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The Voice Clinic: Monique Rissen-Harrisberg

How a dynamic young woman cornered the market as the leader in communication training

Juliet Pitman

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Monique Rissen-Harrisberg of The Voice Clinic

“Whenever we open our mouths, people assessus, judge us, formulate opinions about us.” Think about that for a minute.Monique Rissen-Harrisberg, founder and CEO of The Voice Clinic, understandsprecisely how poor communication skills, an inability to present yourself oryour business properly, or even something as simple as having a squeaky andirritating or monotonous and boring voice, can impede the success of a company.“You need to make sure that your voice is pleasing to the ear, confident andcommanding so that when you pick up the phone to call a potential client, youdon’t lose them the minute you open your mouth.”

Rissen-Harrisberg started The Voice Clinicin 1988 at the age of 23. With a BA in English and drama and an honours degreein speech and drama, she is also an associate of the Trinity College of Speechand Drama in London,and was admitted as a licentiate of the same institution. While lecturingsoon-to-be-teachers on how to use drama as an educational tool at the Bellville Teachers Training College, she realised theenormous business need for voice training. “These were future teachers and Icould never understand what they were saying,” she says. “One day when I wasdriving into the college, the idea of The Voice Clinic came to me. When Iarrived at work I quickly outlined on paper the concept of a clinic withindividual voice and public speaking programmes.”

At the time, there was nowhere in South Africaoffering voice training and when Rissen-Harrisberg took the idea first to theSmall Business Development Corporation and then to her bank, she was told itwas “ridiculous”. Undeterred, she used the R400 budget plan on her credit cardto fund the business, writing and printing 50 brochures at 20c a copy andsending them off to various corporates. “From that I got about ten calls andthat’s how it started. Every time a client paid me, I would go and buy a couchor a typewriter or whatever the business needed. I had a three-month lease onpremises and thought I’d give it a chance.” Business was initially slow andRissen-Harrisberg lists finding the right people as the biggest challenge;staff at The Voice Clinic undergo a rigorous training programme and have tohold a degree in voice, speech and drama, communication or psychology.Initially, Rissen-Harrisberg, as a young woman trying to convince 45-year-oldmale execs that she could improve their communication skills, had only hervoice to sell her idea. But it’s a voice that’s rich and modulated andincredibly pleasing to the ear – and one that turned out to be extremelyconvincing as well.

So in spite of the challenges and whethershe realised it initially or not, Rissen-Harrisberg was onto something big.Today The Voice Clinic employs around 56 people, has five branches throughout South Africa and one in Sydney, Australia,and is the leading authority on voice training, presentation and communicationskills for corporates and individuals alike.In 1999, Rissen-Harrisberg’s husband,ophthalmic surgeon Cyril Harrisberg, opened up the Stress Clinic, amedically-aligned holistic lifestyle division of The Voice Clinic. The obviouscross-pollination potential between the two entities has paved the way for evengreater success, with over-stressed businesspeople deriving benefit frominteraction with both.

The corporate landscape has changed andpeople are far more aware now of how presentation and communication can make orbreak a business than they were when The Voice Clinic started. The organisationsees everyone from CEOs to receptionists, teaching them breathing andrelaxation techniques first before developing the voice in layers, payingattention to vocal resonance, pitch, variety and pauses. Some might argue that the voice you areborn with is the one you’re stuck with, but Rissen-Harrisberg would disagree –and she has 18 years’ worth of case studies to back up her position. “The voiceis a flexible instrument. It can be developed and changed and if people learnhow to use it properly they will be able to establish a rapport with whomeverthey speak to in whatever situation – whether they are launching a product,addressing the board, managing a sales team or speaking at a PTA meeting,” sheexplains. Rissen-Harrisberg has identified the powerful contributions the voicehas to make as a tool. “Some say that the pen is mightier than the sword,” shesays, “but I think the voice is even mightier than the pen.”

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25 Of The Most Successful Business Ideas In South Africa

Find out who’s making waves in numerous industries and how they managed to differentiate themselves in local and international industries.

Nicole Crampton

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“Disruption is all about risk-taking, trusting your intuition, and rejecting the way things are supposed to be. Disruption goes way beyond advertising, it forces you to think about where you want your brand to go and how to get there,” says Richard Branson.

South Africa has its fair share of innovative and disruptive businesses taking both local and international industries by storm. From cutting edge space technology to reimagined logistics, and innovative business models, here are 25 of the most successful business ideas in South Africa:

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Colin Timmis Says ‘Position Yourself For Success By Starting With The Numbers’

People pay first who they feel pressure from, so people will pay you when they feel pressure from you.

CEOwise

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Entrepreneur Colin Timmis founded South Africa’s first cloud accounting practice in 2011, Real Time Accounting. Then, a few years after being appointed as South Africa’s first Xero partner Colin became Xero Country Manager South Africa. Xero is the emerging global leader of online accounting software that connects small businesses to their advisors and other services.

Related: Pat Pillai On How He’s Helped Over 5000 Entrepreneurs Using 3 Key Steps

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Two 20 Year Olds Reshape Entrepreneur Landscape With New Social Investment Platform

The Merge vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

Merge Connect

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It’s no secret that finding the right investor for your venture is a challenge that most entrepreneurs face. The current process of finding investment is one that is outdated, and limits entrepreneurs due to a lack of time, and network that is needed to find the right investor. But, this doesn’t have to be the case in today’s digital society, says Zander Matthee and Brandon Bate, co-founders of Merge.

“By making the Internet the middleman, we are able to connect with each other much simpler and faster than before” was Zander’s response. “We have taken advantage of this, and have created a digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors” added Brandon.

Merge is a social platform that connects entrepreneurs and investors. It aims to simplify, refine and accelerate the process of finding investment for entrepreneurs, and the process of finding investment opportunities for investors. From idea to developed, the platform allows entrepreneurs to present a brief outline of their venture to a network of all investor types. While doing this, entrepreneurs are able to browse through, and connect with investor profiles that suit their requirements.

Related: 8 Codes Of Success That Helped Priven Reddy of Kagiso Interactive Media Achieve A Networth Of Over R4 Billion

From Private Investors to Venture Capital, and everything in between, Merge allows all investor types to join. Investors have the opportunity to personalise their feed to suit their investment preferences, and will be able to connect with innovative businesses – that are looking for investment – at their fingertips. Only once there is a mutual interest in each other, are users able to enter a secure private chat where they can discuss further and share documents under the protection of a digital NDA.

The two boys became good friends during their time in high school at St Stithians Boys College. However, it was only in their last year, 2016, that they decided to pursue their dreams and create the platform. They didn’t know how to code, so rather ironically, they needed some form of investment to get the platform off the ground.

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“We knew we had a mountain to climb, but we believed in our vision and that we were really trying to make a difference, and if we could get others to see that, they would be onboard.” said Zander.

Related: Lessons From The Rich And Famous: Manage Your Money Like Oprah To Avoid Going Into Debt Like Nicholas Cage

Chris Peters is one of these individuals that bought into their vision, and became Merge’s first investor. As a successful entrepreneur and part time investor , Chris saw how much value the platform could bring to all entrepreneurs and investors alike. His marketing and strategic background gave him insight into how Merge could play a vital role in a lucrative space, Brand involvement.

“Entrepreneurship and SME development are two key factors that drive economic growth in developing countries like South Africa. That is why brands are currently getting involved, and looking to support entrepreneurs through various means. We have built a platform that allows these brands to successfully market, and execute on the programmes they have created to assist entrepreneurs.” said Chris

Merge was created to assist all entrepreneurs and investors in finding exactly what they are looking for, regardless of age, race, sex, financial position or social status. That is why anybody can sign-up as an entrepreneur. As long as you are determined and willing to work for your dreams. For too long has the investor space been seen as an “elite club for the select few”, and Merge is here to change that. Whether you’ve gotten your bonus at the end of the year and looking for new investment opportunities, or are an active investor, you can sign-up. Whether you’re currently working, or a retired industry leader, you can join as a mentor.

Their vision is to become the ‘go to’, digital meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors, and to truly make a difference in the world.

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