By Liz Cohen, Round Rock Leader contributing writer
Managing their growing business, two Round Rock natives are basking in the afterglow of a chamber Global Business of the Year award presentation.
Kevin Karschnik and Russ Peterson Jr. co-founded iSpeak, Inc. in 1999. iSpeak is a small company that focuses on teaching business professionals how to communicate effectively.
The company received the Global Business of the Year award at the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards banquet on Jan. 27. Being presented the award was an unexpected surprise for Karschnik and Peterson.
“It was a big honor, especially looking back and knowing Dell and Emerson were the last two companies to receive it,” Karschnik said. “We didn’t expect to follow those big companies.”
The two have known each other since they were 10 years old. They both majored in marketing, with Karschnik graduating from The University of North Texas in 1990 and Peterson graduating from Texas A&M in 1991. They started their first business in college, which was a balloon delivery service.
Later, they founded the company FutureTech Training in 1991, which focused on teaching people software and hardware. It started in Austin and expanded to Houston and Dallas, growing to 50 employees.
They sold the company in 1998 and started the process of founding iSpeak. They felt they could make a larger impact by focusing on the skill of communication.
“We feel like we can touch every aspect of life and business through the skill of communication,” Karschnik said.
With iSpeak, Karschnik and Peterson have developed three different workshop programs tailored towards leaders, sales professionals or business professionals.
The complete training program is condensed into their book, “Corporate Ovations” which they wrote to put their information into more people’s hands, Peterson said. In fact, they’ve delivered the same presentation to companies around the world for 10 years.
Last year, iSpeak focused on creating a self-study program that is DVD-driven. The company has also produced a DVD group study program, for smaller organizations that do not want to do a private workshop.
Currently, iSpeak is launching a certification program so that instructors from an organization can be certified to teach iSpeak’s content independently.
“Most of this has come from our own trial and error, and research,” Peterson said. “What we tell our students is that we’ve gone through a lot to get to this point, but you don’t have to.”
Presenters from iSpeak have delivered workshops to diverse audiences, including in some European and Asian countries, the owners said. However, one aspect that remains constant is that workshops are delivered in English.
Peterson relayed a story about asking an Italian man if he would prefer to be taught in Italian. The man said no, and that the common denominator of doing business is being able to speak English.
iSpeak has been with the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce since 2005. Peterson said they’ve donated their time to help teach the Ascend and the Leadership Round Rock workshops, as well as donating copies of their book.
“I love the fact that we can give back to Round Rock,” Karschnik said. “We call it the ripple effect, because these great Round Rock businesses can give good presentations and share information with other people.”
For Karschnik and Peterson, the best reward is hearing how their students have applied the tools they’ve learned for a business setting toward improving their personal lives.
“Clients will tell us of the amazing conversation they just had with their spouse,” Peterson said. “That tells us we’re having a profound effect.”
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