The other day I had a chance to have a little chat with Lisa Marie Patti from AccentC3 a company based in New York. I met her during happy hours at Starta Accelerator and found out she would be our communication coach for the program. Lisa changed industries twice, her curiosity lead her to change, but each time one thing was consistent, she worked in the international world. Even though she came from a different field, 2.5 years in the wine industry, working with an Italian importer. She knew very little about the industry so she started to learn a lot from the people who were buying from her. Lisa quickly found that her creating relationships and connecting with clients was going to be the way she succeeded in that industry. She began to listen to what each client needed and her clients all had something to teach. She worked with producers from all over Italy so she began to see the cultural style difference in communication up close. This work in sales also helped launch her own business at AccentC3.
I came across your company’s website a couple of days ago and found interesting facts about your educational background. I noticed that your degree was in ‘speech & language pathology”. Can you explain that to me in simple terms?
It’s a Master’s degree in communication, sciences and disorders. The degree studies both the physical and psychological aspects of communication. There is the speech “sound” part, which has a lot to do with the muscles, breathing and clarity. There is the voice, which is a big focus and then there is the “language” part which is really abou how messages are told and understood. It’s really a degree about effective communication from all angles and what happens when that breaks down.
Lisa used a Master’s degree as a platform to build AccentC3 program. She did her research on “perceptions and awareness of accents” by surveying students from 4 different universities who were asked about the communication styles and effectiveness of their professors. Each professor chosen was from different countries including the US, and had the same educational levels but different presentations styles and accent. Voice also came up as a factor, and how pleasant someone was to listen to really impacted how people wanted to interact with them. The British professors were rated the most educated and students enjoyed listening to them. Lisa always has been interested in international people since her grandparents were immigrants from Southern Italy, and she grew up in Queens New York, a place where it has been said that the most languages are spoken within that area. So these things all became reasons for her to start her new career.
You said it was your master’s degree. What about the bachelor’s? As far as I’m concerned, you M.S. is related to medicine, because this is the anatomy, the brain, a lot of knowledge you should have had before jumping into it.
No. I did something completely different. I’ve changed careers a few times in my life and this one my first change in direction. I have a degree in paralegal studies and hoped to be a lawyer which helped me to become a stronger writer. I minored in business as well. I kept thinking about what I loved, which was connecting to people and communication in all aspects. That is why I changed directions at first. I took prerequisites to enter the masters.
Name of your company includes ‘C3’ which covers Communication, Culture, and Clarity. Why did you choose those words and what each of these means to you personally?
I think I’m in the process of figuring it out. AccentC3 is not about just accent. It’s about accent or emphasis ON these key elements. Communication is focused on how the client is communicating their message in any situation. Are they effective? How do they connect with their listener? The clarity of the speech is important because you need to be understood. This goes for native speakers of a language too. I have worked with many people who just can’t articulate themselves clearly! Voice, can create an image, and make you want to engage. Voices are memorable. Think of certain voices and how they can make you feel trust, or warmth or the opposite, just from the sound! Culture is a part of every single thing I do. I always look at intercultural communication style and how it impacts a message. Culture is personal and unique and both culture and accent can be used to stand out from the competition in a really positive way.
What Lisa has learned through her work with people from all over the world, that many people who come to the US, do presentation coaching. She thinks so many people have a lot to teach about communication and its really important. However what you can’t forget is that people from other cultures don’t value the same things. They don’t learn the same things. It’s not the same for every single person.
“Stand this way, be like that” — people from other cultures are not gonna do that, because it may feels so fake! Every time I design a program, I always start with “what’s your culture? What do you believe great communication looks like?”
Why coaching? Do you have a passion for teaching or this is all about sharing knowledge and experience?
Both of those. I love connecting with people. I think that is why I chose coaching. Some people do that as workshop or presentation and they never really touch the people. I’ve been to those workshops, they are good and can provide a lot of value, but what makes me really happy is getting to know the person and working on those elements unique to them to help them reach their goals.
You work closely with tech startups at Starta and ERA accelerators. So, according to your experience: do you see the difference between businesses and startup companies? If yes, what is that?
I think depending on who you are coaching. When I work with people who are in finance, I tend to work with executive level. And for a lot of them it’s about leadership styles and confidence. In terms of startups, some of them are younger, most of them have never presented in English before — that’s always really amazing. You’re learning new skills, and delivering them in a second language and public speaking is stressful for most people. It takes real courage to talk with partners, investors or pitch in front of people you see for the first time. Their pressure is different.
Should CTOs know how to pitch the product they develop? Or this is a CEO’s responsibility?
I think it’s a hard question, because it’s something to be decided by the team. It’s great when CTO can learn that skill. A lot of times CTOs speak more technically so it’s great for them to learn to be flexible with a different audience. If there’s a tech conference they can be rock stars on the stage by speaking about the product from the inside.
What do you think about female founders in tech industry? This is not a feminist-question, I’m really curious.
Founders have pressures on them. It’s hard being a startup, but I think female-founders have an additional pressure on them. Female-founders tend to get less investment money. They are already starting in the place where there are a little bit of disadvantage. I think it’s very good for females to learn techniques for communication and voice. To be aware of their own habits. Females are really great and strong, they have amazing voices. Some females, depending on the culture, will pull back a little and not let their voice out. Volume is a really big thing in certain cultures and for woman it’s just not typical to be louder. I have great respect for that but I also want to help that woman reach her goals. I coached someone from India not long ago. And she was super brilliant. She knew what she was doing. She constantly pulled back with her voice, and it was very cultural for her. By making that shift, she really shined. I’m a huge supporter of female-founders and I’m trying to work with them as much as possible to develop their voices.
You said you love to work with international people. In terms of moving from this country, what place would you choose to live instead of the US?
I would definitely go to Europe. Depending on where. I love Italy. My grandparents immigrated from Sicily and all of them came over during a time where there were a lot of Italian immigrants from the south. I have been lucky to go there and have good friends there so I would definitely live there but that reason is in my heart. If I had an opportunity to live in different places in Europe, I would choose places where innovation is happening now so I could do my work internationally, maybe Portugal, Paris or Germany.
How many languages do you know?
Naaah, that’s a bad question. I have English, my Italian is okay, also as my Spanish. But I can’t speak fluently in either and it is horrible for me! I feel as though I need to perfect these. I just don’t practice it enough. I love languages, but you have to find the right time to continue studies. If you can get native speakers, the process is much faster.
What is the most beautiful language in the world?
So hard to choose, but I love Italian. The way they speak, you just wanna like “AHH”, you wanna hug it or taste it. I know this language very well and the sound of it maybe reminds me of hearing it in my home growing up, about my childhood. It’s also just sexy language.
What English level is required to pitch in front of investors? And how do they react on Russian accent?
It’s enough to have an elementary level just to make your pitch successful. Because I think this is the easiest thing. You’ll be practicing it by pitching over and over again, so you get a sense of what you have to say. The hardest part is Q&A. You can have a pitch and it’s super successful, but you have to think of answering questions quickly, organizing your vocabulary, your answers have to be concise and speak to the question, sometimes people will challenge you and it’s not easy!
The biggest challenge with a Russian accent is the intonation. The music is very different. For some speakers it could be the accent, but for Lisa this is a benefit. You have to be clear. If you are not clear — you gonna lose your moment. It makes you unique, it makes people remember you. It really triggers the memory. If you use that with clarity and with the intonation — that’s the biggest piece.
There’s a lot of stuff people can remember, but usually it comes from failures, some bad experience. What is your biggest challenge in being a coach?
The most frustrating types of coaching I do is when people wanna be coached, but they don’t really believe they can change. I hate to see people who just dropped it or decided to give up because they didn’t have the confidence.
How to build business relations?
I really work hard to build my relationships. There’s trust, loyalty. I try to give that to people, I try to get to know people. I also understand it is reciprocal. It feels really good to help people reach their goals or connect them so I do it when I can. Planting those seeds, growing the relationships, and sustaining this relationships is very important.
The same as real relationships?
In the US there is not a lot of room for emotions in business and it can feel very transactional. However, you don’t have to be a cold robot. People better respond to you when you’re honest and open. You’re human and you can make mistakes. You have fears or bad days. Everybody goes through things and they still have to communicate through that. You can’t be too emotional in business, but you can show that you’re a human.
Is that true that successful fundraising process comes from the access to the right people? Depends on what, the network you’re building?
I think so. Even for myself. I’m in a new business, I just launched a year and half ago. I have grown to love the business development process, and right now the network I’m building is everything. You need to meet the right people who are willing to help and who you can help as well. It’s a give and take. I go to panels, workshops when it might be relevant to my work in some way. I want to learn about fintech and AI, because most people I coach are gonna be in that audience. So, yes, building the right network is everything, but it’s more important to build relationships that last.
And the last thing. Imagine the situation when you’re an angel investor and has attended Starta’s 5th batch Demo Day (which will be held on 13th of April at RISE btw). Name the company which has a shot to get investments from you? I know this is hard to choose, but from your perspective, who has a great potential in the US market?
Everybody has a different potential. It’s really hard to say that as a coach. I respect and love all of them. I’m completely bias in answering that question. The things I believe in the most — technology or companies that can help humanity, sustainability, or connecting people, that sounds really interesting for me. I may be one of the most poor investors, because I would invest in all 20 companies.
If you had $1M would you invest in us?
You can become the greatest angel investor ever! What is your favorite quote?
“I never lose. I either win or I learn.” by Nelson Mandela
What book would you recommend to read for people who’d like to improve their communication skills?
I have a book that I use for intercultural communications. It’s called “The Cultural Map:Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business” by Erin Meyer. She is a teacher based in Paris. Her book will be good for people who have to communicate in cross cultures and global teams.