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Ep.01: My Backstory and Your Cosmetic Practice Must Adapt to Change to Survive

My Backstory and Your Cosmetic Practice Must Adapt to Change to Survive

Ep.01: My Backstory and Your Cosmetic Practice Must Adapt to Change to Survive

In this episode, you will discover:

  • My journey from a not-so-great childhood in Chicago to now;
  • How I became an influencer in the aesthetic industry; and
  • What you need to know to succeed in this competitive marketplace.

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Hello and welcome to my first podcast called “Beauty and the Biz”. I’m so excited to have you here!

“Beauty and the Biz” is a new resource for cosmetic practices, who want to understand the cosmetic and the business side of running a cosmetic practice because there’s nothing easy about it. In today’s crazy competitive world, you really need to understand, not just the skill set that you need to be a cosmetic surgeon or master injector, but also you have to learn how to lead your team, how to market yourself, how to brand yourself as the best choice, and it goes on and on so, that’s why I’m here to help you steer through these murky waters.

So, I am your host, Catherine Maley, I am the author of “Your Aesthetic Practice: What Your Patients are Saying” and by the way I’m gonna just start with when I got into this industry many years ago actually from year 2000.

I needed to get some credibility for myself and become an expert in this field and one way to not only have others think of you as the expert, but have you think of you as the expert, one way to do that is to write a book on a matter that you’re really passionate about, and I was super passionate about Plastic Surgery because I loved the concept of it and I knew I was going to be interested in it as I got older.

So, what happened was I interviewed a whole bunch of patients all over the nation and I asked them quite a few questions and then I compiled their answers and their feedback into this book and that really helped set me apart from all the other consultants out there. I didn’t just say that I was a Consultant, well actually I did. I just declared myself as a Cosmetic Patient Consultant. I’m sorry as a Plastic Surgery Consultant, but what happened was I actually got a really good in-depth knowledge of why the patient chooses you over somebody else and what you can do to make that happen.

So, someday I’m gonna do a podcast on how I wrote the book, but suffice it to say there’s an easier way and there’s a harder way and of course, I did it the hard way. But now, I can tell you how to do it in the easier way, but a book really does put you on the map, it makes you an expert and you know, add author to your list of skills and expertise and it really was a game-changer for me. That book has been worth just you know hundreds of thousands of dollars to me in credibility and reputation and also the media loved it.

I was interviewed several times by ABC News, New York Times, quite a few magazines and so anyway, I highly recommend a book if you haven’t already, let me know and we can help you with that.

So in the meantime, I’m also a consultant, I speak all over the world, I’m a pretty big marketer and a trainer for cosmetic practices and I have been since the year 2000. So, the speaking around the world has really become a fun part of my job and I’ve been invited to speak in Milan, Madrid, the UK, New Zealand, and Australia.

I just recently got back from Saudi Arabia, and that was a trip I was so excited to go on, because number one it took me about two months to get permission to go there (do you know that it’s such a close knit society that you have to go through a lot and a lot of paperwork and a lot of red tape to even get permission on your passport to enter that country?). It is amazing, but once you get in it is fantastic, they were terrific and very generous.

I flew business class over to Saudi Arabia, it was from San Francisco to Saudi Arabia and it was a super long flight but it was heaven. I could have stayed on that plane forever. It was lovely; I slept, worked and watched movies, it was fantastic! And here’s the good part – when I got off the plane I had, I don’t know what kind of VIP access I had, but I was told to go straight down the stairs (they drop you off at the tarmac) and right down the stairs I got to go to the right where my Mercedes was waiting with my driver and everyone else had to go to the left so, of course I felt like the ‘Queen of Sheba’. I got to go to a private customs gate where I was the only traveler and they had my bag, go through the customs or whatever it’s called that TSA thing and there were just a whole bunch of men standing around in white robes and the headdress, and it was trippy. I mean I really felt like I was in a movie and then I was escorted out to another beautiful new Mercedes by a young girl who actually spoke some English, and she was explaining to me you know, the culture and all of that and I did ask her you know how popular is plastic surgery and cosmetic rejuvenation in your country and she said oh boy! It’s really popular!

Underneath the, I think they’re called ‘hijabis’ or ‘hijabs’ underneath the black robes, there’s a lot of breast aug, lipo, and they really love big lips, and facial rejuvenation. I mean they’re like everybody else…beauty knows no bounds is real basically.

What she was saying and the event I went to, you know I was speaking there and then I was asked to attend somebody’s cosmetic practice to help him a little bit on consult, you know, do a little consulting and it was so interesting.

I entered his practice and on the right side was a room of many black burkas and you know it was full-on burkas and these women, most of them are you know, head to toe covered some of them and some of the newer you know the newer generation or just some of them aren’t but everyone’s wearing a black burka and then on the left side were all the men in their white robes with their headdress and I asked the doctor so why is everybody here and he said the women you know as I said they really like all of what we like, and then the men really liked hair – they wanted a hair transplantation, so isn’t it interesting anyway, back to what I’m doing.

So, I’m just gonna give you a quick story of how I got here because like everything it’s always a very long journey. I was born in Chicago, in Chicago south suburbs and it was a very white neighborhood, let me put it that way. You were either Irish Italian or Polish, period. And it was a blue class working-class kind of place and I have to tell you it was not fun for me. I didn’t like it, it wasn’t my style.

I was born into the cliché Irish Catholic family, we had seven kids an Irish father who drank way too much and was really mean, when he did. It was loud and chaotic, and violent at times and frankly I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I just knew early on I was here on this earth for something else other than Chicago. I just didn’t like it because I was taught that I was supposed to get married and have seven of my own kids and that wasn’t going to happen as a matter of fact. I never have been married or have had kids and I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m still, you know, recuperating from my childhood. It was really tough, so it just wasn’t my style. So, I knew I was going to leave there one way or the other.

But, here’s what I did take from Chicago – I love the Midwest mentality when it comes to good old work ethic – I love it, I have it, I’m grateful for it. My father, as much as he partied, he was the first one up and out in the morning so one thing I learned was you can play hard but you better you’re gonna work hard as well and I like that; and people in Chicago or the Midwest I’ll say, people are pretty right on like they usually say what they mean and mean what they say, you know typically, if you say you’re gonna be somewhere at eight o’clock you’re typically were there at eight o’clock. I know when I first moved to San Francisco eight o’clock meant nine o’clock or when I feel like it, I was just surprised at how wishy-washy California people were and now I’m probably that as way as well.

Now, in the suburbs, the only thing that you could aspire to in my world was to work downtown. That was a super big deal, so I did get a job downtown as a receptionist in a very high-end engineering consulting firm. It was a really big deal consulting firm and frankly, I think I got the job because number one, I’m pretty perky and I have a big friendly voice, and I’m very tall and I have big red hair and in that organization all of the partners were on the 31st floor. So, I was the receptionist on the 31st floor and we sat and it was pretty dark it just had a light over my head like showing off my hair and then it had like mahogany wood all over, so it was really dark and quiet. I really learned like “image” – how important image was and answering the phone. So, that was my first taste in, you know, like business and working downtown was fun. Although, when you’re in the suburbs you have to take a bus, like first you have to drive to the train station, wait, or we would call it the platform for the train in Chicago, weather which is horrendous and then you take a train down there then you get there and you still have to walk another five to six blocks, so there’s nothing easy about that but at that time I was so excited to just get out of the suburbs and get downtown that I was fine with that.

But then I met somebody who got me into the “Illinois State Medical Society” and I didn’t know anything about it, but for some reason they let me be a staff coordinator for the specialties. Like I was like the staff coordinator for internists and internist psychiatrist and that was interesting, you know I just, got to learn a lot more about doctors. I had never hung around with doctors before and I have to tell you in those days (and I know I’m dating myself ) a long time ago the doctors were smoking, eating steak, drinking like fish, I was really surprised but that was also Chicago. You know, it wasn’t exactly the healthiest place on the planet and frankly I was doing the same thing, just what everyone else was doing in my world, they were drinking, smoking, drinking coffee and never exercising. It was not a healthy lifestyle, but it was then I realized I was itching to get out of there, I just knew I was destined for San Francisco somehow in my head.

I wanted to live in San Francisco, so I did have a boyfriend at the time, he and I came out to San Francisco, I think I landed and I said, “that’s it I’m done! I love it! I’m gonna be back here as soon as I can get here” and I had never been so sure of something in my life. And that’s another life lesson I learned when you really feel something strongly, your gut will tell you and I knew I was gonna be back and long story short, I actually ended up back there within two months. I did move there with my boyfriend, men didn’t work out really well, and like we worked together maybe five years and then we parted ways but when I was gonna move out there I told people, you know I told my family and friends and the people that worked at the Illinois State Medical Society.

I got such grief – the Chicago suburbs mentality, you know, they called it the “nuts and fruits” place, San Francisco. They just kept saying it’s so bad and they were making me doubt my decision, saying you’re gonna starve out there, what can you possibly do out there, you don’t know anybody out there, it’s all weirdos out there and I just remember thinking to myself I gotta go yeah it’s something I want to do even if I’m wrong it’s got to be better than what I know here.

So I went for it and of course, San Francisco ended up being a game changer for me. Honestly, I think by I don’t know, a month in, I quit smoking I still can’t believe it now but I quit smoking, I started jogging, I joined a health club, I lost 35 pounds that I never saw again (I’m embarrassed to look at all photos living in the Chicago suburbs. I didn’t even realize I was chubby until I wasn’t). Then I ended up going to night school for many years because now I knew I had to catch up. I never went away to college so I had to finish my BS in marketing at night and I didn’t have a silver spoon, I had to pay all this on my own, but then I ended up getting a BS in marketing and actually the California Medical Association paid for it, because my executive director from the Illinois State Medical Society called the executive director at the California Medical Association and said I have a staff person who’s moving out there, do you have a place for her and I really appreciate that they did that for me.

So, I ran the House of Delegates for the California Medical Association and that was really interesting. I got to learn what was happening in the medical world and with insurance and just the young, the frustrations and the challenges of being a physician and so I was very glad that I got that background and that foundation for working with doctors. Although I had no idea I was gonna be working with doctors later in life, but it was a really good foundation that I didn’t know about until later.

Then what happened was I was kind of sick of the nonprofit world. I’m definitely materialistic; I like living nicely, I like flying first-class, and I didn’t appreciate this nonprofit world. No matter how hard you worked (and you’re working all the time) you’re making no money and that wasn’t fun. Living in San Francisco you need money to live there, so I was really ready to have a job that I could, where I was allowed to make as much as I wanted, so I got into sales.

I always wanted to be in sales. My father was a salesman from the steel mill days; and I did get something, I did get from him “people skills” and “sales skills”. I was really interested in it, so I studied it, I interviewed, nobody would give me a sales job, it was so funny! I was so serious! I was what, 23 or 24 years old, I went on so many interviews and nobody would give me a sales job because I didn’t have any sales experience, but I was so enthusiastic! Somebody finally gave me a job and it was shipping services for Burlington northern air freight, and can you imagine this is probably in the late 70’s or 80’s and I am literally going in my suit, I would wear my suit with my bow tied shirt, and I was very serious, and I would go to shipping docks and talk to them about their big freight, and my company could ship their freight for them, I just loved it! I loved the freedom, I loved my car, I loved commission, it was really my place now. Of course, I don’t think I was supposed to be selling shipping services but I really enjoyed sales and being on my own and having the freedom to make the money I wanted, and by the way, I got really good at it and I won quite a few of the contests and I really enjoyed it.

So, that was that and I did it for quite awhile for the shipping services. I probably only worked there a couple of years but then a friend of mine said I can hook you up with Pitney Bowes, and Pitney Bowes is a huge Fortune 500 company, and in those days they were selling a lot of mail machines. Every office had a Pitney Bowes and I ended up working for Pitney Bowes for twelve years and again I loved sales.

I worked for 12 years, it was tough in those days, you would just have a building downtown and you would go floor to floor and knock on doors, and oh boy you really learn people skills when you’re doing that. It’s um, yeah, that can be brutal, but I was very good at it. I was always the top 10% in the company and we had I think, three thousand salespeople and I would win the trips and I loved it. I just, I really enjoyed sales because it made me do things I was uncomfortable doing, trust me I don’t know anybody who gets comfortable cold calling but boy it really makes you work on your head, you know and really keep your moods in check, keep your motivation up and I enjoyed it tremendously.

And then now it’s like the late 90’s, and East Stamp was a Silicon Valley comm company that recruited me because they were doing electronic postage, and I was working for Pitney Bowes which was hard, you know like old-school postage and they recruited me. And, you know, frankly in those days the Silicon Valley was so exciting it was just happening, things were so exciting down there and people were making a fortune, they were, of course like everyone else I was a paper millionaire for a while until it all fell apart, but boy it was such an exciting time.

I did not want to miss the Silicon Valley and the dot-com thing, I didn’t want to miss it, so I went to e-stamp. I became their National Sales Manager, and that’s the funny part – you could pretty much just decide who you’re gonna be and I could travel anywhere I wanted in the United States. I could try to sell that anybody I wanted. I actually put together a sales team and developed a new product because I told them I don’t think mail is enough, I think we have to do a shipping product, so we actually came up with software where you could just ship a package anywhere with any carrier and it was really cool. We called it the “digital shipper”. But as the dot-com world was coming to an end, so was the money. All the funding was going away and the company I worked for, we were down to 30 million left of our money. We had hundreds of staff, and the CEO you could tell at the meetings, he didn’t know what to do. He knew the writing was on the wall, and I still didn’t know it yet and I remember at the meetings thinking, this is ridiculous, we’re just meeting, we should be out doing something. You know, we’re hurting here, we’ve got to do something, and I wanted to put up banners execute instead.

I was just so frustrated because I was the only one who didn’t realize the ship was sinking, I thought we could fix it because I’m pretty optimistic, and instead, they said no you just, you know just play this out as long as you can because it’s coming to an end. And I thought, I’m not playing it that way, I was just so frustrated I just said forget it, I’m out and I quit. And frankly, it was time. That commute was awful – going from San Francisco to the Silicon Valley, and it was time for me to just go out on my own. Because by then I really got the entrepreneurial bug because I watch these comms, and you could just create anything you wanted and from thin air and I really liked that, I thought this is so great, I could do that!

Famous last words, “I can do that”… so I actually decided, I’m just going to be a consultant and sales consultant and a sales and marketing consultant. So, in San Francisco, there were still some comms and I went to work for some of them but at that point that money that was called easy money was going away. But it was really interesting, so I did that and in the meantime, now I’m in my 40’s, I’ve turned 40, I’m getting older and I need Botox and fillers because I was early on that bandwagon.

I loved the idea of Botox, and fillers, and lasers to you know, keep aging at bay so my dermatologist happened to be Cathy Fields, who was one part of Fields and Rogain, which are the Stanford dermatologists who created the Proactiv acne system (and by the way they ended up working with gunky ranker and it was I think the fourth most profitable infomercial in history). I mean I’m sure you’ve heard of them, Cathy and now it’s called, I don’t know what they call it anymore, it used to be called Proactiv but Cathy Fields and Katie Rogain, I think they’re out of that now and it’s just, I don’t know what. I don’t know, but it was really interesting watching them. They were so entrepreneurial and they really gave me the bug.

They said, why don’t you get into this industry, you know, the cosmetic arena, and I thought what a great idea because at the time, when I was visiting Cathy for my Botox she would make me wait for an hour. Her waiting room was awful! It was very underwhelming – the customer service wasn’t great, the staff wasn’t great, and I started thinking to myself as I went to a couple other places thinking, boy these people sure could use help with customer service and how do, how to make a customer feel comfortable. Because, I think most surgeons and dermatologists at that point were just insurance based, they weren’t, you know they were reconstructive; they were not cash, they weren’t catering to the credit card patient versus the insurance card patient.

So that’s where my niche was. I said oh my God, I’m gonna be a sales and marketing consultant to the cosmetic industry, so I’m gonna be the expert on the cash paying patient and I haven’t turned back since. So that was a good move on my part. Now, of course everybody is doing what I’m doing but at the time there weren’t many people like me out there.

So, fast forward to today. Now I’ve been in this industry since year 2000, and I I’ve just worked with practices all over the world…you know, everything from the guy who’s just starting out, who just graduated, not just graduated who’s done with his fellowship and now, what, all the way to you know somebody getting ready to exit their practice and they’re trying to figure out how to turn it into a sellable asset and then everybody in between.

So, there’s one thing I’ve learned – there is no one way to do this. I love the fundamentals and I know the foundation of a cosmetic practice, and it’s very easy for me to look at a practice and see where the gaps are. But it really gets down to if you’ve got to have the bread-and-butter fundamentals down and then you could do all the fancy stuff.

Every business has the same fundamentals that they have to get good at – same thing in sports. You know how they always say like, John Wooden the guy who was he the captain of whatever, he was the basketball team they would make, you know the really good coaches make the players do the same thing over and over and it’s always the fundamentals – well that’s the same thing in business and that’s another thing. I want to say that this business is no different than any other business – you have customers, you offer a service, you have to market that, and you have to, you know, retain those clients and customers so they come back again and again and refer. It’s just like that for every business, so really that is my goal when I go into a practice. I’m trying to find where they are wasting money and where are the gaps that are costing them money.

So that’s pretty much what I do. So why did I start this podcast? Well, number one because here’s the reality – you can no longer just be good at surgery or very good at injectables, you can’t. That’s not enough. You can be skilled and experienced, but that’s what’s expected of you. It’s not enough anymore. Like, good marketers can crush you, that’s what, what is nerve-racking about this. A good marketer, at least in the short run, can beat a great skilled surgeon or injector and at least in the short run, later on, it might catch up to them but for right now you could lose a lot to somebody like that, if you’re not playing the game the way you could be because it really is a different game.

Now, so I would say my for this first episode, my takeaway is to be successful you’ve got to be able to adapt to change and you’ve got to stay nimble in this market place and in your thinking because everything has changed. The attitude about cosmetic rejuvenation has changed, the patient’s preferences have changed, and the marketing channels have changed, so you can never rest on your laurels anymore.

There are just too many others behind you ready to take your place and take your patients, so you’ll just get left in the dust if you don’t change along with it. So you know what, honestly, I want to be your coach, I want to help you through these murky waters and help you keep up with the times so you don’t get left behind. That’s really what my goal is here for this podcast.  

So, I’m going to be sharing my insights with you on the business side and the marketing side, I’m also hopefully going to motivate and inspire you, I’m also going to have doc’s on here to interview, maybe some people from the industry, as well just to help keep you up on what’s happening and where things are heading. So I’d love for you to subscribe to “Beauty and the Biz” on iTunes, I’d love for you to tell your colleagues, and then please interact with me. If you’ve got questions, please ask me, if you want to DM me please do because this podcast is for you so enjoy it and we’ll talk soon.

Want to schedule a free call with Catherine to discuss your practice? CLICK HERE

Picture of Catherine Maley

Catherine Maley

Catherine is a business/marketing consultant to plastic surgeons. She speaks at medical conferences all over the world on practice building, marketing and the business side of plastic surgery. Get a Free Copy of her popular book, Your Aesthetic Practice: What Your Patients Are Saying View Author Profile.


Beauty and the Biz is for Plastic Surgeons who know they don’t know everything and are open to discovering the pearls to grow and scale a sellable asset when they’re ready to exit.

Listen in as Catherine interviews surgeons who talk about the business and marketing side of plastic surgery and listen to Catherine’s pearls from consulting with plastic surgeons since Year 2000.



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