You Can't Plant a Seed in Bad Soil

Posted By Mike Meyer, Friday, April 2, 2021

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By Alex R. Thiersch, JD, CEO, American Med Spa Association (AmSpa); and Katje Lattik, Executive Assistant, AmSpa

As the economy begins its slow recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that the medical aesthetics industry begin reflecting on the past year. Despite the blows dealt to medical spas across the country, there still managed to be those who pulled through with incredible gains and who are poised to grow even further in 2021. These success stories demonstrate the importance of always building for and looking to the future, whatever the surrounding circumstances might be.

When musing on who the winners of tomorrow will be in an article for Inc., Howard Tullman asserts, "You can't plant a seed in bad soil." If there's one lesson that has become more and more relevant over the past year, it's this. After suddenly being faced with an economic environment made confusing, chaotic and unpredictable by COVID-19, many business owners found themselves doing the seemingly smart thing and pulling back. They cut their promotion and marketing expenditures, they gave up on reaching their now-quarantined customer base, and they sacrificed the foundations of their businesses by hoping that doing less would lead to smaller losses. In short, they fell victim to the all-too-human instinct of choosing flight over fight.

And it certainly was a fight to stay relevant and upright while facing the unprecedented obstacles of 2020. But in a market where competitors are only a click away, and customer loyalty is predicated almost entirely on steady communication, that fight determines a company's entire future. This is an industry built on relationships—on human-to-human connection. For many, it's why they were drawn to aesthetics in the first place. The successful men and women of tomorrow will be the ones who understand this and make it the core of their practice, even when the outlook seems bleak. Take, for example, Leslie O'Connell, MD, and Linda Cervantes, LVN, of Elle Med Spa in New Braunfels, Texas. To them, loyalty is not a one-way street, and they have been incorporating the opinions of their long-time customers into their business plans since 2018. This community integration is likely what helped save them during the height of the pandemic. "Once we re-opened, the outpouring of love from our Elle family wanting treatments and showing support has been tremendous," Cervantes says.

It is easy to think that our fortunes won't end in the good times, and to become dejected and unmotivated in the bad times. A mix of conservative measures while we can afford them and ambitious measures when times are uncertain seems unintuitive, but can provide a roadmap for success. Karli Plunkett, PA-C, MMS, LME, of Fountain of Youth Wellness and Medical Spa in Sanford, Florida, admitted that, "This year was rough. We had well-calculated goals, and we fell short. Thankfully, during our first two years, we had squirreled enough away to keep our entire team on payroll while shut down. It depleted us financially, but we didn't let the time go to waste. We maintained patient contact, re-evaluated our priorities, and are finishing the year with the monthly revenues we calculated pre-pandemic."

It all comes back to client relationships—the building blocks that allowed for the establishment of a foundation in the first place. The method by which they are formed and maintained might change, but their crucial role does not. Many businesses, not just in the medical spa community but across all sectors, found themselves suddenly lost when the new COVID-19 paradigm disrupted their usual marketing strategies. Quick turnaround and an openness to new approaches was critical for avoiding becoming permanently stranded. "Coronavirus did create an immediate pause in business, but we were still able to stay strong and united as a team," says Katrina Riley, MSN, APRN-C, of Elan Aesthetics in Tampa, Florida. "We got creative with our marketing and product sales, we stayed relevant on social media, and we took that time to develop a creative marketing plan."

The extent of what we are able to plant in 2021—new revenue streams, expanded practices, team growth, etc.—will depend entirely on our actions in 2020. Did we refuse to let the year pass us by while others sat back to see what would happen? Did we focus on how to maintain our critical connections, even if we had to rethink our methods? Did we build the foundations that will support tomorrow's successes? The fight to endure is what allows for a more hopeful future. As Tullman also says, "Plant well and often and the harvest will take care of itself."

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