The Hearing Space – one year on! After one year of opening, I was recently interviewed for a publication, and I wanted to share this on my blog page for those interested in the evolution of ‘The Hearing Space’. Paul Shaw, Clinical Director.
When did you decide to open your practice, The Hearing Space?
I had the idea to open my own practice as far back as 2015 when I decided to leave my teaching post at the University of Leeds. After many years working in very large organisations such as the NHS and Universities, I wanted to be more in control of what I did, and how I did it. I also wanted a more flexible work/life balance, especially with young children at home. In order to provide hearing devices as a hearing aid dispenser, I had to complete a further block of study, which was interesting for me as I had spent the previous 10 years writing and marking assessments.
When did your business open, and how did you find the process of setting up?
The Hearing Space opened in April 2022 in the centre of Chapel Allerton, North Leeds. With no experience of running a business or setting one up, the process was initially challenging. Add to the mix, the pandemic, and my original plans to open in 2020 had to be put on hold. I was fortunate enough to have some part-time employment, which helped financially, however there were times when my plans came to a halt, and I had to be patient with the progress of opening my own business. Thankfully I had the advice of several colleagues across the country who had opened similar practices themselves. I also spoke with ex-students of mine who have gone on to work independently. They were all encouraging and helpful and still are.
How did you choose the name for your business?
I chose ‘The Hearing Space’ as the name for my audiology practice way back, around 2017. I had been spending a lot of time playing with fonts and branding options. I don’t have any experience with graphic design, however one of my interests gained whilst lecturing was how to present information which is visually appealing. I can’t remember how many hours I spent looking at different names, however when ‘The Hearing Space’ came to mind, it just resonated with me. The ‘Space’ for me, reflects not only the physical space, but also the temporal space, the time necessary to fully build relationships with clients. Several pieces of artwork on my office walls are ‘space’ themed, often to the interest of clients!
I worked on the branding myself and got some final help from a professional graphic designer. I was aware that many audiology practices have similar names and use similar colour schemes for branding, however I was confident that the name I chose was unique and reflected my vision. When I walk in my office, the first thing I see is my branding on the wall. It’s great to know I designed it, and a reminder to follow your instincts and not to overthink things.
What were your aims when you opened your Leeds audiology clinic?
I always wanted to provide audiology and hearcare services of the highest quality, both to local residents in Leeds and to clients further afield. Quality is a word often overused and for me, revolves around three things, expertise, honesty, and relationships.
I know from experience that the NHS provide a really good service in most parts, however continuity of care is often lacking, and the latest technological developments have to be waited for. The waits to be seen are often detrimental to the care of individuals. For example, a child may wait 5 months for a hearing test, then another 6 months for grommet insertion if this is necessary. A year in the life of a developing child is a huge amount of time to wait for an intervention.
I also wanted to provide services for a wide range of clients. For an elderly client with early onset dementia, seeing a familiar face for their hearing care, often at home, can bring huge benefits for their auditory needs. For busy professionals, for example, medics or solicitors, having access to same day services is often critical to their work.
Do you think you are achieving your aims after a year of business?
I have definitely learnt a lot in the first year of opening. I have seen a lot of residents from Leeds who have needed to be seen quickly, often with earwax problems. I have also seen a lot of children who have been referred to NHS audiology services, but parents don’t want to wait for months to be seen. With my background in paediatric audiology (I worked as a Senior Clinical Audiological Scientist specialising in Paediatrics), it has been great to offer timely hearing assessments to parents, who are often anxious about their child’s hearing.
I have also met some lovely folk at the opposite end of the age spectrum, who havegone on to invest in their hearing. It has been great for me to see their progress with their new hearing devices. I have got some wonderful reviews from clients so far, which has been really rewarding.
Has it been difficult transitioning to a fee-based service, coming from an NHS background?
Yes, for me this has been one of the most difficult things to adjust to. I continually have to remind myself that I run a business and that my time and services are my source of income. I will often spend a little more time than is actually necessary or perform an extra test, if I know this will help my management of the client. The balance of thoroughness and time is one which continues to evolve and as the business gets busier, I know I will have to be more efficent with my time.
What are the best parts of running your own business?
Flexibility, not having to attend numerous meetings to get something done (anyone who has worked in the NHS, or any other large organisation will relate to this). Also, forming relationships with clients, many who live in the community where I practice from, has been really rewarding. Having the time to read and learn about new developments in the field is also really valuable. And I also get a quiet office space to work from, with a huge window, with views of the sky!
That, alongside my coffee machine and my artwork in my office, all add to the calming environment I set out to create. For the first time in many years, coming to work doesn’t feel like work!
What do you do outside of work?
I have two youngish daughters, so spare time is an elusive thing! When I do have any spare time, I like to read, listen to podcasts and music, watch too many HBO box sets and generally relax, which can involve exercise, yoga and meditation.
If you would like to contact The Hearing Space to discuss any issues you may be having with your hearing, please get in touch.
T: 0113 8730444 email@example.com