Growing any business is hard.
But scaling an aesthetic practice can be more challenging than most.
Competition is more intense than it’s ever been before.
The market is changing quickly, with new treatments and new trends emerging every month. And as a doctor or surgeon, business development may not be your forte!
So what are the most important steps you must take to grow your aesthetic practice to multi-million dollar figures, and to several locations?
We asked 7 owners of successful medspas, laser clinics and plastic surgery centers from three continents to share their best tips. Here’s what they had to say.
1. Think of your practice as a business
You open your practice because you want to do what you love, which is help people look and feel their best.
But for your practice to be profitable and to grow consistently, it has to be run like a “proper” business.
Those are completely different skills, and it’s vital that clinicians make that mindset shift, says Jan Birch, managing director of Blemish Clinic.
Jan regularly mentors and trains doctors
and nurses trying to set up their own practices.
“People coming into the industry can be great clinicians but often they have no business acumen,” she says. “Or they’ll do a short course on aesthetics and think that they are equipped, but they’re not.
“It’s not easy to be a business person, it can take years to learn, and the first step is to start thinking of your practice as a business.”
Worrying about providing excellent standards of care and safety might come naturally to you. But when you put on your business hat, you also have to start considering areas which have nothing to do with aesthetics directly, like cash flow, profits, growing a successful team and more.
2. But don’t try to do everything yourself
One of the dangers when developing a more business-oriented mindset is that you try to take on all the business-related tasks yourself, even though that is not your strength.
You can end up overwhelmed, dealing with issues which are of little interest to you, actually harming the growth of your practice instead of helping it.
“Be honest with yourself, and don’t do the things you’re not good at,” says plastic surgeon Paul Baguley.
“Focus on what you’re good at – being a doctor – not on being a business person. Let someone else do that!
“Hire a good finance person to look after your money…. A great marketer to help with your website development and publicity…. You need good people to help you run your clinic, like an on-the-ball practice manager who will email you every day at 5pm with a list of what you’re doing the next day. And so on.
“I’m a good businessman because I’ve surrounded myself with people who can do it for me,” says Paul, who is also owner of Step Into Practice, which provides support for new clinic owners and established clinics looking to expand.
3. Develop strong systems and processes before you expand
“Don’t scale until you’re ready,” says Dr Gavin Chan, owner of the Victorian Cosmetic Institute, which operates in four locations. “You have to sort out your systems and processes before you can seriously grow, because scaling will magnify any issue that you have.”
Strong processes allow other people in your clinic to work exactly the way you want, every single time, maintaining high standards and consistency.
It also means that you can easily replicate the way you work when you bring on new staff or expand to new locations.
Dr Shobhan Manoharan, founder and medical director of Brisbane Skin, says this includes “everything from HR protocols to IT and marketing systems – everything you need to operate on a day-to-day basis.”
He says he has seen other clinics try to scale before they had established strong processes, “only to drop off because they don’t operate smoothly and can’t retain staff.”
Brisbane Skin operates in four locations. “We fine-tuned our systems and processes in our biggest clinic,” says Dr Manoharan, “and then could roll out to new locations quite quickly.”
4. Hire the right people
If you want to grow, you need a great team – even if you’ve put solid systems in place.
“That’s one thing you can’t replicate,” says Dr Chan.
Your team will not only ensure that your processes are implemented so that your clinics run smoothly, but they are key to delivering outstanding customer service.
Dr Chan recommends looking, primarily, for people with positive attitudes.
“You can always teach skillset, but some people just don’t have the ability to provide customer service, and that’s much harder to teach,” he says.
5. Make marketing an integral part of your business plan
Many clinic owners treat marketing as an afterthought – and it costs them dear, says Florina Borsan, who has set up and managed clinics across Europe, the Caribbean and the UK.
“Time and again, I’ve seen doctors invest tens of thousands in a new laser which then went unused, because they didn’t have patients,” she says.
“But it wasn’t a balanced investment.
“They had no business plan when they bought
it showing how they were going to market it, they just assumed it would be a
popular treatment because other competitors did it successfully. But those
competitors invested in their marketing!”
Owners need to think of marketing before they open their practice, and then make it a priority at every stage.
“It takes a bigger investment than most owners realize,” says Florina, who nowadays is clinical director of Eve Clinics, which operates from three locations. “If you don’t re-invest 10-25% of your profit back into marketing, your chances of growing your revenues is much lower.”
Too many doctors rely on growing through word-of-mouth, adds plastic surgeon Ali Juma.
“That will bring you a certain amount of patients, but it’s not scaleable. It’s limited,” he says.
“In the surgical arena, we talk about the need to have the 3 A’s – Availability, Ability and Affability. In the 21th century, there’s a 4th A that you can’t grow without – Advertising.”
Editor’s note: Run your marketing more efficiently by targeting your existing patient list before bringing in new leads. To find outhow this approach helped one practice generate an additional $183,000 without spending an extra dime on advertising, check out this video case study.
6. Don’t be just like everyone else
Aesthetics is a crowded market.
You’ll grow faster if you can find a particular niche or point of difference.
That way, you are not directly competing with every other clinic around you but instead become the destination of choice for a particular group of patients.
This might mean specializing in a narrow
type of treatment, focusing on a particular segment of the patient market, or
talking about the services you offer in a new way, which makes them sound
different to your competitors.
“We identified big gaps in service provision in certain areas,” says Dr Manoharan, whose chain of clinics specializes in dermatology. “We found our niche in that, and could then catch the market before anyone else got a foothold.”
The drive to differentiate should continue
even after you are well-established, says Jan
“The market moves very fast, so you have to continue developing what you do,” she says.
Innovation is key. “I am constantly looking at new ideas for other elements I can introduce into the business. I do research so I can develop new products. We don’t want to be like everybody else.”
7. Finally….. Believe in yourself!
Lack of self-confidence is not a quality generally associated with the medical profession.
Still, “a lot of people are scared to
scale,” observes Dija Ayodele, founder of the Black Skin Directory. “It’s certainly
a risk, and they worry about the consequences.”
She recommends swallowing your misgivings about significantly growing your practice, and “betting on yourself.”
“Believe in yourself and in what you have to offer, what makes you stand out, and your ability to deliver! You need to take risks. You’ll never know if you don’t try – and the rewards can be enormous!”
Miriam Shaviv helps aesthetic clinics get your patients through your doors again and again, so you can quickly grow your revenue without the headache of online advertising. Check out this video case study to see how the system helped one practice generate an additional $183,000 from a patient database of just 3,000 people.