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“5 Things You Should Do To Become a Thought Leader In Your Industry” With Cynthia Rager of SmartGraft

In order to be on the path of thought leadership, you must invest time and energy in education and stay current on research, economics and trends. If you are an entrepreneur, this helps to stimulate innovation by blending resources, and allows the opportunity to generate opportunities. As part of our series about how to become […]


In order to be on the path of thought leadership, you must invest time and energy in education and stay current on research, economics and trends. If you are an entrepreneur, this helps to stimulate innovation by blending resources, and allows the opportunity to generate opportunities.


As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cynthia Rager. Cynthia is President and Chief of Operations, as well as owner and partner at SmartGraft by Vision Medical, Inc., a privately held company that manufactures aesthetic medical surgery equipment and products specific to hair replacement surgery. She has been a private Consultant in the Cosmetics/Skin Care/ Wellness sector, as well as guest hosting her products on HSN Home Shopping Channel. She started her career in beauty in 1984 as an Image Consultant and was the actress and moderator in the video COLOR ME BEAUTIFUL (u-tube). She later became a medical aesthetician with hospital privileges for surgical reconstructive micropigmentation. Cynthia has published articles in Annals of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery as well as a chapter in Principals of Ophthalmic Reconstructive Surgery. She has trained and mentored in the fields of micropigmentation and medical aesthetics. She is a past president of JDRF tri-county chapter of SW Florida.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

My previous experience in the medical/plastic surgery fields includes my privately owned Medical Spa and Wellness Center, IntegraLife Spa, in Ft. Myers, Fl. I started the original Day Spa concept in 1986, initially as Makeovers Spa, which included an educational center for teaching consultants color therapy and image services. After selling that center, the next venture was a medical spa, which expanded into a wellness center. I operated the Medical Spa and Wellness Center successfully for over 20 years and sold in 2014. During this time, I developed clinical skin care protocols, new therapies and products.

That product development experience initiated manufacturing processes that resulted in my privately owned skin care and cosmetics manufacturing facility, IntegraDerm, Inc. in 1996. Private label and contract manufacturing expanded IntegraDerm’s markets with sales through Home Shopping Network (HSN) and MLM sectors globally, with products reaching EU countries and Japan. After 18 years in the production side of business, I sold the company in 2014.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

I don’t consider myself an authority on thought leadership, although, in retrospect, I have practiced it as it has evolved over the years. It starts with being recognized as an authority in a specialized field — for me aesthetics as introduced into physicians offices as medical spas were coming into being. A thought leader shares insight to their relevant audience, as a trusted source and brings their innovative ideas into reality, while helping others to replicate the success. I thus began my journey educating physicians and staff with workshops and in-office trainings and mentoring estheticians to repeat the processes, while developing their own businesses.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I started my career as an Image Consultant with a fledgling company called Color Me Beautiful. I was asked to film the video version of the book in 1984. This was my first venture in front of a camera. I did an unscripted several hours of filming, just talking and working through my agenda, done in one take on set, so I was pretty satisfied with my performance.

Once the video was released, PEOPLE MAGAZINE picked up the review in their Picks and Pans column — I was “panned” specifically for stating that the model was attractive, but we could help her to be even more so. I learned very quickly not to take myself too seriously!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

As an independent consultant and public speaker in the beauty industry at the young age of 27, also the mother of a toddler, I accepted a lecture on a cruise ship.

This was after a hectic month of speaking engagements at hotels and resorts in Florida. I was exhausted. The first night dinner at the Captain’s table, I literally

put my face down on the plate and fell asleep waiting to be served. This was a lesson learned in how to balance life and career.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?

I define a thought leader as someone who has innovate ideas and can engage others to replicate success, which can then scale into sustainable change for an industry. Leadership qualities are important, to be able to communicate your case and gain support and to develop the power to persuade people to unite around what you are advocating. Right now, the term “influencer” is generally used for someone who is helping to sell a product or service.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

The thought leadership process creates a benefit for you as an individual in growth development, for your company as a benefit to the process of product/service development and to the industry who reaps the rewards of innovation and implementation

Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?

The process of thought leadership becomes a blue print and is replicable. As an example, we used it in creating a Quality System for Vision Medical to achieve our designation of ISO 13485, an international standard for medical devices. Using the blueprint, we were able to receive this certification in only four months, which often takes companies years to acquire. In very reduced terms:

*Baseline — understand the problem/challenge

*Develop your case/strategy

*Design your program — SOPs, protocols, risk assessment

*Select your products, services, etc.

*Implement through education and training

*Calculate the outcomes to measure success

This is also the process we use for product development, whether it is medical equipment or skin care products.

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry. Please tell us a story or example (ideally from your own experience) for each.

In order to be on the path of thought leadership, you must invest time and energy in education and stay current on research, economics and trends. If you are an entrepreneur, this helps to stimulate innovation by blending resources, and allows the opportunity to generate opportunities:

1) Research — stay aware of scientific and technological advances that impact your field of expertise. My particular areas are Stem Cell research, Genome and DNA advances, nutritional and ingredient innovations are most important in product development.

2) Understand current trends — Advances in understanding the human microbiome gave me ideas for innovation in topical and nutritional products for hair and scalp

3) Network with leaders on similar paths — Sharing, listening and watching other verticals in medical aesthetics is a helpful to learn best practices

4) Create a foundation in your area of expertise — Develop your product and your brand

5) Share — Educate through content, workshops, webinars, speaking engagements, panels. In our manufacturing office, we have created an entire floor with surgical and workshop space to share education on products and practices with physicians, office staff, technicians and sales representatives

In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has that has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.

Don’t we all think of Oprah Winfrey as a thought leader of her generation, and deservedly so? But I see younger females naturally taking on these roles as well.

Proudly, I have two daughters who have immersed themselves in their area of expertise and are moving along this path of building a platform of developed knowledge and expertise. My eldest daughter, Ashley, an attorney partner with a niche practice expertise in tax and banking, is a role model for females aspiring to develop their own space in a typically male oriented industry.

My younger daughter, Chloe, an educator and student of a university sculpture graduate program, is building her brand and platform and is also a vocal advocate for her communities. I am continually learning from both of them, with different generational approaches to community and industry, as well as social outreach.

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

The term thought leader is not new, has been recycled and revived. While overused, it shares a deserved place with Mentor and Advocate.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Work/Life balance is always suggested, but specifically what do we do to help avoid stress? I try to keep stress from building by acting with non- judgmental communication. This means using acceptance and empathy while listening to others, to release value judgments that may be faulty. This helps in choosing the best course of action with less stress. “Be curious, not judgmental” — Walt Whitman

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I were a person of enormous influence, I would hope to foster the Kindness Movement. When my children were little, they never left the house without hearing, “Be kind, consider people’s feelings”. One little kindness creates a ripple in the pool that can swell outwards to become waves in the ocean.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Kindness in words creates confidence, Kindness in thinking creates profoundness, Kindness in giving creates love” — Lao Tzu

“My religion is very simple. My religion is Kindness” — Dalai Lama

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Reese Witherspoon. She has built a foundation and developed a brand, and used her brand for charity and as an advocate for women and children. And, I just like her!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: @SmartGraft 
Twitter: @SmartGraft 
Facebook: @SmartGraft

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