What We Have Learned From the Pandemic, Part 4

Posted By Madilyn Moeller, Wednesday, November 24, 2021


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.

"Come Out Stronger"

Headshot of Ben Hernandez

Benjamin Hernandez
Partner, Skytale Group

"From an industry perspective, the pandemic raised the question, 'If we hit a recession, would the medical spa space continue to grow?' It really proved that, to many patients, the services provided are essential and a key part of their lives. This was encouraging to see, as there is tremendous value in sub-sectors that are recession-proof or recession-resistant.

"From a more 'micro' view, I think we learned that the businesses that were run well ended up coming even better out of the pandemic, comparatively speaking. One of the things we focused on with our clients during the pandemic was ensuring we continued to work on the business, even if it was deemed non-essential and therefore closed. Often, as a business owner, the thing you are in most need of is extra time—the pandemic provided that. We reminded clients that normally they are trying to work on the engine of the car as it is going 100 miles per hour down the highway and that we could take advantage of working on that engine while the car is parked in the garage. We had great buy-in and came out extremely strong.

"Finally, it was surprising to see how quickly the space bounced back and returned to pre-pandemic levels. We compare, month over month, how we are performing in this month versus the same month last year. The bounce-back has really been strong, and even when adjusting for COVID, we are seeing very strong returns back to 2019 and early 2020 levels. I was impressed by how collaborative our sub-sector was. There was so much information-sharing, and it was great to see all of us really come together and share resources and knowledge that would give us all the best chance of not only surviving the pandemic but also coming out even stronger as we re-opened."

"Team Together"

Headshot of Lynn Heublein

Lynn Heublein
CEO and Co-founder, SkinSpirit
"Unfortunately, we are still working through a pandemic. The biggest lessons we learned during the shutdown and re-opening phase of this pandemic is the importance of keeping our team together, engaged and informed. We didn't lay off or furlough any employees through the shutdowns. Our brilliant operations, medical and marketing teams developed training plans for our staff, and we connected with the majority of our staff every day. Our training topics ranged from clinical to customer service, marketing and wellness topics. It's safe to say we spent more than 15,000 hours of training time during the shutdowns. We also stayed connected with frequent communication from senior management, so our staff knew what to expect every week. The end result was that when we could re-open, our staff was completely intact and ready to get back to doing what they do best. Like a lot of medical spa businesses, we have rebounded and now exceed our pre-pandemic volume. We attribute this to being able to keep our culture intact and our people together."
"Coming Together as a Community"

Headshot of Christie Hutchinson

Christie Hutchinson, RN
CEO, QCC Healthcare Consultants

"COVID has taught us so many things. Personally, I'e learned to enjoy taking a break from the hustle and bustle of pre-COVID life and to relish the family game nights at the kitchen table.
"From a compliance perspective, we saw that there isn't always one right or perfect answer. Every business had a unique set of circumstances. It was up to the business owners and decision-makers to do what was right for the staff and patients. Words such as "highly recommended" and "strongly suggested" were spewed from authorities at all levels, which made these times even harder, because we just wanted to know rules to follow. 'Just tell us what to do and we will do it.' Given that lack of structured guidance, we reached out to one another and started sharing stories, communicating our experiences, and helping one another to find a path to re-opening, to re-building the business and to achieving success. We learned that even though we might be competitors, we can still come together for the greater good of our communities to provide safe, high-quality care in the medical spa industry.

"We learned that it's important to know your patients, their expectations, your staff's tolerance to risks, your own risk aversion tendencies, and your local rules and regulations. There is no cookie-cutter guide to compliance in the medical spa world. I'm sure you'e heard it a million times—'If you'e seen one medical spa, you'e seen one medical spa.'

"At the end of the day, I'm hoping that we'e learned to relax a bit. We know way more today about COVID than we did 18 months ago, and that simply better prepares us to deliver safe and effective aesthetic care as we start to manage the next 18 months."

"Finding Your Smile"

Headshot of Christina Imes

Christina Imes
Founder and managing partner, Rejuvenate Med Spa (Oak Brook, IL)

"When I was in my 20s, I owned a yoga studio in Chicago. I spent much of that time downward dogging, handstanding, meditating and working on being present in the moment. Owning the studio was one of the happiest times in my life—perhaps because I was young and had fewer worries in life? Maybe because my small studio had little overhead? Or was it that I had few employees and few worries when it came to the business? I can tell you that I remember it was fun and it made me happy. I would turn the key to the front door each day and a smile always came to my face.

"When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, I, along with millions of other business owners around the world, was faced with a shutdown and uncertainty about re-opening. I realized what I had forgotten—how much I loved my business, and how devastated I would be if I lost it. I used to joke that Rejuvenate was either 'my bleep or my baby,' depending on which day you asked me. I realized that for the couple of years prior to the pandemic, I had lost sight of what I loved so much about this industry and my place in it. I had become so focused on the negatives—partly because those things are what required and continue to require my attention—that I forgot that 90% of what happens at Rejuvenate is positive.

"Since the business has re-opened, I now focus more on the awesome things that happen at Rejuvenate every day. I am happy to report that now I only refer to Rejuvenate as 'my baby.'"

"Revenge Buying"

Headshot of Maegen Kennedy

Maegen Kennedy, PA-C
Clinical Director, Windermere Dental & Medical Spa (Orlando, FL)

"In general, medical spas offer elective procedures, and they're luxury experiences. The big fear was when patients were having to choose between their luxury lifestyle and their basic needs. When we were all shut down, nobody really knew what they were coming back to, so we all were nervous—you don't have to have toxins, you don't have to have these procedures. What I learned was that newer med spas that didn't have a patient base suffered more than the people who had an existing base of patients, and their businesses grew as long as they had a well-oiled machine that gave them the ability to capture their patient base back.
"When we got back, we weren't just back to normal—we were very busy. We doubled our gross revenue every month for the first six months back. People identified that they'd been putting themselves on the back burner, and they now no longer want to do that. They're now doing the things that they'e always dreamed of doing, because the pandemic scared people, and they realized they weren't doing anything. They weren't taking care of themselves. They were on this hamster wheel, and when they got off the hamster wheel, they realized the things that maybe they wanted to do for themselves. But they weren't using their funds to travel, they weren't buying clothing and they weren't spending in other places, so they had more money to do more procedures. I like to use the term 'revenge buying'—I think people have been revenge buying not just in aesthetics, but in a lot of different categories of businesses. So, now they're buying double or triple what they normally would have since they have more discretionary money to spend toward treatments."

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