As a business owner, effective communication is critical to developing relationships with your customers and employees. For the large majority, speaking to individuals or groups can be terrifying, prohibiting their ability to clearly communicate important information. This fear is even more prevalent for business owners who speak English as a second language as they oftentimes worry that using the wrong words or having a prominent accent may become a barrier to connecting with clients and employees.
When Speech-Language Pathologist, Adrienne L. Singletary, realized the importance of effective communication for both employers and employees, the distinct gap in resources for the business community empowered her to take action and start a corporate speech therapy organization, Transcendent Accents. Born in Augusta Georgia, Adrienne earned her Bachelor’s in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Hampton University and a Master’s in Speech Pathology from Howard University. While at Howard University, Adrienne was a Bilingual Grant recipient which sparked an intrigue in cultural diversity and accents and is one of only a handful of Speech-Language Pathologists in the country certified in the Compton Pronouncing English as a Second Language (PESL).
Transcendent Accents is the only Accent Modification agency in the Charlotte area recognized by the Institute of Language and Phonology. Specializing in accent modification and corporate speech therapy, Adrienne uses the Compton P-ESL program, which has demonstrated increases in pronunciation clarity and accuracy of at least 50% by the majority of clients who complete the training program. All courses are completely customized to each client’s specific accent patterns and pronunciation proficiency level.
“Having the ability to enhance an individual’s communication style still makes me smile with glee every time. That feeling of novelty never gets old.”
How much does communication really affect your business? We asked Adrienne to tell us more about how communication can help or hinder a business, as well as common misconceptions that small business owners may have.
CBR: How can communication positively or negatively impact a business’s growth?
Adrienne L. Singletary (ALS): Employees with the necessary communication skills to easily interact with customers in a friendly and effective way provide the customer with assurance along with clear intentions and expectations. As a by-product of this, customer satisfaction and loyalty are increased.
The ability to effectively understand, communicate and influence are underrated skills in the workplace. Even for those who do not work directly with clients, interpersonal communication skills are still vitally important. These skills help facilitate productive co-worker relationships and can have a large impact on the overall success or failure of a business. For example, the stress caused by having to work underneath a manager who lacks interpersonal skills is believed to cost American companies an estimated $360 billion every year. Effective communication skills are moving from a soft skill that’s simply nice to have to a mandatory hiring prerequisite for every prospective employee.
From a production standpoint, regardless of what a project entails, a robust communication system between and within project teams and team members is essential for on-time delivery. Failing to complete a project within its original time frame can be costly in terms of money, time, and the business’s reputation in some cases. Although communicating via email and instant messaging is acceptable in many situations, an over-reliance on technology-based communications can work to decrease overall productivity. Back-and-forth electronic communication takes more time than face-to-face conversations and can cause workday disruptions that significantly affect productivity.
The Corporate Speech Therapy service that I provide has allowed numerous managers and their counterparts to learn the various skills required to effectively communicate in large and small group settings, how to articulate their thoughts appropriately, how to use figurative language correctly in the workplace, and how to use body language when presenting in the office setting. Previous clients have noted the growth in their confidence and no longer present with communication inhibitions.
CBR: How do you help businesses fine-tune their internal communications?
ALS: I help businesses fine-tune their internal communications by ensuring that each employee can communicate in a clear and concise manner with one another, regardless of their background or nationality. For example, if an employee is responsible for relaying health and safety information to the production team but he or she is unable to properly pronounce the name of the conference room where the first aid kit is located, employee safety can be compromised. This can also lead to potential legal consequences if it is proven that the company failed to correctly communicate important safety information to its staff.
CBR: What’s the biggest misconception about communication that small businesses can fall victim to?
ALS: Customer service has always played a major part in business, but now more than ever before. Organizations know that the satisfaction of their customers is tied directly to the communication between the company and their customers. For businesses to really stand out from the competition they need to offer more than just convenience and low prices. Email is used throughout the day with customers but it’s important to know that consumers have a desire for verbal interactions for critical issues or any bit of information deemed important. Believe it or not, many consumers want to know they can pick up a phone and speak with a friendly customer service representative, and one that can communicate effectively and efficiently. Information cannot always be communicated via email and valuable information can be lost in translation due to lack of tone and emotion within an email.
CBR: What is the best piece of advice you would offer a business owner when it comes to communicating with their team?
ALS: Effective communication between managers and employees is a key element in getting things done. Managers who assume employees know how to complete a task and those who fail to provide clear instructions ultimately decrease department productivity. Efficient and effective communication between the business owner, management and employees increases morale, establishes a level of trust and makes everyone feel they have a stake in the continuing success of the business. Happy employees are more efficient and productive. The business benefits from reduced absenteeism and turnover rates. A study performed by Watson Wyatt found that businesses with effective communication practices were more than 50 percent more likely to report employee turnover levels below the industry average.
Back-and-forth electronic communication takes more time than face-to-face conversations and can cause workday disruptions that significantly affect productivity. The results of a survey conducted by the research firm Basex Inc. revealed that about 28 percent of an average office employee’s time is spent dealing with interruptions, at a cost to U.S. businesses of about $900 billion annually. Imagine the cost or impact this could make in your small business operation? Therefore, take time to have weekly or bi-weekly meetings to discuss new projects and the expectations for those projects.
CBR: When starting and growing your business, what resource organizations (if any) have helped you along the way?
ALS: I regularly attend networking events throughout the Charlotte area with International House, World Affairs Council, Charlotte Business Journal, Young Affiliates of the Mint, and several entrepreneurial Meetup groups. I recently joined the Latin American Chamber of Commerce and attend and participate in numerous events hosted by this wonderful organization.
CBR: What have been your biggest challenges as a business owner, and how have you overcome them?
ALS: I had to overcome self-doubt. As an entrepreneur, it is easy to feel discouraged and overwhelmed. However, I have learned from networking with other entrepreneurs and small business owners that these feelings are normal and I am not alone in this process. There was so much to learn concerning social media marketing, setting up my LLC, and keeping financial records, however, I have learned from other small business owners to ask questions. You will not know something unless you ask. Never assume that you are alone in the entrepreneurship process.
When I begin to feel discouraged, I remember the excitement on my first client’s face when they listened to their ‘before’ and ‘after’ recordings from their first session to their last session. His facial expression and the raves and reviews of previous clients keep me grounded and looking forward to my day-to-day operations.