.

Accepting the risks
Not long after launching CORSPAN, Schwartz wrote her first book, “Talking on the Job: The World of Corporate Speech Pathology.” She received so many calls from other SLPs interested in doing similar work that she quickly compiled—and wrote down—an abundance of information to share. Four print books followed—including one she promised to her kids on communicating in college—as did eight short e-books. In addition to educating other SLPs about pursuing a career in corporate work, Schwartz also writes about strategies and techniques her clients can use.
Schwartz enjoys talking to other SLPs interested in this type of work and she makes sure to share the bad along with the good (see her article, “You Do What? You Work Where?” in the November 2015 Leader).
Businesses work differently from health care facilities or schools. Most clients, for example, see Schwartz for short, intensive training. She usually travels to the company’s location, where she works individually with clients for one to three days and conducts any follow-up via telepractice.
Local clients usually want hourly schedules, but they don’t often continue sessions beyond a few months. The short-term nature of corporate clients means that business is “feast or famine,” Schwartz says. She advises SLPs to make sure they build a financial cushion before going into corporate practice full time.
Schwartz also recommends SLPs experience other work settings before trying corporate practice. Treating a variety of issues makes this career interesting, but it also means needing expertise in many areas to be effective.
In addition, she suggests interested clinicians explore the many services corporate SLPs offer and initially select only a few of them as their specialty. “Then figure out if your community has a need for those services,” she says.
Finally, learn about the business world. She advises SLPs to study the lingo, how businesses pay contractors, and effective marketing strategies. Companies don’t pay for clinical treatments, for example, so she discovered early to avoid saying “diagnosis” or “treatment,” and to instead use words such as “coaching” or “training” (these labels can put services into professional development budgets, even when the client has a speech disorder). Taking a class or reading about how to run a small business can teach these skills—and those needed to run a private practice.
One major upside is the lack of paperwork, Schwartz adds. She also gets paid easily and promptly. Plus, every client works hard because they want this training and understand why they need it.
“It’s a fascinating field, but it’s not for everybody,” Schwartz says. “I get a thrill when a client says they got a job or a promotion after the coaching, but my favorite is hearing them say they feel so much more confident.”
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August 2017
Volume 22, Issue 8