What We Have Learned From the Pandemic, Part 2

Posted By Madilyn Moeller, Friday, November 12, 2021

Hands in

By Michael Meyer, Writer/Editor; and Madilyn Moeller, Editorial Assistant, American Med Spa Association

Eighteen months ago, COVID-19 emerged and changed the way people live their lives. Very quickly, "social distancing" became a familiar term, and how to wear a mask and use Zoom became a way of life. Many in medical aesthetics, and in all walks of life, also have experienced the heartbreak of losing friends and loved ones to the virus. Without question, everyone's lives are significantly different than they were before the pandemic began.

QP wanted to learn how the pandemic has affected medical aesthetics, so in this very special issue, dozens of people who work in and around the industry share what they have learned during this highly unusual time. QP spoke with physicians, nurses, physician assistants, lawyers, finance professionals, vendors, trainers and medical spa owners about how their lives and businesses have adapted—and are continuing to adapt—to the "new normal," and their insights reveal that medical aesthetics is resilient, innovative and strong.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has not yet disappeared, and new lessons are being learned every day as people come to grips with the evolution of this pandemic. However, medical aesthetics is nothing if not resourceful, and as COVID-19 continues to demand thoughtful responses to difficult problems, the industry will undoubtedly be among the first to change with the times.

"Lean In"

Image of Michael S. Byrd and Bradford E. Adatto

Michael S. Byrd, JD
CEO, ByrdAdatto

Bradford E. Adatto, JD
President, ByrdAdatto

Bradford E. Adatto:
"One of our core values at ByrdAdatto is "compete." When things get bad, you'e got to come together and work together. We lost a lot of good clients because they were closed for so long and couldn't reopen, and a lot had to leave our Access+ program because they couldn't afford an attorney due to not being open. But we have a subscription model, and it survived the pandemic and allowed us to keep all our personnel at their salaries. We didn't have to lay anybody off. So, from that perspective, it was a huge win in a very tough market."

Michael S. Byrd:
"What was remarkable about COVID is that everyone learned how to function in a different normal than ever before. Our clients were learning how to operate their businesses under these new rules of the game, and we were learning how to interpret the new rules of the game in real time. It was just a surreal, yet super-connecting experience to go through that with our clients, because you bond over navigating something that was a worldwide threat."

Bradford E. Adatto:
"We saw in all this pressure that was being put on our clients, a lot of entrepreneurial spirit comes through, and that's true of our firm, too. We launched a podcast during the pandemic because we wanted to continue to educate our clients and, hopefully, the public at large. But, most importantly, we could see our own clients trying to find new ways of restructuring their businesses to meet people where they were, as far as their comfort levels, especially in the aesthetic market—they adapted how they brought their patients in, how they cleared them for services and how they rendered their services. The ones that quickly leaned into it are the ones that prospered the fastest."

"Take Care of Your Team"

Headshot of Nicole Chiaramonte

Nicole Chiaramonte
CEO, Synergy MedAesthetics, Inc.

"The pandemic has taught me so many meaningful lessons in business and life. As it relates to running medical spa practices, it is imperative that you be fully funded and not over-leveraged. I watched many good practices close their doors permanently—not for lack of quality, but because they were overextended in debt.

"I also learned the benefit of proactively caring for your team in a crisis. It is vital to take care of your teams as much as you are able. As a business owner, it is my philosophy that my business is only as solid and stable as my team. When the locations had to close due to stay-at-home orders, there was enough fear about COVID-19 itself; I didn't want employees worried about how to pay their bills. Even before Payroll Protection Program loans became an option, we were able to offer staff the option of working from home due to keeping reserves and not being over-leveraged. We addressed all the things that get passed over while running busy practices, including updating protocols, virtual trainings and redecorating via online shopping. We also tried to keep connected, hosting staff virtual cocktail hours and challenging one another via social media to share favorite skin care routines, family activities and mental health exercises on our business Instagram and Facebook stories."

"Investing in Yourself"

Headshot of Shawna Chrisman

Shawna Chrisman, NP
CEO, Destination Aesthetics (Sacramento, Folsom, Elk Grove & Roseville, CA)

"What I learned during the pandemic is that trusting relationships are everything when it comes to your business foundation. Everything about COVID was unpredictable, so our family of patients and team members were looking to Destination Aesthetics for continuous, personalized touch points that kept them confident in our sustainability and safety.

"I also learned that the concept of 'look good, feel good' became a mainstream conversation as all our treatments started to wane. Zoom calls resulted in me elevating my computer to new heights so I didn't have to watch my face fall more every day, and ring lights became my new best friends to help tone down facial details. People were quarantining, not traveling, and working from home with their kids, who were learning virtually. There was tragedy around the world on multiple levels, and people were hopeless. When we re-opened, patients were so energized to get their cosmetic treatments. It was as if we were injecting anti-depressants into their skin. We had a record number of new patients coming in for treatments, as well. Everyone was self-investing and feeling good about their decision because they knew it would elicit a positive feedback loop that would give back to them emotionally, mentally and physically, and also improve the moods of others around them.

"From a business standpoint, COVID made leaders pivot in ways they never would have otherwise—thinking of new ways to stay connected to patients, ensuring confidence in their team, and fiscally staying alive."

"Recession Lessons"

Headshot of Cathy Christensen

Cathy Christensen
COO, American Med Spa Association (AmSpa)
"Alex [Thiersch, JD, the founder of AmSpa] and I have always tried to build a company that was strong in multiple areas, not just one—you can't put all your eggs in one basket. For us, events are a huge "egg," a huge revenue stream for us, and those just disappeared. One of the things I knew, but was verified during this time, is that it's always important to have your finances structured in such a way that if something like that happens—your biggest revenue stream dries up—you can still operate.
"I also learned is that we have the best team in the world. I remember us having a meeting in the conference room when we knew this was going down—it was like, okay, things are changing. And we said, we have to stop what we're doing. We'd put a lot of our efforts and spend into events, but we hit the brakes on that and we said, "We're pivoting today, and every one of you is going to strongly focus on supporting our members. Every effort that we make is going to help them get through this." And every member of the team absolutely made this their mission.

"And so, we worked on that. We worked on distributing as much information as we possibly could about business tactics. We did a lot of coverage of Payroll Protection Program loans. We brought in speakers from the Mayo Clinic to help us understand what was going on and what COVID-19 was. I learned that being able to pivot and really stay true to your mission—and our mission has always been to support members and to really see it through their eyes and respond to their needs—made us stronger in the end. I think it made us even more valuable to our members.
"COVID-19 has magnified weaknesses, but also magnified strengths. I'm seeing that people are spending more time making sure that their finances are tighter and being more aware of the fact that some things are out of our control. I think in the long run it's going to result in a stronger industry. It's like in 2008, when the recession happened—it got rid of a lot of the players who weren't doing things right. And I think this kind of adversity causes you to do better, and that's good for you, but it's also good for your patients, employees and the industry as a whole."
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