Hello, and welcome to Beauty and the Biz where we talk about the business and marketing side of plastic surgery, and how Dr. Sterry went from Park Avenue to 5th Avenue.
I’m your host, Catherine Maley, author of Your Aesthetic Practice – What your patients are saying, as well as consultant to plastic surgeons, to get them more patients and more profits. Now, today’s episode is called “Park Avenue to 5th Avenue — with Thomas P. Sterry, MD”.
When your father is a New York Firefighter and your mother works for the New York court system, of course you become a plastic surgeon 😉
Dr. Thomas Sterry is a board-certified plastic surgeon in Manhattan. He started in trauma and was disenchanted with the frustrations of insurance and management, so he transitioned to plastic surgery and solo practice.
⬇️ Click below to watch “Park Avenue to 5th Avenue — with Thomas P. Sterry, MD”
This week’s video is an interview I did with Dr. Sterry talking about what it’s like to practice in New York where the space is tight, the overhead costs are huge, and the competition is intense.
Dr. Sterry explains why he focuses on surgery vs. non-surgical (no space for lasers), why he’s doing more under local, and why he moved from Park Avenue to 5th Avenue after 20 years in practice.
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Park Avenue to 5th Avenue — with Thomas P. Sterry, MD
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 consultant to plastic surgeons to get them more patients and profits.
Now, today’s guest is Dr. Thomas Sterry and he’s a board-certified plastic surgeon with 20 plus years in private practice in Manhattan, New York.
Now, Dr. Sterry also teaches residents as a clinical assistant professor of plastic surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City and is involved in several plastic surgeon societies of which he is currently VP of the New York County Medical Society.
Now he’s won many patient choice as well as Super Doctor awards throughout the years, and he’s a RealSelf top contributor and Hall of Famer. So, I’ll ask him more about that and how he went from Park Avenue to 5th Avenue. Dr. Sterry, thanks so much for joining me at Beauty and the Biz.
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: Thanks for having me, Catherine. It’s a pleasure.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Sure. So, I, I know your background a little bit more before you went from Park Avenue to 5th Avenue, but you didn’t come from a family, a surgeon, so can you just talk on that a little?
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: Sure. My Well, I didn’t expect that to be your first question. Yeah. My, my folks were civil servants. My dad’s a fireman. My mom worked in the court system in New York. I was sort of expected to go to college, but not necessarily become, A doctor, the goal was college and that was the goal. So, once I graduated college, it was like, well, not a lot.
I’m not really sure what I want to do. And I always knew I wanted to be a physician, but I didn’t think it was possible. I came from a, a very blue-collar neighborhood and You know, it didn’t seem realistic because there were these proverbial stories about straight A students who couldn’t get into medical school and whatnot.
And, you know, as time went by, I found out that that was truly, really not the truth. That’s, that’s not how it really goes. You work hard, you can make some progress in your life. We do live in a meritocracy. And so, I ended up going to medical school and I wanted to be a general surgeon and found out that I didn’t like trauma as much as I thought I did and.
One thing led to another and I found myself in plastic surgery where I thought I’d be a reconstructive surgeon.
Catherine Maley, MBA: So, did you work in the hospital for years before you went out on your own and went from Park Avenue to 5th Avenue?
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: I worked for three years at Mount Sinai before employed by the hospital. And eventually it was, it was, it was, it was a long three years and it was time to move on.
Got super frustrated with insurance and management, et cetera, et cetera. And It’s not a decision that I ever made. I just kept acclimating towards, well, I have to pay the bills now. Now I’ve got a couple of kids and I’ve got bills to pay and I don’t have any choice and I can’t get stiff by insurance companies anymore.
And next thing I know, I’m a cosmetic surgeon,
Catherine Maley, MBA: So, I mean, you literally went from the hospital to solo practice and from Park Avenue to 5th Avenue.
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: Yeah. Yeah. So, there’s 2003, four, and yeah, I, I just decided I, I can’t do this anymore. It became untenable and so I found his face on Park Avenue and we did and moved on.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Because when I met you, you were on Park Avenue and you have since moved, but what possessed you to, to set up shop in the middle of the jungle of New York, in the middle of Manhattan?
I could it be any more competitive in the US or in the world going from Park Avenue to 5th Avenue?
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: I mean, honestly, I have a very simple answer. My wife, oh, my wife refused to leave the city. Wow. And, and I, and, and I don’t think she. What she was asking of me, because you’re right, it was very challenging. It was really hard, and it, you know, what it really comes down to is working more, spending more hours, not at home working evenings and weekends and stressing quite a bit, but you make it happen.
Catherine Maley, MBA: So, you went completely cosmetic during your transition from Park Avenue to 5th Avenue.
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: Now I am a hundred percent cosmetic. Yes.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Okay. Now Park Avenue, when you were there, I, I just was so surprised when I b I know quite a few surgeons on Park Avenue and there have to be what a of them, I mean there’re a lot surgeons on Park Avenue and I was so surprised how much you get done in such a small space.
It’s very interesting because then you go to Texas and you. Your 2000, is there 20,000 square feet? You know, it’s just crazy, the, the amount of space. But, but because of that, does it make you decide, I’m just going to do surgery or just going to do nonsurgical, or I’m only going to bring on a couple people?
Like how does that affect you? Building a practice? With slight, you know, with tight tightness, especially going from Park Avenue to 5th Avenue.
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: Yes. It, it, you’re absolutely right. It does, because there’s physically no place to put too many employees, number one. The, the overhead is enormous. And so, I’ve been forced to think about, well, what, what can I act?
Like I mentioned before, at the end of the month, The rent has to be paid at the end of the month. Verizon, the phone bill has to be paid. There’s no, there’s no negotiation about it. So, you really are forced to, to look at everything really closely. And it, it’s a big challenge. There’s no, I don’t really offer any spa services because I don’t have the space for that kind of thing.
It, it has affected some business decisions when you talk about investing in technology, because if I want to buy a gadget that takes. A whole room. I can’t give up a room for, you know, an hour at a time for some treatment because you know that that room cost me. We literally have, at one point I had it figured out what it cost me to breathing air for an hour in my office.
I, it, it’s, it’s insane. And, you know, you, you, you just can’t, you can’t give, you can’t give it up that easily. And I noticed. As the years went by, I started to figure out that industry really wants a piece of us. And you know, they love the idea of cosmetic work. But I think you have to be really careful, very picky, and choosy about who you get involved with, with a lot of the industry folks that are out there.
Catherine Maley, MBA: So, when you were on Park Avenue, did you have an OR suite in.
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: I had the world’s smallest or, yes.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Yeah. Cause I don’t remember seeing it when I visited during your transition from Park Avenue to 5th Avenue.
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: It was it was a big problem. I, I was able to get it quite certified. It was, it was a, it was a challenge though, because I, be it, Pardon? No, I’m sorry. In part. Yeah.
No, I could not get it. Quad A certified. Got it. I had to go with joint commission because Quad A actually demands a certain layout and they know that you need some space, God forbid there’s an emergency, and you have to give CPR some such thing. Whereas the Joint Commission was much more concerned with process and, and frankly, what I thought it was p.
And it was a very different, I honestly think that the quad a is a, is more appropriate for a surgeon to be certified by than the Joint Commission, at least in private practice. For, for what? What people like me here for.
Catherine Maley, MBA: But now you’re on 5th Avenue. Did that give you more space versus Park Avenue?
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: Yeah. Yeah. I have a better layout.
I have a little more space. I’ve already outgrown it, but here we are. I don’t, I don’t really want to move again because I don’t think it makes practical sense. But yes, I, I have a, a real operating room. I am currently quality certified. We have everything we need to, to do real surgery here.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Gotcha.
And but quite a typically, don’t you need that because of the recon? I mean, is there, do, do you have to have that because, well, let me ask you this. Are you watching or hearing more patients wanting local versus general? Less downtime, faster recovery. Are you hearing that? Because I am, the trend is, can I have this done under, as it relates to going from Park Avenue to 5th Avenue.
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: Yes, for sure. No question about, I’ve been hearing that for about 10 years. Yeah. But I’m also, you know, I, one of my, one of the things that I’ve tried to do is cut out the middle man as much as possible, and I love my colleague’s anesthesia, but they’re expensive. And if I can, you know, patients are willing to pay X for a procedure.
So, if you can do it under local, you’re better off if you, but it’s got to be safe. So, you know, that, that really depends on the, on the procedure that they’re wanting. In New York State, one can’t give I the anesthesia without being certified by one of the three big entities. So, it’s either joint commission quota, or what is it?
Triple A. And so, I, I stuck with Quad a, it making most sense to me. Gotcha.
Catherine Maley, MBA: And then did you add any non-surgical staff or are you doing your own non-surgical? Is it like, how big of a part of that, of your revenues is non-surgical now versus surgical, and how does that tie in with going from Park Avenue to 5th Avenue?
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: Revenue wise, it’s still not a big part. I, ironically, I guess I made a small mistake last year.
I hired a nurse who I wanted eventually to take over all my injectables. She ended up not liking the injectables any more than I do, and patients and the patients still want me to do it. So, I don’t have a huge injectable practice because frankly, it’s, it, I don’t find it to be profitable. It’s I find it to be a little bit bothersome, to be honest with you.
I know a lot of folks make it work, but in my neck of the woods with the tier that I’m in with the, the, the companies that sell the products, It, it just, you know, hour for hour, I’m better off operating. I like things like Botox. Botox is profitable. It’s pretty quick and easy. Some injectables, things like volu in the mid phase, bing bang, boom.
You ring you out, you move on, it’s fine. But when folks come in and they want things like lip injections, I find that to be. A money loser. You know, that’s a real loss leader. You can do it if you want to, but it’s if you think it’s going to draw patients for something else, but it’s a solid half hour of my time.
Or I suppose if they had a nurse injector hurt time. And invariably you get a handful of people who are unhappy and they want it to solve. Once that is bigger than the other, and you know damn well you put the exact same amount of product on both. It’s just, it’s that to me, I, I don’t want to deal with the headaches.
I don’t want to have to spend the time to explain it. It’s, it’s bothersome. So, I, we service the patients that we have, but we don’t look for more of those.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Literally in your situation, if you asked me, I would say the only reason to bring on a nurse injector is if she brought a really good following with her, especially on either Park Avenue or 5th Avenue.
And it’s not just injectable but it’s Botox and maybe just a really good nurse injector can bring in a good profit center for you but not you getting involved probably.
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: Yeah, I, I could understand that. I believe you, but that’s not what I did. Yeah. Right. And I do love my nurse, the death I hired someone who is terrific at a lot of different things.
She’s just not an injector. Right, right, right. She, she took so much off my plates. She runs the, or I don’t have to worry about the paperwork in the OR anymore. She’s on top of it. Like, like why not write, she’s.
Catherine Maley, MBA: No, I completely agree. I’m just saying if you did bring in a nurse injector, it would be one who’s a really good marketer.
She knows how to market herself. She knows how to bring in her own clientele, so she becomes her own profit center without you involved. But then again, there’s always that fear that she’ll walk away, you know, and she’ll take them with in the areas of Park Avenue or 5th Avenue.
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: Yeah, it happened to many of my friends. Yes.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Right, right. So how many staff do you have on Park Avenue or 5th Avenue?
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: Three I have. I have Alex, who’s my practice manager. She’s been with me since I worked for the hospital. She came with me when I left. Megan is the nurse and my medical assistant is sh.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Nice. You probably sleep well at night with that kind of overhead going between Park Avenue and 5th Avenue. You know, watching some of the others there are two ways to do this.
You either build a kingdom or you build a lifestyle typically. And some surgeons are just built to just build, build, build. And others are built to, no, I want to see my family periodically, so…
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: Yeah, Nothing wrong with that. Yeah. Well, it’s a mixed bag. You know, I decided, you’re right. The way I looked at it was different.
I, I, I know that there’s a certain. When I was buying my space, I thought, well, if I could afford to get more space and then rent space out and you know, set up some of the spa services we talked about, that would be great. That’s a good business plan. But as I mentioned, my father was a fireman and I did.
And in New York you need at least 50% down. So, if somebody wants a million dollars for an office, you need 500 K to put down in cash. And it was not so easy. You know, there was this little financial crisis we had in the middle of my career. There’s been a few stumbling blocks we come across, so.
Catherine Maley, MBA: For sure and as it related to going from Park Avenue to 5th Avenue.
Have you ever tried to work with another surgeon or, you know, share expenses or any of that, or any thought of doing that?
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: There’s always a thought. I kick it around periodically. I’d rather stay friends with people. I, you know, we cover for each other. We look out for one. Somebody needs Botox. We, we, we blend it to each other and whatnot.
But I haven’t really seen too many successful stories there. And, and even when the group stays together, at least in my neck of the woods, there’s a lot of strife that goes on in the back, back room. I, I just, I, I sort of like running things this way. As I said, when I worked at the hospital and I had associates, it wasn’t as smooth as I thought it would be.
Catherine Maley, MBA: I hear you. I, I also don’t know many who have made it work. The ones that have, they have very thick boundaries like you do neck. I do neck down or I’m the dictator. You’re this, you know boy, too many cooks in the kitchen, especially around Park Avenue or 5th Avenue.
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: And then at the end of the current contract, there’s never going to be a partnership.
And the junior guy gets kicked out and I don’t, you know, now that I’m on the other end, right now, I would be the senior guy. I, I don’t want to screw over one of my residents. I have no interest or, or a younger guy, woman, man. I, I just, I think it’s better. Like I say, we cover for each other. I do my thing.
You do your thing.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Do you have any words of wisdom for, I know you hang around with the residents, you’re training them. Are there any suggestions you’re giving them or recommendations? How in the world with a, with a newbie entered this marketplace, especially in New York on either Park Avenue or 5th Avenue?
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: You know, I, I, I think right now so much has changed, right?
It’s only been 20 years only, but so much has changed. I, I really think that when you first finish, your best move is to be employed somehow. And in order to do that, your best move to get a job is probably doing a fellowship that somebody wants to, you need some advanced skills, which is wholly unfair because you’re in your mid-thirties by the time you finish plastic surgery training.
But I, I. I think that’s probably what I would do. I might, I’ve gone back to telling them you might want to think about a microsurgery fellowship because then that gets your foot in the door, you’ll get privileges. You know, when I finished, my biggest challenge was getting, I couldn’t get my hands on an application to a hospital to apply for privileges.
It was a big game. It was, it was unbelievable. You know? Well, you have to meet the chairman first. Okay. One thing. Oh, you know, he’s a surgeon. He’s very busy. Maybe about six weeks from now. Okay, fine. I’ll take that appointment day prior. Get a phone call. Dr. So-and-so can’t meet you. He’s sorry. He apologizes, but he has emergency surgery.
He can’t, well, when can I see me at six weeks from now? And so, it goes. And I was never able to, well, it was very challenging. You had to pull some strings. I, I, I got awfully lucky in a couple of different ways to, to make things happen for myself.
Catherine Maley, MBA: I do know because I also have been around 22 years and I’m watching the, the older guys, you know, starting to think about exiting and that’s when they have to start saying, Okay, I like to run my own show, but now I need to figure this out.
And they try to bring someone on and is so difficult bringing the right person on it matches your values and your vision. So, nothing easy about that. So, what would you say is the biggest challenge facing surgeons today? Just with all the changes happening, any suggestions there, especially in the areas of Park Avenue or 5th Avenue?
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: Oh, wow. I have several thoughts about that.
I mean, what, the biggest one, like I mentioned, I, I bailed out of insurance work. I’m very lucky to be in that position. But I, I just found that there were too many times, you know, there was always this phenomenon where they pay you less than at a time prior when they deny services, et cetera. But then there was one case in particular that I did a few years ago, and I just said, That’s it no more.
Because I took care of a patient who I cared about very much. I knew this guy for a long time. And when I would, when I would do some work for folks who were paraplegic and such, I really felt like a doctor. You know, I was doing it because I wanted to do the right thing. But then again, you do have to be paid.
Big operation weeks of care in the hospital. The insurance company paid me zero. They denied it. Totally. And I said, what do you mean? What, how refile that that must be wrong. I spoke to my biller, no, just do it again. And they said, no, They, they don’t think that you did what you said you did. I did a flap.
What are you talking about? So, I compared my note for the same patient from 10 years prior and I haven’t dictated all, you know, you get into habits. It was almost the same. No. Why didn’t they paid for it before, but not now. I had to have a one to one with a representative, a physician from the insurance company.
And, and I said, what do you mean I didn’t do a flap? And look, I, I said, I rotated and I advanced the muscle and filled in the gap and blah, blah, blah, and covered the bone. He says, Doctor, you, you didn’t name the blood vessel that supplied the flap, and therefore we don’t consider it to be a, a rotated flap.
So, what are you talking? And the end of the story was, I got $0 for that one, and I, I, that’s it. I said, no more, never again. And I haven’t I feel terrible, but what? Look, once in a while I can still operate on people. I, I do across sometimes. You know, I just, I, I, I’d rather not deal with the hassle. I found that we wasted more time and more of my brain power.
Trying to get the few dollars that they might be willing to pay for something that I should just spend that time marketing and getting other cases that pay me ahead of time and we take care of business.
Catherine Maley, MBA: That’s why I only work on the fun side of medicine because as much as we all need the recon side, especially when something goes horribly wrong in our own lives, I don’t know who’s going to be there to help us
Cause it just, they’re, they’ve made it almost impossible for these surgeons who have spent what years and decades trying to learn this craft and they’re not paying them and there’s no upside to the darn thing. And I, what a shame, you know. And it’s not just the, like the zero reimbursement, it’s the time and the negativity and the mind space you have to put into fighting for it.
Then you still don’t even get it. So, ah, I stay away from it, for sure. So, let’s talk about something more fun and that’s marketing, but in your world, how in the world do you differentiate yourself? By the way, I, people used to say, you know what, New York it, it goes both ways. There are a lot of competitors, but there are still like 8 million people that live.
Did. Is that still true or did everyone move to Texas or Florida or something like, so what’s your population like in New York, or Park Avenue or 5th Avenue?
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: Well, the catchment area is still the TR tri-state region, so it’s still something like 24 million people. Oh, so it’s million in the island, in and around the city, I should say. Okay. They come from long and con jersey.
They sometimes fly in from other states. I’ve had several people fly in from Australia. I remember talking to this one woman on the phone and saying, you realize it was still the telephone by the way. I said, you know, you’re literally going to fly past every other plastic surgeon on the planet to get here.
I’m not that good. You can go to somebody, go to la, go to Singapore. It’s got to be somebody. And she wanted me to do it, so, okay, fine. You know, I wasn’t going to argue with her too much. There’s, there’s still this when you talk about marketing. Yes. I was looking at a space next to Mount Sinai Hospital.
Mount Sinai is on fifth Avenue, but it’s a little north. It’s, it’s almost Spanish. It’s big borders on Spanish Harlem. And there was an office that was becoming available back in 2007 or eight before eight. Right. Before the crash, and I loved it. It would’ve been a fantastic space, 2100 square feet. Wow.
Upper level, lower-level cetera, condominium, so only 10% down. None of this 50% down. Stuffed. Yeah. And I thought, wow, I could actually afford this one. And it’s beautiful. I asked, one of my patients said, if my office wasn’t on Park Avenue, if, if I, my, if I was up by the hospital on hundred first Street, would you have come to see me?
She didn’t late, she said. I said, But I’m the same guy. Why wouldn’t you see me? And Sure. Our answer was very simple. Everybody knows if you want a good plastic surgeon, you have to go to Park Avenue. And I thought to myself, Okay, I can’t fight this kind of stupidity. This is what they believe this is. This is just how it is.
So I went, Whoa. So, you know, I’ve been on park, I’ve been on fifth. This has not hurt me. I mean, I’m not fit, but I’m a little, I’m looking at the Guggenheim right behind your screen, right. And it, it’s worked out fine, but I don’t have any special abilities that anybody else in the country doesn’t have. We all did basically the same training.
So, I, I do think there’s something to be said for location in, in terms of, you know, the rest of the marketing. I’ve taken my lumps, I’ve, I’ve made some mistakes right now. I think social is the way to go. I, I think that’s the best bang. Bang for your buck, bang for your time. It’s where everybody, its worldly eyes are.
So, we, we spend a little more time there now.
Catherine Maley, MBA: I also checked out your Instagram because quite frankly, the cosmetic patients want to know who you are as a person, human being father, wife, I mean, husband, whatever, dog lover. I like the dog part. But I, so I checked it out and I saw that you did a tour of your office.
I walking out the door of your office and it was like the most beautiful, gorgeous, stay in New York City. And I thought, well, I, we should always look like. That was great. Then it showed the Guggenheim and, and you did like a little tour and the coffee place that’s outside on the other side and it was so that was, that was fantastic.
And it’s so true. You have to be in the right neighborhood, you know, to, you need the cache. It’s very helpful. So, I take it you didn’t take that other building over when going from Park Avenue to 5th Avenue.
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: No, it didn’t make that rule. But you know, it’s, it’s true. Perception is reality. You got to deal with it. You got to roll with.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Well, you know how many surgeons use Park Avenue? They’re not there, but they go there like once a month and they put it on their website. You know, they have a Park Avenue address. And I mean, Real Park Avenue is, does say something to a lot of people, so use what you have to if you have it. So, regarding your demographics, because I did notice Alex, your practice manager, who’s been with you forever, and how helpful is that to have somebody who’s been there from the beginning?
It’s invaluable. Don’t ever lose her. The continuity of that.
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: Priceless. Yeah. It, it is. And she is, you’re right, you’re right.
Catherine Maley, MBA: And she brings Spanish with her. Has that been helpful to open up your target market at either Park Avenue or 5th Avenue or has that been helpful for you?
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: It’s been, yes. It’s, it’s that helpful when you need it. We don’t need it every day.
We have taught, she and I have spoken you know, do we want to have a Spanish version of the website? Should I, should I brush up on more of my Spanish? Cause I used to ablo a little bit, but. The truth is that for the last few years we’ve been busy enough without worrying about it. So, we, we haven’t now with this coming recession, if he thinks to start drinking again, but I haven’t needed to go down that road too much so far.
Catherine Maley, MBA: So social media, you have like 13,000 followers, so you’re doing a good job. You have somebody that works with social media. In today’s world, I really think you need a dedicated, at least part-time dedicated person That is their job to focus on the social media and turn you into a star. Like it’s their, like, it would be their responsibility to tell you, Okay, today we’re doing this.
While they’re walking, while you’re walking down the hall, let me ask you a question. You know I really think you need that and almost a videographer or somebody who’s good at video editing. So, your person like can take the raw footage, you know, of your iPhone or the iPad and then somebody can do something fun with it.
There’s so much you can do on social media now that’s super entertaining and you don’t have to be the entertainment. But they can edit you into being that entertaining part, as it relates with going from Park Avenue to 5th Avenue.
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: Right. I couldn’t agree with you more so a couple years ago I made that decision and I hired someone part-time was worth every nickel.
And then some, I mean, you know, you know, somebody told me a long time ago, if you’re doing your marketing right, doesn’t cost you anything. It makes you money. You got to remember that investment. For sure, for sure. So, I had somebody who was fantastic. I didn’t know how good she was. And then she, she went on to graduate school.
And I, I had to hire someone else who I loved very much, and she was terrific. But she wasn’t as dynamic. She’s now left also, and this moment we’re actually kind of looking for the next person. And to the point you’re making, I would, I’m looking part-time, full-time, part-time. Fulltime. You could make that a full-time job.
I mean it, I think it would be worth. The budget, but it’s got to be the right person. As you mentioned, they have to have some insight. They have to know you and understand your brand and what you want to bring to the table. I had somebody here for a very brief minute and she was, trying to get me to do some, some, some funky things.
She didn’t want me to dance on camera or anything because I made that was LA that down immediately. Yeah. Some of the things she wanted to do were just not on brand and I said, I don’t think I want to do that. That particular video, I don’t like that concept or that music and, you know it didn’t work out between us, so we had two different visions of what I, I was going to be willing to offer.
And I also think that you’re right, you need, and we’re currently now working on mixing in some of the fun video along with before and after. Because my perception, and you correct me if I’m wrong cause you’re the marketing person, but I think people want, they want to know that you’re relatable.
The proof is in the pudding man. They want to see that before and after, once in a while, and they want to know that you can deliver the goods that they’re looking for. See, we’re trying to find a better mix to, to offer both.
Catherine Maley, MBA: I think you need both for sure, especially at either Park Avenue or 5th Avenue. They want the before and after photos. You, you want them more than they do, but they want those chi, well, they want the transformational results.
They want to see that tummy that was out of control and now it is tight. You know, they want to see really good results and the patient’s stories. If you could get the new person you., if they could get good at finding out that patient’s story, that’s what we’re looking for, because we’re looking for somebody like us, like, oh, I had three children.
I used to be so hot, and now my body’s shot, you know? And I chose doctor’s theory because, and then this is what he did for me and how my life has changed since then. We love the stories, but then we love the pictures because we want to see ourselves in those pictures. Oh, I even tummy like that. And now I can have that, that fantastic.
And then the entertaining part that is becoming because of where we’re all heading in the world, apparently everything has to be fun. Now, I didn’t come from that world, I came from the world of work hard, hard labor, and That’s how you succeed. But apparently, and you did too, the blue-collar kind of mentality.
And nowadays it’s not like that and people want to be so entertained. So, you’ve got to figure out that balance of how much do you want to share with them. That’s another thing, like you’re a limited on the family part, but how do you feel about sharing the family with the kids, with the hobbies you know, your vacations where you know what you did this weekend.
Are you comfortable with. Yeah,
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: I’m still comfortable with most of that. I, I, I don’t mind too much of that. And so far, my family hasn’t objected either, cause some people are not comfortable being on camera. But I, I think that the big challenge now, as you mentioned before about the patient stories, you know, Tim Cook is killing me.
I’m a big, I’m a big Apple guy. I’m, I’m looking at you right now on a love his products, but he’s got a point about privacy and he’s made everybody much more aware. Three or four years ago, it was, it was so much easier to get folks to, to allow me to share their story or their, their before and after.
Look, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll either cover your eyes, I’ll crop out the top of your face or all this or that. And nowadays boy, it’s tough. Folks are very private. They, they’re very insecure about having their identity out.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Now I, I’m going to question some of that because there are also that, that whole other, it’s a 50/50 thing.
There are others who can’t wait to put themselves out there at either Park Avenue or 5th Avenue. They’re such narcissists, and they just love sharing everything. So, you just need to find them, you know? And I would just keep asking everybody until the right, you know, some of them say yes.
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: Well, we do, of course. But I guess the point I’m trying to make is I’m finding a trend, at least in my neighborhood, where there’s, there there’s more interest in privacy than there used to be.
And they’ll be at that, you know, it used to be a lot easier for me to, to convince patients to let us use their photos. Then it is right now. Right.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Actually, I attended a seminar on this and there’s a big war between Google, Facebook, and Apple and Apple because Apple literally runs the whole show with the darn mobile phone.
Even though Google owns the world, Apple has a very big. Control button on top of things. And all of us got to pick that question. You know, they had to put in that question, do you iPhone, do you want us to share all your information with third party vendors? Like the, like the question was, of course we don’t, you know, like 90% of people said no, but yes, the privacy thing, and you know what?
I heard the, the reason they’re doing that, Apple is going to get into the advertising. That’s what I heard. And so, they need to control that now so they can now have this audience that they’re not sharing with others and then they can start, start advertising, charging for advertising.
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: I don’t know, that would be an interesting paradigm shift for Apple, but yeah, well look, we’ll see.
But yeah, I, I believe that Tim Cook has a lot to do with meta stop dropping quite a bit the last year, cause of some of the constraints you’ve put on.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Well, that’s why I, I hope everybody embraces social media because another thing that’s happening out there, even if you paid to get on the first page of Google, nowadays with search rankings, they’re not going to let you there.
There’s so, there’s only so much room left unless you do the pay per click or Google AdWords, which are there’s, there’s a lot of big challenge to that, but they don’t even have to go to your website anymore. Google’s going to great lengths to make sure they don’t leave the homepage. Oh, you want to know how much a tummy tech.
Oh, you want to know what the downtime is? Oh, do you want like, oh, you want to know you know, all, everything you wanted to know about it. Tummy tuck. You don’t even have to the first page, even if realized, wait a second, I went, I’m meant to go find Siri’s trying to, and I, gosh, it’s.
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: Yeah. Yeah, that’s true.
Catherine Maley, MBA: That’s true. Yeah. So how do you feel about patient retention at either Park Avenue or 5th Avenue? Because I’m focused more on that than ever. You’ve been around for 20 years, you have a patient list that knows, likes, and trusts you. Do you spend any time, effort, and money on them versus looking for new stranger patients?
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: You’re, I’m embarrassed to tell you, we don’t do very.
We don’t, and, and I know it’s in your book, and I actually have purchased some of your, your other tools to make sure that that happens with email campaigns and such. And we’ve not been very good about it, but, well, look, you know what, the faucet was wide open since the pandemic. I mean, we, it was so easy.
There were patients falling out of the sky. We didn’t have to make any. To, to bring anyone in. Things are about to change. They’re, they’re changing already right now. And I can see that coming our way very quickly. Just to give you an idea, a flavor. In June, we had a four-month waiting list. It’s now the end of September, and we don’t.
Catherine Maley, MBA: I hear you. I’ve heard that all over the country and also at Park Avenue and 5th Avenue. And it can, do you know how quickly it happened? That’s how quickly it can dry up. And we’ve all been around for a while. It’s like, first of all, did anybody see that surge coming? I didn’t. I thought, here we go again. Here we go With the DM recession again, we’re all in trouble.
And instead, it was like, people must have plastic surgery, they absolutely must have it and they must have it now. That was crazy.
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: Yeah. And some of my junior staff, you know, they, they, they didn’t understand. So, as you mentioned, Alex and I are together for 20 years and the younger staff didn’t understand why, like, why are you guys still working?
What you mean you want to stay late again? Why, why are you going to work on Saturday? Like, how much do you need to get by? And I kept saying, we got to make hay. Well, a sun is shining. Yeah. This would not last forever. Yep. And I kept feeling as though, you know, there’s a tiger chasing me and I got to get ahead and.
Finally, the tiger’s here. I think, you know, finally, it took a while, took a couple of years, but here we go now we’re going to have to deal with it, but we’re in a much better position and I trust that all of us are in a better position now than, you know, maybe in, in oh 8, 9, 10, when we all struggled so hard.
Catherine Maley, MBA: For sure. So, we’re going to wrap it up now. I know I was going to ask you what drives you, but I know you have a lovely wife and three little kids. Actually, they’re not so little anymore. How, how old are your.
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: My oldest is 18, 16 and 14 on Monday.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Oh my God, how cute is that? So, is there anything interesting you can tell us about yourself that we don’t know that you’re willing to share with the world during your transition from Park Avenue to 5th Avenue?
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: Gosh, I, wow, that comes out of the blue. I’m a about myself. I still, I still like working with my hands, even at home. I am a car buff and I have an old MG that I’m forever tinkering with. Trying to teach my kids how to turn a wrench and some, sometimes they’re interested, most times not. But I, I still enjoy working on the old rust bucket.
So, do you drive? Yeah. Yes, I’m a New Yorker. It’s true. But I grew up on Long Island, so I drive.
Catherine Maley, MBA: OK. Ae any of the kids going to follow you into medicine?
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: No. No. They, none of them have an interest. They all say, and this is the sad part, they all say, you know, we never see, we never see you. We never say, you growing up, you work so hard.
I don’t want to work like that. Why would I do that? And I kind of, and I’ve said to them sometimes when we’re really being serious and I say, look, you know, it’s true. I, but I, your mother and I worked our tails off to blaze this trail. All you have to do is go to school and your name is on the door. The place is here.
Just walk in and operate. But so far there’s no takers. We’ll see how things change if they change as they kids grow. But so far, no.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Okay. Well, it has been a pleasure talking to you again about going from Park Avenue to 5th Avenue. I hope to see you at a meeting someday soon. It looks like the travel’s coming back, although it has not been fun to travel.
No, you can’t seem to get anywhere where I want to go on time, but whatever. Thank you so much. Thanks. Thanks for your time.
Thomas P. Sterry, MD: Thank you and thanks for all you’ve done to help me in my practice over the last 20 years. I, I tell all my residents, they’ve got to read your book. I’ve bought it for a few of them so they can look it over.
And I, I, I love your advice.
Catherine Maley, MBA: Everybody that’s going to wrap it up for us today, a Beauty and the Biz and this episode on how Dr. Sterry went from Park Avenue to 5th Avenue.
A big thanks to Dr. Sterry for sharing his journey on moving his practice from Park Avenue to 5th Avenue.
And if you have any questions or feedback for me, you can go ahead and leave them at my website at www.CatherineMaley.com, or you can certainly DM me on Instagram @CatherineMaleyMBA.
If you’ve enjoyed this episode on Beauty and the Biz, please head over to Apple Podcasts and give me a review and subscribe to Beauty and the Biz so you don’t miss any episodes. And of course, please share this with your staff and colleagues.
And we will talk to you again soon. Take care.
-End transcript for the “Park Avenue to 5th Avenue — with Thomas P. Sterry, MD.”
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