Denise Bayles knew she wanted to work in a helping profession since she volunteered as a candy striper at a local hospital in her youth. “I wanted to help people who had medical and developmental needs,” she says. “When I worked as a rehabilitation aide at JFK Medical Center, I got exposed to a number of fields. After initially pursuing physical therapy in college, I found that I loved speech therapy. I wanted to help people talk after having a stroke or assist a child who was struggling with speech. I was motivated by the profession, so I changed my major.”
However, being in health care as a mother — especially someone like Bayles who had three children under the age of 4 — can be demanding. Seeking a work arrangement that afforded her more flexibility she wondered if she could strike out on her own. She consulted her financial planner who asked her to create a priority list of fears about owning a business. The lowest of the concerns was having enough clients. “He told me, ‘If that’s the least of your worries, you’re foolish to not do this,'” she says. “That was it. I dove right in.”
She launched The Bayles Family Speech Center in 2007, the year after her youngest child was born. The practice serves clients of all ages, but primarily works with children.
“I knew I could be a good therapist and also be a good mom who was present for my children,” she says. “We were fortunate to have a spot in the house with a separate entrance that I could block off for my practice.” In 2014, the practice grew, and Bayles moved it out of her house to a local office in Bridgewater.
But being a working mom, even under the best conditions, has its struggles with work-life balance. “Since my kids are so close in age, there were always challenges in meeting their needs and the needs of the business at the same time,” she says. “But since I am self-employed, I can do workarounds when necessary. I also get great advice from my time management coach, Theresa Harp, owner of The Time Tamers, who is also a speech therapist.”
Bayles notes that her collaborations with Harp and other local speech therapists is representative of the collegial nature of her field. “We do not regard each other as competition, but rather help each other out and refer people to each other’s practices as needed,” she says.
The biggest challenge Bayles has as a small business owner is determining how she can expand in a controlled way. “You have to have that CEO hat on and sometimes making business decisions isn't fun,” she says. “I had employees at one point, but currently am running the business myself. People like that the person who answers their call is the one who will be actually doing the therapy.”
She advises women who are considering launching a business to take a hard look at their finances. “Consider how much of a financial contributor you need to be in your family and the financial hurdles you could have over the years,” she says. “I had to plan for keeping my business afloat with two kids in college at the same time. I’m also very fortunate that the company my husband works for has good health and dental benefits.”
It’s also important to realize that you can’t be an expert in everything. Bayles notes. “Reach out to the right business professionals for support. They will make sure you are set up with a solid foundation,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to take a risk, but ask lots of questions — and make sure you have a Plan B.”
Learn more about Bayles Family Speech Center at baylesfamilyspeechcenter.com.