Dr. Subbio, Board Certified Plastic Surgeon, talks about leaving the safety of the hospital to go into private practice to follow his passion 4 years ago and how he has been able to differentiate himself, as well as build a 50K following on Instagram in a short time. Check out his creative introductory video at www.DrSubbio.com.
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Welcome to “Beauty and the Biz.” Discover how to grow your practice with effective cosmetic patient attraction, conversion and retention advice from author, speaker, trainer and cosmetic practice business and marketing coach, Catherine Maley MBA.
Welcome to “Beauty and the Biz” where we talk about the business and marketing side of the cosmetic practice. I’m your host Catherine Maley, author of “Your Aesthetic Practice – What Your Patients are Saying” as well as consultant to cosmetic practices to get them more patients and more profits.
Now today’s episode is really special because I have a special guest, and here’s why I’m going to bring on special guests – because after consulting with plastic surgeons all over the world for the last 19 years this is what I know for sure: there is no one way to grow a cosmetic practice. There are too many variables involved. So every surgeon has all sorts of things like their longevity, their experience, the area that they’re practicing in, their own personal interest, even their skills; not surgical skills but their skills in management and leadership, they’re interest in marketing, their tech savviness, and their desire to learn and grow. All of that makes up a very unique practice but it’s absolutely great to learn from each other, that’s why we go to meetings and we learn. So when you listen to our guests, just take some of those ideas and then adapt them to you and your own personality in your own practice because the reality is, nobody else is like you. You are unique, so you want to use everything you can to just grow the practice that you like going to. That’s another thing – I find everybody, especially consultants like me, I’m not like this of course but everyone else is, they tell you what to do and frankly if they don’t understand you and where you’re coming from, it won’t matter because it’s not going to stick. You have to enjoy going to your practice and you have to really enjoy building it because there’s nothing about that so please listen to everybody but then listen to your own gut. Do what you think is right for you.
Speaking of unique, my guest today is super unique and how he differentiates himself and how he positions himself in the marketplace. His name is Christian Subbio. Oh I love that name, Subbio. He’s a board-certified plastic surgeon and I believe have you been in practice for four years, correct?
Dr. Subbio: And private practice. I was I was employed by a hospital for a couple years
Catherine: Gotcha. Okay so he’s been in private practice for only four years and he’s grown a ton since then. He’s in a small suburb in Philadelphia, a small suburb because it has this small-town feel to it, it’s called Newton town square but it’s actually, I mean Philadelphia is a huge city but it just feels good. What I like about it when I went to visit, the first thing I saw was a whole foods that moved in across the highway from him and I thought holy cow is he in the right area because if Whole Foods moves in, that’s telling you a lot. So he’s also speaking at a lot of the medical meetings and he can talk more about that, but I just want to welcome Dr. Christian Subbio.
Dr. Subbio: Well thanks for having me Catherine. I’ve been looking forward to it since we brought you on as a consultant at our practice. You’ve done wonders for us, and your advice whenever you have something to say, we always listen. So thanks for having me.
Catherine: Thanks, I appreciate that. So why don’t you tell our audience, how did you get into plastic surgery and just describe your practice in your competitive landscape and your patient demographic.
Dr. Subbio: I got into plastics basically it was kind of on a whim actually I’m not sure many plastic surgeons end up in this field on a whim but I think I was like 16 or 17, I was in high school and I was either going to go to art school but I was a little bit listless, I didn’t know how I would make a career of it, and then I saw some documentary about plastic surgeons treating acid victims in in India so I thought that would be an interesting way to apply art to a more stable career. So 15 years later I’m a graduate in plastic surgery. I really didn’t know what I was getting into at the time but luckily it worked out, because I love what I do and so yeah that’s just a long circuitous route ended me up as a plastic surgeon. So like you said, I practice in the suburbs of Philadelphia and Philadelphia I think at this point is the sixth biggest city in the state so like you said it’s a very big city. I practice in the suburbs west of the city so it’s typical suburban landscape of a big city, lots of plastic surgeons as any big city is going to have, but not quite the same landscape is New York City which is just an hour and a half north or certainly not LA or Miami. It’s more of a typical suburban setting of a large city so lots of plastic surgeons, lots of competition, and if you don’t stay at the top of your game you’re going to fall behind so always trying to think of new ways as we all, are to stay at the forefront.
Catherine: Patient demographics, are they different there than somewhere else?
Dr. Subbio: I don’t think so, barring certain areas like New York City, LA, I consider those areas like the outliers , New York, LA, Miami and then everything else. Everything else I think falls within a generally similar subset of patient demographics. My practice tends to skew a little bit younger I think, because as I’m sure you’ll get into, I made something of a name for myself on Instagram and I’m using lots of digital marketing to reach my patients. But I think that typically it’s going to skew a bit younger but I like anyone – I’ll see patients from 20 years old to 80 years old but I think if I’m looking at the median, my patients maybe a little bit younger.
Catherine: I do remember when I was in his office saying is everybody is a candidate for something? I love that. So let’s go back to you being an artist, because that is such a great differentiator. A lot of surgeons talk about how they’re different, but in not a way that correlates to plastic surgery. You can use your art skills as a differentiator to prove or to help prove that you are a better plastic surgeon. Before I even knew who you were, I’d often go online and just look around, look at what other Plastic Surgeons are doing all over the United States or the world for that matter, and I ran into you somehow just like a patient when you’re clicking around, and that’s what’s the problem with all the marketing today – everyone’s just busy clicking. So , like a nanosecond to get somebody’s attention but I happen to click on your website and you have a killer introductory video that intertwines your artistic skill with your skill as a plastic surgeon, it really caught my eye and I never forgot it and then it was so weird that we ended up working together because it was just so random. So just how do you use your art skill to market you and to show more difference than somebody else?
Dr. Subbio: it’s funny, I think I had read one of your books like three or four years ago when I was first starting out and coming up with my business plan, and I read your book and I remember there was a portion about finding your brand, finding what makes you different, and like I mentioned, I went to art school so I was like there we go, that obviously fits hand in hand with being a plastic surgeon. Sort of visual, visual feels, a visual medium operating on patients as living works of art, it just made sense. So I think “ what? I’m a good artist” and that was natural to kind of seize upon that and make that my selling point because patients can relate to that. They know someone who can draw and sculpt, it is intuitive that what follows would be that they could also sculpt human tissues and have an artistic eye for creating a good result. So that just made sense and I kind of incorporated that in all my marketing. We have a new tagline that we just got trademarked, “become art”. So quick, simple catchy tagline that kind of incorporates that very vision that, become live art. So we use that on a lot of our marketing materials like you mentioned on the on the video on the website, it’s me painting when I’m with the patient in the room, I bust out a drawing pad when I’m trying to explain to them what I’m going to do in a procedure. If we try to touch upon that in all aspects of what we do from the marketing to the website, the consultation that we try to make that a recurring theme.
Catherine: I love that when I was at the office you can see his art throughout the office and it just kept bringing home for a consumer patient trying to figure out who to go to, it just kept saying he’s aesthetically skilled. That helped a lot, so congratulations on that. Patients will say that as well when they come in, like well I had a couple consults but in the consult room is a big painting that I’ve done and but you’re an artist so that just it’s a big selling point and it just makes sense for you. Now let’s talk about when you first got into practice or let’s put it this way, when you left the hospital and you wanted to go out on your own because you did that post recession and it’s almost a jungle out there at this point, frankly. So you went out on your own, how in the world did you did you set yourself up in the hospital first to like how do you look at the transition between the hospital and solo practice?
Dr. Subbio: I kind of suspect that my personality lends itself more towards autonomy and being my own boss and entrepreneurialism, so I kind of knew that right out of residency that I probably wouldn’t be ending up long-term employed by a hospital, punching a clock, but nonetheless it’s kind of scary just to go out on your own right from day one, graduating from residency and hang a shingle and try to make it. So I did a fellowship in microsurgery, I got a job at the hospital where I trained for three years, this kind of cut my teeth, gave me my sea legs; learning how to operate, learning of course you learn in residency but really honing the craft, as well saving money with the idea that I would open my own practice. So after a couple years at the hospital I felt I’d saved enough money and gotten enough experience and finally took the plunge but it’s a scary thing like you said. There’s competition everywhere and I remember asking around at the local practitioners, like hey what’s there, what’s the atmosphere like around Philly? I’m thinking of coming back and it’s a very competitive area. I was very pessimistic, it was not very encouraging but I knew I wasn’t happy where I was and I was getting paid well at the hospital, hospital employee Plastic Surgeons make a good living but it wasn’t about the money for me, it was about autonomy and enacting a vision and so for me even if I didn’t make as much money that was fine. I was taking a risk and that was fine. Ultimately it all worked out because I think when you have a passion for something then it’s going to work out, so I’m glad I took the plunge but it wasn’t easy. For anyone who’s listening, who might be considering doing something similar, I would say if you’re passionate about it go ahead and do it because from passion will follow hard work and from hard work and skill will follow success.
Catherine: The first year out how did you start? Did you have to go door-to-door or what?
Dr. Subbio: I was lucky enough where with my job I was able to transition slowly over a year and a half where I was working one or two days a week at the hospital, and three days at my office so I slowly kind of built it up. Lots of advertising though, a lot of money at advertising and I didn’t really go door-to-door just to really good other offices – I realize that’s a typical thing that you’re told to do is go around the surrounding practices and family care and taking lots of call at hospitals but I just kind of dove into it with more guerilla tactics – email blasts, doing local events, answering like thousands of questions on real self, Instagram, Facebook. More kind of guerilla tactics in marketing rather than the tried-and-true traditional place. I didn’t feel like taking calls every second or third night at a local hospital and getting called in for that stuff, that wasn’t really appealing to me after so many years, I kind of like I felt like I was done paying my dues and I just want to get into it and try to use creativity and ingenuity to market myself.
Catherine: So when you opened your doors, who came with you?
Dr. Subbio: I hired a practice manager, an esthetician, I got a couple devices, a business loan of course, so I hired, did the build-out, and that was really it and in the beginning and they just slowly built from there.
Catherine: Oh by the way, your practice is perfect. He’s not on an actual highway it’s a self standing building which actually didn’t you just buy it recently?
Dr. Subbio: Correct.
Catherine: Yeah and he’s got a really good signage, it says Subbio plastic-surgery so during traffic there is amazing not a ton of foot traffic but a car traffic has that been helpful for you to be where you are physically.
Dr. Subbio: Yeah I think so. I’m so lucky to have good signage and it sounds like it would be a just an afterthought or something but it’s really like a mini billboard and it’s the main road that goes through this particular suburb and it’s really like a mini billboard. I get patients all the time Oh how’d you hear about us? At least once or twice a week, “oh I passed the sign.” All the time even if they’re not coming in they at least know the name so it’s great for brand awareness even if it’s not directly relating to patient consults. I’m sure that just the brand awareness has resulted in consults that I had not directly attributed to that.
Catherine: That’s always my favorite topic, just trying to figure out how do you market yourself to the world, did you have a strategy or how much was going to be digital, or how much time you’re going to spend on real self. Do you put together any kind of plan for how you were going to proportion your time?
Dr. Subbio: I mean obviously when you’re first starting out the revenue isn’t there so I put first and foremost free ways to advertise obviously is so appealing it’s just a matter of trying to make it work for you. So real self at the time I think real self when I when I first started doing that three years ago was a different beast than it is today. The return on real self is just nothing what it was two or three years ago, so I don’t really spend any time on there now, but two or three years ago that was free marketing. Every day I’d come in and spend a half an hour answering questions and that did result at the time in in patients now again. I wouldn’t do that now but through here years ago, it was a way to free advertising that got patients in my door. Doing local events, giving talks to local clubs and things like that, it was free and it got my name out and it did result in some consults. So there’s no one free home run, but doing a bunch of different free avenues like local talks, local outreach, real self at the time, Instagram. Instagram has been huge for me and that’s more of a time commitment and spending as opposed to a financial investment. That’s a time investment, but I think coming up the gates you have to be very creative in finding ways because the revenue won’t be there if you don’t have twenty thousand dollars a month to throw in advertising when you first start out the gates so you have to come up with a creative ways to find the free advertising until you can afford those other things.
Catherine: When you’re more busy and you don’t have time to invest in those free options and I say that all the time, you either are going to invest money or time or both, but nothing’s free. So a little Instagram because you really have cornered that market, how many followers do you have now? Just over 50,000? Tell them, tell me, how did you get fifty thousand Instagram followers and what effort do you put into it and then what do you get out of it?
Dr. Subbio: Much like real self, Instagram is a different beast than it was even just two or three years ago. That landscape has really changed. When I first got into it, it was out of really just boredom because I was just looking for a creative outlet. Like I said, almost with the art school 20 years ago and then after surgical residency, medical school surgical residency, working as a micro surgeon, there was no time for me to have any creative outlet so people kept telling me about it I’m like whatever, whatever and finally I’m like, I’m bored, I need to start doing some creative things so I started posting for the business. Funny videos, silly videos, educational videos, and some of them like if you see my Instagram page, some of the videos are not what you expect from a typical surgeon. They’re more humor, like they’re kind of funny and silly and like irreverent and not what you’d expect for a surgeon so when I first started doing this I honestly thought well I’m just going to lose me some patients but I frankly don’t care because this is something I need to do to be happy to have some creative outlet but I found that people loved it. This again, two years ago is a lot easier to grow an Instagram account then so I kept putting out good quality content and bit by bit it would grow a lot faster than it does these days because the algorithm is different, but two or three years ago was easier to grow an Instagram account. I just kept putting up more and more content. It was educational, funny, no ego I guess it’s a very high quality content that I put out because that’s my hobby.
As you mentioned it’s a time investment you’re going to create quality content on Instagram there’s no two ways about it, you have to spend the time and I did and do spend a lot of time on Instagram. I don’t golf, I don’t play tennis, go yachting, I don’t do anything that a lot of surgeons out there do. I just have my phone on Instagram, make my videos, make my posts and that’s my outlet, so I’ve been able to kind of make that a hobby of mine to work for my business because certainly you have to put in the time.
I would say if there’s any people out there that are maybe not so into instagram, having or looking into getting it, it’s tougher these days for sure but I would say it’s still worth the struggle as long as you dedicate time to it. Now you could outsource it, but if people are going to get to know you and your brand via Instagram, via social media, it really has to be either you or someone in your office doing it because people will know if you’ve outsourced, it washes out your identity completely. So I would say if you’re going to do it yourself as a business owner, as a plastic surgeon, dermatologist, whatever, then get to work a half hour early every morning for a year and answer some questions or do an Instagram live, or spend the time on making a good post because I think if you want to get gains out of Instagram, it’s harder than ever but you have to put the time in and make quality content because in the end, content is gonna be what drives business your way.
Catherine: Well I also noticed you got really good at video production as well so how important is that for social media?
Dr. Subbio: I think it’s really important and again like two years ago this was just born out of creative frustration but these days you can learn anything you want on YouTube. I was just talking with my dad about this today like he was fixing something around the house I said to him, “it’s amazing what you can learn on YouTube these days.” He said, “Christian, there’s not a thing you couldn’t imagine you couldn’t learn on YouTube” and he’s absolutely right and that’s exactly what I did. I said I want to do like a two-minute video for Instagram and I’m thinking okay well I can hire a crew, I mean start to price this out, everyone I talked to for a couple hours for a lighting guy, a sound guy, video guy, it was like thousands, maybe like three thousand dollars to bring a crew out for a couple hours, probably a lot more. I’m like what I’m going to spend three thousand dollars for a one or two minute clip, and then two weeks from now I’m going to want to do it again that could be a wildly expensive! So I’m like why don’t I just learn how to do this on my own? I can get on YouTube, watch a bunch of video,s learn the basics of shooting film and audio, lighting, and editing and yeah don’t get me wrong it took me probably like a hundred hours to learn that, but if you make that a priority as I did I mean that has paid dividends. I can’t even venture a guess as to all the content I put out on Instagram. Now on YouTube it probably would be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars if I had all that content. I’d hire hired professional crews for so I spent hundred hours of my own time over the course of several months making this my hobby and learning how to do it and it has literally saved me hundreds of thousands of dollars of course I would have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on this but I’ve been able to create hundreds of thousands of dollars worth content but I took some time to learn how to do it.
Catherine: Can you talk to the results?
Dr. Subbio: I’m lucky enough to be able to have grown a pretty good following yet certainly there’s Plastic Surgeons who have five, ten times as many followers as I do but I think I built a quality following. There are no purchased followers, do not purchase followers it’s like it’s the biggest waste of time and money and an insult to your credibility. So because of this nice following that I built, literally at least half of the patients come in my office because they’ve seen me on Instagram, and because a friend has referred them to my Instagram account. If not that then they’ve found me on Google or some other site and then they’ve checked me out on Instagram and then they follow me and say, “hey look this guy has good results” or “hey look this guy’s teaching in this one video about X Y or Z” or “this guy seems trustworthy or seems well credentialed.” So I mean, it really has been at least half of my business is now coming from social media
Catherine: Oh and by the way I saw you on TV last week so how did that happen?
Dr. Subbio: This was a follower. I can’t remember it I think this particular follower found me on Instagram and she was happy with the work I did for her and she had a connection in the TV industry in the local news station, and she hooked me up with them. They needed of course every station needs like a go-to person for X Y or Z, and they needed someone for a plastic surgery story six months ago and she said, “hey check out my guy.” I went in, they thought I did a good job, so then when this breast implant story broke earlier this week I was the first guy they had in mind so they called me back again. So that’s one example of how one thing leads to another, it’s all interconnected. So without me having spent the time with Instagram, I wouldn’t have gotten that patient that would have got this local news exposure.
Catherine: That’s exactly why I say be everywhere you can be. You just never know and it is all interconnected and all of your efforts just when you think you’re wasting your time, something pops so it’s all worth it. You just have to figure out who you are though, are you the kind of person to learn videography or learn how to use your phone as a marketing tool?
Dr. Subbio: The phone it’s interesting you said that because I’m like a broken record, but things change so rapidly in this new digital world that three years ago when I first started doing these everything I did was on my SLR camera on a tripod with a boom microphone on a pole. Now this latest iPhone is just incredible. The pictures it takes are stunning, the video it takes is amazing, and the apps are even better as well. So now I’m finding like probably 75% of what I’m putting out on my Instagram page I’m doing with just my iPhone and video editing tools as an app so if I’m on an airplane, if I am between patients, if I’m oh, waiting for my next case to start, I’m in the break room editing a video on my phone. It’s like these days I don’t have to put in the same amount of effort and time, there’s apps that make it easier and the AV quality on the new iPhones and I’m assuming the new Androids or whatever, it’s just unbelievable so it’s becoming less and less likely that you need to resort to those other options.
Catherine: I have got to upgrade my phone I’m still on iPhones I think it’s called an X. Which iPhone do you use?
Dr. Subbio: I use the latest one, I think it’s a 10 I don’t know the letter R, RS or it’s the latest one and it says like two of the latest ones are known for having particularly good audio video so I think that it’s well worth the investment.
Catherine: I don’t even know if it cost like a thousand, but even if it’s a thousand dollars, even if it’s $1500, it’s the most important tool in your arsenal for your marketing, so even if we’re at five thousand dollars I wouldn’t think twice about getting the best new iPhone and I’m not kidding about that I don’t say that lightly five thousand dollars is a lot of money but when you think about what you spend along your other avenues it’s just incredibly important so it’s worth money. I’m so used to it, so anyway I was like it takes a couple days of being a bit awkward with it and then you forget about it. You have really shined in the marketing department and that’s unusual. Usually surgeons, that’s not the first place they shine, they just phone in other surgical skills more and more and you do that, but where the real growth is in marketing so you’ve got that covered. Now let’s talk about just running a practice because it’s not enough to be a good surgeon and then a good marketer, now you’ve got to be a good manager of a practice and what have you. How’s that been going, running a practice, like a finding staff, managing staff?
Dr. Subbio: It’s the hardest part of what I do. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. My strengths as you mentioned, I think I’m an excellent surgeon but every surgeon thinks they’re an excellent surgeon. But I think I’m an excellent surgeon, I think I’m an excellent marketer, but when it comes to the science of running a business, that’s always been a challenge for me. I’m not a businessman. I’m not interested in running a business, I’m not passionate about running a business, and you’re never going to be excellent at something you’re not passionate about. I think the key there is realizing what your strengths are, embracing those strengths, and then bringing in help when in those areas where you’re not passionate about. Which is why we brought you on as a consultant because like you say, you’ve dealt with hundreds or thousands of practices over the years, running businesses, in particular aesthetic businesses is your strong suit so that’s why we brought you in and that’s the way I think any smart person, any successful person, being it a politician, be it a surgeon, be it attorney, be it a someone opening up a landscaping business, you take your mental inventory – what are my strengths? Embrace them and what your strengths are. Can you realistically learn them or if not, or the time is not there, and you bring in other people whose passion is marketing, a business whose passion is in HR.
Finding the right people for a team is always just incredibly challenging because bringing them on, trying to interview, trying to find the right person to fit and jell with your team, that is always the hardest. Dealing with the intra-office dynamic, employee X Y or Z has a problem with a B or C, like it’s just that stuff is always challenging for me and I think my strengths are elsewhere. I think a lot of surgeons are like that. A lot of surgeons are great at what they do, they’re great at the science of things, great at operating and the taking care of patients, but we’re, it’s a cliché, we’re typically horrible businessman because we’re just not taught that. It’s not aligned with what our passions are. I think the running of a business has always been a difficult aspect for me.
Catherine: It’s funny a lot of the older guys, I’ll just say guys because a lot of them have their wife in the practice working with them, typically the wife didn’t get there until there was an embezzlement issue or some crap hit the fan is really what happened. But in your case you have the best wife, she’s unbelievable because if there are pros and cons to adding a wife to the practice, the dynamics of that can go sideways fast but tell them about the role of your wife’s place because she’s just as significant. She’s done a just a great job and I can only say that sometimes the wife is more of a problem than a help but in this case she’s been great.
Dr. Subbio: She has done a tremendous job. She has actually has a background in law. We had an issue in our practice where we needed to bring her in as an interim practice manager. It’s actually it’s interesting because bringing in a family member, a spouse who run things on the business end is a some ways it’s fantastic because who better to trust with your baby, your practice. There’s so many trust issues that go on with the person that runs a practice for you that to bring in a family member, a spouse no less, you’re both on the same team. Your interests and your goals are completely aligned 100% and in that regard it’s fantastic. However, on the other hand when I tell people she’s still working as interim practice manager, they say “Oh my god, what are you crazy? How do you guys do it?” And it is tough because all day we’re both thinking and talking about work and you come home and all night we’re thinking and talking about work so it gets to be almost overload on the professional aspect of things and it’s not as easy to kind of sit back and enjoy dinner and just talk about so what was your day like. We do talk about non-work things. I think every couple needs to have a break from work and when both people are working for the practice it does get tough. There is no respite, there’s no relief from that constant work focus so that that’s the other side of the coin, so that’s a definitely a challenge. We’re always kind of focusing on that and trying to make sure that we take a breather. We have a vacation coming up the week after next, and we’re just taking some time to stop and take a breather. Like I said, she is the interim practice manager right now but we’re on the lookout for a new practice manager or someone who can full-time take the reins and then relegate her to a more overarching bigger picture role because with her law background, she is valuable. A lot of running a business is so intertwined with the law that we’d like them more far into a different role and have someone take on the more traditional practice manager role.
Caterhine: I love the dynamics here – your wife’s father owns one of the most well-known car dealerships in the area and I see in those ads they have the most adorable little baby. How old is your baby?
Dr. Subbio: He’s coming up on 14 months.
Catherine: He’s adorable. So you’re using him in your marketing as well and she’s also on TV so I just love you guys really have the marketing down.
Dr. Subbio: Thanks yeah I think every business has a strong suit and lucky for us, it aligns with our strong suits. I think one thing that some other practices maybe they’re excellent at the HR and the running of the business and the cash flow and all that stuff, but for us our strong suit is marketing so I think it works out well.
Catherine: Well it’s working just fine for you. So what are your goals? Where are you trying to get to?
Dr. Subbio: That’s a good question, we talk about that often. I’ve been doing a lot of speaking recently, going to meetings and lectures and whatnot, I really do enjoy the teaching aspect of things so the more I’ve done over this past several months I’m really finding I have a passion for the teaching of at the meetings, at courses, etcetera, etcetera. So I know in five years I’d like to be further refining the procedures that I do right now, and that it’s an ongoing process. I used to do rhinoplasty; I don’t do them anymore because it wasn’t my strong suit, if I’m not the best at something I feel no need to do it. So I gave that up and I refer those out and there’s other procedures I’ve kind of been referring out more and more. I think in five years I’d like to be focusing on those procedures that I’m passionate about. I think I do an amazing tummy tuck and I enjoy that. At the end of the procedure, I look back and I’m like, “wow that looks awesome” and I’m really proud of that; I think I do that excellently so I’d like to be focusing more on breastwork. I love doing breastwork. So I want to be focusing more on those things I think I do particularly well and that bring me a professional joy, and maybe with the time that right now I was spending doing other procedures, maybe focus that. On developing the speaking career in teaching, and maybe coming up with a conference or a training course. I’ve been thinking about that a lot the last couple months so I think that’s where I’d like to be in five years. Kind of just honing what I’m doing and spending more time doing what I really love to do.
Catherine: I noticed on Instagram you have a guest coming in from out of the country.
Dr. Subbio: Well I met him when I did a couple lectures in Monaco this past year. I was there in March at the MWC, it’s like a gigantic cosmetic meeting in Europe focused on non-surgical injection, threads, lasers, more of the non-surgical side of the business, but I met him over there and he’s like a world-renowned injector. He’s invented a bunch of different techniques he’s really well known nationally so he said, “Hey I’m doing a couple of courses in the States but what do you think about if you hosted me for one of the days?” I said absolutely so we’ve kept in touch and now in three weeks he’s going to be in my office giving a course on his section techniques.
Catherine: So it’s one of those things I’m really excited about, like sharing ideas and staying at the forefront of newer techniques. I’m so excited about that, hopefully it’ll go well and then maybe you can go over there and teach them.
Dr. Subbio: Yes, maybe part of the whole excitement of being part of a community of people eager to learn and teach, so yes it’s one big exchange of ideas, I love it.
Catherine: When you got into practice, now that you’ve been around for four years what do you think was the biggest surprise or what surprised you that you didn’t expect, didn’t see coming?
Dr. Subbio: The biggest surprise? Good question. I guess just the amount of time it takes when you’re running a small business. It all sounds like fun and being your own boss, that’s a very romantic, fun idea but I think the surprise for me is that it really is what I know now that any person who’s an entrepreneur of a new business, I know now that it’s all you think about. It’s what you eat, breathe and sleep is your business and I think that’s the biggest surprise for me. I thought, I didn’t realize how all encompassing it would be. It’s really like all day, every day it’s what I’m thinking about. At work I’m doing the work and when I’m at home I’m planning on what we’re gonna be doing in a month, in two months, in a year and the things for the next day. It really just takes up 95% of your time. It’s rewarding, like it’s many headaches, a couple years back being employed by the hospital like it’s a it’s a whole new set of headaches and anxieties and stresses. Nothing is easy about it so you have to really be in love with your business, in love with the idea of being your own boss and creating something, because if you got really into it there’s easier ways to make a living. It’s easier to punch a clock, it’s easier to be employed by someone else, but there’s something, there’s some degree of satisfaction in the struggle and it gives everything meaning. You’re building something, you’re rolling with the punches, you’re learning, you’re having successes, you’re having the failures, and it’s just an interesting ride. I think it’s a more meaningful ride for me than just punching a clock.
Catherine: Speaking of that, what’s one of your biggest accomplishments from doing this on your own?
Dr. Subbio: I do know I’m fast, most surgeons they’re not employable. Anybody who has their own business has done it somebody else’s way and they don’t want to do it that way. There’s something about them that wants to have the freedom to create the way they want to create, but then that also creates havoc with staff who doesn’t think like that.
Catherine: I’ve been surprised just like what you said when you own your own business, you don’t go home at five o’clock and shut it down; it never shuts down. You’re paying the bills, everybody’s depending on you for paychecks and for staying employed and it’s just a never-ending pressure. It’s a pressure that doesn’t go away as long as you’re running the show.
Dr. Subbio: Yeah and people they only see from the outside the success, the enjoyable part, and think, “Wow must be great to run your own business and wow you must be rolling in it.” They don’t see, they don’t understand the overhead that it takes to run a practice or the time under stress, the headaches, and when you’re first starting out the months that are lean and meager. They don’t see all that, they just see the “oh must be cool to have your own business and do well” but it’s once you’re in it you see this, it’s not all rose petals
Catherine: For sure. What’s one of your business mistakes you made it we could all learn from?
Dr. Subbio: There’s so many! Right off the top my head is like not really researching devices before you buy them, because when you get out, you’re excited. When you open your own business you want to buy the flashiest, newest devices and I think in this business there’s always someone willing to sell full new and flashy and untested devices. I’ve made that mistake more than once where you buy a device without truly really researching it. These devices cost anywhere from ten thousand through a hundred to two hundred thousand dollars so you can’t just see some shiny new thing and get convinced by these slick reps. They really are convincing. You go to one of these stupid symposiums and they have you convinced; they have some glossy speaker, some slick speaker telling you why you have to have it as part of your practice and then you buy it and then you find out six months later it’s not as easy as they made it look at the symposium. So then you’re hooked in for several years with these payments and you better be using that machine and you better believe in it because if you bought some hundred thousand dollar machine and it’s not producing results, you’re not gonna be using it. But guess what? Either you’re going to use it against your ethics, or you’re not going to use it and those payments are still rolling in, so I think the biggest mistake I made is in being too eager to buy certain devices without letting them be tested by the market, standing the test of time. It’s just getting too excited about devices. I think that was probably one of the biggest mistakes I made.
Catherine: As a consultant, I always question if you have a plan for marketing this thing, and do you have the patient demand for it, because too many of these you’re so right about it’s so exciting to say, “oh let’s start a new target market, like let’s go after men now, or let’s go after this particular body part” but you really have to look at that and say is that going to change things for us enough to invest in this, and put this time money and the focus into it.
Dr. Subbio: Yeah the sobering reality of things. It costs them a lot of money to run these weekend symposiums; they had to hire some speakers they pay tens of thousands of dollars, they have to hire the venue, the food catering, those things are expensive. They wouldn’t be so popular if they didn’t. They get a hundred physicians or providers in a room and they make it sound like the most amazing thing. It really is like a Medicine Show, like the old-school medicine shows where you need this step right up you need to get this newest device thank you. You’re all crowded in this room watching someone tell you how amazing something is, showing you how much money you can make doing it, it’s so intoxicating that you lose all sense of reason and you buy these devices and you walk out and then like six months later, you’re like, “what the hell was I thinking?” So you have to be so careful with the way people sell you things in this business. Everything is so expensive and everything is made to sound so amazing when in fact most times, nine times out of ten, that device isn’t even on the market in a year or two.
Catherine: I know many years ago, I used to speak for the laser companies and it was a very lucrative experience because they would fly me all over the nation and I was the marketing end of that so they would have a laser but then I would have a marketing plan, saying this is how you market this thing. It was a great gig if you can get it, but now they all have their own marketing departments. But yes, beware when you buy something. Make sure there’s a back-up plan for how you’re going to make it actually profitable. So to wrap things up, why don’t you just give us some advice – not even to just the new guys, even the older guys who have been around but the world turned upside down for most of us who have been around for a long time. This is all new, social media is all new. Internet marketing became new, the patient needs and trends have changed, so what advice would you give others?
Dr. Subbio: I would say you have to keep up with things because as I said more than once during this conversation, in just the span of two or three years things have changed drastically and that’s the hallmark of the new age of digital media, things change rapidly. And look, if you’re a world-renowned surgeon or injector at X Y or Z, good for you, you probably have the word of mouth and you are less reliant on these things, but for the vast majority of people even some well-established surgeons and injectors and physicians, even if you’re well established, if you’re not up-to-date with things like social media, then I say this in my talks – there’s going to be some hotshot know-it-all who knows nothing, fresh out of residency who’s going to be marketing him or so herself as an expert and they’re going to be taking your patients because the Instagram consumer doesn’t know any better. So if you want this, if you care about continuing to attract new patients, you have to stay up on these things and it’s not easy but you have to. It demands a certain degree of time, it demands a certain degree of financial investment if you want to stay relevant you have to keep up with these things, but if not you’re just going to get left in the dust.
Catherine: Okay that is it for us on this one. Thanks to Dr. Christian Subbio. if you want to check out his very cool introductory video, keep in mind he did it himself it’s amazing it’s at his homepage at www.dr.subbio.com. I really appreciate your time thanks so much for your insights it’s fantastic. Keep up the good work!
Dr. Subbio: Catherine I could give you a plug as well. An unsolicited plug. Like I said, I saw you speak at meetings, I read your book, I was very impressed with you before we decided to bring you on as a consultant and since we have, you’ve just been invaluable. Your insights are just amazing. You’re a pleasure to work with and more importantly, your efficacious and a good investment so I would highly recommend anyone who’s in the business or maybe just looking to revamp and kind of reevaluate your own processes, that you’ve been an excellent investment, you’re worth every penny and then some so I give you a small plug as well.
Catherine: I really appreciate that. So everybody, would you please subscribe to Beauty and the Biz, and please share this with your colleagues and staff and then of course always get a hold of me if you’ve got comments or questions or you have an idea for a topic or you want to be a guest on the show, and you just let me know. You can follow me on instagram at CatherineMaleyMBA. Okay that’s it for us this time, we hope you found valuable insight on this episode of Beauty and the Biz. For more episodes, tools and Catherine’s free book, visit www.catherinemaley.com and be sure to subscribe to get the latest practice building strategies delivered to you, and don’t forget to share this Beauty and the Biz podcast with your staff and colleagues.
She is a business/marketing consultant to plastic surgeons. She speaks at medical conferences all over the world on cash practice building and trains staff to be converting rock stars.