We had the good fortune of connecting with Eva Lukkonen Sulivan, MM MA CCC-SLP and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Eva, what’s one piece of conventional advice that you disagree with?
Most people contemplating starting a business get the advice, “you need to have it all figured out before you start.”
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
ELSynergy Voice and Speech is a different kind of speech pathology practice. I am a specialist in all things having to do with the voice and vocal cords (and I also see individuals with swallowing difficulties), but rather than the traditional model where patients and clients are referred by their ENT doctor to an outside speech-language pathologist (SLP), I bring my specialized services and expertise right to the ENT office. This way, I am able to see patients at multiple locations in Atlanta and Gwinnett County, and I am also able to collaborate more with the ENTs and laryngologists (voice specialist ENTs) in clinic. This often creates an ideal situation for better patient care and interdisciplinary communication. I am proud of being able to work with so many of Atlanta’s top physicians while making access to these types of services more convenient for patients. I have my own portable endoscopy equipment to perform videostroboscopic evaluations of voice (looking at the vocal cords vibrating essentially in slow-motion) and fiberoptic endoscopic evaluations of swallowing (or FEES, which use a thin scope through the nose to view the throat while someone is swallowing). These are procedures that are often only available to patients at dedicated voice centers, of which there are few around the nation, or at larger hospital systems. Rather than patients having to schedule at another facility or sometimes travel significant distances, these diagnostic tests are provided in the ENT office, and patients are able to be started on a plan of care to address their voice or swallowing needs right after the exam. Patients and physicians are often grateful for knowing the results of the exam right away and being able to start treatment before they leave the office. This type of mobile practice has had its inherent challenges, and through the years I have learned what it means to travel “as light as possible” and to be ready for whatever life throws at you. My equipment and I have gone through rain, snow, extreme heat and cold, and I have even had to pull off the freeway and seek shelter coming back home from south Georgia with threat of an oncoming tornado. Despite the logistic challenges, the satisfaction I get is when a patient leaves their session with a better understanding of what is going on and how to go about addressing their problems. I have had patients tell me that no one has taken the time with them or asked all the questions I have asked them to really figure out what was going on. They may have had to wait some time to see me, they may have had apprehension as to whether they really did need to see me or if I could help, but having people leave more confident and hopeful about getting better is why I do what I do. A lesson often-repeated in healthcare is that you never know the path someone had to take or what they have gone through to get to the visit they have with you. Be patient, be empathetic, ask and listen. You may be helping someone more than you realize. After being being in practice with ELSynergy for 5 years, I want people to know that sometimes going into business for oneself might be something that person never thought they were capable of doing. But when you find something you are passionate about, and you envision a way that fills a need or solves a problem–even if no one has done it exactly like that before–you will find a way to make it into a reality. It might take time to get to where it needs to be, but little by little you figure it out, and you make it work. Sometimes you will never feel “ready,” but the world will find a way to tell you it is ready for you to try anyway.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Normally we would be catching shows at the Fox or the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center, but in the time of the pandemic, anything outdoors is probably the way to go! I love nature, so I think a hike up to the top of Stone Mountain to get a perspective on all of Atlanta is a must. Also, one can get a good sense and feel of the city on the Beltline, or maybe some time in the botanical gardens. Anything music-related outdoors would be worth catching, and more and more companies are finding ways to bring music and live performance back to Atlanta in outdoor/re-envisioned formats. Certainly I would want them to try out some of my favorite restaurants, like Desta Ethiopian and any of Atlanta’s amazing vegan restaurants.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
“The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield is a book that I wish I had gotten my hands on a long time ago. For so many years, I successfully made myself “stuck” in a life or a job or a mindset that was in no way moving toward what I truly wanted. I am grateful for my husband encouraging me to start a business, but I probably would not have taken the initial plunge if circumstances at my job at the time had not pushed me to make the decision to venture out on my own. Reading that book almost four years after I started my business, I realized that, for years, my subconscious had been trying to tell me I needed a drastic change. “The War of Art” made me really look within at what motivated me and what my real goals really were; and made it clear that I had to put in the work to achieve those goals. Realizing that was when I felt my business and my life started moving in the direction I wanted.
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