The Atlanta Small Business Profile – Melanie McGriff, Kid’s Creek Therapy

Today on the Atlanta Small Business Profile, host and small business expert Ted Jenkin has a discussion with Melanie McGriff, Owner of Kid’s Creek Therapy. McGriff’s organization is committed to providing children with special needs the best care in the Atlanta metro area. Kid’s Creek therapists have an innate ability to work effectively with special needs children, and they have built a reputation for results, responsiveness, and professionalism.

Transcription:

Ted Jenkin:

Hey, everybody. This is Ted Jenkin, small business expert right here on another episode of the Atlanta Small Business Profile. And today I’m interviewing Melanie McGriff, who is the owner of Kid’s Creek Therapy. A lot of parents today coming through this pandemic they want to make sure that their kids are doing well in school. Everything’s been virtual. More and more kids are getting therapy today. So I’m so glad to bring Melanie in and talk about this important topic and your business as well today.

Melanie McGriff:

Thank you.

Ted Jenkin:

I want to know, how does one decide to get into the speech therapy business? How’d you decide to get into that as a business?

Melanie McGriff:

Yeah, that’s a great question because as I started out my career in speech pathology, my whole passion was just to be able to work with children. And so as I grew and developed into my career, it just made natural sense with the opportunities that were given to be able to hone and develop a practice around my values and the work ethic that I have to meet the needs of the kids.

Ted Jenkin:

When you open this kind of business, is it capital intensive? Do you have to buy a lot of special equipment? Are there machines that will help you be able to help the kids speak better? Is Do you have to buy that to start or can you just really hire a bunch of therapists and start a clinic?

Melanie McGriff:

That’s great, because technically for speech therapy you just need someone else sitting in front of you to be able to talk to start with.

Ted Jenkin:

Right.

Melanie McGriff:

But there are specialized equipment pieces that you need and materials and supplies to help facilitate things in therapy. So there is some capital investments up front that you have to make.

Ted Jenkin:

So I guess a lot of people are probably wondering, in a pandemic like we’ve had over the last 12 months, I know it’s been a little bit more than a year now, how do you actually manage this kind of business? Because I would think it’d be easier to do it face to face than to do it virtually. But did your business go all virtual? Where, because it was maybe an essential business, that kids actually still come into the clinic?

Melanie McGriff:

We actually did shut down for a short while during the quarantine period and then we transitioned to doing online therapy.

Ted Jenkin:

Right.

Melanie McGriff:

It went really well. And then what we did when we reopened with all of the safety precautions in place, we allowed parents to choose, did you want to come into the clinic or do you want to keep virtual? Right now, we probably have about 25% of our patients who are virtual and everyone else coming in to the facility.

Ted Jenkin:

Did it actually help you here being in the state of Georgia? And people probably still question, did we open too early? Was it so soon? I mean, it stated at the beginning of April and people were wondering, but did that actually help a business like yours?

Melanie McGriff:

I believe it did, because parents wanted their kids to have some interaction with people in person. And that’s a really important part of therapy also, to be able to be with the child, to facilitate things in person with them.

Ted Jenkin:

Right. When you are thinking about this, and obviously you’re one person, you’re very skilled at what you do, but like any business, there are a lot of business owners that their bandwidth, it eventually hits capacity. How did you know when to start hiring more therapists? And then how did you go find that skillset? How do you know how to hire those people to come into the business so they do the same quality of job that you do?

Melanie McGriff:

So the hiring process is really something that over 17 years I’ve had to hone and realize that I needed to hire people and professionals that were going to be a certain quality, a certain personality, a certain professionalism.

Ted Jenkin:

Do they have to good with kids? They do have to be good with kids?

Melanie McGriff:

They have to be excellent with children. So they have to be able to love what they do. A lot of what we do is play all day while we’re facilitating the skills we’re trying to get from the children. You’ve got to love kids to do that. Yeah.

Ted Jenkin:

I was wondering, because when parents think about speech therapy, they may not know, “Well, does my child actually need speech therapy?” It was interesting, I went through an exercise one time where it’s not only the speech therapy but just how you project your voice. I went to this thing one time where I was projecting my voice from my gut and they actually showed me how to blow through a straw, and it was an exercise that helped me be able to speak and not hurt my throat as much. What kinds of things do you help children with within the therapy with the clinic?

Melanie McGriff:

Great. We are only have speech therapy. So our speech therapist are skilled in working with children with apraxia of speech, children with autism, down syndrome, but we also work with a lot of children on feeding issues, oral motor issues. I also have physical therapists and occupational therapists in our facility as well, so we do a whole child picture from all aspects of development in our practice.

Ted Jenkin:

Now, what’s the difference between the two, those two kinds of therapists?

Melanie McGriff:

So a speech therapist works on speech communication skills or feeding. An occupational therapist works on fine motor skills and behavior integration issues with kids. And a physical therapist works on gross motor skills, so you think the crawling, the running, the jumping, all of those things that children need to do.

Ted Jenkin:

Now, I saw a recent episode on I believe it was 60 minutes, and obviously we have great philanthropists like Bernie Marcus here that helped kids with autism, the Marcus Autism Center.

Melanie McGriff:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Ted Jenkin:

But today there are a lot more kids with autism that are getting placed in jobs and high functioning and doing extremely well. This therapy can help them down the road in terms of dealing with high school, college, and eventually being in the workforce one day?

Melanie McGriff:

Absolutely, it can. So one of the things that we’ve done in our facility is we have a teenage program we call Activities Of Daily Living to prep them for that next step in what they need to do.

Ted Jenkin:

Interesting.

Melanie McGriff:

You’re not going to be in therapy forever, and we need to equip them to be active and productive members of their communities.

Ted Jenkin:

Now, how do you market for this business? How do you market to find customers? Are you typically referred by a general doctor or is it just parents that learn about your clinic? Like any small business, a lot of people watch a program on the Small Business Profile, they always want to know, “How do I get more new customers, especially during a time like the pandemic?”

Melanie McGriff:

Social media is really important these days, and you have to know how to do it the right way. It’s not just about posting something random. It has to be meaningful, it has to be purposeful to be able to engage with your audience. But our number one referral source is actually the pediatricians that we work with in our community.

Ted Jenkin:

So do you actually market to those pediatricians? Do you build a relationship with them?

Melanie McGriff:

We do. So we go and drop off lunch for them from time to time, give them some goodies, try to make sure and see if there are any questions that they need answered about what they see coming in their door and what’s happening developmentally with their kids that they see. And so we’re really happy to be that sounding board for them, and in turn, they work with us and send us their patients to see how we can help them.

Ted Jenkin:

Now, you’ve been open, and I remember you telling me, now for 17 years.

Melanie McGriff:

Yes.

Ted Jenkin:

17 years, you’ve had the business.

Melanie McGriff:

17, so I’ve grown a teenager, yes.

Ted Jenkin:

Have you ever thought about taking the business to other locations? And if you did, how would that work?

Melanie McGriff:

Yes. So we’ve thought about moving to different parts of Georgia that seem to be underserved.

Ted Jenkin:

Right.

Melanie McGriff:

We do have a lot of people who even will travel an hour to come and see us because of the specialties that we have.

Ted Jenkin:

Wow.

Melanie McGriff:

But I hate for a parent to have to drive that far. So it’s something that we’re considering.

Ted Jenkin:

In any kind of business like this, are there special licenses that you have to have personally and then special licenses for the business?

Melanie McGriff:

Yes. So each therapist has a master’s degree and they also are licensed by the State of Georgia or certified by their national certifying organization.

Ted Jenkin:

Interesting. Yeah, I mean, I’m sure that’s necessary and parents want to know that. It’s the plaques and the documents that are up on the wall. What do you see over the next three to five years for your business?

Melanie McGriff:

We’re right now looking actively at the different programs and things that can help us just to meet the needs of the families and the children that we serve. So we always evaluate new programs by, is this going to be something that’s really going to be effective and help in going toward the goals we’re working on?

Ted Jenkin:

And has technology changed your business a lot with mobile applications and just technology on the internet? I’ve noticed, and even speaking foreign languages, there are programs like Babel now that help you just learn how to speak more than actually learning the functional language. Are there programs and technology like that, that are helping your business to help kids better?

Melanie McGriff:

Really, as far as therapy materials there are, so there are different programs that you can use with kids. And due to the pandemic, there’s been an in flux of speech therapists who have developed new programs so people can do virtual therapy even better, and that’s been a great resource.

Ted Jenkin:

And you said you’re seeing a spike actually, that the number of kids coming in for therapy has actually gone up since the pandemic. Not flat and not down

Melanie McGriff:

It has for us, and so I feel really blessed in that, that the business is thriving, that we’re doing really well. But definitely more phone calls every day, more parents hitting our website for that free consultation to find out, do I need to bring my child in or not? Yeah.

Ted Jenkin:

A lot of entrepreneurs are watching the program. What’s the one thing in your routine or the one habit, the thing that you have to do every day, to keep you focused? 17 years of owning any business is not easy and being as successful as you have, what’s the one piece you do to your routine every day?

Melanie McGriff:

My to-do list. So I’m still a write it down to-do list person.

Ted Jenkin:

Every day, write down that to-do list.

Melanie McGriff:

I have to write it, I have to check it off. Yeah, that’s just me. I have to do it that way.

Ted Jenkin:

And I hate calling it work-life balance, I always think about it as work-life juggle, that’s what we do as entrepreneurs. How do you juggle the balance of just focusing on the business and not just all of your employees, but all of those wonderful kids and at the same time trying to have a little bit of a life as well?

Melanie McGriff:

That’s so challenging, because I’m very tempted to load up my little cart with my computer and all the paperwork and bring it home. And then later I’m looking at that cart sitting by the kitchen table, because I have to do my home life too and I have to leave that aside. So it is a challenge I think especially for mothers to be able to juggle that, but being a woman owned business, I try to nurture that in my employees as well.

Ted Jenkin:

Right.

Melanie McGriff:

You’ve got to make the most of your work day while you’re there so that you can just be home, and be home.

Ted Jenkin:

Being a mom and being a business owner at the same time, two incredibly tough jobs reading that P&L at night. I want to thank you so much for coming on the program just sharing your story today, sharing the business. And folks, this is what it’s all about. How about sticking that into your routine, start every morning and just make a to-do list? And as you scratch that off, because I know that you’re the A type achievers out there, you too will run a better business. I’m Ted Jenkin, Small Business Expert, right here this week on the Atlanta Small Business Profile.


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