Create Space for Debate. I believe that a healthy amount of friction is required to produce high-quality innovation. I encourage constructive debate among my team, and particularly my leaders. It’s one of the things that makes having passion for your work so important, because you’ve got to be willing to deepen your knowledge base and advocate for what you think is best. In my view, it’s the confluence of opinions exchanged openly that leads us to unique and powerful solutions. Something my team does is have monthly ideation sessions where the senior team gets together to create and vet ideas. It’s wildly popular and satisfying to be on a team that pulls in different points of view and isn’t afraid to shift their own position in favor of a better idea. When everyone is confident to share their best thinking, everyone wins.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dustin S. Sjuts.
Dustin S. Sjuts is the Chief Commercial Officer for Revance Therapeutics, Inc. a biotechnology company focused on game-changing aesthetic and therapeutic offerings. An accomplished and provocative executive with more than 20 years of cross-functional leadership, Mr. Sjuts has extensive experience fueling the global adoption of innovative products in biotechnology, medical device, pharmaceutical, and healthcare-technology industries.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I grew up on a farm in Central Illinois. Agriculture was my family’s business and it taught me how to create success in unpredictable conditions. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and thrived when working with people, so I knew from an early age I would be a businessman and a leader. After college, I was recruited into an agribusiness sales role and within two years I was shoulder tapped for a Director position with a start-up company in the biotech sector. Sixteen years ago, I was with Allergan at the time they were transitioning Botox out from the therapeutic dermatology business unit and into a new business unit that became Medical Aesthetics. This was an entirely new category — there was no blueprint for success, and I found Aesthetics to be an incredibly exciting field. Unlike other sectors in biotech, Medical Aesthetics is driven by consumer and customer choice. This fit well with my ability to deploy unique business strategies, lead people, and create organizational change.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
If I can put a little twist on the question, I’d say the interesting story about my career is that I’ve entered every role from an untraditional path with every experience leading me to where I am now.
One of my most poignant and early memories is getting off the school bus and working at the fertilizer dealership with my father. Being surrounding by all the farmers and business owners, I was interested in every facet of building something new, which eventually led to me help start a sod farm from scratch at the age of 14. I’ve typically left one role to pursue something new and unknown in the next opportunity. No migration or natural progression, but more like a leap frogging from one responsibility to the next. I used to think it was chance or even luck, yet over the years I’ve come to understand that the opportunity to create something new and unimagined is what motivates me. Early on I was driven by learning different parts of a business; then by the opportunity to run bigger and bigger businesses and teams, then going global and ultimately — now — having the opportunity to re-define an industry…that’s the interesting story I’m writing right now.
Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?
There’s a certain work ethic that is demanded on a farm and living my life through that lens has helped me define personal success. At an early age, I learned that sheer grit and resilience was required to be successful, and you cannot succumb to circumstances. Those lessons were reinforced when I was privileged to lead a diverse business unit for Nestle Skin Health. Based in Shanghai, China, I learned different business modalities and adapted to new drivers for consumer demand and out of the box thinking. Financial rewards and promotions alone never felt like markers of success to me. I have always looked forward to the next challenge. In fact, it wasn’t until I became a leader responsible for other people’s professional development and career growth, that I felt truly successful. I’ve always hired people based on instincts. I intentionally give people more responsibility than they are prepared for and expect them to deliver like experts. People often will rise to meet the expectation, and in the process, they shatter the limits of what’s possible for themselves. To me, that’s the most powerful form of success. Along the way I’ve learned to trust my natural approach and be authentic in my leadership style. That’s the most important thing; to know who you are, what’s important to you and to trust yourself… and work hard.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Every single leader and teammate has had an impact. However, I would be remiss not to mention my introduction into aesthetics with Tod Reed and Chris Harper. Tod and Chris took a huge risk when they brought me in to lead an Aesthetics Region at Allergan. I had no experience in Aesthetics and was at least 10 years younger than my peers and most of my direct reports. They rolled the dice on me because they were looking for someone who would do things differently and make a big impact. I will always be grateful for their confidence in me because it launched my rewarding career in Aesthetics, that I enjoy so much today.
Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the modern beauty industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to improve the industry, what would you suggest?
I really see one overarching concern about medical aesthetics today, and that is the commoditization of the market and it shows up in these two ways:
1. It’s impossible for consumers to credential providers and products with confidence. The proliferation of me-too products, couponing, and data saturation (or “fake news”) leaves consumers with nothing credible to base their decisions on. They are left with many questions: What product is right for me (and why?) Which provider would I like (and why?) What should I expect to pay (and why?). There are few, if any, ways to credential injectors, so at best consumers rely on pricing and referral to make their selection. At worst, they opt out because they don’t want to take a big risk and damage their face. It shouldn’t be this way and bringing innovation into the marketplace is going to help people understand what’s best for them and why. It’s going to allow injectors to pick a lane and commit to a market that they can serve well.
2. The image of the industry suffers and erodes the opportunity for all. When consumers are paired with the wrong product or practitioner; they have a poor experience. This might mean an improper injection for their age, or that they expected a high-end experience and got a low-brow experience, or they heard someone was good, but were shocked by the cost. In today’s market these scenarios are common, and they are problematic. Social media and consumer review applications like Yelp have empowered and magnified the voice of the consumer. It doesn’t take all that much to dent the credibility of a practice, a product or even an entire brand. And yet, with a commoditized market, there’s little hope of preventing this issue.
We are taking a completely different approach. Revance has a robust R&D discipline that has taken many years to create, perfect, and procure products that are genuinely different. As a result, we are introducing an experience that will re-energize the industry by building a premium aesthetics category focused on differentiated products, improved consumer outcomes, and an elevated experience for healthcare professionals and patients.
You are an expert about beauty. Can you share a few ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”?
Beauty is profound. I’ve witnessed the transformative power of what happens when people look the way they feel. The psychological impact of authentic confidence — and truly being comfortable in your own skin — enables people to become better, more optimistic and healthy versions of themselves. So much so that even in the age of a global pandemic, people still have a strong desire to return to their aesthetics practices. A recent American Society of Plastic Surgeons poll found that 65% of plastic surgeons noted that patients proactively sought injectables during the shut-down. Research is bearing out what we’ve known for a while…self-care is healthcare. 7
A few simple self-care routines that anyone can and should employ to preserve their natural and naturally enhanced beauty are: 1.) apply sunscreen daily, 2.) choose products and treatments tailored for your skin type, and 3.) prioritize high-quality products.
Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, Can you please share “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”. Please share a story or an example, for each.
- Know What You’re Passionate About And Stick To It. This industry looks glamorous, but it’s tough and not at all for the faint of heart. That’s especially true in an emerging company like Revance because the industry is competitive, and you’ve got to pay your dues and be the BEST in order to succeed. You have to know why you are where you are, be 100% committed, and believe that what you are doing positively impacts lives because the going is rough at times. When I think of the hours my team has put in over the past year to get ready for multiple product launches, in the midst of a global pandemic, I know that it’s only their belief in what we are doing and their individual commitment to excellence that empowers them to go the distance and finish every race.
- Understand — It’s A ‘Tale of Two Customers.’ Consumers and Healthcare Professionals. You need to see through both of their eyes so that you can deliver products and services to meet everyone’s needs. It takes creativity and perseverance to accomplish both well. This is also a heavily regulated industry, yet one where both consumers and Healthcare professionals expect transparency and authenticity, so this requires us to work hard to give our customers what they need within the regulatory guidelines. These are strategic issues and optimal, long-term solutions require innovation and sometimes, audacity.
- Surround Yourself With Talent At Every Level, In Every Role. I have a strongly held philosophy that it’s more important to hire for talent than it is to hire for experience. This extends into how I grow and develop team members and leaders. At one point in my career, I inherited a large traditional, tenured, knowledgeable sales team. They did ok, but they couldn’t knock it out of the park. Performance couldn’t wait for incremental gains, so I re-envisioned the sales profile and, despite considerable opposition, recruited new talent from outside the industry. Within a year we blasted through sales records and the rest is history. It’s ok if people lack the perfect set of experience. Surround yourself with people who have the talent, give them the training and the tools — and trust that you can lead them to greatness.
- Create Space for Debate. I believe that a healthy amount of friction is required to produce high-quality innovation. I encourage constructive debate among my team, and particularly my leaders. It’s one of the things that makes having passion for your work so important, because you’ve got to be willing to deepen your knowledge base and advocate for what you think is best. In my view, it’s the confluence of opinions exchanged openly that leads us to unique and powerful solutions. Something my team does is have monthly ideation sessions where the senior team gets together to create and vet ideas. It’s wildly popular and satisfying to be on a team that pulls in different points of view and isn’t afraid to shift their own position in favor of a better idea. When everyone is confident to share their best thinking, everyone wins.
- Don’t Be Afraid To Fail. I’ve failed more times than I can count, but I’ve been successful every time it matters. Me and Thomas Edison. I can’t underscore how vital it is to be able and willing to take risks, push the envelope, and continue to evolve and elevate. This applies to people, products, brands, and companies. Every successful company has a predictable growth pattern and there’s a dangerous zone where success can turn into complacency. This complacency can yield a fear of and the desire to maintain and preserve status quo; and that is when innovation stops. One result of fear of failure we’re seeing today is the commoditization of the aesthetics industry. Luckily, Revance is here and we’re going to change all that.
You are a person of great 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. 🙂
I would love to inspire a movement around teaching financial basics and life skills to high schoolers. I see a lot of people in the world today who simply don’t understand money and economics. I believe we should be teaching fiscal responsibility from an early age, and in not doing, so we are disempowering generations of our youth. I see people entering the workforce who don’t understand the value of things, can’t manage what they have, and don’t appreciate what it takes to live independently. Going back to my roots and my family, I learned all kinds of life skills on the farm — from cleaning and cooking to plowing and taking care of animals. I’m sure I hated it at the time, but today, I’m grateful to my Dad for all of the work I did as a kid that prepared me to be successful in life better than any course or lecture ever could. A movement that empowers our teenagers to be financially astute, respectful, independent, and resilient people — that is one I would wholeheartedly support.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
”You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense. But then you look back at where you’ve been, and a pattern starts to emerge.” Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
This quote kind of sums up my journey. It’s from my favorite book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and it reminds me to ignore the chatter from inside and out about what’s best, normal, expected. It reminds me that “best” for me, is different. That I should be myself, follow my instincts, take risks, and enjoy the ride — all the while trusting that I’m going to end up right where I need to be, and today I am right where I want to be too.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.