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Five Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Company, with Dr. Sandra Lee and Phil Laboon

Don’t speak poorly about others. Imitation is the highest form of flattery. There will always be others in the same “race” as you. But you should just do YOU, and wish everyone else well. If you’re good at what you do, people will come to you, you will be successful, just don’t bring the others […]


Don’t speak poorly about others. Imitation is the highest form of flattery. There will always be others in the same “race” as you. But you should just do YOU, and wish everyone else well. If you’re good at what you do, people will come to you, you will be successful, just don’t bring the others down around you. If you speak badly about others this gives them absolute permission to do the same to you. Don’t stoop to that level. When they go low you stay high.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Sandra Lee, known to many as Dr. Pimple Popper.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve been a board certified dermatologist in private practice for a little over a decade. My husband and I are both dermatologists, and we took over my father’s dermatology practice. He had been established here for over 35 years, so you could say the writing was on the wall for me! It was just a part of my life, a shadow around me that I just took for granted. Dermatology textbooks of my fathers at home, that I would sometimes glance through. Going to his office as a child and helping to file charts, or checking out all the skin product samples like makeup, moisturizers, shampoos, that he would have in the office. I’m just lucky I knew about how great dermatology was at a younger age than most. I think that people who go into medicine may find out too late in the game that they really like dermatology and decide not to pursue it because it is an extremely competitive and difficult specialty to get accepted into. I was lucky to know about it early on and try to position myself to get there at an earlier stage in life.”

I had been posting on my personal instagram @DrSandraLee for a little while, including pictures and videos about my personal life and professional life. As a working dermatologist, I would see (and still do!) patients who would struggle with blackheads, milia, cysts, or other various bumps upon the skin which while not life threatening, were a nuisance for the patient. One day, I offered to remove a patient’s blackheads in exchange for her allowing me to to videotape the process and post on my instagram. She jumped at the opportunity, and when I posted it — to my surprise, it immediately got *a lot* of likes. I was pretty curious. So I did it again, and it got a jump in attention — again. I thought, ‘hmm maybe this is a “thing”’. People seem to be curious about it; even obsessed with “popping”. I noticed that there were strong feelings for my instagram posts, it was either they were grossed out or they loved it and wanted more. Either way; they tagged their friends. I started to “throw another log on the fire” posting on social media every day and uploading a daily youtube video. In just three years I have had over 2 billion views on my YouTube channel, and have well over 10 million followers across all my social media platforms. Mind boggling and crazy! What was I going to actually DO with this, though? Creating a merchandise line was a no brainer. What I really wanted to do was create a unique dermatology skin care line, one that would bridge the gap between being confused about how to treat your skin and unsure what products to choose when perusing the skin care aisle at your drugstore, and actually seeing a dermatologist. I realized I had people around the world that followed me, and would trust me to advise them about their own skin. I wanted to create a line, SLMD skin care, that would bring products to treat skin conditions to the masses, that WORK, that are products that we as dermatologists would recommend if you saw us, because I know the vast majority of people can’t or don’t see dermatologists but have questions about their skin. I can’t say this was my destiny. I never figured myself to be known as Dr Pimple Popper wherever I go! But I think things happen for a reason. And I saw an opportunity and seized upon it and it has transformed into the most wonderful, exciting thing.”

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

“I’m a type AAA personality when it comes to my work and my life, and it’s hard for me to say no. I don’t know why, it’s just the way I am. I’m excited about showing people what dermatologists can do, how we are the true experts in all having to do with the skin, the hair and the nails. I want to educate people on their own skin, put control in their hands to understand and treat their own skin conditions themselves. To learn what I’ve learned as a dermatologist and be able to help themselves.”

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

“I don’t think I would have had the confidence or the experience to have been able to post like this on social media just out of residency training which was about 14 years ago. So I really think this came at the perfect time, it’s like all the planets (or pimples) aligned. I understood and was comfortable with posting on social media, but was mature enough to recognize the dangers and the pitfalls. I feel confident in my techniques and treatments as a Dermatologist. I feel good about myself as a woman, a wife, a mother, and I think this is important before you expose yourself to the world on social media. Also, when I posted my first “pimple popping” video and I noticed a spike in interest on social media, I recognized that this was a potential opportunity, and began immediately to learn anything and everything I could about social media and began to post on a daily basis, and worked very hard to build to this point I am at now. I have over 3 billion views on YouTube, well over 10 million subs over all my social media pages, I’m in my second season of my TLC show which is getting excellent reviews and is TLC’s most watched program, I have a book published recently, called Put Your Best Face Forward, and my skin care line, SLMD Skin Care, continues to grow. And all of this came from “pimple popping”.

So, how are things going today? 🙂

“I’m having fun, helping people around the world understand and take care of their own skin, getting people interested in and helping to elevate the dermatology profession! This is a a big year for me, with the expansion of my skin care line, my first book release, and season 2 of my TV series on TLC. It’s stressful though. I didn’t think at this time in my life I would be so busy, and have so much responsibility. I feel like I have 3 jobs — a full time Dermatologist, now a TV and social media personality, and I’m also a busy mom and wife. But I am so very honored to have the opportunities that I have now and know how fortunate I am, and also I feel so very lucky to get to help other people / patients along the way and potentially change their lives in a positive way.”

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?

“I really want to find you a funny mistake, but why can’t I think of anything? I’ve made mistakes along the way and actually I believe mistakes are ok and actually important and necessary, because when I make them and realize they are mistakes, I usually don’t make that mistake again. I learn from my mistakes. And I think I’m pretty goofy and funny, at least I try to be when I interact with my patients — like when I watch my TLC show back episodes at some point I usually say out loud “did I REALLY just say that?!” and these comments I make are usually ones that viewers find funny and endearing. But I can’t think of a funny mistake and I feel bad about this! When I do, I’ll send you an email immediately!”

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

“In just three years I have had over 2 billion views on my YouTube channel, and have well over 10 million followers across all my social media platforms. Mind boggling and crazy! What was I going to actually DO with this, though? Creating a merchandise line was a no brainer. What I really wanted to do was create a unique dermatology skin care line, one that would bridge the gap between being confused about how to treat your skin and unsure what products to choose when perusing the skin care aisle at your drugstore, and actually seeing a dermatologist. I realized I had people around the world that followed me, and would trust me to advise them about their own skin. I wanted to create a line, SLMD skin care, that would bring products to treat skin conditions to the masses, that WORK, that are products that we as dermatologists would recommend if you saw us, because I know the vast majority of people can’t or don’t see dermatologists but have questions about our own skin. I can’t say this was my destiny. I never figured myself to be known as Dr PImple Popper wherever I go! But I think things happen for a reason. And I saw an opportunity and seized upon it and it has transformed into the most wonderful, exciting thing.”

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

“That you do have to put in the time and dedication to get somewhere if you really want it. And I’m not saying this because I’m there yet, but I have the drive and the determination to keep trying, keep working hard to get there. You get what you put into something, and a little luck doesn’t hurt either. It’s OK to be competitive, but don’t be negatively competitive. If you’re good, people will come to you, don’t step on others to get higher.”

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

“I have a lot of dermatologists I trained under that I consider my mentors. Dr Lucinda Buescher who taught me how important it is to connect to your patients and have great bedside manner. Dr Robert Buzzel who trained me to be meticulous and not settle for anything less in Mohs Surgery. Dr Richard Fitzpatrick, the international derm laser guru, who taught me you can be smart and incredible and revered, but still be a jokester and down to earth. Most importantly my father, who taught me so many things about dermatology — not necessarily about diseases and skin conditions. More about how to relate to patients, how to love what you do, how to get the most out of your job and life. It’s very important to have mentors, but they will just happen if you are doing or pursuing something that you love. You will recognize when someone is doing good things, and you should pay attention and learn from them.”

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

“As dermatologists, we are so much MORE than pimple poppers. We are surgeons, we are psychologists, we are friends and advocates for our patients. In the last year I spoke at a big Derm surgery convention and I was nervous, and thought, would anyone actually show up? Well, we overfilled the room and it was standing room only in the back! So many dermatologists in training have come up to me to say they watch my videos to prepare for their own interactions with patients! It is the biggest compliment to me that I am know a role model for all of these young dermatologists, estheticians, physician assistants, people interested in going into health care. And all I can do is do my best to take care of my patients, I am just trying to show people a “window into my world” and why I love what I do so much.”

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. It will take 1 -2 years to adjust to your new crazy normal. My life has changed dramatically and in ways that I didn’t expect and some ways that I don’t really want. I didn’t look for a profession that would draw so much attention to ME, I didn’t seek a life of fame, where I would be recognized in fact most often by my voice, but now since the TLC show people recognize my face as well. My life is crazy busy now and I didn’t realize that all this fame and recognition would lead to so many opportunities but then also make me so incredibly busy. I’m still learning to balance work life, TV life, “celebrity” life with press tours and appearances etc, and home life with husband kids and friends.

2. Know the enormous power of the word “No” . I said yes all the time for the first couple years that all this pimple popping started. I agreed to do pretty much any press that came my way. Collaboration with your YouTube channel? Sure! Interview me for your local small newspaper? OK! And slowly but surely, we got more and more exposure, and gained more likes, more subs, more engagement. I worked HARD to build this into something because I believed in it. But now, I know the power of “No”. That I have the power to say no and that this will get me farther in the end. That sometimes you have to say “No” to get the final YES.

3. Don’t speak poorly about others. Imitation is the highest form of flattery. There will always be others in the same “race” as you. But you should just do YOU, and wish everyone else well. If you’re good at what you do, people will come to you, you will be successful, just don’t bring the others down around you. If you speak badly about others this gives them absolute permission to do the same to you. Don’t stoop to that level. When they go low you stay high.

4. It’s harder for people to sue or dislike you if you’re their friend. My father taught me this, he is a retired dermatologist and he was never sued during his entire professional career and I believe in this day and age that is extremely rare. He advised me that it’s hard for people to sue you if they consider you a friend. Or at least, they’re gonna think twice. And this is part of developing great bedside manner as a physician. Treat your patients as you would your friends, don’t “speak down to them” but treat them as equals who deserve your attention and respect. Treat them like friends.

5. Don’t take it personally if people who work for you leave. Remember, this is YOUR life and people working for you just live in it. It’s not their life, they have their own lives and sometimes they need to change something up to pursue their own dreams.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂

Yes, how did you know you were going to trigger me? I posed this questions to my followers on my Instagram page @drsandralee and I got so many wonderful suggestions but one overlying theme was kindness, and this got me thinking about my TV show and how wonderful it has become for me because it shows me that something that I do at work can really truly make huge positive impacts on others. That what I do can really bring people happiness, and this really makes ME feel great, it’s a great gift to ME. So, what if when people come to see me to extract their blackheads or excise their lipomas and cysts, I ask them to “Pop It Forward”. I’ll continue to treat them for free or heavily discounted, in exchange, I’ll ask them to please Pop It Forward, to please spread a little or a lot of kindness and happiness to others, hopefully a complete stranger. It could be just complimenting someone, or paying for their coffee or dinner, or helping a stranger put their groceries in their car, etc. Let’s start a movement where people #PopItForward !!

For pimple popping, follow @drpimplepopper on Instagram, subscribe to Dr. Pimple Popper on YouTube or @SandraLeeMD on Twitter. For my skincare line/skincare advice, follow @SLMDskincare on Instagram, and to follow me and get a BTS look at my life, follow @DrSandraLee on Instagram

Thank you for joining us!

About the Author:

Phil Laboon wants to live in a world where actions speak louder than words, people shout their stories from roof tops, and where following one’s passion is the norm. As a serial entrepreneur and investor, his personal and professional life has spotlighted in hundreds of publications such as People Magazine, Rueters, Forbes, Inc, HuffingtonPost, and CBS This Morning. Phil also writes a regular, nationally syndicated column on the subject of how great leaders build great companies. When he’s not building memorable brands or launching exciting startups, you can find him backpacking exotic countries looking for new inspiration and challenges. If you would like to book Phil for an entertaining speaking engagement about inbound marketing or growing a business, he can be contacted HERE.

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