Business Achievers: Joe Morris and CATTS


Our latest Business Achiever is Joe Morris and CATTS. We asked Joe to tell us a little bit about his speech-focussed business and asked him about him business journey to date. Read on to find out more in Business Achievers: Joe Morris and CATTS.

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Give us the background to your business

My wife and I started Clinical Assessment Therapy and Training Services, or (CATTS) as it is more commonly known as, back in 2009 to provide Speech and Language (SLT) and Occupational Therapy (OT) to children or adults who need it. She is a Speech and Language therapist and Audiologist from South Africa, and was poached from there by the HSE back in the early 2000s. My background is in IT sales and marketing, although I studied Business Enterprise in university as I have a love for small business (and Star Trek!). CATTS is the result of us both wanting to do something better, than what was available at the time.

CATTS itself is a social enterprise, in that our aim is to provide the best services we can to those who need it. The healthcare market in Ireland is interesting, to say the least, in that it is constantly on the verge of the next big promise to fix everything, while in daily life, many who need additional help, lack it. This has meant that we have constantly needed to refine and change our delivery and model over the years. When we started out, for almost the first four years we were a completely mobile service.

Our therapists would operate from either client’s homes, or in what they call in the USA, ‘pop-up clinics’, where the team member would bring all the equipment to a community centre or hotel for the day, and see people who needed therapy in that locality. We still provide pop up clinics in some areas today, however we also have the ‘traditional’ clinic model.

Recommended reading: Business Achievers: Michael McElroy and SalesPlus

How have you pivoted your business?

It has adapted and changed over the years according to what our clients need. In 2018, we moved out of Occupational Therapy to focus on speech therapy and grow our training business. This has also taken off, and is supported by our online training platform which we started back in 2015. This also provides business training now as well as healthcare. Most of our new referrals come from word of mouth or direct recommendations from our current clients, which is really humbling. I am constantly in awe of the clinical skills and passion for helping that our therapists have.

We’ve been trying new approaches and to make a meaningful positive difference in the lives of those we serve since day one. Over the years it’s been great to see some of the other private practices incorporate some of these approaches as well. One of the big factors that has been apparent over the years is the real need for timely intervention for Speech therapy in Ireland, and elsewhere. However the common factor is that it is often too late before kids get the help they need, and waiting lists increase, despite additional SLTs being hired. This year we are going back to the future to try address this.

In 2010, and every 2-3 years since, we have been trying to better the skills reach of SLTs to help a wider number of people. This has ranged from discussion groups on our website, to research partnerships with universities exploring tele-therapy, etc. This year, we are taking the culmination of all this work, and have setup 2 subscription SLT coaching groups on Facebook (backed by our content system on our main website). The reason for this route is that for the first time, parents and the general public seem more confident and comfortable communicating online about ‘serious’ matters. The litmus test was my parents now being avid Facebook users!

Another reason is that in discussions while in pre-launch with parents of kids with special needs, I found many who were concerned about not themselves having enough computer knowledge to use a technology approach to supporting their kids. The conversations normally went along the lines of:

“It's on Facebook”.
“Oh! I can use Facebook”.

Also requested from some of these early conversations was the ability to share information with their child’s teachers or SNAs. So, we launched a second companion group at the same time specifically for teachers with a focus on how they can help kids in their class also. Both are separate for confidentiality and also because from our experience with special teaching classes they have different needs than parents.

We’ve launched on St. Patrick’s Day this year, and uptake has been steady, which is what we wanted, as we know it takes time to build a community. Also, as far as we have ascertained, this is the first time this has ever been done for Speech Therapy anywhere in the world, so it’s an interesting and exciting learning curve. Always good to live in interesting times, isn’t it?

The best business tip you've ever received?

Focus on what you are good at – outsource the rest. (Hard at start up phase, but gets easier).

Recommended reading: Business Achievers: Fergal O'Connor and Buymedia

Any advice for other business owners?

Know WHY you are in business. There are easier ways to make a living. A business owner who knows and loves why they are doing it will get through the inevitable hard times more often than someone who doesn’t.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

The way things change so fast, it is hard to know. Current course and speed would see CATTS continuing to be at the forefront of providing quality SLT in Ireland, and eventually online to worldwide clients.

What does business achievement mean to you?

Getting to do something you enjoy, which has meaning and purpose.

Where can people connect with you and your business?

You can contact us at our site, or keep up with our regular tips, and posts by following us on Facebook and Twitter. Our new coaching groups have also launched on Facebook.


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