…More seriously, I think that one of the most common mistakes that young people make when starting out is thinking that they know everything…. Even who’s calling them on the phone! I learned early on that it is more beneficial to ask for advice from your colleagues and business contacts than it is to try to fly solo. When I first started at NovaBay, I was assigned responsibilities that were entirely new to me, and some of the regulatory applications I drafted as general counsel were rejected by the government because I was unfamiliar with the detailed requirements. The trial and error curve could definitely have been shortened by just asking a few questions.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Justin Hall.
Justin Hall, ESQ joined NovaBay in February 2013 and currently serves as the company’s Chief Executive Officer & General Counsel. As the chief executive officer and chief legal counsel, Justin oversees all company operations, including sales, manufacturing, and business development. Prior to joining NovaBay, Justin worked as the Corporate Counsel of Accuray Incorporated, a radiation oncology company, which he joined in October 2006, where he provided substantive legal advice on a broad range of complex legal matters. Justin’s prior experience also includes serving as a FINRA licensed investment advisor at Sagemark Consulting from 2000 to 2006, and a stock broker at First Security Van Kasper from 1998 to 2001. Justin received a B.A. in Business Administration and Management from the University of California, San Diego, and a J.D. from the University of San Diego School of Law.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I received a B.A. in Business Administration and Management from the University of California, San Diego, and a J.D. from the University of San Diego School of Law. After college, I worked as a stockbroker and investment advisor until 2006, when I began working as Corporate Counsel of Accuray Incorporated. I joined NovaBay Pharmaceuticals in 2013, where I served as General Counsel. With the company on the verge of bankruptcy in 2019, I was appointed CEO, and we have made many steps towards rebuilding NovaBay through our principal product Avenova, and our just recently introduced, CelleRx.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
NovaBay pioneered the use of hypochlorous acid in the eyecare space. No one ever thought of using an antimicrobial solution on your eyelid and eyelashes before we introduced that concept in 2016. It was, and still is… a revolutionary idea in the eyecare space. People brush their teeth every day with toothpaste, but they don’t use anything for their eyes besides soap and water! Most common eye problems, such as dry eye, are caused by an overpopulation of bacteria on the lids and lashes. Soap and water aren’t enough.
With computer screens becoming a huge part of everyday life, dry eyes are becoming a common problem — even in children. Many people, even kids, are using artificial tears to make their eyes feel better. Artificial tears simply replace the tear film that your body should be naturally producing. Using an antimicrobial solution like Avenova, however, gets at the root cause of poor tear film: BACTERIA! Using artificial tears can provide brief symptomatic relief, but if used frequently, they may be masking an underlying disease process that needs to be identified and treated. By definition, artificial tears are laboratory made drops that are mostly salt and water to make the eye feel better temporarily, but they lack the natural oils, minerals and protective enzymes that are present in natural tears. If you are using drops frequently, but still feel grittiness, stinging, burning, debris on the lids margins, or blurry vision, then you need to address the root cause of the problem and stop treating just the symptoms.
Avenova is the ONLY pure Hypochlorous Acid eye treatment that is commercially available, and it is the most effective lid and lash solution available without a prescription. Unlike most of our competitors, it is manufactured in America.
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?
When I was first starting out, I worked at a firm that was named after the partners who started it. One of the partners called in one day and identified himself by name. I said, “Yes sir, that is where you have called. How can I help you?” He then said, “No, that’s me and I am calling for you.” I didn’t recognize his voice and I replied, “No sir… you’re confused… that’s not who you are, that is where you have called…” After two or three rounds of this, we got it straightened out… but I sure felt embarrassed!
More seriously, I think that one of the most common mistakes that young people make when starting out is thinking that they know everything…. Even who’s calling them on the phone! I learned early on that it is more beneficial to ask for advice from your colleagues and business contacts than it is to try to fly solo. When I first started at NovaBay, I was assigned responsibilities that were entirely new to me, and some of the regulatory applications I drafted as general counsel were rejected by the government because I was unfamiliar with the detailed requirements. The trial and error curve could definitely have been shortened by just asking a few questions.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I would say my greatest mentor and role model is my father, Mark Hall. As a father and as a man, he has continuously preached the importance of looking outside of oneself. He encouraged me to perform an act of kindness, even if small, every day. He would sometimes question me as to specifically what I had done that particular day that would qualify as going out of my way to act kindly towards another person. One day, one act that earned his praise was helping a stranger outside our office. As I was hurrying back from lunch, I saw an elderly man who looked lost, walking back and forth on the corner. Upon inquiry, he told me he was looking for the train station so he could ride to his daughter’s house in Sacramento. The station was not far, but he seemed to need a helping hand. So I made the effort to drive him to the station. Actions like this create a better world and good Karma for yourself, my dad would say.
In our hectic, fast paced business environment this lesson in looking outside myself helps me focus on the customer and the core of our business. There is a tendency and an organizational pull that can cause one to concentrate on their business enterprise as the number one priority. I have learned to focus on customer satisfaction as the number one priority. A successful business will always follow.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
Of course, there are examples of systems that have “stood the test of time” and will probably continue to do so for years to come. In the last two decades or so, we have seen a revolutionary boom in the tech industry, which has changed millions of lives and really shows no signs of slowing down. I see some of the same possibilities for the pharmaceutical industry: speed, ease of access, lower cost. We are starting to see companies break through with solutions and treatments that will change lives for the better. I think we see this especially right now with the COVID-19 vaccine, where it seems every day we are receiving exciting news about a possible vaccine. Of course, people’s safety should always be prioritized, so we have to be somewhat hesitant to jump on every seemingly exciting announcement, and this is especially important when it comes to pharmaceuticals and health. However, this industry definitely has space to grow and I’m very excited for the possibilities that we are presented with. For example, we recently introduced a non-prescription form of our Avenova eye product on Amazon, so it could be directly accessed by consumers. It has been a bit hit and now half of our revenues come from this channel, just one year after the launch.
Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
- Back to basics
I have a story that encompasses all three words of advice. Towards the end of 2015, NovaBay Pharmaceuticals was on the verge of bankruptcy. We had to make the tough decision of cutting staff, eliminating research and developmental and clinical operations, and really restructuring the whole company. It is never ideal to essentially go back to square one, but that was a business decision that we had to make that would ultimately save us in the long run. We focused solely on the commercial sales of Avenova, which was a laborious process, but by the end of 2016, Avenova prescriptions had tripled!
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
As I mentioned before, we are extremely excited for the release of CelleRx Clinical Reset, a medical grade skincare product made in the United States. It is the only bleach-free Hypochlorous Acid skincare product in the market today, and it will allow for access for a new level of clinical research that is not currently present in the beauty industry.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
A Ted Talk by Rajiv Shah titled “The New ‘Disrupters’ in Healthcare” is an inspiring and relevant talk that discusses the evolving scene in regards to medicine, pharmacists, and patients. He speaks to how technology has allowed patients to have more access to the drugs and medications they need, and people can even receive prescriptions from doctors without leaving their room thanks to the capabilities of our devices. Now more than ever, patients are in control of what they believe is best for them. Our product, Avenova Direct, is available through purchase on Amazon for 29.99 dollars, and can be shipped to a patient easily in less than a week. We have had a number of consumers that have gone from paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a prescription to paying less than 30 dollars a month, and they have emphasized the freedom that they feel to be able to choose the treatment that is right for them and pay very little money for it. As someone who works in the Pharmaceutical industry, I see the power that patients now hold, and it is becoming more important to get the best products into their hands as efficiently as possible.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Success is not how high you have climbed, but how you make a positive difference to the world.”
― Roy T. Bennett
I believe that success is measured not by how much money you have or what kind of car you drive, but by the impact that you have left on the lives of those around you. As I mentioned before, I think that the pharmaceutical industry has the potential to do great things across the world. I am very proud of the accomplishments that we have made here at NovaBay in the past few years, but I also know this is only the beginning, and I am very optimistic about the change we can produce in the years to come.
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.
In an ideal world, I think that everyone should have access to the medicinal products that satisfy their needs. I have seen the impact that Avenova has had on the lives of others, and I can say with confidence that being in good health is one of the most important things in the world.