Moderator: Welcome to today’s episode of True to Form with your Host, President, and Cofounder of Crystal Clear, highly regarded speaker and two time, Inc. 500 Entrepreneur, Tim Sawyer. True to Form is a podcast that highlights leaders making headway in the aesthetic, anti-aging, and elective medical industry. Learn from the experts to discover the secrets of success and pitfalls to avoid when growing all aspects of your elective medical practice. This week’s episode is brought to you by Touch MD, the all-in-one aesthetic technology hub that educates your captive audience in the waiting room and console room consistently captures and manages photos, provides digital charting and consents, and allows patients to take their experience home to share what they learned with friends and family via the practices patient app. Please join me in welcoming your host, the authentic, the transparent Tim Sawyer.
Tim: Hello and welcome to True to Form, the podcast that connects you to the people, technology, and hot topics that shape the elective medical community, provided to you by Crystal Clear digital marketing and brought to you by this week’s sponsor Touch MD, the leading all-in-one aesthetic technology hub. I’m your host, as always, Tim Sawyer to our returning guests welcome back; and for our first time listeners, we appreciate you joining and encourage you to become a subscriber.
Last week we spoke with successful facial plastic surgeon, Dr. Samuel Lam, in which he talked about how great leadership, smart hiring, and persistent learning lay the foundation for building a booming plastic surgery practice. If you missed it, as always, we encourage you to check it out, you can find it anywhere. So with that said, we’re going to take a little bit different direction today and I’m super pumped to introduce our next guest, someone who I know personally and I’ve become friends with and I’ve had the pleasure and the opportunity to work with on multiple levels. I’ve heard her speak.
We’re talking about Christy Perry, who is an absolute animal and she is an aesthetic industry insider and currently the Director of Practice Success for Crystal Clear. 30 years of experience. Christy understands the intricacies of medical practice management, patient care, patient relationship management, and effective patient communication. She provides one of a kind insight; thanks to her experience working in senior level positions in both the front and back office for several high profile plastic surgery practices. It is my pleasure, it is my honor to introduce today’s guest, Christy Perry.
Christy: Hi Tim, it’s so nice to be here. Thank you so much for having me today.
Tim: Trust me, the pleasure is all ours and we appreciate it. So 30 years’ experience without gaming yourself, how did the 30 year – how and where did the 30 years start?
Christy: 30 years sounds like a long time, but back when I was in high school, I had the goal of becoming a plastic surgeon. That was my sole purpose in life. And so I decided at 15 years old to volunteer in a plastic surgery practice, like get my foot in the door and learn all the ins and outs of what I needed to do to finally become a plastic surgeon one day. So I did everything from scrubbing instruments, washing the floor, you know, taking filing charts, doing whatever I had to do to learn everything I could about how a plastic surgery practice ran. And as soon as I graduated from high school and went on to college, the practice was kind enough to hire me. And I went on to get my surgical assistance license and I became a first assist in the operating room actually assisting with surgery, which was just a dream come true for me.
Tim: Wow. So what was it that drew you to that about plastic surgery in general? Was it life experience or-?
Christy: Well, you know there was a little bit of life experience. I had dealt with a father with a chronical illness. And so my goal initially was to be in medicine, actually genetic engineering to help to try to come up with a cure for a virus because at the time we weren’t – that’s not something we knew how to do. It was always a very sad medicine; you know curing cancer, helping people with chronical illnesses, it was sad. And so with plastic surgery, I found that I could combine my love of medicine with the aspects of having a happy medicine where we have patients that are actually coming to us, that are healthy, that are just looking to feel better and look better and take care of themselves. And so we don’t have that loss, because I’m a very sensitive person, it was too much for me. So that was the medicine that actually works for me.
Tim: And your passion was born then.
Christy: Yes, it was,
Tim: And so as I get to know you, I noticed that obviously you’re a very linear process oriented thinker. I think that’s well established as well as a dynamic speaker; a bit of a marketing guru. So what was your first, as you started to migrate towards the practice management side, what was some of the first lessons that you learned early on? “Hey, I got to run this thing.” And what were some of the things that were broken back then and have evolved over time?
Christy: You know, it was really – my first experience is I was really seeing how patients were treated. They were treated, even in plastic surgery practices, I was in the OR and I’d hear how as soon as that patient went to sleep, it was just a number. We’d prep them; we’d get them ready for surgery. We’d, you know, get the anesthesia in them. And it was just this number that each one of those people to me had a story. They were holding my hand as they were going off to sleep and they were scared and I was assuring them they were going to be okay. But every single one of them had a story for why they were there. So that led me to want to get to know my patients when they were awake.
So I started getting into the provider services. I’d started performing cosmetic injections. I’m actually one of the first people in the Orlando area to perform Botox. And I actually loved interacting with my patients and talking to them while they were awake. And again though there was that disconnect of really getting to know the patient as a person. I was almost a family member instead of just another person walking them through the door. And so that’s when I wanted to change things and change how we related to our patients at our practices.
Tim: And at the time, culturally, was the practice open to that? And from the surgeon on down, were they open to that cultural shift that says, “Hey, we’ve got to love these people.”
Christy: You know, initially they were not. And that’s why I transitioned to finally find a physician that was open to that. And I was extremely fortunate to find a physician who was brand new, came from Canada. He was doing a low contentedness for a plastic surgeon that I was working for that was retiring. And so he and I decided to start a practice together based on this new idea, this new foundation. And we started this practice from the ground up building everything from the OR to the facility and the customer automation to their experience. But we actually floundered a little bit in the beginning and that’s when we realized we needed to bring in some help.
Christy: Yes, we did.
Tim: Like most great ventures, they very seldom go in a straight line. That’s not how, as you know, that’s not how it works. And so organizationally — and we interact with a lot of startups or re-startups and then re-re-startups, organizationally, what were some of the priorities that you were trying to put in place to get that practice going in the right direction?
Christy: Well, you know, you have this idea, you have this idea and you have this really beautiful value proposition that you are like, “I’m going make this practice different.” But then all of a sudden the realities come pouring in, the overheads, the accreditations, how we’re going to — the things like the phone systems, and what the music on hold is going to be. And you start losing sight of what that initial value proposition was because you get so diluted with the minutiae of what you have to do to run a practice that you forget why you went into it in the first place.
And so you start kind of like panicking like, “Okay, we’ve got to pay the bills, so we’ve got to get leads, we’ve got to get more leads, we’ve got to get more leads.” So as medical people, we’re notoriously bad business people. So what happened is we kept throwing money at anything we could – radio, television, anything we could to get more leads, not realizing we had more leads than most people in our area, we just weren’t converting them properly.
Tim: Right. I mean that in and of itself by the way. So a couple epiphanies that you just brought up that I think are worth talking about for a minute. Number one, and you said it repeatedly, which I love, is that you at least started with a value proposition. Even if the value proposition got diluted somewhat with shifting priorities, the fact that you had awareness to say, “Okay, I’m going to make this practice different.” And you see that a lot or we talk about it a lot in all these shows that we go to and you don’t hear a lot of people; they say they have a different practice but they have a hard time articulating what that true value proposition is. How important is it that as someone who’s been inside the machine for so long, what advice do you have with people about even just creating that value proposition and then helping that manifest itself out first with your people but then out to the community? What’s that process look like?
Christy: You know, again as medical people, we get so tied up in being the best, providing the latest and greatest technology and services and having the most credentials. And our nurse has this many letters behind her name. But if you look at all these surveys and you look at all these results over and over again, and I have a good friend that does a talk on this in all of the meetings. And it’s such a great talk, but you look at these surveys and so many of them talk about how they made me feel, they did not make me feel rushed. They didn’t make me sit in the waiting room for an hour. They took me right back. They had coffee in their waiting room.
The little things like that that we forget to think about because we’re so focused on credentials and reputation and all that is very important. That is very important. We forget about the human side. And that side of if you look at all of the data is extremely important. So you can’t forget about that human connection and treating those patients like you would treat your family. And so that’s where when you’re building your value proposition, make sure you’re thinking about that as well. How are we going to treat our patients? How are we going to treat them differently from other practices?
Tim: You’re so right. It feels to me is I travel the country that, that’s got to start from the top down, right, the surgeon, the physician, and then carry through to the practice manager. But at times it feels like whether it’s confusion or a lack of consistency, that piece, as you said we’re shifting priorities that’s the first thing to go right. Why did I start this practice in the first place, other than a profit motive? And so how did you – when you were a practice manager, what steps did you take to create a meeting – did you even have a meeting cadence and how did you maintain and try to cling at some level to at least at an original culture, right?
Christy: You know I, again was fortunate enough to have a plastic surgeon that had a lot of faith in me. And so, I did attempt all different things in the beginning, but I had a software company I was working with at the time and they offered consulting. And so they kept saying, “We have this great consultants, we have these great consultants.” So I finally said, “You know what, we’re throwing all this money into television and radio and things and print media that were just – our ROI was just horrible.”
So I said, “Let’s try consultant for a year. Let’s see what happens. Let’s see if this consultant can make a difference.” So we brought the consultant in and she immediately, the very first thing she did is said, “What is your value proposition? Let’s take a look at what your — what did you start out wanting to do? Let’s look there.” And she said, “Are we doing this? Are we living this culture? Are we actually — when your staff is answering the phone, when they’re talking to the patients in the room? Are we living this culture?” And no, we have lost sight of it.
So we brought this consultant and within one year we realized that it was, again, we had more than enough people coming in, but we needed to transition our conversion percentages from the leads coming in to the people who were coming in for consult to surgery or med spa services and then retaining those patients that they weren’t going to another practice down the road that was having another special that was better than ours. So having that consultant made the biggest difference in the world to us and we actually brought her on for a second year and I know that’s what changed things for us.
Tim: Just getting an outsider’s perspective to say, “Hey man, you know, this might not be the way to do it.” And it’s funny because – and you know Crystal Clear dabbles in this, but it seems like there is an emerging appreciation for – I think in general, Christy that I’d be curious to hear your position on a couple of things. One is I think in general, we’re at a place now where most elective medical practices, particularly in the plastic category, but even beyond, have a general appreciation for the fact that they need to spend money on marketing.
I think that’s kind of covered ground, right? But there seems like there’s an emergence now with, “Wait a second. I just can’t keep spending money to generate X amount of traffic without having some way to manage what happens once these people get to the front desk.” I think it’s still new for some people, but there is at least an emergence and more discussions at the larger national meetings and international meetings. And I’m curious to hear in your role, what your group and you personally are doing to help people understand the conversion process.
Christy: So again, when practices start out, they often aren’t even aware of what their conversion percentages are. Some of them, you know like, “What is that?” How many of — and also valuing your leads. I mean that’s another big part of this. So if you’re spending X amount of dollars per month and you’re getting this many leads per month, well that’s an easy way to calculate how much your leads are worth to you. And putting that in dollar amount really helps to drive home to your team and your staff, how important it is to capture this lead.
So then the next thing is conversion percentages. How many of the people that are calling are making appointments? That’s a conversion percentage. How many of those patients are then the actually coming in, do we have a high notional percentage? Let’s figure out why. How many of those people who are coming in are actually scheduling a procedure? And then how many of those people are we keeping? So if people are just continuing, and I joke as you’re continuing just to throw spaghetti at the wall and hoping that it sticks by throwing more money at external marketing, I think the better method would be to really evaluate your practice at a whole and say, “What are my conversion percentages? You know, and how much are my leads worth?” And let’s really take a look at that and make sure that we are putting that into our marketing strategy every year.
Tim: And you’re so dead on. And what’s interesting, again, you know, is we travel the country and give talks and you ask that question is, you know, “Do you know what percentage, you know, how many people came to the site? Do you know how many people fill out a form or call the practice? Do you know what percentage of those-?” And if there’s 500 people in the room, 250 people in the room, 50 people in the room, if we get more than one or two people to raise their hand, it’s amazing. But it seems like it’s the most important piece of the puzzle, right?
And I think somehow what’s being lost on this is how much value there is in your — not just in converting new leads into patients, but also by marketing internally to the patients that you have, right, if that’s a part of the problem that you have. And so how do you help someone see the light, right? And, then how do you culturally recommend? So you get the epiphany happens with the surgeon or the physician and they go, “You know what, I’m putting all this gas in the car and then we’re blowing oil out the back and this isn’t working. We’ve got to come up with a plan.” What’s your kind of, you know, two, three step note to the person at the top and then how to help him or her drive that down through the group?
Christy: Historically and again, given my background you know, almost going into medical school, we are essentially scientists, and scientists need data. And so as surgeons or you know, Med Spa owners or you know, nurse injectors; data speaks volumes. So you know, if somebody can present data to you as a practice and say, “Look, this is how much your leads are worth, this is how many people you’re converting right now, this is how many of them you’re losing.” And then, give them the ability to say, “Okay, why are we losing them? Let’s listen to polls or you know, whatever it is, let’s secret shop, whatever you want to call it, to figure out why we’re losing them.” But giving them the data I think is really important because you can’t argue with data.
I mean, every single day that plastic surgeon is going to his financial advisor or his accountants and ask him for his profit loss report. But why are they not going and asking for those conversion reports? So I think that’s where we’re missing that opportunity. And you know, when you’re going to these shows and you’re seeing all of these tons of people that are there, how many of them are saying, “Are you here? Let’s take a look at your conversion report. Let’s take a look at you have as a practice, let’s look at your data.” And I think that’s how you can really start that conversation with that physician, which then in turn trickles down to the practice manager, because the practice manager wants to work smarter, not harder. And then that then trickles down to the staff. And then that’s how the culture changes.
Tim: Well, clearly you get it, right? And it’s not easy. And, I know, you know, in busy practices it’s like anything, right? Everything is trade-offs. If I spend time and thought on this, then that means less time and thought on that. And I think for me it’s helping them understand the value to your point, the value proposition, right, the value proposition in it at a very basic level. If Susan Jones came into the practice today for breast OG and now it’s seven days later and we haven’t talked to Susan Jones, who’s responsible for that and how are we going to track that and who’s paying attention to that? And I think like you said, it’s, you know, as competition increases a huge opportunity, but as competition increases, retention plays such a huge role in this. And let’s all be honest, at some point the Dow is not going to be at 27,000, right?
We went through this in 2008 and there’s going to be some level of correction and then it’s going to be so important in my opinion, so important to hold on to the patients that you have, right? And then grow through that correction. And so I do think it’s vitally important. I want to shift gears. A couple of things I want to talk to you about. One, this will be [indiscernible] [00:21:46] but I know you appreciate two things for our listeners.
So Christy is a genius and she appreciates marketing strategy and she’s a technology guru and a tinkerer. She loves to tinker. So the first I want to cover some ground in marketing. So obviously everyone is all excited about Instagram and I am too, the cliff race of Instagram is amazing. And in conjunction with Facebook and other social meetings it’s amazing. How do you feel about people this now trend where everyone’s trying to higher pay a social media influencer? Have you spent much time thinking about that?
Christy: You know, I have, I have a background, you know, after and this was again another in the 30 years of my life story. I had to retire as a practice manager because I have a special needs son. So I started doing social media marketing for plastic surgeons and anesthetic surgeons in general. And so one of the things I’ve found is patients want to see what it’s like. They want to be — it’s almost like a window into that practice. And they want to see the interactions of how are the nurses and the doctors interacting, how are they, you know, is it a fun place to go to?
Is it a place where the doctor, you know, because again they’re going to be able to see that through social media — and their mind, it’s giving them a little bit of a window and that’s why Instagram is so popular and that’s why now Snapchat and some of these other things are becoming so popular. It may not be the best as far as like to help improve your website rankings, but the reason that people are gravitating towards that is because it does give them a window into kind of seeing how that practice family is, how are they with their patients? Are they having fun? Are they having a good time on their Superbowl day, are they allowed to wear their sports stuff, you know, those type of things.
Tim: But how do you as a practice manager — I guess, let me rephrase the question. How do you speak to that practice manager who is super busy, she’s running a big derm practice and this insane stuff to deal with. And every weekend someone tells her, “Oh, you just need to get a social influencer.” How do you help her or him like kind of be aware and not get sucked into that? Because when you hear the term social media influencer, you know, I try to help people understand hiring somebody who lives in Beverly Hills.
If you’re in, you know, Des Moines Iowa and you’re trying to grow your new derm practice, can you really benefit from trading followers with someone you know, a Beverly Hills’ glam person? Like how do they avoid that? Because it seems to me that all — whether it’s Facebook or any medium, particularly the website community is community, right? And I think people struggle sometimes with understanding, you really just need people in your community who you can build relationships with, share followers and buy stuff from right? At some level.
Christy: Yes, absolutely. That is a great point. Like you said, the practice in Des Moines should not be looking for an influencer in Beverly Hills because they don’t understand your market. They don’t understand your demographics. They don’t understand how your patients are. I mean, that person that lives in Des Moines is going to be a lot different than the patient that could, you know, potentially a lot different than the patient in Beverly Hills. So you know, again, it’s a real practice by practice case basis. But you know, you looking at hiring a social media influencer you know, again there’s a really specific need for that and that’s not for every practice. And that is something that you know, your marketing person or whoever or your manager who’s doing your marketing strategy should be able to look at the numbers and statistics and see if that is something that you need as a practice.
It is a trend. Again, another thing, they’re going to the shows, they’re hearing these thoughts. They think they need it. They may not, you know, it’s not right for every practice. And that’s the other thing too that you have to be able to know. You know, here I was with a practice in Orlando. You know, we weren’t going to be able to have a really — again, have the patients that were coming from certain areas because of the type of surgeon that we worked for, the type of practice that we were and the type of procedures that we performed. So yes, all of that does need to be clarified by somebody in your practice that understands that.
Tim: So let me ask this. If you were today, and I know you advise these people all the time, thinking about, okay, we’ve got a practice, you’re the practice manager, what would be the three or four things that would be keeping you up at night generically speaking, as a modern elective medical practice manager?
Christy: Well, first of all I would want to — the biggest thing is, I mean, surgeons are notorious for overworking themselves and, you know, you want to really make sure that you keep the health of your surgeon, especially as personality. You want to keep that in mind. So you want to make sure that you’re not overworking him. You’re not throwing tons of you know, you’re managing his schedule and you’re managing his time. You’re making sure that he’s, you know, the culture that he wanted to create for this practice, that he’s part of it. And he doesn’t feel like, you know, he’s just feeding a machine or pushing a rock uphill. He needs to be included in that family. So I think that’s a really important thing is making sure you know how to take care of your surgeon or take care of your medical director or whoever it is.
So the second thing is your staff. Is your staff, you know, do they get along? Are they living the culture that you’ve created? One bad seed can really make a difference for your practice. So you need to make sure that you are constantly communicating with your staff, that you’re having regular meetings with them and that you know who they are and that they know who you are as a practice. So then when they answer the phone, they’re completely comfortable talking about that doctor and talking about that practice and the way that you expect them to.
And I’d say probably the third thing is you know, definitely finances, making sure that you are making sound financial decisions. Understand what that means. If you don’t know what that means, take some courses. As a practice manager, there’s tons of things, tons of associations, tons of courses available to you to learn about what you should be spending on certain things within a practice or certain items within a practice. So I’d say those three things are very important. I hope that answers your question.
Tim: It does. I’m curious, you have such a heart of gold and you know, born out of many things and I know how much you love to be in the elective medical community and serve these folks. And as a tech — I truly consider you to be a technologist. And where does that come from? Have you just always been a tinkerer and wanting to look under the hood? What’s that all about?
Christy: I have always been — it’s so funny that you say that. So back in — well I’ll just back in the early 90s, we’ll go there. I had come up with the idea I thought it would be really cool to be able to take pictures of patients and actually, you know, at the time, because I had background in — I also did art. I could draw on the computer and I could show them what they look like after surgery. And this was way before computer imaging was ever something that came out.
So I’ve always been one of those people that has just been, you know, savvy with computers and software. I mean my father was a little — that might be where it comes from. He was a engineer from the Colorado school of Mining and Engineering and my mother was an author, so we had the very first computers in our house many, many years ago. So we’ve always been exposed to technology from a very young age. And I loved it. You know, I did robotics also in high school and I loved physics. So that was all part of that.
Tim: It is amazing. And just to see, you know, you can tell what people love by their expressions when they’re doing something. And I have noticed two things about you. You love people, which I think you genuinely love people, like genuinely it’s not contrived and I appreciate that. And you genuinely love creating and implementing technological solutions that help people. And I think that’s what makes you such a special part of the elective medical community. And I know the people interact you appreciate that. And so as we wind down, is there anything else that you would like, as a practice manager, and I think this is really important to understand, practice manager to practice manager, is there one little nugget that you’d like to leave these folks with before we end today?
Christy: You know, I would and I hope this is okay. But you know, as a practice manager, I had five pieces of software that I used to do to run my practice. And, you know, I think everyone out there who’s listening to this can kind of commiserate with me that, you know, how many — do you have something for your photos and something to do your finances. And you know, I love the idea when I was brought to Crystal Clear, when I was recruited here, I absolutely love the idea of having one system. And I really love this dream and I love being a part of it. So I think that if this, you know which I know this is going to happen. I think this is going to change things for the elective medical community and I’m so excited to be a part of it and I can’t wait to see it happen. It’s happening.
Tim: It is happening. And Christy, if someone out there, either a physician, surgeon, practice manager they wanted to get in touch with you and just shoot you an email with a question, how can someone reach out to you?
Christy: They could absolutely email me. I give out my cell phone number, which I know I’m not supposed to but I’m glad to do that, but I would be glad to give you my email at Crystal Clear. They’re welcome to reach out to me there. I’m open on Facebook-
Tim: And what is your email?
Christy: My email is C as in cat, P as in Paul, email@example.com. And again– and my cell phone number, which I know I’m not supposed to give out so I won’t, so I’ll give you my regular phone number with my extension is 407-413-5790; extension 203. And I would really love to hear from any of you. I’ve been through a lot and I would love if you have questions, I’m here.
Tim: I appreciate that. And I as always have — I really enjoyed this, but I think I would love to hear from our listeners too. They can email me firstname.lastname@example.org. Go to the website. If you’re interested in learning more about us, we would love to hear from you. There’s an 800 number on the website, crystalcleardm.com. I’d love Christy to have you appear regularly on the podcast. I think you’ve got a unique perspective as our listeners know, we’ve interviewed some of the top surgeons in the world, but we’ve also interviewed some really cool practice management operational folks and I think I’d like to do a little bit more of that. So would it be okay if we have you back again soon?
Christy: I’d love it. I would absolutely love it. There’s so many little nuggets that I’d love to share with people because, you know, I learned a lot through trial and error and a when I had the consultant come on and that changed things for me. I wish that I would’ve had her sooner. So again, I would absolutely love to share what I’ve learned so that you don’t have to make the same mistakes that I’ve done.
Tim: Well, we really appreciate you coming on today and I know our listeners are going to appreciate it and find it super interesting. So guys, thanks for joining us and we look forward to speaking with you again next week. Have an awesome weekend, [indiscernible] [0:34:12].
Christy: Thank you so much. Thank you Tim. Thank you everybody.
Tim: Thank you.
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