by Dr Tim Pearce, MBChB BSc (hons) MRCGP
I often meet business owners, and I always want to know, how did they get into their line of work? How did they build their business? Was it luck, was it hard graft, circumstance, genius? What is it that makes one person’s business succeed, and another fade away?
Today I still consider SkinViva to be a fledgling business, but we employ 17 people and treat around 4,000 people a year, making us one of the busiest doctor led clinics in the UK (for injectables).
Well, I thought it would be interesting for my followers to hear the complete transparent, no gloss truth about how SkinViva Ltd came to be.
The adventure all started with one of my best friends from university called Beatrice. One evening in 2006, Beatrice came round for dinner, and told us she had started a cosmetic skin treatments business. She was so excited about it, and had already had 20 or so clients in a few months, and apart from being a nice side income, it was also a great contrast to her hectic NHS work. She enjoyed the creative aspect, and having the time to get to know her patients.
As I sat on the couch listening to her story, I knew straight away it was something I wanted to get into. For years I felt that my natural creative and artistic tendencies were neglected in medicine, and this seemed the perfect marriage of science and the aesthetic, medicine and creativity.
Training was expensive however and as a Junior doctor it seemed a big risk jumping into a new business.
The First Step
A few months later, this risk vanished, as my friend Beatrice broke the news that she was leaving the UK to move back to her home in Hong Kong. She extremely generously offered to give me her business, and encouraged me to get trained! I completed my first course in 2007, and I was officially in business.
Ironically,due to a move, I never saw any of Beatrice’s patients, but had reasonable success straight away working closer to my new home in Urmston. Things carried on, in this small scale way for while, seeing 5-10 clients a month, and managing all the back office work myself. It was clear that the business wasn’t getting busier, because I was spending most of my time working and studying for my specialist qualifications.
The First Big Break
My wife, who worked for the health care commission was being made redundant in 2009. In June of 2008, we had a long discussion over her birthday meal in a small but lovely restaurant in Urmston called Isinglass. At one point I half jokingly suggested she could invest her 3 months redundancy pay into my aesthetic business, and we could make a serious go of it together, as business partners.
She immediately said no!
I didn’t think much more about it until a few weeks later, when she got home from work and and told me the exciting news that she had changed her mind, and actually thought it was an amazing idea.
That autumn, the worst recession since the 1930s started, and as the headlines raged we saw her first month in her new role generate no revenue at all! Zero! That September was probably the scariest month of our business, and one we still talk about now, because despite our dwindling confidence, we learnt that it pays of stick at it in the tough times.
We worked together extremely well, something I must give her most of the credit for! Her patience, insight, incredible resilience, her way with people and ability to follow ideas all the way through are attributes that still make up some of the backbone of the company to this day, I see her spirit in all the staff we have chosen and trained.
A Lucky Break
My first bit of luck, came in the form of a representative from Allergan (who make Botox and Juvederm) who picked up my business card in Alderly edge. He and Miranda developed a good relationship, and we had lots of help and tips as well as lots of incredible training from some top doctors in the aesthetic industry. Having someone to advise us who knew the industry really well was an invaluable help.
The Next Big Step
As time went on, Miranda managed to turn a near non-existent business into a business turning over £130,000 a year, with a loyal but small group of clients we still treat today.
The next big leap started with a message on Facebook from an old colleague, Lee Cottrill, she had met at the healthcare commission who was looking for a small business to get involved in, as he was tired of big faceless corporations. He offered to meet with his trusted colleague Gillian and we discussed going into partnership.
Our early meetings with Lee and Gillian were immediately very exciting. What our business lacked was an organised approach to systems and project management, planning, and the experience of someone who had been in bigger business for decades. Lee and Gillian brought this in spades, and they joined us in 2011 full of energy. We hired our first employee in June of 2011, and got our first offices. The joining of Lee and Gillian was by far the biggest leap for us, and the platform for bigger things to come.
Supporting 3 new salaries was a real strain on the little business, and it was only thanks to our prudence in the early years that we had saved virtually all of our profits over the three years, and this gave us a necessary buffer to pay staff as we rapidly built up the business and took on a raft of big overheads.
3 years on, now in a large clinic with a training school, those early days seem a very long time ago. Yet, even as I write this, I still feel we are going through bigger changes in terms of our mission and ideals, and really communicating who we are and why we are different. There is so much more potential for us to deliver real value to aesthetic clients in northwest, the next 7 years will be even more exciting.
7 Tips for Your Business
If I were to humbly give 7 tips for anyone wanting a business, it would be:
- Take calculated risks, but only if you can afford to lose.
- Don’t be afraid to collaborate, with the right people. Business at it’s heart, is a collaboration.
- Re-invest heavily in the early days, instead of borrowing or spending profit on yourself.
- Don’t be scared off by the hard times- they are where you learn the most.
- A lot of success is down to luck and circumstance, but there is skill and courage required to make the most of the position you are given.
- Look after your relationships with partners and colleagues, bad relationships can limit a business more easily than a lack of funds.
- Never think you know it all, there is always a better way to do things!