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Denise Barbato of SoundWaves: “Peace of mind is priceless”

Peace of mind is priceless. Don’t let unreasonable clients weigh you down. Sometimes demanding clients can cause you a lot of stress and turmoil. Your business is very important to you, and when clients aren’t happy with some aspect of it, that perhaps you cannot control, it can be very upsetting. Don’t allow it to […]

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Peace of mind is priceless. Don’t let unreasonable clients weigh you down. Sometimes demanding clients can cause you a lot of stress and turmoil. Your business is very important to you, and when clients aren’t happy with some aspect of it, that perhaps you cannot control, it can be very upsetting. Don’t allow it to affect you to the point where you lose sleep. Know that you are doing the best of your ability, and sleep well. You may be better off without that client.


As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Denise Barbato.

Denise Barbato is founder and CEO of SoundWaves LLC , a Miami-based mobile diagnostic ultrasound services company that provides state-of-the-art in-office services to Obstetricians, Gynecologists and Orthopedic Surgeons. Founded in 2009, SoundWaves serves over twenty private offices throughout South Florida and has tripled in size within its first eleven years of operation.

With over 25 years’ experience, Denise specializes in high risk obstetrical and gynecologic ultrasounds, and has developed long standing professional relationships with many of South Florida’s top doctors.

Prior to forming Soundwaves, Denise worked for Baptist Health Systems performing general ultrasound. In 1999, she trained with Perinatologists and Gynecologists at private offices as well as at the University of Miami, where she specialized in high-risk obstetrical and gynecological ultrasounds.

Capitalizing on the gains of her start-up company and her entrepreneurial spirit, Denise recently expand her enterprise as the first mobile company to provide musculoskeletal (MSK) sonography services in South Florida.

Denise holds an AS from the Medical Campus at Miami Dade and completed her studies at an accredited ultrasound program at Broward College in 1995. She is a member of the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and is registered in Abdominal and OB/GYN Ultrasound.

Denise donates generously to the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance Foundation. In her free time, Denise loves to windsurf, play tennis, ride horses, and spend time with her family, including her seven year old twins.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My love for science is the main factor that brought me to this specific career path. When I was taking my core classes in college, I took anatomy and physiology classes because I had an interest in that area. I quickly realized after watching most of the class withdraw, and others struggle with the difficulty of the class, while I received As and Bs, that I knew that I had a natural talent in this area. I knew I wanted to be in the medical field. When an acquaintance told me about the details of a career as a sonographer, I immediately knew that was exactly what I wanted to do.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

I remember in the beginning stages of deciding to become an entrepreneur, it was very scary because you are creating a path that didn’t exist before. You wonder every day if you are making the right decisions. As an employee, you have people to tell you what to do, it’s easy. As an entrepreneur, every single decision that you make affects how well, or poorly, your company will run, and that is a lot of pressure. I love the saying, “ The best thing about being an entrepreneur is that no one tells you what to do, and the worst thing about being an entrepreneur is that no one tells you what to do”.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I think a strong belief in myself and my abilities, and also a feeling that I was on the right path and that I was doing something great for the community. These are the things that gave me drive when things were tough.

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Things are going very well today. I feel incredibly blessed that Soundwaves has grown year over year and we are able to provide high quality ultrasound to so many doctors throughout South Florida. My grit and resilience benefitted me because giving up wasn’t an option in my mind, therefore it forced me to be creative and to always find a solution to any issue that arose. I then learned that there is a solution to every problem. It’s just a matter of figuring it out. I found that when I would detach, by exercising and being in nature, those were the times when the answers would come to my mind.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I finally decided to acquire my first machine, the company that I bought it from told me that the ultrasound machine would be delivered to me on a certain date, which was only a few days before my first day at the office of my first client. I had arranged my start day with the office manager weeks earlier as you have to give the office time to schedule the patients. Well, a day before delivery, the company called to say there would be a delay in the shipping, that it was going to arrive a day after my first day with my new client! I was devastated. I didn’t want to cancel my first day with the office. I reached out to a colleague and asked if I could borrow one of his ultrasound machines. Luckily, he said yes. The machine was an old machine that I was not familiar with. I was struggling all day to use this machine, however, I pulled it off as if everything was fine on my first day at the office. I kept a smile on my face and they never knew how much I was struggling. Lesson learned was, always schedule yourself with plenty of flexibility to take into account for delays.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

My knowledge of Ob/Gyn ultrasound, from working in the field for 15 years before I started my company, combined with my dedication to high quality are the factors that make my company stand out. Operating at a high level takes mastering the small details that make all of the difference. A founder of one of my competitors, was in sales for many years before starting her business. She did not have any knowledge of how to perform an ultrasound. I had many clients who decided to use our ultrasound service after experiencing hers, because they preferred our attention to detail. Her experience in sales helped her acquire many clients, however, she had difficulty maintaining them due to a lack of deep knowledge of ultrasound.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

First, I would say that you must love the field that you are in so that it does not feel like work. Second, I would say that you cannot do it all and you must find people to help you do the things that you can delegate.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Dr. Ed Phillips and Dr. Nathan Hirsch are two very well respected Ob/Gyns in the community. I was working for Dr. Hirsch for 11 years when I decided to start my company. I sat down with him one day and explained that I was starting Soundwaves and would be leaving his practice. I wasn’t sure whether he would be upset with me. He was quiet for a moment, then he told me that I was the best tech his office had ever worked with and they were going to miss me, then he said, I love your idea and I’m going to help you. The next day he put me in touch with his colleague, Dr. Phillips, who was one of my first few clients. After working with Dr. Phillips for some time, he also introduced me to his colleagues and Soundwaves continued to grow. Both of them were great friends, trusted advisors and they went above and beyond to help me grow Soundwaves. They also helped Soundwaves become a preferred vendor for Femwell, a very large conglomerate of doctors. I am honored and grateful to have the confidence and respect from these two doctors.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Every Christmas, instead of giving the doctors that I work with a present, I donate money in their name to the Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance Fund. It’s my way of showing my appreciation for the blessings I receive, by giving back to the world. I feel blessed to be in a field that I love, working with great doctors and giving back to a great cause.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

There is a solution to every problem, you just need to be creative. Don’t get upset and stressed, get thinking!

Take your time and be diligent when hiring people. No matter how much you need to hire someone to fill a position, follow your gut, don’t rush to hire, and hold out for the right person. I have hired a few people because I was in a bind and needed someone right away, even though my gut told me they weren’t exactly the right person for the position. I ended up letting those people go and it cost me more time and money in the long run.

Relationships/Connections and having a good reputation in your field are your most valuable assets. My best friend who lives in Maryland where I grew up, saw the success that I was having here and she suggested that we try to duplicate it there. We spent several years working hard to get business and have it run smoothly. Not only hiring people was difficult, it was also difficult to get new clients. Of the three we had, I had to sue one of them to pay us money that was owed. Not having long standing relationships in Maryland, as I do in Miami, was detrimental to our success.

Peace of mind is priceless. Don’t let unreasonable clients weigh you down. Sometimes demanding clients can cause you a lot of stress and turmoil. Your business is very important to you, and when clients aren’t happy with some aspect of it, that perhaps you cannot control, it can be very upsetting. Don’t allow it to affect you to the point where you lose sleep. Know that you are doing the best of your ability, and sleep well. You may be better off without that client.

Figure out what your values are concerning lifestyle and plan from there. Sales and marketing are not my forte. My method has been to grow slowly, and most of my clients were acquired through word of mouth. There were times when I felt anxious because I knew my competitors had an entire sales and marketing team and I was afraid that I was missing out on getting clients. After thinking it through, I realized that my style of growing slowly fits me well. I like the flexibility of a smaller clientele, a size that allows me to be more hands on with my clients, and also allows me to be present for my family. I am not looking to create Ultrasounds R Us, I am looking for something more boutique and high quality.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to create a large scale, virtual support system for women going through ovarian cancer treatment. Going through cancer treatment is lonely and as isolating as it is, and this has been compounded by Covid. It would be great to have people in the mental health industry volunteer to take calls from women undergoing treatment, or even set up weekly support groups.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/soundwavesimage/

Twitter https://twitter.com/Soundwaves_LLC

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/soundwavesllc/

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/denise-barbato-r-d-m-s-475a6a39/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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