Focus on your passion. If you hate a certain type of treatment, for example perhaps you have zero interest in machine-based therapies, then drop the treatments you dislike and focus on the ones you are passionate about. Focus on what you enjoy as when you enjoy something you naturally want to learn more about it and become an expert in it. There are always multiple ways of dealing with patient concerns so drop what doesn’t work for you and provide alternatives. If you can’t bear to drop certain options or fear it may impact on your business if you do then simply pass those to another team member so they can provide them instead. Passion is contagious and your patients will pick up on it. Passion is what drives a thriving healthcare practice.
As a part of our interview series with prominent medical professionals called “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Highly Successful Private Practice” I had the pleasure of interviewing Vanessa Bird.
The Aesthetic Consultant®️ Vanessa has over 12 years experience in aesthetic medicine, helping her clients succeed in a highly competitive, fast-moving sector. Recognised as an expert in her field, Vanessa is on the panel of Business Experts for Wigmore Medical & is a regular presenter at congresses and conferences across the U.K.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you ended up where you are?
I came into aesthetic medicine over 12 years ago, initially as a business consultant and sales rep selling high-end capital equipment to doctors, dermatologists, surgeons and clinics looking for cutting-edge treatments. Over the years I developed a strong reputation as a go-to person for those wanting to make money and succeed in aesthetics and before long I had a little black book of experts, contacts and big names in the industry who loved working with me. So it made sense to leave my job and set up my own consultancy company offering valuable services to help my clients sell more treatments, attract more patients, make more money and raise their profile in the industry.
I’m a huge fan of mentorship throughout one’s career. None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Who has been your biggest mentor? What was the most valuable lesson you learned from them?
I’m lucky in that I had a number of mentors over the years. Some were clients of mine and had decades of experience working as medical professionals in aesthetics. Others ran global laser companies and they supported my sales career, helping me grow. Some were industry peers who introduced me to future clients and opportunities and of course I always returned the favour too. There are too many people to name check, but I am so very grateful for all those people who did and still do support and mentor me. It’s a great industry to work in and the most valuable lesson I learned is that we can all benefit from connecting in some way and you make some great friendships along the way.
What made you want to start your own practice? Can you tell us the story of how you started it?
I’d spent many years as an employee selling capital equipment to aesthetic clinics and medical professionals across the U.K, and I built up a reputation for going ‘above and beyond’ what any other sales consultant would offer. I developed long-term relationships supporting my clients and they came back to buy from me time and time again as well as referring me to others. My clients started to ask me for help planning events or putting together articles for press coverage, and some even asked me to train their staff so they could deliver high levels of customer care whilst also selling and growing the business. Some even tried to poach me to go and work for them. I soon realised I was offering bespoke business services that weren’t necessarily part of my paid ‘job’ for free yet they had SO much value so I saw the opportunity to leave and set up a bespoke business consultancy specialising in all the key services my clients wanted me to help with. It was a huge leap of faith but my network and connections have really helped get the word out and supported me throughout this journey.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Gosh, I’ve so many stories I wouldn’t know which one to share as quite simply, the aesthetic medical industry is constantly a fascinating place and I am lucky enough to meet lots of intelligent, charismatic people and learn about amazing treatments. Perhaps one story that your readers may be able to connect with is that Harrods, the world-famous luxury department store in the heart of London bought a device from me for their in-store aesthetic medical clinic. Now THAT was a proud moment. Not only that, they created video footage of the device I sold them and screened it throughout the store, with some digital walls rising 4 floors or more high. Gliding up 4 flights of escalators next to a huge digital wall towering above me that was showcasing the device I had sold to Harrods was a very proud moment indeed.
Because it is a “helping profession”, some healthcare providers struggle with the idea of “monetization.” How do you address the business aspect of running a medical practice? Can you share a story or example?
Although I work predominantly with aesthetic medical practices, they also provide medical treatments too. Part of the problem some healthcare providers have is that they went into medicine to help people. Initially it feels ‘wrong’ or ‘dishonest’ to try and make money from their calling. Even when they understand the importance of monetizing their profession many just don’t have the business skills to do so. My role as a business consultant is to identify the areas that they could improve on to maximise profit, work with them and more importantly teach them the skills so they can continue to succeed. Sometimes just identifying the fact that this ‘money making’ side of the business is not their area of expertise and that it is OK to hire a business consultant to do it for them is enough to make it click for the healthcare provider. It gives them ‘permission’ I suppose to side step their guilt and allow someone like me to help.
Managing being a provider and a business owner is a constant balancing act. How do you manage both roles?
As with anything, I teach my clients to understand that to be successful they need to embrace both sides. If they let one side slip then their future success will suffer. It’s really about recognising whether you CAN balance it all or whether you need to hire someone to focus on the part you’re letting slide. There’s no shame in outsourcing if you’re not comfortable with the business side of things.
From completing your degree to opening a practice and becoming a business owner, your path was most likely challenging. Can you share a story about one of your greatest struggles? Can you share what you did to overcome it?
Although I don’t have my own practice, I do work with practice owners so I can share the most typical struggles I hear about. The biggest hurdle is when they realize they ‘want more’ from their current role. They may be working with others as part of their practice but eventually decide they want to set up their own practice. That lightening bolt moment that they can do this themselves instead of working for others…yet they have no idea where to start, and many just don’t have the time to do it. So my role is to almost advertise the solution and simultaneously explain that it is perfectly normal for them to feel this way and to not know how to make their next move. Why would they if they’ve never done it before? I normalize the process of hiring a specialist business consultant who can guide and assist them on their journey and make it as easy as possible for them to succeed. Sometimes even being on retainer for someone who’s making their next step is enough to give them the confidence to do it and help them avoid some expensive mistakes too!
Ok, thank you. Here is the main question of our interview. What are the 5 things you need to know to create a thriving practice, and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Do NOT rely on the ‘telepathic’ patients to make you successful. I joke about this with clients who ask me why they can’t seem to sell treatments or attract new patients despite not advertising their practice or services anywhere, or talking to existing patients about what they offer. If you don’t advertise and promote what you do every single week whether that’s by social media, in clinic or even by word of mouth talking to your patients, then who will you attract? Only the telepathic patients will know you have the great new treatment or that you are running a promotion that will make them want to book in. Get advertising! Get talking! Spread the word.
- Techniques, treatments and technologies are constantly improving. Stay up to date. Don’t get complacent. You may have the best training and offer the most advanced treatments now but that won’t necessarily be the case 6–12 months down the line if you don’t make the effort to find out about new developments or trends in your industry. It’s your duty to stay up to date with the progressions in healthcare and to identify things that will benefit your practice and your patients and then to go on courses or buy in the equipment to make it happen. If you allow your skills and knowledge to stagnate, so will your practice.
- Always be selling. I know healthcare providers HATE selling, but in order to see your practice thrive you need to always be selling. Abandon the old-fashioned idea you have of sales being cheesy or pushy or obvious. Replace that with the understanding that people LIKE To buy things and spend money on things that benefit them, that make them feel good or improve their health, looks or lifestyle. When you can talk knowledgeably about the treatments and services that will benefit your patients; when you take time to consult with them, ask questions and understand what they need before providing the perfect solution, you’ll find people willingly book in and pay. Educating people and helping people is a very enjoyable form of selling. Make it a daily habit.
- Surround yourself with the right team and treat them well. Your team are an extension of you and an extension of the reputation you and your practice has. Invest in highly qualified people who are friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about what they do. Continually train and help your team develop their skills. Have monthly team meetings to incentivize staff. Give them the option to offer feedback, share ideas or even ‘vent’ so they feel listened to and valued. Give praise where praise is due and encourage a positive, friendly and supportive work environment. Reward them well. Everyone wants to enjoy going to work and a happy team who feel valued, listened to and rewarded well for what they do will stay long term and help your practice grow.
- Focus on your passion. If you hate a certain type of treatment, for example perhaps you have zero interest in machine-based therapies, then drop the treatments you dislike and focus on the ones you are passionate about. Focus on what you enjoy as when you enjoy something you naturally want to learn more about it and become an expert in it. There are always multiple ways of dealing with patient concerns so drop what doesn’t work for you and provide alternatives. If you can’t bear to drop certain options or fear it may impact on your business if you do then simply pass those to another team member so they can provide them instead. Passion is contagious and your patients will pick up on it. Passion is what drives a thriving healthcare practice.
As a business owner you spend most of your time working IN your practice, seeing patients. When and how do you shift to working ON your practice? (Marketing, upgrading systems, growing your practice, etc.) How much time do you spend on the business elements?
I recommend that practice owners outsource tasks they don’t have time for such as marketing, social media management, PR or IT rather than play catch up and hope a sporadic attack on each when you have time will bring the same results as consistency. Recognize your own time restraints, open your wallet and pay the experts. That investment will come back to you tenfold as your business grows. Seeing patients may be a full time job, but remember the business side is also a full time job. I can’t emphasize it enough. HIRE. THE. EXPERTS.
I understand that the healthcare industry has unique stresses and hazards that other industries don’t have. What specific practices would you recommend to other healthcare leaders to improve their physical or mental wellness? Can you share a story or example?
Schedule in some downtime, no matter how busy your life is and keep that date to yourself no matter how tempted you are to erase it and free up some diary space to see more patients. If you burn out then you are no use to anyone, your patients will suffer and your business will suffer. That’s before we even touch upon how this can affect your mental and physical health. Try to have healthy lifestyle habits most of the time. Feed your body nutritious foods to nourish you. Take regular exercise to support your health and relieve stress. Take that day off. You’ve heard it all before but there’s a reason for that. It’s because it works!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story about how that was relevant in your own life?
“If you don’t make time for your wellness, you will be forced to make time for your illness.” That speaks to me on so many levels. We are often in so much of a rush to succeed, to hit the next goal, to stay on top of a busy schedule that we skip rest days or work though bouts of illness or ignore aches and pains. We think taking a day back when we are feeling drained or cutting some hours short will set us back, when in reality, ignoring any warning signs will soon result in having to take far more time off and this will impact your business far greater than it would have done had you heeded the early warning signs. I can now recognise those times when I should step away from my laptop and take some time for me.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Sure. To find out more visit my website www.theaestheticconsultant.co.uk as I work with practitioners across the globe and it will give you some more information on how I may be of help. I would love a follow on Instagram @theaestheticconsultant and please do connect with me, Vanessa Bird The Aesthetic Consultant®️ on Linked In. I’m always looking to expand my network.
Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success and good health!