by Dan Hopkins BSc. Hons, ABPI
Business Consultant, UK & Ireland Allergan
I’ve worked at Allergan for a little over 5 years, which on the face of things may not sound like a long time – but the pace and scale of change in this business are incredible.
Be Prepared for Change
My first bit of advice to anybody entering the market would be that you need to be prepared for that – things change. Quickly.
During my time at Allergan I’ve carried the product bag, worked with practices of all shapes and sizes to support their training programs and product purchasing and latterly, as a Business Consultant, worked with business owners in order to help them understand, refine and achieve their business objectives.
Sadly, I’ve seen many a good practitioner ‘cut & run’ from the industry. Often, they fall victim to the same mistakes as the practitioner before them, and the one before that…
Oh, and while we’re on the bad news – here’s dose number two:
There is No Secret Formula for Success
BUT, on the bright side – there are scores of incredibly successful, efficient, well-managed aesthetic businesses out there which (either by luck or design) have found a formula that works for them.
So I wish you all a little luck along the way – you’re likely to need a bit, but let’s focus on the design bit… what can you do at the start of this adventure in order to improve the chances of success?
Well in the spirit of adventure, the first thing that you need to do is:
I’m not suggesting that you should buy a backpack, ukulele and a one-way ticket to Tibet… but you need to understand your market and where you fit within it.
Do some research. Talk to people. Friends, family, neighbours, network with industry colleagues… and LISTEN. Listening to your potential customers and learned colleagues will inform your understanding of the available demand in the market and inevitably spark new ideas and innovations that will help to shape your service offering. You then need to answer the following three questions with your ‘brand’ and ‘service offering’ in mind:
- WHO are you?
- WHAT is your business?
- WHY should anyone be interested?
You must be able to differentiate yourself. Be credible – and be proud of what you and your business stand for. There is a big (and growing) market out there so don’t be tempted to dilute your offering in the hope that it will attract more patients – it won’t! – not good ones anyway.
So there it is – your manifesto. Clear, concise, to the point. But it may not be quite so straight forward…
There’s a bit of ‘new startup’ advice that you’ll see blogged and quoted which says “Build a scalpel, not a Swiss Army Knife” and to a degree, the principles of being precise and focussed etc. are entirely valid to get you started. BUT in a Swiss town called Ibach, Victorinox are knocking out 34,000 pocket knives a day! So clearly there’s something to be said for being flexible and being able to adapt too?
My point is that you should remain focussed on your messaging and stay true to your ‘manifesto’ but you should be prepared to refocus for the good of your business. If something works, do more of it. If something doesn’t, stop doing it.
Once you’ve got a grasp of what you’ve got to offer, you need to figure out how you’ll judge its’ success…
SET GOALS. Real, quantifiable goals.
Learn about SMART objectives.
Setting goals and objectives is a really valuable exercise. For me, it’s a practice that helps me focus on what is important all the way down to task level.
In all of my years working with aesthetic practices there is one word that hardly ever comes up in the goal setting process and that word is PROFIT.
I can assure you that if anything other than profitability is your primary goal then you are likely to hit problems. If your goal is to ‘grow patient numbers quickly’, ‘have the best peer profile’, offer the widest treatment variety’ then you will be vulnerable. Although these are all valid and valuable goals, they must come second to profitability!
MAKE PROFITABILITY YOUR #1 GOAL
I know that every business hopes, in the end, to make a profit but few make it a measure of success. I also know that often independent business owners look at what they pay themselves as profit, but here’s the problem with that…
WHAT YOU PAY YOURSELF IS WHAT YOU GET PAID FOR DOING YOUR JOB!
PROFIT is what you gain from the investment of your time, talent and in most cases your blood, sweat and tears!
Without profit, what you’ve created is a really, REALLY hard job!
In fact, most painful to see is an independent business owner who’s working their socks off with no profit to show for it and compensation far below what anyone in their right mind would suggest that they do the work for… believe me – there are plenty out there!
So many businesses will fixate on growth but:
Revenue growth without profit is simply MORE WORK and the reality is that more and more work without profit is not a sustainable business – it will fail.
UNDERSTAND YOUR FINANCIALS
In doing so, you can set goals for profit levels and make decisions for your business based upon growing profit.
Profit is a measure of the return on your investment – it’s how you build something that you can sell.
The queue of people wanting to buy your ‘really hard job’ will not be very long, but profit is a demonstration that your business is more than just a job!
In aesthetic metrics, profit is commonly born out of:
- Improved retention
- Increased Average Transaction Values
- Decreased patient acquisition costs
- Fit-for-market pricing
MAKE PROFITABILITY YOUR GOAL!
So where does that profit come from? Well, from your patients! (I’d hope)… so let’s give them an experience to remember! My next tip:
Map Out Your Patient Journey
Put yourself in the shoes of your target market and then fully understand the process(es) that they go through in order to learn about you, make contact with your business, book an appointment, be consented, be consulted, be treated and then become a repeat customer.
You need to know where they get their information from, what they’re influenced by, what level and style of service they expect and appreciate… TAKE SERVICE SERIOUSLY – remember I might have mentioned profit once or twice? Your repeat customers are unquestionably your most profitable but they won’t just come back without a good reason.
TREAT YOUR PRACTICE LIKE YOUR PATIENTS
Record, Consult, Diagnose, Plan, Treat, Record… Repeat…
How do you know when things are going to plan? Well for your patients it’s their feedback and emotional responses and of course the physical aesthetic outcomes.
And when things aren’t going to plan? They tell you! Or, they don’t say anything at all but they vote with their feet.
What about your practice? How do you know when things are going well? how do you know when they’re not?
RECORD, CONSULT, DIAGNOSE, PLAN, TREAT, RECORD… REPEAT …
By producing valid management information you will be able to make informed decisions based upon your objectives.
If you really understand your patient journey and have a clear set of goals in front of you then you will undoubtedly see the value in measuring, targeting and monitoring key aesthetic practice metrics such as: Enquiry conversion rates, closure and cross-sell rates, client acquisition cost, re-booking ratios and patient retention rates… among others.
There are some great industry resources available to support you in understanding patient journey metrics and how you can affect them – you could start with Allergan’s Virtual Business Centre which is dedicated to delivering commercial, educational content to aesthetic practitioners and business owners.
Good luck! I hope that we’ll cross paths at some point – remember, this industry offers you the opportunity to make a pretty good living out of making people feel a hell of a lot better about themselves.
Download your FREE SkinViva Training Tool to Work Out Profitability
This free tool is provided by SkinViva Training