Fuelling business growth, interview with Dr Felix Bertram
If you want to start your own business in aesthetics and make the move from primary healthcare or are an experienced aesthetic clinic owner looking to scale your business, it can be daunting to know the steps you need to take to achieve your goals – to become an entrepreneur. Grasping just how to get your creative ideas out into the world, without being the one doing absolutely everything, is vital. You need to think about vision and leadership.
In this blog, Dr Tim Pearce extracts some of the gems from an hour-long podcast with Dr Felix Bertram. They touch on topics including leadership and being a good leader, empowering and trusting employees as you expand your operation, and recruiting the right people.
There is much more that we could not squeeze into this one blog. You can listen to the whole Chew the Fatpad podcast on fuelling business growth & empowering employees.
Dr Felix Bertram is an extraordinary aesthetic business owner and entrepreneur, and a ‘shark’ on Switzerland’s Shark Tank (the Swiss version of Dragon’s Den). He owns a multi-million-pound clinic chain in Switzerland – Skinmed – and a Michelin star restaurant.
Do you feel anxious about causing complications? Many clinicians feel so overwhelmed with the thought of causing a vascular occlusion that it stops them growing their aesthetics business. Dr Tim is currently hosting a webinar series to help you overcome your fear of complications so that you can uplevel your knowledge and increase your CPD-certified learning to build a successful aesthetics business. Sign up here >>
Building and scaling an aesthetic business
When it comes to being successful in medical aesthetic practice, there are a couple of routes to take, and people will choose a different one to suit them. Some will try to succeed in an employed environment and others by starting their own practice.
Dr Felix believes that being independent is a big driver for many aesthetic practitioners. They want to work independently, but at the same time, many do not want to take the risk or be the one responsible for everything. For some, the happy medium is being independent in their clinical practice but having someone else who is focusing on the infrastructure and the ‘business’ parts of the practice.
Dr Tim explained that for a lot of aesthetic business owners, when you first start, it is a means to an end. There is a desperation to make money; you put all your efforts into making an income so you can improve your standard of living. However, after a while, especially if you are run ragged, you may start to dislike the ‘job’ you have created for yourself and seek ways to get out of it – to find ways to learn more and grow – once the initial stages of survival are behind you. It stops being about the money quite quickly and you become more focused on the potential, what you can build, and what you can discover.
Regarding independence, Dr Tim noted that a way of measuring success is by the degree of autonomy you have – the more successful you are, the more autonomy you have. Additionally, he pointed out that you can still be extremely successful within an organisation, but you need a leader who gives you more autonomy and trusts you, although, you must earn that. As a business owner, you can empower other people, structure them, and then trust them to lead, to go and execute your vision.
Dr Felix concurred and noted that he learned by his mistakes, realising that without a leadership structure, the risk of failure of a team, or a clinic, or the whole business is very high. He explained that if you just hire five people, put them in a clinic and tell them to get on with it; they will have no KPIs (key performance indicators) to help them set goals, no structure, no leadership, and eventually they will all leave. To be successful at scaling your business model, you need a leadership structure.
At his Skinmed clinic chain in Switzerland, he has a leadership academy where employees undertake six training modules per year. The management either pick potential leaders in-house, or recruit externally, and mould them through the leadership academy. They are trained in communicating with other employees, how to lead, how to give structure, how to understand KPIs, and embrace the key visions for the clinic. This empowers the employees to lead and has been a great success, he concluded.
Are you managing or leading in aesthetic business?
Dr Tim asked Dr Felix how he would define the difference between leadership and management. Management is what I do, he replied. It is a dry business. I sit at my desk and run through the numbers, working on business strategies. But to be a leader, you require three things – you must be responsive to your people, the people you lead, you must give feedback, this is critical, and you must show appreciation – all whilst being fair minded. Of course, this sounds easy, but it can be quite difficult sometimes.
As an example, he described his concept of good leader as like a good father. The best version of a father figure is a person who is clear with their requests, offers guidance, and is helpful. Dr Felix noted that people want to be ‘helped, heard, or hugged’, thus if you can find these characteristics in yourself, you are probably a natural born leader. However, to lead well, it is also vital that you give clear guidance, provide clear structures, and give feedback.
Dr Tim was intrigued with the concept of ‘helped, heard or hugged’ and noted that business owners and managers can learn from that notion because many have a more hard-nosed approach to business and leadership, focusing on driving goals and KPIs, which is of course important, but it is also important to realise that you are dealing with a human and should remember that they have emotions and feelings, and appreciate them for the value they bring to your business.
Learning to give feedback and appreciation to team members
Dr Felix noted that showing appreciation to your team is very easy, it costs you nothing, but conversely, it can be very difficult if it is not in your nature, and you are entirely business focused; a struggle that he admitted to himself.
He explained that he is quite happy to get straight to his office and just crack on with work, but he now makes a conscious effort to enter the clinic through the main entrance, and not the side staff entrance, so he can walk through, enroute to his office, and engage with all his staff – ask them if they had a nice weekend etc. Even a quick smile and a short hello can really help morale and show that you care and appreciate everyone. Similarly, if he hears of an internal success as one of his several clinic locations, as CEO, he will take the time to craft a quick email to praise those involved. You should not underestimate the small things you can do, he encouraged. They cost you five seconds of your time, but they are so valuable to your employees.
Are you ready to hire but fearful of how to recruit?
Dr Tim asked what advice Dr Felix would give to an aesthetic clinician and clinic owner who is at the threshold where their time is maxed out because they are doing everything. How should they make their first hire and make sure they get the right person.
The first question you need to ask yourself is – what do you want to hire? – explained Dr Felix. You must decide if you want to hire another injector (doctor, nurse, etc.), or if you want to hire someone to help with admin and operations. Of course, an admin person might help you to gain more revenue, if you have any time left, but they cost you a salary and usually do not help to grow the revenue. He described that with his first clinic location, he hired two or three more doctors alongside himself to grow the cosmetic injectable business, before he started hiring administration staff.
When discussing the recruiting process, Dr Felix admitted that he made a lot of mistakes, but there is a reason behind this. When interviewing to recruit people, we tend to decide based on sympathy within the first two minutes, and then spend the rest of the interview subconsciously trying to prove to ourselves that we are right. Now, he has a clear process for hiring people. As well as having the prerequisite technical skills, qualifications, certificates etc., they must possess good interpersonal skills, because in aesthetics, we are in the business of making relationships with our patients. Similarly, there must be a cultural fit to you, your values, and your goals. So much so that when he now creates a job advert, the values, and cultural visions that they have within the company are quoted.
Dr Tim recalled that initially he hired a lot of people because he liked them, but soon came to realise that people with different personality types, who you may not have a warm feeling for, can be great at solving different problems, and telling you straight about your business. Dr Felix agreed and said that we all have an inherent bias for hiring ‘Mini-Mes’ which can be a risk.
Concluding the topic, Dr Felix explained that personality types, and carrying out personality tests is an important part of his recruitment process. Having sympathy and a good vibe with a team member is just one important part of hiring someone, but he has learnt over the years that he should focus on what he needs for the business and if the person in the interview will do that job, and if the job is best suited to them.
One of his favourite question techniques is to ask the interviewee to imagine that they are going on holiday, and to explain how they would start planning it and go on to execute it. If the answer comes back that the person would plan the holiday by researching on the Internet, checking all the hotels, looking at reviews, costs, and options etc., this will indicate a lion personality. A lion loves to plan and organise, and would suit roles in human resources, accounts, or finance where you require someone who is very well organised. If the answer comes back that the person would jump on the plane and go, that indicates a cheetah personality. A cheetah wants action and would be suited to event management or marketing. Other personality types include the fox who has bountiful ideas, one after another, again, ideal for marketing, but would be the wrong person for any role that requires organisation. And then there is the bear who favours relationships, which is a good trait for customer-facing roles.
The two of them discussed so much more in this podcast, so why not listen to Dr Tim’s Chew The Fatpad podcast with Dr Felix Bertram. You can find Dr Tim Pearce on Instagram or follow Dr Felix Bertram on Instagram. Find out more about how Dr Felix became a multi-million-pound business owner by reading Doctor to entrepreneur, interview with Dr Felix Bertram.
For more help with setting up an aesthetic business, read more of Dr Tim’s blogs including:
- Starting a business? This is how you plan to win
- How to grow your aesthetics business – 4 steps.
- 5 steps to create a successful aesthetics business.
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