SLP Toolkit Podcast, Episode 33, Transcript
Hi Sarah Bevier. How's it going today?
Wonderful. How are you doing?
No complaints over here.
Super. We're not in the confessional, so I'm not looking at your face.
I know we're apart. I don't know how I feel about this. I know you love it. It's your favorite.
No, that's not entirely true. I mean, I think a little distance is good for everybody, but no, I like being in the same office with you. I just feel like in the office there needs to be an option for me to have a room with a door.
You need to have one of those, like, you know, in a limo when they raise the privacy screen?
Yeah, that's what I want.
Like a screen, just-- I'll start talking and you won't even like look up, you'll just push the button and the screen will just go up.
Exactly. That's what I need. So no, I just need some privacy sometimes.
I give you privacy in the bathroom.
That is true. I do have a door. I guess I could move my computer to the bathroom.
Anywho. First and foremost, where the hell have we been? The last episode I just looked at-- that we recorded was for podcon last October.
I was like, when was that? Oh yeah, it's been a minute.
It's been a minute. And we had a goal to do at least a minimum of two episodes a month for the season, which is a school year. And it's January, so we have failed that goal.
But our world kind of got rocked in October with the introduction of process mavens.
Yes. Yeah. So we need to back up because here's the deal. So we have now been in business for five years. Our anniversary was last Friday. Well we launched the app five years ago last Friday, but we were working a year together before that. So we've been in business for six years and we have grown like leaps and bounds. I mean, first of all, even the simple fact of managing other humans and doing all of these things and trying to be more professional because if you follow us on Instagram, you know that that's not always the case. But then what happened is last-- I think it was even sooner than October, right? I think last September we hired a contractor process mavens, who has changed our life. But she is an expert in processes and she was brought in initially just for a small project, which was to help us get our chart of accountability and something else. Oh, what? Document customer onboarding?
I think that was more when we actually hired her. So we hired her back in September, but because it's always so crazy, the beginning of the school year, everybody's going crazy. And since we support school-based SLPs as our primary customer, that is a very busy time for us as well. So we didn't really start mapping out a lot of stuff until October. And then it was like, once you start, man, did it like totally expose some holes as far as wow, we are spinning our wheels. We don't have things well-documented. It makes a lot of people repeat different things or keep asking for information that if it was just all documented and everybody really knew what they were doing, not how did you-- you know, we're not like running around not knowing what we're doing, but as far as what is my role and what am I--
Oh no, we were running around not knowing what we were doing. First of all we were wearing eight hats each.
And so that in and of itself is a problem, which is why the chart of accountability was huge for us because we needed to have defined roles of responsibility. We needed to know who were doing which position, what that role entailed. But then we also most importantly needed to know where we had these huge gaps. And you can't wear six hats and do everything really, really well. And of course in the early days of a startup, you're going to do that. You have no choice. But if you want to grow as a business and as a person in the business, we had to start figuring out how we could work less in the business. Right? And so that was huge for us is to see okay, we've got to really figure out what is Sarah good at? What is Lisa good at? And so we took tests to see which kind of role we should each be in. And then we've got Isaac who does the technology piece and we have Paul, who's been kind of an advisor for us. Maybe they need to take on some of these roles where they have strengths. Right? And so then we started seeing all these gaps and our two part-time customer support girls we knew were going to graduate in a few months and so maybe we need a full-time role there. And anyway, so once we had that clearly defined, then we all started to kind of step into those roles. I know all of a sudden I went, okay, I'm not going to pretend to be-- we hate titles. And I hate like the "c-suite," but I'm not going to-- we still had to have that as part of our accountability chart. So I'm not going to pretend to be the CEO anymore. I am the CEO. What does that mean? And what does it look like? And--
Sarah answered questions that said she was very bossy. And so we said clearly you're the CEO, you're going to boss us all around.
Right? Exactly. And so that I think was huge for both of us. It was super empowering to have this very clear, defined role. Now we're still wearing a little too-- I'm CEO slash product manager, you're COO slash sales, slash
marketing, customer happiness, everything. So we're working-- so when we say we identified some gaps, it was-- it's not physically possible to wear all of those hats and do it well. So I think even as an SLP, you can relate when you start to take on too much stuff then you can't really give anything your focus. So we're at the point where maybe some of you even have seen that we posted our first official hire of the year will be a customer happiness lead, where they will be responsible for managing how we're supporting our customers and doing demos and doing more personal touches with our customers. So we're really excited about that.
Yeah. And first we had to recognize that we had a gap and we needed a role there that there was actually a position. But then two, we can't hire somebody and just pray to God they're like a self-directed learner.
Figure it out
Right. Like people want clear expectations. And so that was where the documenting of processes came from and it's rocked my world because I'm more personality wise-- I'm not really an implementer of things. I like to sit and problem solve and think of ideas and be creative. But the actual-- like when you put my toes to the fire and say, okay, but how do you do that? Take me from A to Z and let's flow map this out and then come up with the process. I'm like, I'm out. The visual of the flow map in and of itself. I'm out. I hate visuals.
We always have joked in the past about how we wouldn't have a business if it wasn't for me, and we wouldn't still have a business if it wasn't for you. Because really we've also talked about how you have certain strengths and I have certain strengths. And what that was is I was more of an implementer and process person, and I like deadlines, and I like expectations. And Sarah, you're more of a creative and when you see barriers you're able to really quickly assess well, that makes zero sense. This makes sense. And not every brain works like that. So it's been an awesome period even early on in our business. But then particularly now stepping into those roles, like CEO or COO, where we really get to refine those strengths.
Yeah. Yeah. And so we brought in this third party, a contractor, we contract her. And not only is she a complete wiz with what a business needs in terms of that foundation and the chart of accountability, but all of these processes. And so we meet with her on a weekly basis. And we first started with customer support because we realized that was going to be our first big major hire. And then you worked with her and one of her assistants, or I don't know what that role of hers would be, to sit down and spell out exactly every single thing that role requires so that when that role is hired, you literally hand them almost like a binder--but it's all digital-- of what that role will look like. They'll know clearly this is what you're going to do. This happens first, and then this, and if that doesn't happen, then go down to this. And this is when you pass it off to someone else. And even to the point of describing our voice and we don't like to write in a way that maybe is more formal. I use a lot of exclamation points. I want every single correspondence to be filled with sunshine and rainbows and so documenting, well, what does that look like? And so anyway, it has been huge. Hasn't it? Hasn't it just been life changing?
Yeah. Because I think once you start down that road of looking at processes, that's when you fully give it attention, that's where you're like, oh my gosh, this makes so much sense here. And it snowballs into it makes so much sense everywhere. And then you want to just jump all in with teams and with yourself. And it's just to me, it's been really game-changing and the growth that we've even made in the past few months as a team, team Toolkit, it has been huge.
Yeah. So something had to give, and unfortunately, a lot of it was this, the parts that we love the most, which is our social media and this podcast. And we had to kind of step back and realize that we can't be in these parts that we love so much until we get some of the business settled. And so I feel like Lisa said, as far as the team goes, everybody's got very specific roles and bring in specific talents. And so we are able then to now hopefully have the time to do what it is that I think where Lisa and I value our time and that is directly in relation to this community. And so, anyway, I just wanted to make sure we covered where we were, but I felt like this was actually a really applicable conversation for all humans, but SLPs. Because very similar to how I've been running this business or working in this business is also how I was as an SLP. I was missing a lot of the abilities to break down tasks into small steps, make sure I met deadlines, not procrastinate, keep track of tasks, delegate. I was weak in all of those areas. What'd you say?
I said, communicate too. So all of those things, and even if you as an individual have this all down, one of the weaknesses tends to be that it's just applicable to you. So when we're working in a school framework and we're working within that multidisciplinary team, you have to be able to communicate too. And I know even when I was at one school over-- I think it was a six or seven year period as the SPED team members sort of transitioned in and out, so did our communication. And it was really fascinating. When we were on the same page with communication, it was awesome. We did amazing things. And then there were other times where it was just everybody kind of doing their own thing, meeting up at IEP's. And you could feel that. You could feel that overall impact on the performance of that kind of team.
Right. Yeah. No, it's true. And that's why I was thinking, just in general, I think this applies to so many things. First and foremost, let's start with the to-do list part of it. We started using software to help us with our ability to communicate as a team, but also to be able to assign and delegate tasks and mark completion and things like that. So we are using Asana. Another option would be something like Trello. Monday. I think we've tried a few. You really do need to find one that works for you and your brain. I think we tried all of them and Asana was the one that just felt right. It made sense to how my brain processes information. Do you feel like that too Lisa?
Absolutely. And then it's funny because now you're making me remember too, that when you are looking to spell Asana, it's A-S-A-N-A and we had a conversation with-- you know, we work with some men and one of the men in front of Sarah's husband said that we're going to work in Asana for blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And you could just see her husband's face sort of try to hold in something. Come to find out, he thought he meant we were all going to work in a sauna, S-A-U-N-A. And we had a great laugh over that because--
He's like that's where I draw the line.
He's like, I'm really cool with all these male coworkers, unless you're in a sauna.
Oh, so good. Yes. So it has been awesome. And so this is-- we actually talked about this and all of our subscribers were able to participate in what we called summer school last summer. And we're working out what that will look like for this coming summer, if you are a subscriber as well. But we talked about Asana, I think a few times throughout that summer school. Because really, just again, this idea of having a place where we're writing down our tasks, if anybody thinks and works like I do, I did that. But it was usually in a notes app or on a sticky note and things get lost and they weren't ever organized in one place. Sometimes I used a written daily planner. Sometimes I used my calendar on my iPad. So just stuff is everywhere. And so I didn't have a great system for tracking what tasks I need to get done. And now I do, anytime. It can be 10 o'clock at night and I'm laying in bed and I'm like, oh my gosh, I need to remember to buh buh buh buh buh. I pop open my Asana ask and I add it. And then I'll go in later and determine if it's part of a project or what date deadline I need. But just so I can add these tasks in really quick. And then my favorite part is what happens when you complete a task.
Well, if you have your notifications set up correctly, which I'm not sure you do. But every time I complete a task--
So I should ask what happens when you complete a task?
Flying unicorns, I get all kinds of cool stuff. But going back to what you were saying, I think what's cool about Asana is it works really well on a desktop, but also what you were saying is there is an iOS app. So if you have your phone and you just want to jot something down, that's cool. I think as a school-based SLP, just to know too, that Asana is free. So if you start to build it out for huge teams and companies and need extra features that make more business sense, there's a paid version. But even as a SPED team or an individual to start, you can create boards. So you could have an IEP board, you could have a MET board, you could have therapy idea boards. You could create all of these different boards of things that you want to-- how you want to organize your tasks that you need to do. And then if there are pieces of that-- what Sarah had talked about before, that part of processes is not just saying, oh, I have to do this. It's well, to do this I have to do X, Y, and Z as well. Those are the sub tasks. So I remember a really great training that Michelle Garcia Winner gave once that talked about, hey, write down all of the things that you did before coming to this training this morning. And so people were writing like the bigger categories. Like I brushed my teeth and I got dressed and I this and I that, and so her comment to that was okay, you're able to synthesize your activities into these bigger headings, but think about students that have executive function difficulty. Even something like brush your teeth. It's not that you just brush your teeth. You go into the bathroom, you open the drawer, you grab your toothbrush, you grab your toothpaste, you put the toothpaste--you take the cap off, you put the toothpaste on your toothbrush. There are all of these sub tasks that have to happen to get to the bigger task. So using kind of that mentality, this is what happens with tasks that you create too. If you want to do anything bigger, you can sit down and really map out everything that's involved. And then sometimes that involves other people. So that's what's cool if you do end up getting your SPED team on board with doing it too, is that you can tag each other and you can add sub tasks and you can add progress and comments and all of these things to really keep the communication going where it doesn't mean I have to walk over to your room and say, hey, how's it going? And, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, which that's still super cool. Relationships are hugely important, but sometimes you've got five minutes. You just want to knock something out and communicate something--
And let's not forget a lot of people aren't working on a campus right now.
True, right now. Absolutely.
You can't go to your resource teacher's room and talk to her. So you've got to have technology involved in your communication. And so, yeah, what better way than to have things documented? And obviously if you're talking about personal identifying information, you're going to want to use initials or whatever. But just to be able to say, hey, I completed this part of the IEP. I've got questions on buh buh buh buh buh and then send a task to somebody. Anyway. I just think it has changed how we think about everything. I have my own personal tasks in here now too, because I can't imagine living without it.
Me either. You know, what was funny when we first just dove all in with-- not just Asana, we kind of got better with Asana before we even did processes, but it's just amped it up to a whole other level since we started working as a team and really all had such buy-in for it. But I found when we first started, like where we really ramped it up, it ended up spilling over into my home life. I started getting like really OCD, which is kind of crazy because my brain was so focused on processes and deadlines and figuring it all out that then I found it triggered me for whatever reason. My pantry had to be organized and I was cleaning more, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But it is interesting that once you kind of go there, you start to see these holes in other parts of your life where you're like oh, I guess I could apply this to this. But I've loved it. I love the-- what we have used it a lot for too is if you have repetitive tasks, so you can make sort of a template. So even like what you were saying, Sarah, if you were all working on this multidisciplinary evaluation team report for an evaluation write up of a student that you've all tested, everybody has their piece. You might do these same steps over and over and over. So you can make a master task with those steps. And then with every new student, copy it. So you don't have to create that template over and over and over. You just copy that task, plug in the information that is specific to the one that you're working on and go from there.
Yeah. And I had broken up-- again, this goes back to this idea of now I see everything as a process. Which it was new to me, because people's brains work like that and mine didn't. But anyway, so I saw the process of everything that needs to happen with an IEP. And so from start to finish from the point of setting a meeting with the family, to signing off that IEP and sending home the copy and this the final IEP. There's a process there. Right? And so if you document it-- and oftentimes I remember in the district we worked in, there was a checklist that told you every piece, but there wasn't maybe-- that was more about-- not procedurally, what am I trying to say? Like the policy of what needed to be done, but what do you need to do? Well, the first thing you need to do is you want to schedule out the meeting with the mom, and then you put yourself a date there. Then the next thing-- or parent. Then you want to do the next thing, which is you want to start collecting data or reviewing data. And so you need to do that by this date. So you map out everything that it takes to complete an IEP. And so one of those pieces better be completing a present level assessment in SLP toolkit. Yep. I said it. And so that would be as part of your task. And then like Lisa said, you would just duplicate that. So Johnny's IEP is due, I duplicate that task, put Johnny's name on it. And now I work through that step by step by step. And so now I'm not freaking out because I forgot to do one part of it. Because it's just right there for me and I'm checking off and again-- you check off the box and a fricking narwhal flies across your screen. I mean, that's rewarding in and of itself. So I definitely cannot recommend using some kind of project manager software to really help streamline things. Now I'll tell you, I love Lisa's example and how beneficial it is that we use it as a team. I will tell you, in our own experience, we were not all on board with doing that. Some of our team members wanted this done a long time ago and Lisa and I dug our heels in the sand. Maybe Lisa came around quicker than I did, but I was very much on the don't you tell me how I am going to run my day to day, you know? And so I was really not giving it a chance. So I can see that that would happen in our school teams because we had those dynamics sometimes as school teams. And so the first thing would be just try it for yourself. You can't force this kind of thing on anybody else. They have to have the buy-in, but then maybe you send a message or you're just casually showing somebody something cool that happened while you were in Asana or whatever project management software you're using. But make those baby steps. Because if you do not have the buy-in, it does not work.
Well. And even in our staff meetings, sometimes there were just tips that you share out. And I feel like even in our business life now, this tends to happen in our business meetings, where if anybody finds like a cool workaround or has good news to share whatever you share is like a quick little blurb. So it could even be something that you're like, love this. Don't know if you love like checklists and stuff, as much as I do. Why I love that it's software is because it's digital and I don't have to worry about, do I have the checklist that I need, that I'm missing anything, where did I put it? I always know where it's at. And one of the things that Sarah and I have talked about a few times is this idea of this change due to coronavirus that everyone experienced and maybe for different time periods. But some people have only done teletherapy since everything's shut down. Some people have kind of gone in and out, but I don't think there's anyone that just did not do any kind of teletherapy. And it forced us to expand in this digital way and to become more comfortable with technology, work better digital to even provide therapy, which I think was sort of like a niche in our field where people were doing teletherapy, but now it's just like well yeah, I have total buy-in for this, I've done this. And so that's where I think too-- I was just talking to, you had referenced before that our current customer happiness, the two people that are primarily supporting your emails for SLP Toolkit are graduate students that are in the field of speech and hearing, and they're due to graduate in May. But we were talking about this whole idea of just it's kind of been a cool thing because we'll get emails even from people that have been SLPs for 40 years. And they're like, I'm 65, didn't think I'd be doing teletherapy. Didn't think I'd have to learn new digital stuff, but I'm here and I'm going to learn it. And so kind of the conversation that the grad students and I had was that, it's one thing when you're in your speech room that you've been in for awhile and you've got these giant filing cabinets and you have your binders and whatever system you're comfortable with, and then it takes something like this to show you, oh crap. Well, now I'm home. And I'm working at my kitchen table. I don't know where to put these papers. I don't know how to organize any of this. So it forces you to kind of look at things that you may not have looked at before. So it's one of those silver lining kind of things where I feel like we've had a lot of people gravitate toward SLP Toolkit even, because of it being just a more digitally conscious kind of society right now.
Right. No, I couldn't agree more. I mean, I've always loved technology, but I think more now than ever before, do I realize the value that it has in my life and ease and everything else. No, totally. I was thinking back again, I feel like this entire podcast is going to be about processes. And maybe the confession for this episode is simply we did not have our ducks in a row.
How does that go? They were at a rave? Have you seen that meme? Something about that. And so now that we're just trucking along and we've got these great processes. But another thing it made me realize is when I figured out how to do these processes, again, we start with a flow map typically to talk about what that looks like and start to make these branches. And then based on that information, we're able to then go and describe each component that we'd mapped out on the flow map. But it made me think of it's the same concept we have with lesson planning, right? It's that ability to look at this is what I need. This is the goal I have for that student. I need them to get to this point in a year's time. So I got to break this up into how do I teach-- based on where that student is-- how do I teach this skill? or therapize this skill to get there? And so you've got to-- we do this all the time in our brain. We just aren't writing it down. You're doing this constantly all day long. You're problem solving. Okay, so they did this. What if I tried this now? All right, that didn't work. I'm going to back up and go here now, then I'm going to do this. But if you write it down and you have that ready and in front of you, imagine how powerful that is. We always have said right? That we wish we had a curriculum. Now, it doesn't quite work the same is because we're not teachers. We are therapists and there is a give and take and more flexibility and problem solving probably required in that. Or I shouldn't say required that a curriculum doesn't work. Cause you can't just have this spelled out script. But you can guide your thinking of if you think about those concrete skills, how do I teach "yes, no"? What's the very first thing someone needs in order to be able to answer a yes, no question? Okay. So how do I build upon that? What's that building block? And so then mapping that process out in a lesson plan and then storing that so you can easily access it when you're working on that goal with the student. So I think it's just changed the way I look at everything now.
Yes. And I think one of the things that can be hard about any process, whether it be what we were talking about, that whole process of taking therapy and breaking it down into these logical steps of how you teach it. That same thing is how you can measure progress with a rubric where you're looking at where do students usually start? Where do I want them to get? And then what are those logical kind of building blocks in between that they need to be at to get there? And that also works when we're talking about these personal projects, where even the example that you gave about an IEP. It's not just write an IEP, you're thinking about all of those steps. So even if we're doing those, it can sometimes be difficult to put that in a written form. And so one of the things that we've always advocated for is to use a peer. Use your SLP buddy, or SLP bestie maybe, is the better word. And even for something like Asana where it sounds kind of cool, but it could be a little overwhelming. I don't know if I want to go there. If you sat and had coffee and lunch with your SLP bestie and kind of talked it through, what we've found with even our business processes is that it's that talk through that you're talking about something out loud and if somebody says, oh wait, but we went from here to here, what's this step? Or vice versa, maybe your SLP bestie is saying something you're like, okay, this, this, but we need something in the middle here. What do you do in this case? And then you're kind of documenting it through that dialogue and conversation and problem solving through it together. And I can definitely say the way that we've always worked together, Sarah it's been a buddy system. It's been we work through things, we dialogue about it. We figure it out because everything is figureoutable. I always love that quote because it's so true that you just sometimes aren't able to get there by yourself necessarily. There are other people that they can do it all.
Task analyze the shit out of something.
Right. No, no, no. I totally agree with you. And I think that's what exactly what had happened is we brought this third party in to help us really kind of figure this out. And because she is skilled in that, she's able to do it so much easier than we are. And sat down, but once she showed us her ways, then we can do it now. Again, we're not ready to cut her loose yet.
I was gonna say, we can't do the flow charts that she does. She uses this app that is amazing that in real time that she's talking and mapping things out, she's diverting them in these ways-- where I joked to you, there was one process that we had that looked like an Etch-a-Sketch when we first mapped it out, which is clearly an issue. That was part of oh no wonder your team struggles with teaching anyone how to do this. Like, this is bananas.
They're all over the place. Yeah. And we didn't know that until we saw that flow map with things going everywhere. It was craziness. I know. So no, it did. The fact that she would point us in kind of a direction to go. She would ask the right questions to get us thinking and then she would keep us really, really focused so we didn't waste time. And then once we just got going, then it's like oh boom, yeah. Then we do this next and then we need to do this next. And then if we do that, then hey, Lisa, what are you? You know? So definitely I love that. And that's why I think it's so important to make sure you have a community, whether it's Facebook, or we hope if you're an SLP Toolkit subscriber that you're in our be your best group or something where you've got these people who you can say that to. Hey, I am struggling with this. How do you do this? And let people chime in and offer the different things that have worked for them. That's why I think summit is the coolest thing on the planet. We just finished that the live week of SLP summit. And we won't talk about it too much during this episode because spoiler alert. Spoiler alert, that was a tongue twister. We've got Marisha in our next episode, where we're really going to be talking about SLP summit. But that's why I think summit is so powerful because it is very practical and very relevant. And somebody who is an expert in a specific area breaks things down into a way that I know I walk out of it and I go now I got it. Cool, alight thanks. Yeah. Which isn't always how PD goes. So anyway, definitely find people in your community that you feel comfortable asking questions to because it is. It's super powerful to be able to walk through that process with somebody, and of course the first thing you need to know is you need to know your strengths and weaknesses. And you need to be willing to ask questions and all of those things that you guys already know. But anyway, the good news is we're grown up over here over at Toolkit, just maturing every day. This business is starting to look like an actual business and not just two girls who like to rollerskate holding hedgehogs and have dodge parties. And so because of that, we have a content calendar for Q1. And part of that mapped out our two episodes each month for our podcast and our blog content we want to do and what we're going to be posting on social media. And so this is going to happen. We are back and this is just the first episode of a new year. We're still in season three, but first episode of the new year. And we will be regularly posting at least twice a month. So super excited about that.
Yes. Anything else?
I don't think so.
Just trucking along.
Yeah. I got a lot of work to do. I got to go work on some of my processes, so I got to go.
Okay. Alright, I'll let you go then. All right. We'll talk to you later. Bye.