Crystal Clear President, Tim Sawyer, chats with AmSpa Founder, Alex Thiersch, and the Expert’s Expert, Terri Ross of Terri Ross Consulting, about the key takeaways from the 2019 MSS and the exciting changes going on in the modern medical spa community.
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Man 1: Welcome to today’s episode of True to Form. With your host, President and Co-Founder 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 industries. Learn from the experts to discover the secrets to success, and the pitfalls to avoid when it comes to growing your aesthetic revenue with the authentic, the transparent Tim Sawyer.
Tim Sawyer: All right! Good morning. Welcome, welcome, welcome, Alex and Terri. We appreciate you joining us today on True to Form. And as a few ground rules for our talk today, we get about 25-30 minutes, and that is — True to Form is all about authentic, genuine, and transparent comments from experts in the industry, such as yourselves. And that is why I’m so pumped. This is our first inaugural podcast and I couldn’t be any happier to have with me, Terri Ross of Terri Ross Consulting, also known as the experts’ expert in the field of Aesthetic Medicine and plastic surgery. Welcome Terri.
Terri Ross: Thank you for having me. I’m very excited to be here.
Tim Sawyer: Cool. And then we have, of course, his Excellency Alex Thiersch, who is the Founder of the American Medical Spa Association. Great friendship and partnership that we have with them. Congratulations on the success in 2018 and into the 2019 meeting, Alex, and I can’t wait– first of all, welcome. Say hello to all your fans.
Alex Thiersch: Thank you man. I’m pumped to be honest. This is a great idea. Transparency is my middle name. So let’s do this.
Tim Sawyer: I love that. So, what I want to talk about guys, in the time that we have together — so we’re coming off the 2019 Medical Spa Show. For those of you who are there, you know how amazing the event was. Over a thousand attendees, jam-packed vendor floor, lots of great energy. And so, what I want to do, Alex and Terri, is just to give you each a few minutes to talk about your experience at the Med Spa Show. And from your perspective Alex as the host, what you see as the big takeaways from the Med Spa Show, and how that is going to affect the way the two of you serve your constituencies on the membership side. And Terri, in your consulting business. And you want to start with you Alex?
Alex Thiersch: Sure, sure, yeah. No. Well, first of all, I have to say I was just blown away by the attendance and the reception and most of all the energy, which I’m sure anyone who was there and any of you who are listening who were there, you can just kind of feel it. There’s just this energy around this industry that’s very different than what you’re getting with — at the plastic surgery conferences or any of the other kind of aesthetic conferences. This is a very, very different industry. There’s a lot of excitement and a lot of — a lot of energy and positivity around it. So I was just blown away and that was — it was an incredible event. And as far as what, you know, I can take away from it. I think what we’re seeing, even year over year, so even compared to the Med Spa Show, which we did last year in 2018 is — we’re seeing the industry mature right before our very eyes.
And we’re seeing a lot of the entrepreneurs get a lot more comfortable with the business side of things. They’re starting to pick up on the business side of things. And you know, our big thing at AM Spa is compliance. So that’s what we’re all about, and we’re seeing more and more people start to embrace that at the beginning. We’ve seen, over the course of my career as a lawyer at AM Spa, we’ve seen a lot of resistance to some of the things that we were talking to them about compliance. But people are buying into it now, and they’re saying: “Oh, we’ve got to do this right. We’ve got to be successful.” So I think what we’re going to see is this industry — I think once we really get our feet under ourselves, in terms of the compliance in the business angle, it is going to take off. And it already is and it is going to leave, you know, anyone who’s not on board kind of in the dust. That’s what I’m saying.
Tim Sawyer: I couldn’t agree more and I have a few comments about that, but Terri, how as a consultant — obviously the number one rule for you is to move the needle. To help them generate more revenue. What do you see? What are the takeaways for you from the Med Spa Show and how are you going to apply that to your clients’ businesses in 2019?
Terri Ross: Yeah. No, thank you. And I echo everything that Alex said as well as you Tim. And you guys are again both leaders in the industry. On a higher scale, on a higher level, I think what I loved about this year’s show and what AM Spa is trying to pull together, is really bringing in the experts in the areas of the business. And I have kind of throughout my course of evolution for Terri Ross Consulting — I have kind of identified like the nine top core fundamentals a practice must have. You can’t skip around. You can’t jump on stuff and you really have to seek out the experts and the leaders in those areas. In those areas. So for me, looking at — a big topic this year was the millennial. Now again, I live in Beverly Hills. It’s a little bit of a different mix, but really targeting — I think what you wrote in your article, this market and how do we attract this base of (seed ships [00:05:36]) right? And then how do we sustain that? What are the processes, internal in your practice that you’re going to walk them through?
You know, all of these nine steps if you will, from the patient experience on the external and what happens when you walk in, and then your treatment plans. I also think the consistency of compliance. I think the nature of the laws are still very vast from state to state and having the blessed opportunity to talk to so many people across the country, it’s really — the question has become ‘how do we do it right?’ You know, how to do it right? How do we follow through? And it is so, so great in a lot of areas and so I think what AM Spa can bring is just bringing in all of these experts to be able to provide the resources, and the information that frankly people just have not had in the past, and that allows me to be able to walk into these practices and really help them and show them how they can get to that seven figures by doing these things right.
Tim Sawyer: Let me ask you this Terri. What is the — you’re out there a lot obviously. What’s the number one, either shortcoming or mistake that a modern medical spa owner makes consistently that gets in the way of growing their business? In terms of what you see?
Terri Ross: Well, number one is training.
Tim Sawyer: Training.
Terri Ross: You either went to medical school or you’re a private equity or you’re an owner or you’re a business person. You have no idea. And I see people — and it’s sad, but I’m not a bullshitter. I see people just — they want to skimp out on the website and cheap out on the staff, and don’t compensate right, and then don’t invest in the training. So, they think a person that’s just 20 years old and pretty can pick up the phone and understand the 20 different, you know, skin tightening treatments. They can’t. And then, no one is inspecting how much money is being lost on the phone or no one is sitting in on a consultation. Literally, sitting in to observe what happens, which is kind of why I wrote — I ended up writing my sales training manual. That’s number one too. There are a significant lack of systems. Systems meaning, you know, Tim what you offer.
Tim Sawyer: Yeah.
Terri Ross: From protocols. From treatment plans. They just don’t have the systems and sadly they just don’t know what systems to have. So I… [CROSSTALK]
Tim Sawyer: Do you think that they — that it’s a situation of — it’s not valued or is it not understood or is it a resource issue?
Terri Ross: I think it’s all three. I think that if you are someone new considering getting into Med Spa space; it’s not as simple as just finding a building and getting some lasers and finding things out. I think it’s — lack of knowledge is one. I think if you are a Plastic or a Derm or have a company developing your practice, it’s sort of a mentality. You don’t know what’s broken until an expert comes in to show you the areas of opportunity. So, you just go with the flow. You just go with the flow.
Tim Sawyer: Right.
Terri Ross: And or not (background noise) because I want to spend the money — because they don’t know what’s possible.
Tim Sawyer: Right. Alex let me ask you this. Is — this is a nice segue. So we had this incredible experience that we’re all part of. I had the pleasure of sitting on a board. Now, this was an interesting visual for me. So I’m at the Medical Spa show for medical spas assumedly, assuming, and I’m on a board, a panel with Sheila Nazarian and Dr. Jay Burns who are plastic surgeons. So it goes to both of you. Alex first and then Terri. Talk a little bit about that. How did that invitation go, because historically you don’t always see those parties, you know, partying together? Seeing that was pretty neat. So talk about that for a little bit.
Alex Thiersch: Yeah it’s interesting and you’re absolutely right. It really depends on the individual plastic surgeon. The ones that we had in attendance and we had several, really are kind of the more modern approach, where they get it, right? They understand everything that Terri was just talking about. Everything relating to the processes, the business acumen, the sales training, protocols, all of those things are important. And they’re not just important, they’re vital.
And that’s really the thing that we see that people miss more than anything else, is this kind of belief that you can jump into it right away, and just because you’re in the industry you’re going to make money and it’s all going to kind of flow, and that’s not how it is. There’s — this is a great industry with a huge potential, but if you don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t do it right, we all can attest to this. People will — you’ll fail and you’ll fail quickly, and you’ll lose a lot of money. And I think what’s interesting about the Plastics that we got there, is they are of the mind that they see where this is going and they don’t necessarily care who it is that’s actually doing the treatments. And as you guys know, there’s been a conflict.
It’s mostly between Dermatologists — cosmetic Derms and Med Spas. More so than it is between Plastics and Med Spas or non-core doctors. But the conflict is, you know, what can you actually do? What should you be doing, and how do you best make money? And what we’ve seen is that the Plastic Surgeons are starting to come around a lot more, mostly because they don’t want to actually be doing the treatments themselves, right? So Plastic Surgeons make their money off of surgeries, and they can make a lot more money a lot quicker off of surgeries. So what they’re doing is, they’re starting to build up their Med Spas, to be a feeder or to be a complement to their surgery practice. And the good ones that we’re seeing, are the ones that are coming and realizing that it is beyond the scope of their business expertise to run a Med Spa. They don’t have the time, they don’t have the protocol, and they don’t have the resources to actually make it work.
So they’re going out, coming to shows like ours, going to people like you Tim and finding people like Terri to say: “We need someone to run this for us, so we can do surgeries and make money.” On the flip side, the cosmetic Derms are doing a lot of these treatments themselves. So they’re doing Botox treatments. They’re doing a lot of the filler treatments. They’re doing some of the laser treatments and they tend to get a little bit nervous with this Med Spa group that’s coming up, because they feel that we’re actually taking some of the market share from them. So, it’s a dichotomy and we’re going to have to work our way through it.
I think that for us why — I think we’ve been successful in a Spa where others maybe haven’t — is because we’re so founded in the legality and the compliance. And you know our — no matter what happens, our first goal is patient safety, making sure that people doing the treatments can be doing them and they’re trained properly and they’re safe. And that gives us a little bit of an edge. It’s a little disarming when we talk to some of these Plastics and Derms because they know — as a lawyer and that we’re backed by, you know, a very successful and well-regarded law firm, that our goal is to be safe, and it is to make sure that the public is safe. And that allows us to bring some of these folks in and then maybe we wouldn’t otherwise.
Tim Sawyer: That’s a great point, and Terri, so, somewhat — I mean, you’ve obviously made a career in growing aesthetic practices, but you’ve also done a phenomenal job with working with some of the top Plastic Surgeons, plastic surgery brands in the world and what is the difference, right? Terri, so the plastic surgeon, he’s got his business. It’s clicking along. He sees obviously the proliferation of non-invasive tech or non-invasive technology. What’s — so two things. One is: Is it — how hard is it for a plastic surgery practice to transfer that knowledge to a highly functioning Med Spa? And then secondarily, should those two things be separate brands or should they be one in your experience?
Terri Ross: No, thank you. That is an amazing question and I want to preface, because I — if I can take just a minute Tim real quick, because you know, while I’m still fortunate again to be part of this amazing group of people and AM Spa and you know, I humbly just want to be able to give back. I didn’t know it all either, but I’ve learned a lot throughout the years. Having a longtime failed career in corporate and then having the opportunity to work with these heavy names. But I think people sometimes come to me and say: “Oh God, I can’t afford you or oh I’m not at that level yet.” I just want to say that regardless if it’s the heavy names that I’ve presented in the past, it doesn’t matter. The issues are all the same.
Tim Sawyer: Right.
Terri Ross: What’s preceding me outside, right, is that they are these top people and they are in their respective fields, as a surgeon. [CROSSTALK]
Tim Sawyer: And I’m sure you have programs that allow people who are in the development stage to get involved.
Terri Ross: Yes!
Tim Sawyer: Yes. Okay.
Terri Ross: So I want people to know: One, whether you’re a startup, you’re thinking about it, you’re middle of the road or you’re — you know, you’re 5-10 plus years in — you know, I want to be able to give back as much as I can in all of those respective areas. But to answer your question Tim, surgeons know surgery. They need to stay focused and be in there or making money. The problem is, again back to the training. No one hardly — hired these people. I feel again I was blessed to take — to come out of being a V.P. of sales for aesthetic companies.
I had that core background walking into practice management. But if you’re just a person who gets hired at a practice, you know, you don’t really know. You don’t know the internal business operations of a practice. You end up learning it. Let’s just say on the job. But a surgery practice and a Med Spa practice are two completely different beasts. And now, I think you can collaborate and have a very successful unit if you will, right? And have both the strategies and the tactics and the operational components of them. I mean there has got to be a very tight marketing plan. A very tight systematic plan where you’re able to convert the surgery patients to a Med Spa. Then you have to have protocols written and understand what those are from a treatment perspective and then hire the right people who can perform those services. So you know again I… [CROSSTALK]
Tim Sawyer: [CROSSTALK] I get this question a lot. So you’ve got a plastic surgeon. They come to us, they want us to come up with a digital plan and use technology and all that. And one of the things they ask is: “Should I have this as a separate brand or should I open this under, you know, Dr. Athena Plastic. You know, Dr. [Name] right? And what do you — do you have a hard and fast rule for them or is it…? [CROSSTALK]
Terri Ross: I don’t. In my opinion, I don’t. I think that if you have a name and you have a reputation, keep the name and reputation. Build a separate segment of your website. Right? Create a different — I mean it can be a different tagline, like, we all help. [CROSSTALK]
Tim Sawyer: Right.
Terri Ross: But it takes what? Eight to thirty, — you know, for someone to see something consistently. So, if you have a brand already, keep the brand. Just separate the segment. Again, build a separate website, link it together, have a different strategy, but had it all coincide together.
Tim Sawyer: Got it. [CROSSTALK]
Alex Thiersch: Tim, yeah, let me just chime in on that real quick. I had a quick comment, because I think that’s absolutely right. And what — the issue that we always see is that what you brand it or whether it’s a separate company or the same company, is really not important. What’s important is for the — especially for surgeons, it is to realize that the business model of a Med Spa is much different than what they’re used to dealing with in a surgery center. The margins are much smaller. The amount of patients that you need to get in the door and to come back are much larger. It’s totally different. What people get into trouble is when the surgeons come in and basically assume that it’s just going to — that the Med Spa portion of their business is just going to rise up and become automatically a part of their surgery practice. And we’ve found that it is the ones who offload the Med Spa portion to someone who really knows how to run it — those are the ones who become successful. And that’s why we’re seeing a lot of these nurse practitioners, PAs and non-core doctors, who are opening up their own practices.
They don’t have the option of doing surgery, so they are forced to learn the business a lot faster and learn how to bring in more patients, learn how to get patients to come back, learn how to package, learn how to price, learn how to do all the things ahead of time. And that’s why we’re seeing, you know, the non-core, for lack of a better word, industry, is far outgrowing the surgeons and the Derms when it comes to Med Spas because they just — they figure it out a lot faster because they don’t have any other choice, if that makes sense.
Tim Sawyer: Right. Well, it makes total sense. And Alex, I know we’ve got just a couple of minutes and I am going to let you both go here and I have one last question for both of you. So the issue came up — it was interesting in Vegas, Las Vegas, that what I thought would be resistance as we talked about, you know, from the surgeons was more acceptance and excitement and Dr. Najarian made the point that they love this movement in the Med Spa, in the aesthetic space. But the concern about a uniform set of protocols, best practices, that’s really not existing although that’s what you and really Terri are trying to bring to the table. It is, you know, a level playing field for everybody. So that people follow the law. They’re compliant. Patient safety is number one. And I think, you know, if you look at it — plastic surgeons spent 14, 16 years of their life to be disciplined and follow protocol and science it was interesting to hear that point of view. Saying: “We love this but we’d love some more uniformity.” So just before you jump off Alex, talk a little bit about the uniformity that you’re going to try to bring in 2019 and move us further down that path.
Alex Thiersch: Well it’s really important for a couple of reasons. The main reason is just public perception right? I mean you look up on any news site, any story about Botox or injectables or whatever it might be. And the first sets that are going to pop up are going to be negative stories. And that’s because it’s — no one’s going to hold a press conference when they do a couple of successful Botox injections over the course of the day. But it’s really important because the public needs to know that wherever they go, they are going to be treated well and treated safely. So that we can start eliminating some of these bad outcomes and these incidents that we’re seeing more and more on the news.
And it’s unfortunate because, right now at least, it’s much more expensive. It’s much more difficult and it takes a lot more man hours and attention to detail to be compliant than to be non-compliant. So there’s a resistance. At least there was in the past. We’re starting to really see that fall away, where Med Spas were upset at me, they’re upset at lawyers for saying: “Look, you’ve got to do it this way to be compliant.” Because the immediate reaction as well, you know, there’s 10 Med Spas within 10 miles who don’t do that. They don’t have to spend that kind of money on lawyers and their compliance plan or other protocols or standards that Terri talks about.
They can just do whatever they want. And that’s not fair, competitively speaking. And it also creates a problem on the public perception side because if one of those, you know, noncomplying, non-compliant Med Spas gets in trouble, it makes everybody look bad. So my goal and I think this is where the surgeons are on board, most of them are, is once you get that basic standard — meaning, who can do which treatments? How much training do they actually need? What do they have to learn in order to become experienced? What are the kinds of things they have to disclose? What can we show the public that this is what a truly trained injector or laser technician has to know in order to safely and competently perform a treatment or that we’re not getting injuries?
Once we get that baseline setup, I think the rest of is going to work itself out because at that point, then the surgeons can market themselves to their level of expertise as can the Derms. And it becomes a much more easier way and a much more kind of marketed way to build the industry. And I always — whenever I’m talking to somebody about standards, I always go back and this is going to maybe date me a little bit. But, for those of you who used to watch the UFC — Tim, did you ever watch the UFC like back in the good old days in the 90s, when you had like Ken Shamrock and… [CROSSTALK]
Tim Sawyer: I was a UFC fighter.
Alex Thiersch: The five years of — that’s so funny because I’m actually a UFC fighter right now. Interestingly. [LAUGHTER]. But what they had was — back in those days, they would just throw two guys in the ring right? There were no rules. They would just say, go after it. And it was fun to watch for those who were — who knew about it, but because it was so kind of brutal and unregulated, it was always on the fringes right? It wasn’t until Dana White came in and said: “All right, we’re going to make some rules, we’re going to have it licensed by the state, we’re going to have weight divisions, we’re going to have rounds, we’re going to have all of those kind of different stuff that they did — that’s when it took off. Right? That’s when it became mainstream. And I really feel that once we get that done with Med Spas, that’s what’s going to be that step. That extra ounce of, you know, that nitrogen that you add to the fuel to make it go from just a regular car to a rocket ship.
Tim Sawyer: That’s right. I think that’s a great analysis. Again, before we hang up Alex, and I want to get back to you Terri. So Alex, first of all, we’ve got the boot camps schedule coming up right?
Alex Thiersch: Yeah.
Tim Sawyer: And where can everybody find that?
Alex Thiersch: So if you go to our website there’s a — americanmedspa.org, there’s a link called events, and you’ll see our boot camps right there. We’re very easy to find, if you just type in Medical Spa boot camp to Google, it will pop right up. Our first one is in April. It’s like the 5th and the 6th of April out in L.A. We’re going to be at the Sofitel in Beverly Hills. We’re already filling up for that one. I’m looking forward to that a lot. It’s going to be a lot of fun and we’ve got seven scheduled over the course of the year. So we’ll be coming to a city near you. But look us up, we’d love to have you.
Tim Sawyer: I love, love the conversation today. Alex, I’m going to let you go. I appreciate it. And I only ask for one commitment from you. You come back and join us again in a few months. Is that okay?
Alex Thiersch: Let’s do it. We should do like a — we should do a joint podcast with mine and yours, and we’ll just like — we will break the matrix [CROSSTALK]
Tim Sawyer: My podcast is bigger than yours, so that’s not going to work.
Alex Thiersch: Well, it might be.
Terri Ross: Don’t forget about me!
Alex Thiersch: Well, it might be.
Tim Sawyer: [LAUGHTER]. No, Terri hold on! I’ll catch up with you. Terri, what’s the big thing [CROSSTALK] — what’s the one thing you would love everyone to know about you and your consulting practice this year?
Terri Ross: I would love for everyone to know that I have invested my — most of my career in that failed capacity and I have proven some models to work and I would love to just give back. I wrote a 70 page sales training manual. I will be launching my sales courses starting in Los Angeles, but around the country and I would love nothing more than to have all of you guys come and let me teach you my pearls of wisdom so that you guys can go back and make seven figures.
Tim Sawyer: And where can they find you?
Terri Ross: terrirossconsulting.com and the same. I have events for my products. My workshops are all online as well.
Tim Sawyer: Well, Terri listen. Like I said, it’s always a pleasure. You are truly the experts’ expert. Everybody knows that. But I think the big takeaway that I got from you today is that while you have worked with world class brands, you know, that you are here to give back. And someone who’s just getting started or they’re just a bit down the road, they should give you a holler. And I think — by the way guys, I’ve known Terri a long time/ I absolutely love her. She’s a great person. She got a beautiful daughter, great family and just a good person. And so I’d be, you know — I’d recommend given her shout and she’ll give you great feedback and then the money will sort itself out as it always does. Is that accurate Terri?
Terri Ross: Oh God thank you Tim. Again, I love surrounding myself with people who give back and who can offer success and strength. I love you as a friend, as a person. Thank you for your support. I support you all the way. And you know, again, you guys out there don’t hesitate. Don’t wait. You know, if you’re really thinking about getting in this industry. Call Tim. Call me. You know, we are here to help and I appreciate the opportunity to be on the podcast with you Tim. I think it can be great to give back and give all this phenomenal information and I think we’ll be starting mine. I cannot wait to have you and just take off. [CROSSTALK]
Tim Sawyer: I can’t wait. All right. Thank you Terri. And guys, we appreciate you tuning in today and listening. Watch for the release coming up of the next podcast within two weeks. And it’s True to Form, guys. We’re going to continue to bring authentic, genuine, and transparent insights into the aesthetic and elective medicine community. So thank you for joining us guys.
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