Welcome to “Beauty and the Biz”, where we talk about the business and marketing side of plastic surgery, and Regrets, Guarantees & Social Media with Harvey Cole, III, MD.
I’m your host, Catherine Maley, author of “Your aesthetic practice – What your patients are saying”, and consultant to plastic surgeons to get them more patients and profits.
LEARN MORE ➡️ https://bit.ly/3ykNLEa
Chip Cole III, MD
I had the pleasure on interviewing Dr. Harvey “Chip” Cole, III, a Board-Certified Oculofacial plastic surgeon specializing in ophthalmology and cosmetic surgery of the eyes and face where he discusses his regrets and mistakes, his thoughts on guarantees, and what he’s doing with social media to make his practice an outright success.
Dr. Cole has been in private practice in Atlanta since 1994 so he’s seen a lot and he openly shares his “Chip’s Tips” with other surgeons when it comes to running and marketing a successful practice.
For example, he was the first to use his adorable shar pei puppy in his facelift advertising efforts that made a huge impact on his brand and popularity.
Listen in to this week’s Beauty and the Biz episode where we talked about:
➡ His biggest mistake early on that he still regrets
➡ Offering a satisfaction guarantee (Yikes!)
➡ His take on social media and a whole lot more
Visit Dr. Cole’s website at www.oculusplasticsurgery.com
📖 Get a Copy of Catherine’s FREE Book:
📲 Schedule a FREE 30-Minute Strategy Call with Catherine: https://bit.ly/3EOaKJV
👁 DON’T MISS THESE INTERVIEWS 👁
➡️ Robert Singer, MD FACS – Former President of The Aesthetic Society: https://www.catherinemaley.com/podcast/ep-86-robert-singer-md-former-president-of-the-aesthetic-society
➡️ Grant Stevens, MD FACS – Former ASAPS President: https://www.catherinemaley.com/blog/ep-44-covid-19-update-with-asaps-past-president-dr-grant-stevens
➡️ E. Gaylon McCollough, MD FACS – Former President of AAFPRS, ABFPRS, AACS: https://www.catherinemaley.com/podcast/ep-88-e-gaylon-mccollough-md-facs-past-president-abfprs-aacs
Catherine Maley, MBA: Hello, and welcome to “Beauty and the Biz”, where we talk about the business and marketing side of plastic surgery. I’m your host, Catherine Maley, author of Your Aesthetic Practice – What your patients are saying as well as consultants to plastic surgeons, to get them more patients and more profits.
Now, today’s special guest is Dr. Harvey “Chip” Cole, III, and he’s a board-certified ocular facial plastic surgeon, specializing in ophthalmology as well as cosmetic surgery of the eyes and face. Now, Dr. Cole founded Oculus plastic surgery in 1994 in Atlanta, Georgia, and has performed more than 33,000 medical and aesthetic surgeries from infants to the elderly in his joint commission, accredited private surgical suite.
Now, his mantra is to never turn down or reconstruct a patient based on lack of financial resources, and paying it forward has always been part of his mission.
Now, Dr. Cole has coauthored over a dozen medical books, as well as his own consumer book, which we’ll talk about, and he’s given over 100 lectures around the world.
He’s been an invited guest on Fox CNN, ABC, NBC, and “Good Day Atlanta”, as well as several radio stations. Now, in addition to his clinical practice, Dr. Cole also founded the non-profit Face Change Foundation that helps troubled teens, and we’ll also talk more about that.
Dr. Cole, welcome to beauty and the biz. It is a pleasure to have you
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Thank you so much, and, I need to apologize. I have two dogs and I hear one barking in the background. So, if you hear a little bit, I do apologize, but it just makes it a family affair.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Okay. So far so good. I can’t hear them. So, the burning question is, is there a Harvey chip Cole? The fourth?
Harvey Cole, III, MD: That is an interesting question. I grew up. Where people would tease me with the name Harvey and there was Harvey, the rabbit and things like that. Now I understand through my kids that there’s a Harvey on one of the you know, soap operas or something that everybody likes the name Harvey, but I didn’t feel that way.
And so, when I was getting ready to name my son, my wife and I could not think of a good nickname and we didn’t want to call him Harvey. So, we named him Christopher Douglas Cole, and later when he got in kindergarten, there were four curses and. So, we felt like we probably should have done the fourth.
And one other thing that was funny, I was doing plastic surgery at Vanderbilt and we were at a playground and this cute little curly hair boys running around and, and, and his name was Ivy. And we said, that’s, that’s really cute. And I said, is that a family name? They said, well, sort of he’s the fourth. So, we call him Ivan.
And I looked at my wife and said, is it too late to change our son’s name? She said you could do that with dogs, but you can’t do that with kids. For sure.
Catherine Maley, MBA: He’d be in therapy now. Yeah. So, let’s talk about your practice because you’ve been around for a long time, you know, you started in 1994. Did you go straight into private practice or did you go through the hospital? What was your journey to get there?
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Sure. I, I joined a guy that was very big in our field back in 1992 guy named Sonny McCord, Clinton McCord. And he was kind of one of the fathers of oculoplastic surgery at the time. And I joined him. He like a lot of older guys. He had been through his five divorces and he just got his real estate license and he was ready to quit.
Well then when I joined. I showed him laser and into scopic surgery. He got excited again and he remarried his wife, which was, I think his six marriage. And I could see the writing on the wall. So, I went off by myself after about two years.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Okay. Did you go into, did you go ahead and build a building or did you go so low in a small way and then built up to it?
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Well, what I plan to do and what I did are two different things and that’s, that’s something good for some of the younger docs that might be listening. I had a plan to buy a property and build an office in surgery center. And about two days before the closing metropolitan life insurance came in and bought two buildings next to the property that I was supposed to buy and I got snubbed out.
So, then I leased the space planning to be there for three years. And here I am almost 30 years later and I’ve taken over the whole floor and built a surgery center and a med spa. But unfortunately, it’s leased space, which is not quite as valuable as owning your own real estate.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Well, I actually do, I love real estate on the side and I’m in syndications.
So, I invest in multifamily apartment buildings. Atlanta is the hotspot. So, you’re not too late, you know, if you’re –
Harvey Cole, III, MD: You’re absolutely right. In fact, I am looking right now at some space that I might duplicate what I’ve already done and, and just, you know, have it be kind of my supergroup for 10 years from now when I slow down or retire.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Okay. Yeah. We’ll let me know, because I’m always looking for a good reason. We don’t have any of those in California. So, when did you build the surgical suite part of your practice? Were you in there for a while and then built it?
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Yeah, I was in, I, you know, I kind of saw the writing on the wall very early and I was fortunate in that in 1994, I built the surgery center and I moved into that office in 1992.
So, two years later and I was doing a lot of work at the hospitals and seeing kind of where things were going with insurance. And I became, I was the first joint commission accredited ambulatory surgery center in Georgia in 1994. And I’ve kept it up ever since then. And it’s been probably the smartest business decision that I’ve made.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Hmm. And are you doing a lot of reconstructive still or are you like, what’s your percentage of customers?
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Yeah, I would say right now, I’m probably about 75% cosmetic, 25% functional, but what’s interesting. And this is good for, you know, some of the, the people that are developing their career and thinking about it right now is in the early days, what was so nice is it didn’t matter what type of surgery I did because the reimbursed.
Was kind of poor for the surgeon if you’re doing a functional case, but you got a good surgery center reimbursement. And then for cosmetic, it’s just the opposite. You want to be very, very competitive, but you get paid better as a surgeon, so to speak and then your facility fee is lower. So, it really balances out to where there’s no such thing as a bad case or a bad surgery, whereas people that don’t have the benefit of a surgery center and they’re going over to the hospital, they feel like all they want to do is cosmetic cases, which is great.
But you have to build your, your skillset and your reputation before you’re able to just take the cream off the top. For sure.
Catherine Maley, MBA: I, the way I see it, if you can swing it your own surgery center or at least, or suite or whatever you want I don’t know if you needed Medicare. That must be a big deal in today’s world to be a Medicare approved.
But if you can just do cosmetic in your own office, I know the cosmetic patient loves the privacy and the comfort. I know the doctor loves not running all over town. You’re working in somebody else’s environment that he can’t control. So, I, if you can handle it, I sure. I really like it.
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Yeah, no, I agree with you.
And I think that if a person has enough volume and their reputation to where they can have an in-office, you know, suite or, or, you know, one of the other big advantages that you have now that you didn’t have 30 years ago is anesthesia has improved so much. So, there’s nothing that I do that I can’t do under sedation.
And, and there’s certainly a lot of cases that I might do under general with an LMA. And, but that’s not even general where you’re putting a tube down somebody’s throat. So, people get up and walk out of the operating room. So, you don’t have that extended recovery that you used to have. And I also do a lot of surgery into scopic glee and with laser.
And so. I don’t make a lot of the large incisions that I used to make. I mean, you know, I trained back in the day where it was, like the American Indians, where we’d make an incision from ear to ear and take the whole scalp down. I mean, I do one of those once or twice a year and that’s for major trauma, but cosmetically that doesn’t exist anymore.
Nobody does those big flaps and things, unless you’re doing body work with breast reconstruction.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Great. I don’t think the patients would tolerate that in today’s world. Especially being so educated as they are on the internet when it comes to anesthesia, I think you’re so right on, I do, I’m watching trends.
I’m always watching what patients like you know, where they’re hurting and patients are loving the anesthesia angle. Most of us have had a general anesthesia story or a friend has had a story. I personally wake up sicker than a dog from general anesthesia. So, I personally would rather have that done local or Twilight or whatever that is.
If you can do that. I mean, I think kudos to you if you can get away from general and go that other route, I think that’s what the patients want. And it’s a good difference.
Harvey Cole, III, MD: No, I totally agree. And I think too, that it’s important to look at everything you do from the patient’s perspective. And what happens a lot, especially to surgeons is they do what they’re most comfortable with.
And most surgeons would prefer not to chit chat, not to have to do all that stuff. They want their patient asleep. They weren’t doing their surgery and leave, but it’s a differentiator and it’s, and, and you got to look at it from the patient’s perspective, you know, and that’s something that you taught me years ago when we first started talking is it’s almost like walking in your office and imagine you’re the patient.
What do you want to see? What do you want to receive? And, and that goes not only from your front reception, but it goes all the way to have insert.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Yep. I can, I can vouch for that. Yeah. So, when in your practice I read somewhere that you also, well, I saw a photo of you, I think it’s your partner and then a whole bunch of staff.
Well, who do you have on board? Is it a part, a business partner or is it an associate and then how many staff?
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Well, you know, it’s, it’s very interesting. That has changed a little bit through time. So, I would say that in the early days I had about four or five people and I got, I was just too busy people waiting six, eight months to see me.
And, you know, I was scheduled a year in advance and so it’s either lose them to the competitor or bring somebody in. So, I brought somebody in and we were together for about, probably about 15 years and, and we brought in a couple of other people and, and then what happens is young docs, you know, come in, but they want to be as busy and do what the senior docs are doing.
And then, you know, they get disillusioned. And so. It ended up being the two of us, which you probably saw in the picture and very tragically. He was about four years younger than me. He had a fall and fell down some steps and broke his neck and he actually died. And so, so right now I’m actually by myself and I’m looking for an associate and they’re easy to find, you know, so I’m being patient and getting the right one, but I’ve gone from, I had as many as 30 team members at one point to now I’m back down to about five.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Isn’t your life easier.
Harvey Cole, III, MD: I love it. I absolutely love it. And, and it’s funny because I promised myself, I will never have 30 people again, because, you know, besides we had a killer kickball team, it’s just real hard to manage 30 people.
Catherine Maley, MBA: I, I hear it all the time. The surgeon, you know, I say, so were you doing a lifestyle practice or empire building practice?
And they said, there wasn’t empire building until I realized what goes into that. And now we’re back to lifestyle. I don’t need the headaches. Actually, I’m going to interview Ed Williams. He’s got 75 staff up in upstate New York and everyone cringes when they hear that. And he just loves it. And it’s his thing, but I don’t know many people who are interested in managing that many people, even if you’re not directly managing you.
Well, you know, at night trying to feel, feel all these people, especially with the dips and valleys that happen with this industry. Oh my gosh. Yes.
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Yeah. I completely agree. I know, I know Ed, and he’s a great guy and we’re very similar in that. We love people and we, and we like self-help and, and what happens is you take on these projects and, and I would have people that I was trying to help them with their marriage and their life and their career and all this.
And, and then at some point, you know, you kind of say to yourself, you know, your family should be number one on your, on your list. And if those people are taking you away from your family, then you’re not doing the right thing. And, and so I have definitely regrouped and I think one of the. Few pearls of this COVID chaos are allowing people to regroup and decide, do they want to change some things in their lives and over their practice?
And this is a good time to make that transition.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Sure, sure. I’m speaking of that, I have noticed, I used to do a lot of HR practices. Call me a lot to find them a phone staff or a coordinator or a nurse or an MA. And I’m like, I’m not doing it right now because I can’t get you results as fast as you want them.
And I am not appreciating the quality of applicants. Like I just, I don’t, again, this COVID thing has really turned everything upside down. Are you feeling that in Atlanta as well? Finding good staff,
Harvey Cole, III, MD: we are, you know, we keep a file because we get a fair amount of people that, you know, ask us, you know, if we’re looking and if they’re good, we keep them in a file.
And so, we’ll reach out to them and I also, because of the community you know, I’ll see people and run into people and they’re always asking. And I like to, you know, say, which is very true that I’ve, I’ve, I’ve never had somebody quit or leave me, but I have set a lot of people free, you know?
So, w I treat my, my team very, very good, and they do the same for me. And I’ve got people that have been with me 30 years, 24 years, 17 years, things like that. So, I’m very blessed from that standpoint that I have a real stable.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Well, I know you have chips tips. And do you have any first staff? Like how do you hang on?
Here’s the, here’s the other part to that? Sometimes somebody can be there for 30 years and that’s terrific, but they wanted that to change. So sometimes it starts to become a con rather than a. And do you find that yourself
Harvey Cole, III, MD: absolutely, you know, one of my favorite examples that I give to doctors because they can all relate if they’ve worked in the VA system, is that, you know, it’s like somebody at the VA hospital say, say a nurse that has 20 years’ experience.
I like to say. They have one year of growth and they repeated it for 19 more years, you know, and that’s what happens sometimes with, you know, your staff. And so, it’s important I think, to, to interact and have meetings and, and, you know, one of my low words it’s interesting. I actually got this from Tony Robbins and I are the same age and I got kind of introduced to him way back when he had like 50 people.
And, you know, you could sit down and have dinner with them and, and, and ride a camel with them, you know? And one of his little words was can I see a constant and never-ending improvement and, and I’ve kind of adapted that. And so, I’m always making little changes. And if I see somebody that won’t make changes and they’re not willing to grow, then those are the ones I set for.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Gotcha. How do you motivate people? Are you kind of like a family where you go out to dinner? I know you used to have a sports team, but like, how are you, how are you keeping people engaged?
Harvey Cole, III, MD: You know, they, it changes, I would say that. There will be times where we have a group of people and they like to do activities.
And then we, we do bowling and we go to family ax throwing night. And I mean, we, we do some creative stuff. And then there’s times where people say, you know, I get to see my spouse all the time and I work with these people, but we have more fun. It’s a different kind of fun. And so, most of the team members prefer to go out with just us and not include the spouses.
And so that’s, that’s what we do. I’d say 70% of the time, but, but we always have at least two functions during the year where we include, you know, the spouses and kids, because you know, it’s a lot of fun to have a, you know, say a big pool party and all the kids are there and that kind of.
Catherine Maley, MBA: So now that you’ve run a business for a long time, you know how to run a business, you know, not just a practice, you’re very business minded.
How do you in today’s world, how would you tell somebody how to scale, how to grow this thing?
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Yeah, I think the, to me, the, the most important thing is, you know, everybody’s used this before, but it’s, it’s like the riches are in the niches. So, you have to find out what your niche is and, and your niche might not be a surgical procedure.
It might be that for instance, you have an all female. Staff and you’re a female surgeon and you cater to empowering women that could be your niche. So, you know, I think finding your niche helps you define yourself and your practice. And then from there, you can use that to kind of formulate your approach.
And, and when I started out, you know, I started in ophthalmology and then I did all the plastic surgery and I even did the body, you know, full general boarded in cosmetic. I, you know, at one point I was doing body liposuction, that kind of thing, but I play a lot of tennis and it was giving me tennis elbow.
And so, I would rather play tennis and to do liposuction. So, I quit doing it. And but it helped me realize that, you know, people are coming from all over to see me, you know, to repair. Say, you know, I would say probably 50% of my practice to this day is bought surgery. So, I see a lot of people that have had surgery elsewhere.
And so, our started thinking, well, it’s so much easier for me. If I could see those patients before they have surgery elsewhere, they get a better result. It’s, it’s less baggage for me. So, then I started kind of making my niche, you know, doing, doing the eyes and face, which was kind of full circle for me because that’s how I started.
So, I think the mistake that I made was not staying with my niche and just perfecting my niche. So, I would, I would, my advice to people would be. Find your niche, whether it’s a procedure, it’s an approach. You know, it, it might be for instance, that you do only a sedation anesthesia, and you never do generally a seizure.
That’s something that I have adopted. And I do a lot of laser work, but I was involved in the early nineties, you know, with laser and endoscopic surgery. So, I’ve always kind of been on the, you know, no pun intended cutting edge. And but I think it’s finding, finding what interests you the most. And then, and then, you know, coupling and bridging that with your niche, because if you have a niche, but you don’t enjoy it, you’re not going to be happy.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Sure, sure. I always recommend to a surgeon, if you’re going to do external advertising, get super clear and focused on. The niche thing, either get focused on one group, one procedure. And, and you don’t have to stick to that forever. It’s for external advertising, make a name for yourself as something, and then you can always build from that internally, but to be everything to everybody, especially in today’s crowded world, I just think you’ll get lost in the shuffle.
Like you’re called like the eye guy, you know, like that. And that had to help you transition to facelifts. W was that helpful because you stayed up in the face area?
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Yeah, it was, you know, it’s interesting. The one of my favorite stories and I’ll, I’ll go back to answering that is I was operating, you know, doing a full facial procedure on a lady.
And I, I came out to talk to her husband and he said to me, you know, I’ve got some heaviness up here in my upper lids and my brown aisle. Do you have somebody that you could send me to that could get that done? And, and I thought he was joking. And I said, well, you know, you know, I do that and blah, blah, blah.
And he said, he goes, well, I thought you just did faceless. And, and I didn’t realize you did this stuff. And it really opened my eyes about, you always have to, you know, educate people and let them know. And, and, and what you’re saying about you know, advertising and being specifically. It reminds me I’m old enough to go back to the yellow page days where you’d open up an ad for a general plastic surgeon.
And, and they had the whole alphabet in there. They, they specialize from a was acne, I think. And Z was a Z plasty for scars. And they had about 30 procedures in between. Well, people just want to get a breast augmentation. They don’t want to know that you do 25 procedures. They want to know that you do really good breast augmentation.
And how do you do it? Do you do it under the breast or through the accelerator? Through the belly button, you know? And I think that. People feel like they have to give a laundry list of everything they do. And what I like to do back to your question is people might come to me for their eyes or they get referred to me.
And as I’m talking to them, I talk about harmony and balance. And, and I point out to them how, you know, even though the ayes have it and that’s going to be where everybody looks well, you know, let’s look at your chin and let’s look at your mouth and your neck, and it’s kind of a natural progression.
And so. For me, it’s, it’s almost a gateway because if you look at studies, they all show the top 10 things. People notice about themselves. Eyes are always number one. And if you look at the top 10 that other people notice about other people, eyes are always number one. But if you look at something like the neck for a person, it might be number four, number three on their list, but on someone else’s list, looking at them, it’s like number eight or number 10.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Okay. So, what about surgical versus nonsurgical? Are you a surgeon period and you brought on injectors or in estheticians, or are you a patient for life kind of practice where you want them coming up to surgery, going down from surgery, which you’re taking on?
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Yeah, I would, I would say that I have transitioned and, and that’s what I would suggest for most people.
When I started out, it was all about the relationship and the trust and coming to you for everything. And then if, if I didn’t do it, I would recommend somebody. Now, what I’ve done is I only inject fillers or Botox to people that absolutely demand that I do it. And if not, I have, you know, a, a physician extender to do it because my time is better spent in the operating room.
And you know, it’s very similar transition to say, OB, you know, back in the day, you know, I love when I delivered a baby and I told my wife, I wanted to be an obstetrician and she’s like, no way. I’ll never see you. You’ll be in the middle of the night taking care of rice, baby. And, and she knows that I would because of my personality.
But if back then you would’ve seen eight different doctors in an OB practice. I probably would be an obstetrician today because things have changed and people are more accepting. And it’s the same way. Doctors, for the most part, don’t have an hour to spend doing fillers or Botox when the margins are so low, but people expect that because they go to their med spa and, and the esthetician, or the nurse does have time to spend 45 minutes with them.
So, they expect to get the time. So, if you can’t give it to them, they consider you an inferior provider because you can’t do it. And so, you have to look at the economics of it also, and what’s going to make a person I E client feel most satisfied and they would rather have their Botox by, by a nurse injector.
This could spend an hour away.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Yeah, no, I, I agree. I what, I don’t think a lot of practices realizes you’re only getting some of a patient’s disposable income for that. Very reason. They look at you now let’s say, as a surgeon, they’ll come in for a blessed, they’ll come back for a face lift later, but they’re going to emit spot to do the fun stuff.
Like just a little Botox thing, or they’ll go to their favorite injector at another med spa. So, I just know just heads up, you know, there’s always more money there. It’s just, how much of it do you want to work for? You know, do you just let some of that go let the med spa take it? I don’t know. You know, there’s no right or wrong answer.
How competitive is it by your, by you? And by the way, is everything in Atlanta on Peachtree?
Harvey Cole, III, MD: It is so crazy. I forgot the number, but I think there’s something like 74 streets named Peachtree and yeah. It’s well, and of course, you know, it’s called the peach state, but it’s pretty hard to find it. If somebody visits you and they want a piece of peach pie, you can’t find it. You know, you got to go to North Carolina to get some peach pie, but it’s funny. But as far as the competition, I would say that, you know, it’s interesting.
I write about this in my book. When you look at the statistics and if you look at the aesthetic society through plastic surgery and they rank all the different cities, Atlanta is typically number one for the density of plastic surgery. So, people go to California a lot, but it’s all spread out and they go to New York a lot.
And so, LA New York city, maybe San Francisco, but Atlanta is always in the top one or two or three. And from my office, I could throw a baseball in here probably 20, 25 plastic surgery.
Catherine Maley, MBA: So crazy. Yeah. You know what else I noticed in Atlanta, you have these very big practices with multiple plastic surgeons, all vying for the plastic surgery patients.
I just think that’s, they D they are very complicated practices to consult with. You. Can’t get a decision made with five egos in one room. It just doesn’t happen. So, I just, what do you think about that? That business model is still very popular there. Is it there? Is it still popular there?
Harvey Cole, III, MD: A lot of it is because, you know, people grow up in that environment or they’ll train with somebody like that. And they just don’t think outside the box and, and it’s easier to conform and get in the elevator, so to speak and just go up with your career through that box. And you know, a lot of younger people, I think are starting to realize that you don’t have to go that way.
And it’s so much more efficient, even if you’re so low to kind of March to your own tune and use resources of the hospital consultants like yourself, you don’t have to be in a big group and you’re always going to be happier. I’ve never met a plastic surgeon that was less happy from leaving a big. You know, they complain a lot about the big group, but they never regret it when they leave you. No one.
Catherine Maley, MBA: I’ve never heard somebody complaining about leaving a group or a hospital, actually.
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Yeah. And you know, what, what a good friend of mine from years ago you might even know him, Steve Cohen. He’s a plastic surgeon. And, and LA yeah, actually I believe he’s in maybe San Diego, but, you know, we used to do cases and things in the early days in Atlanta.
And he was in a big group and I was in a group and we would compare notes and then, you know, his group ended up imploding and everybody sues each other and he just got tired of it. He moved out to California and, and he’s been so low and he’s never been happier and more successful than he is now. And that’s, that’s a typical scenario.
Catherine Maley, MBA: That’s so true. Talking about that. What’s like one big mistake you made that others could learn from because you learned from it.
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Yeah. I would say, you know, as I think about that one, that I’ve mentioned that if you’re early on, I would try to acquire ownership of your property and your practice because it’ll serve you so well.
Long-term, you know, that’s, that’s a big one. I would say, and this is, this is a little vague and I’ll explain it, but kind of follow your gut, follow your instincts. Everybody has different approaches to who they are and the practice they want. I remember when I started out. And of course, this is in a very early nineties and, and I wanted to put in my brochure satisfaction guaranteed or something to that effect.
Because if you think about it, most people that are worth their weight, they’re going to do everything they can to make a patient happy and, and everybody’s human and nobody’s perfect. And if you have somebody that say, say you do a, a four- or five-hour surgery and they heal and they have a little low, the size of a marble, well, you’re going to do everything you can to get rid of it and help them.
You’re not going to say, well, that’s your fault and you shouldn’t have eaten some French fries or something, you know? So, you’re going to do everything you can to satisfy somebody. So why not let them know up front? That’s who you are and all the attorneys and all the other doctors say, oh, you can’t do that.
And that’s, that’s an ethical and this, that, and the other. And same thing, I’ve gone full circle. So now I put that out front and let everybody know, you know, I call it my love free guarantee. So basically, they, you either love it or it’s free guaranteed. And you know, I don’t like to challenge patients, but I’ve never had anybody ask me for a refund because they’d all love it because I would do everything I can for them to be happy.
And I wouldn’t advise them.
Catherine Maley, MBA: It’s a marketing secret. I gave a talk on this on it’s called risk reversal and it’s built into everything we buy. We, I mean, if everyone would just think how they buy we love a hundred percent guarantee money back guarantee. Otherwise on the times you will literally have to give your money back are nil compared to what you get from it.
And I see it, the surgeons, you know what, when someone’s unhappy, what do you end up doing? Anyway, you end up fixing it or giving them their money back. So why not preempt that and make it a marketing selling point? And your conversion rates will go up. I would like spring, like, are you at, I don’t know if I would advertise it out loud, but I would certainly do it internally with the coordinator and saying, you know what?
We have a, we want to make you happy guarantee here. And this is how it works. It’s a great idea.
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Yeah. And I think it also establishes a level of confidence and comfort. With your client, you know, for them to know that you are in it for the long haul, you’ll do everything you can to be on their team. You know, everybody has bought a car and been treated like royalty, and then they go in to get something done at the service department and they won’t even answer the phone.
And everybody’s afraid of that with surgery. That would, if they make a mistake, what if this, what if their doctor doesn’t think, blah, blah, blah. And they need to be comfortable that it’s a long-term relationship. And so that, that would be one approach that I would certainly suggest to people that I would say has never hurt me, but it would have been better if I would’ve gone more with my instinct instead of listening to others.
And so that’s something I would suggest. And then the other thing I would suggest is don’t be the first guy on the block. To, to try and perform the new technology. You know, you want to be on the forefront of things, but you don’t want to, you know, it, it kind of reminds me. I had a guy that used to work for me from Wisconsin, and one of the things they did, they had a bunch of lakes up there.
And every winter, you know, somebody’s got to drive their truck out there on that lake because what they do is they all, you know, go on the ice and spin their trucks around and have fun. But you don’t want to be the first guy to drive your truck on the lake. You know, because he showed me video pictures of people, their whole truck went under water in the lake because it wasn’t ready, you know, and I compare that to technology, you know, understand it and, and, and know it’s safe before you the first one to try it.
Catherine Maley, MBA: That’s a really good point and God, that sounds so cold. I’m from Chicago and it’s December right now. And I just still remember how cold that was and people would go ice fishing. And I thought, why would you do any more cold than you have to do? But I’m glad, not glad to be in California. So, I’m talking about marketing and talking about differentiating.
We must, I want to show your book. This is his consumer book called face change. It has the cutest little sharp puppy on here. And who thought of this? This you, the sharp pay and the book were so eye catching. I, I got my own book and when I got it, it actually came with a sharp. 10 bear or a withheld stuffed animal.
It was amazing. Then you have this cute, great branding. Like this was my bookmark and I still have it. I bought this book 15 years ago. And the best part you have your son doing the forward. Look at this, Chris Cole, here’s his son doing the forward. And he just he’s very sensitive. Like he really understood, like he really understands the patients and he loves that you help people and you transform lives.
And this book is amazing and it was a number one bestseller on Amazon, and of course, I would like to figure out how you pull that off. That’s a, that’s a marketing thing, but tell me how much this book has been helpful to you and how it differentiates.
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Sure. You know, I would say that that, that book has really been a great validator and open doors that might not have been opened before.
And I will say that when I did it, it was a lot harder than it is to do it now. So that’s a good thing for people considering writing a book, it’s a whole lot easier to do it now. And it started out that, you know, because I started originally with ophthalmology, that was my first board certification.
I was very comfortable with Botox and I worked with, you know Jean Carruthers, Allister Crothers way back when in the eighties and, and doing Botox and all that. And she noticed, you know, that people weren’t having as many wrinkles because her, her husband, he was using it too. And cause we used to give her for people to have movement disorders called blepharospasm.
The people used to see in the grocery store at two 30 in the morning because they didn’t want to run into anybody, you know, with all these twitches and things. And so, I had a lot of experience, it was very comfortable with it. Well then when it finally got approved by the FDA, all the doctors and everybody was nervous because it’s a toxin.
And how do you explain it and how do you educate patients and that kind of thing. So, I tend to have fun and joke around a lot. And I said, well, I’m just going to do an ad with my sharp pay. And I put on the ad, not everyone looks as cute with wrinkles, Botox, and it took off. Yeah, my dog and my and, and the funniest thing is I had no idea that the industry had contests and things, or I shouldn’t.
Probably trademark or copyright or something because about six months, eight months later, I got this huge award in the mail and an invitation. And I won a silver medal for advertising for that ad. And I was just having fun and Nao. You look at so many ads, you see sharp pays and you see things about wrinkles and stuff.
And that all started with my ad. Just having fun. And they are great dogs and a funny story maybe we’ll talk about another time. I’ve actually done surgery on my own dog because they get interning of their lashes called entropion. And I actually called the vet and, and wanting to get it repaired. And he said it was too complicated and all that.
And I told him what I did. And he said, well, it’s a shame. You couldn’t do it. And I said, well, why can’t I, why don’t I teach some of the vets how to do it? So., We arranged it. And I brought my dog and he had about five veterinarians there. I did one side and I kind of looked up and I could see that they were nervous.
So, I started making it even more complicated with the anatomy. And on, after I finished, I said, does anybody want to do the other side or do y’all want me to do it? And I can show you some more anatomy. And they said, no, no. Why don’t you do it? So, it was great. I got free surgery on my own dog at the vet, and they got to learn how to do this.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Wow.
Harvey Cole, III, MD: It was really funny, but, but getting back to the book and everything, so what happened was the ad was very popular. And so, I thought I’m just going to make, make it my mascot. And so, I’m from new Orleans and had that Cajun flair. So, I decided to name the mascot Botox, and it’s spelled Bea you to put a little Cajun twist.
And so, people that come in for Botox, I would give them a little puppy just for fun. And, and it caught on, and we literally have had dogs on Craigslist where people are selling the dog. And it says, Dr. Cole’s famous, sharp PEI puppy for sale. And so, what we do is we buy him back and tell him we’re bringing him home. Cause we want to make sure they have good care.
Catherine Maley, MBA: That is so cute because I have never forgotten. I’ve known you for over 15 years. I have never forgotten the Chip Cole sharpei book, stuffed animal like that.
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Yeah. And then as far as the book goes, You know, I went through some interesting times with my son where he was diagnosed bipolar.
And so, the reason I named it “Face Change” is obviously your face changing over time, but it’s a double entendre also facing change in life. And so, I have a foundation called the “Face Change Foundation” where I take 10% of cosmetic surgeries, and all the books and sales, and I help troubled teenagers, abused people, domestic violence, that kind of thing.
And it’s a way for me to pay it forward.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Oh, what a great idea and good for you. Good for you.
Harvey Cole, III, MD: And, and oh, my son is doing fantastic. He went on to get he’s a counselor now got a degree in transpersonal psychology and he’s counseling and helping, and we get to collaborate a lot together, which is really rewarding.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Hmm. Now I’m, what about the other son? I understand he’s working with you in the practice. Is he working in the practice or just around?
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Well, both primarily around it. He used to work in the practice, but he’s gotten a lot busier. He is a classic starving artist because, you know, as a, as an artist and actor, you know, you usually wear about four or five hats.
And he went and got his master’s degree in fine arts and film production. And he’s also a standup comedian. He’s been in several commercials, like with taco bell and subway and some big ones and a. He’s been in a few TV series. And so, he, I was hoping that I was advanced enough that I could skip the whole social media and internet because, you know, when I was starting out, everything was word of mouth.
Well, word of mouth has been replaced by likes. And so, you have to kind of get involved with all that. So, I have had fun getting involved in some social media with Tyler, my youngest son, and it’s a way for us to collaborate, use his skills and still have that father, son bond.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Well, I checked out your Instagram and I just know patients love to know like the behind the scenes, like, who are you?
And I know your story, like you, you married, you’re not even high school, sweetheart. You married like what we would eighth grade or something when you met and you have three children, then you have five grandchildren, but I only see two Instagram with children and it just the grandchildren. Are you going to add more personality?
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Yes, I am. You know, it’s funny. I get a lot of requests for that. And, and I told Tyler, and we’re going to start having more of that because on Facebook, I used to have more family stuff and people would love it. And just the other day, I was a push in a couple of my grandsons and my wife took a picture of in the stroller.
And she said, do you realize that you had more likes from your grandkids than you did from doing a surgery video and, and it’s true. People want to know who their doctor is and, and they consider you almost part of the family. And I think that’s one of the. Big advantages for younger doctors are they have that medium to share that.
And they’re even more comfortable with it than my age group because they grew up doing it and sharing. And so, I think that’s a great way to accelerate their practice is through social media.
Catherine Maley, MBA: For sure. Is there anything else you’re doing right now? That’s working like marketing has changed so much throughout the decades.
Is there something that used to work that doesn’t any longer or that’s working now that never used to be able to work or something new? Any marketing pearls?
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Yeah, I would say probably the biggest one for me. When I started out, I would do a print ad in our local glossy magazine called “Atlanta Magazine”.
Every city pretty much has one. And then I got a lot of good feedback. And then I started realizing that I was branded enough through that, that I started doing it every other month. Then I did it every three months and I didn’t see any drop off by doing it once a quarter versus every month. And so, I think that’s a good Pearl for people starting out that you don’t have to hit it so hard with marketing, whether it be digital or print or, or even mail outs, you know, you just have to have your presence out there.
So, you’re in the conversation and there’s a…I’m seeing a whole swing in the pendulum with marketing because now I think everybody’s tired of opening emails and things that if I want to send out something like a handwritten note, it always gets looked at or newsletter because you know, now people like to look at a magazine cause they’re tired of, you know, working out their thumb and scrolling through their phone.
So, I think there’s going to be a resurgence of some of the magazines and things that they’re used to not be.
Catherine Maley, MBA: I know I’m for my own business. I do a lot more direct mail now than anything just to kind of get people’s attention. There’s nothing like direct mail. There’s nobody in the mailbox anymore or any fun stuff anyway.
So, I take advantage of that. So, tell me, how did you learn because you’re a really good businessman. How did you learn that as a surgeon? Most surgeons, you know, obviously you were in medical school and like other people like me, like I went to graduate school to get an MBA. So, I did the business side. How do you surgeons learn the business side of surgery?
Harvey Cole, III, MD: You know, I like to what I call think outside the box. When, when I give talks even to, you know, other docs, I usually will start off something to the effect of. You know, wisdom is when you learn from your own mistakes and experiences and geniuses, when you learn from the mistakes of others and that through this talk, I’m going to try to make all of y’all geniuses.
And, you know, I get a little chuckle, but, but that’s a concept that I like to, to approach things and to teach people is, you know, there’s so much you can learn from if you really think outside the box. And, and, and one good example for me was like Zappos. For instance, you know, Zappos was a business that was going bankrupt and somebody took over Zappos and he went in the board meeting and said, you know, we’re going to start doing free shipping.
And they said, You know, we can’t afford to do free shipping. We’re about to go bankrupt. And he said, well, we’re not only going to do free shipping. We’re going to do free shipping both directions, not only to the client, but when they return them. And, and half the people were so upset, you know, they’re trying to get them thrown out.
Well, look what happened to Zappos. They not only changed the industry, but they became a household name because of their service. And so, I try to see things like that in business and then learn from it and say, well, how can I adapt that to my own business and my own clients? And that’s when I came up with kind of my whole love free guarantee approach, you know, is, is give people not only more than they expect, which is cliche, but.
You know, more than, than they would even perceive. And it makes it more fun for the team. And it makes it almost like a challenge, you know, when, when somebody ever complains, which is very rare, I like to tell people in the office, like I’d like to call them. And I look at it as a challenge, like how can I diffuse this person and have them understand and become their friend and, and have them go from, you know, what I call a love, hate, love relationship.
So, so everybody loves her doctor when they start, then they have a bad experience or they have even surgery becomes a hate phase. I call it the frustration phase, but they go through this, this point where. You know, I can’t believe that my husband let me do this or my wife or, you know, and why did I do it with them?
And I, and, and, oh, I was so stupid and all that. And then it goes full cycle. Well, that’s the endorphins and all the psychology going on. So, it’s the love, hate, love stage. So, I like to get people out of that hate and hate might be, it might be dislike. It might be frustration, but there’s no reason you can’t have everybody finish in the love phase with you, your office and everything else.
And so, so I think about those things and I try to make it an experience because, you know, at the end of the day, You know, it’s kind of like you said, you know, we made many years ago and you remember, you know, chips tips in a, in a dog or something, but that you remember an experience. You remember a feeling; you don’t remember the exact conversation and that’s what I try to leave people with.
And so, as I’m formulating my practice in my approach, I always think about that.
Catherine Maley, MBA: That’s great. I didn’t realize we have to wrap it up. It’s been, we talked a lot. So, tell, tell us something that we don’t know about you already.
Harvey Cole, III, MD: I love yellow. Everything I have and everything I do. And any time somebody wants to make me smile, they give me some sunshine and yellow.
So, I have a, a yellow car, a yellow bow, a yellow motorcycle, a yellow four wheelers a yellow snowboard.
And my logo is yellow and I have yellow tennis shoes on. So, yellow is my happy color. That’s my happy place.
Catherine Maley, MBA: That’s amazing. As a redhead, I can’t wear yellow. It doesn’t work for me. I’m better off in a color like blue or green, but that is amazing. You really like yellow. Okay.
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Yeah, I do. And, I would say that you know, the, the next thing is, and people that know me know, but, you know, family is a really big deal to me. And so, I now have six grandsons and three kids. Everything I do revolves around my family and I’m very blessed. And a lot of that is my Southern kind of Cajun roots.
You know, certain heritage is different than others, you know, but family and food is a big deal when I grew up. And so, everything’s around family and food and fun.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Oh, that’s a good logo, family, food and fun.
Harvey Cole, III, MD: There you go. Yeah. We’d have a whole list of them.
Catherine Maley, MBA: All right. Well, thank you so much. Do you have any last words to say for people who are starting out or just been around for a little while? Any words of wisdom that you can give somebody? Like, somebody like you who’s been there and done that?
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Yeah. You know, I would say, and this is completely unsolicited. When you start out, you want to shortcut your success. And the best way to shortcut your success is, is a concept that’s become popular. What I call masterminds and, and a mastermind is really, kind of, like I said before, the difference between, you know, wisdom and genius.
And, I think that to be able to hook up with somebody like yourself, that has a lot of experience, and has seen a lot of different changes, you really can shortcut your success. What takes some people, maybe 10 years to be successful, you can do it in two years. If you, you know, have somebody, a consultant, that can help you shortcut everything.
And so, I would suggest somebody reach out to someone like yourself, like I did in the past. That helps me catapult my success.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Thank you for saying that. And, as a matter of fact, I walk my talk. I’m always in a mastermind, and they’re typically 20 grand plus. So, I, you know, it’s everything to share minds.
Otherwise, we’re all stuck in our own heads and we only know what we know and nothing can expand your mind more than going at hanging around other big thinkers, going, wow. It’s mind blowing. It really is.
Harvey Cole, III, MD: I agree. You might not even remember this, but one of the things that always impressed me about you is we had a relationship, you know, a long time ago, and I got some things going, and like a lot of times when you have a consultant, you get things accomplished and you get to where you’re at a certain point, and then you decide, well, you know, maybe I can take it from here, kind of on my own.
And then I ran into you at a Dan Kennedy meeting. And I thought, my goodness, she walks her talk. And, after that, I reached out to you again. And you told me that you actually spent a whole day with Dan Kennedy and invested in yourself and your career. And that really shows me not only how much you walk your talk, but what you’re willing to do for your clients to be a true expert.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Thank you for that. This isn’t happening by magic.
Harvey Cole, III, MD: And like any successful person, whether it be a consultant or, a doctor, you know, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. You know, I like to say with one of my colleagues, from way back, you know, we sewed a lot of cow eyeballs to get good at what we do.
And one of my favorite sayings now is. There’s only a millimeter between success and failure in my eyes because I’m a micro surgeon, and that kind of precision came from operating on a lot of steaks and cow eyeballs.
Catherine Maley, MBA: That’s fantastic. Thank you so, so much for your time. I really appreciate it. It’s nice to see you again.
Hopefully I’ll see you in person someday, so yeah. Where can they learn more about you? I know your website is www.OculusPlasticSurgery.com. Your foundation is www.facechange.info. Do you have an Instagram? Maybe they could catch you on Instagram.
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Yeah, my website is Oculus, like OCULUSplasticsurgery.com, not ocular. And, then the social is basically everything @DrChipCole.
Catherine Maley, MBA: All right. That’s fantastic. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. And we will talk soon.
Harvey Cole, III, MD: Sounds great. Thank you, Catherine.
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