Doctor to entrepreneur, interview with Dr Felix Bertram
Transitioning from a career in primary healthcare to running a private business in aesthetic medicine can leave many clinicians with a sense of guilt and a fear of being judged by their peers.
In this blog, Dr Tim Pearce talks to Dr Felix Bertram, a successful doctor turned entrepreneur, founder, and owner of the Swiss Aesthetic Institute (Skinmed) about his experience overcoming those feelings of judgement and guilt to become a multi-million-pound business owner. During the interview, Dr Felix shares his journey to help you feel inspired in your business. We have taken some of the highlights from their discussion for this blog, but the full interview with Dr Bertram is available as part of Dr Tim’s Aesthetic Mastery Show on YouTube.
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Why and how did Dr Bertram build the Swiss Aesthetic Institute?
Dr Felix explained that he started his career as a dermatologist in a small practice and thought that he probably wanted to do that for the rest of his life. However, since childhood and some entrepreneurial endeavours with his brother, there had been a yearning for business.
As a dermatologist, he found that his waiting list was getting longer and longer, but unlike many of his Swiss and German peers who tended to stop taking on new clients in this situation, he sought other solutions to the increased demand. He hired another doctor, but then she became fully booked, and then the clinic building became too small for their needs, so they moved to larger premises. Today we find the Swiss Aesthetic Institute with multiple staff in a large hospital location.
Dr Felix noted that all of this happened by accident – there was no master plan, it grew organically. However, he is constantly fuelled by the need for further success and achievement, to explore more in his career as a business owner.
Dr Tim summarised Dr Felix’s journey as discovery in the process of creation, to which Dr Felix responded that you need to find a purpose to your life, or a personal narrative, and do meaningful things, which may change during your lifespan.
What is your personal narrative?
Dr Felix explained that as a doctor, your personal surroundings – friends, family, and peers, plus your inner self – creates a personal narrative of simply being a doctor. He was afraid to act and do something different, so found himself hiding his passion for business, for fear that those around him would not understand.
He recounted that as he started to cut more and more days from his week practising as a doctor, to focus on business and media interests, he was heavily criticised and rebuked for not caring about his patients, or for casting aside the investment in his medical career.
However, he believes you can change your personal narrative to do what you want, to find your real purpose, and with age and increased self-esteem, it becomes easier to fulfil that desire. Dr Felix still practices aesthetics and dermatological surgeries once a week and is comfortable with his new time split between being a doctor and being an entrepreneur, despite the critics.
Dr Tim highlighted the relevance of these points to his audience, noting that when he talks to clinicians working in aesthetics, there is a painful moment as one pulls away from a career that seems so set in stone in front of an individual – being a doctor or a nurse – so to suddenly decide that you are going to start your own business can garner a huge amount of resistance because the narrative in our culture is that doctors and nurses should be caring for patients in hospitals, and business is the exact opposite.
How can you combine the philosophies of medical ethics and business profit?
These should not be opposites, explained Dr Felix. His ethos is to give quality to his patients, to listen to them, and ensure that he provides the service that they need and want, in line with his ethical standards. It is never about the money; it is about helping the patient and their budget is always a factor. However, this can breed success, because they will recommend you to friends and family, so profit comes alongside.
Working in aesthetics does not necessarily mean that you must be a businessperson and find strategies to earn more money, sell more filler etc., noted Dr Felix. He believes that as clinicians, we can practice aesthetics with the same ethical standards as any other field of healthcare practice, as a doctor or nurse. He is not selling, he is providing the best service he can to his patients to solve their problem, hoping that they value this service, will pay the bill, and return in future.
Money and mindset in medical aesthetics
Dr Felix explained his humbled upbringing, the son of two school teachers who had little money during his childhood. As a youth, he dreamt of fast cars, relating money with success, and success with happiness. As his business grew and he started to earn his wealth, he bought a Porsche in his early 30s. Nowadays, he realises that this has little importance to him. He does not deny that he can live a luxury lifestyle, without the worry of money, or the need to budget when shopping in the supermarket, but he regards money as something that gives him freedom, flexibility, and choice, not happiness. He explained that at heart he is still very down-to-earth, loves his dogs, getting out into nature, and enjoying a drink with friends – a fancy lifestyle is not the driving force of his entrepreneurialism.
Dr Felix explained his humbled upbringing, the son on two school teachers who had little money during his childhood. As a youth, he dreamt of fast cars, relating money with success, and success with happiness. As his business grew and he started to earn his wealth, he bought a Porsche in his early 30s. Nowadays, he realises that this has little importance to him. He does not deny that he can live a luxury lifestyle, without the worry of money, or the need to budget when shopping in the supermarket, but he regards money as something that gives him freedom, flexibility, and choice, not happiness. He explained that at heart he is still very down-to-earth, loves his dogs, getting out into nature, and enjoying a drink with friends – a fancy lifestyle is not the driving force of his entrepreneurialism.
Certainly, status and success can open more doors, but Dr Felix noted that he does not encounter much negativity or jealousy with his success and increased earnings. He regards himself as an easy-going person, he believes in equality, and does not portray an ego in his business, thus money or status are never an issue between himself, friends, or work colleagues. However, when he is doing business with others, he presents a clear, structured approach, and will use his status to negotiate and make things happen for the good of the business.
With many in the UK coming from an NHS background, where healthcare is free for all, Dr Tim asked him for advice for anyone who is struggling with the desire to start an aesthetic clinic business but facing the first hurdle that money is somehow a dirty concept; how can they overcome self-doubt and perceived negative perceptions of their actions?
Dr Felix responded that as medics we can be ethical, delivering the best that we can for our patients – high quality treatments and high levels of safety – but remember that people are paying for your time, your skills, and training. He does not have a problem charging for this, but it is not his first priority, and he will make exceptions for some patients. However, when he sees happy and grateful patients who have made the choice to come to his clinic, he does not feel bad for taking their money if they value what he has provided to them.
Reflecting further, Dr Felix recalled that when he started with this first dermatology clinic, it was a normal practice, not very high end, but above average, yet he found himself having negotiations about money with patients all the time, many asking for discount. Since opening his larger clinic which includes corporate branding, design, and identity, alongside high-end interior design and a well-appointed, luxury clinic, nobody negotiates on price anymore.
He explained that this is the strategy that many luxury brands follow – you do not go to Louis Vuitton and negotiate about money, you would feel embarrassed to ask for a discount, and expect to be laughed at. He advised that you could avoid issues around money with the world that you create and the feelings you impart on your patients. Patients have the choice to seek out cheaper providers, but you should not compromise on what you offer.
The same is true in retail, Dr Felix relayed; he has a skincare brand and they do not give discounts because if you start giving discounts, people will wait for the next promotion period with the next discount, and you cannot move away from that situation.
Pearls of wisdom
You can be distinctive by following your purpose, reassured Dr Felix; every person has something unique to offer – you may have a flare for design when it comes to your clinic, or be an exceptional communicator that draws in your patients, or a great educator, like Dr Tim – everyone has a strength.
He explained that when he settles in bed at night, he does not watch television but thinks about how to move forward with his business, how to improve and get better. He loves reflecting on his business plans, stating, “it is not work for me, it is just my passion”.
It is important to enjoy the journey as an aesthetic business owner, if you do not, you risk failure – it is hard work, there are often tedious tasks and daily routines, alongside challenges on the journey – find your purpose, your passion, and then it will be easy to enjoy and be successful, he encouraged.
You can catch more of Dr Felix Bertram on his Skincast podcast on Spotify and you can find Dr Tim Pearce on Instagram if you have any questions or comments about becoming an aesthetic entrepreneur and business owner.
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Aesthetics Mastery Show
‘You’re a doctor, you shouldn’t do business’
In this episode, Dr Tim talks to Dr Felix Bertram; a successful doctor turned entrepreneur and owner of the Swiss Aesthetic Institute to find out how he overcame feelings of judgement about the transition from healthcare to aesthetics to become a multi million pound business owner. Watch the full Aesthetics Mastery Show here.
This show has had a tremendous response from medical aesthetics practitioners.
Alison Jackson commented:
“Wow! Just what I needed to hear today. As a fairly new aesthetic physician and former (28 year) family physician in the US, I struggle with my moral compass given this new career path. Always keeping the client and giving my best, safest and high quality care possible keeps me focused and happy. I appreciate you two with humility in your forethought.”
Jennifer Morris said:
“What a incredibly inspiring and humbling interview. I believe having a good moral compass, ethics is far more important then status or concerns of other peoples opinion about me. However, I have no room for arrogance in my world.”
Read more and join in the debate on our YouTube channel.
Aesthetics marketing eLearning courses
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