Moderator: Welcome to today’s episode of True to Form with your host President & Co-Founder of Crystal Clear, highly regarded speaker and two Time, Inc 500 entrepreneur Tim Sawyer. True to Form is a podcast that highlights leaders making headway in the aesthetic, anti-aging and elective medical industries. Learn from the experts to discover the secrets to success and the pitfalls to avoid when it comes to growing your aesthetic revenue with the authentic, the transparent, Tim Sawyer.
Tim: Hello, welcome to the True to Form podcast that connects you to the people, technology and hot topics that shape the elective medical community. Brought to you by Crystal Clear Digital Marketing and I’m your host, Tim Sawyer. To our returning guests, welcome back and for our first time listeners, we appreciate you joining us and we encourage you to become a subscriber.
Last week, our guest host, Adam DeGraide, spoke with Dr. Moray, owner of the Happy Tooth Dental Centers, a true enterprise, I think they’ve got eight to 10 different locations, amazing perspective on the dental space, we encourage you to give it a listen. And with all that said, and as always just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, we are talking with a woman today who has successfully grown one of the fastest growing medical spas, in a really big part of the country, Oklahoma City. A lot of people don’t realize, Oklahoma City is fast, quickly becoming, one of the epicenters of elective medicine in the US.
So we have today with us Kristy Murrow. She is a Physician’s Assistant, is the Managing Partner for Mariposa Aesthetics & Laser Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. She received her Bachelor of Science in Education from Southern Nazarene University in 1988 and her Masters of Health Sciences as a Physician’s Assistant from the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center in 1999. She is board certified by the NCCPA. She is a member of the Oklahoma Association of Physician’s Assistants, The American Society of Laser Medicine and Surgery and The American Academy of Aesthetics Medicine.
Mariposa has been recognized as a top 250 status account with Elegant. They’re absolutely killing it. Named in Oklahoma City’s Metro 50 Awards multiple times, as well as received national recognition on the Inc. 500, 5000. A colleague of ours, Crystal Clear has been there, we’re excited. We know how hard that is and we congratulate her for that. As the list of the fastest growing private companies in America, not med spas, the fastest growing private companies in America.
She’s a frequent speaker at professional meetings and her expertise has been featured in numerous local news broadcast, radio shows, print and online media, including the Oklahoma City Biz, Journal records, Aesthetic TV, Oklahoma Health and Wellness Show, and Living Oklahoma. Kristy is a published author of Facing Success, Creating a Multi-Million Dollar Business in Tough Economic Times. I want to talk to you more about that today. So obviously we have an impressive guest today. And without further ado, I want to introduce Kristy Murrow. Welcome Kristy.
Kristy: Thanks Tim. Happy to do this.
Tim: We’re grateful to have you and grateful to be here in Las Vegas and having fun.
Tim: What is it by the way, what is it that you’re speaking about this afternoon?
Kristy: The difference between leadership and management. You need both.
Tim: Okay. Give us a little perspective on that.
Kristy: What we’re going to talk about today is just how when you’re a new business starting out, and you’re smaller, you kind of have to wear all the hats. But as you get growth happening and you’re busier seeing patients doing those things you really need someone who can handle some of the management so that you can focus on leading your business to the next level. And if you can’t separate those, it tends to hold you back.
Tim: Wow. Hyper. It’s going to be amazing. And we are going to be there. So let me ask you this. How did you, when did you, where did you decide to get into aesthetics?
Kristy: It kind of circles around, you know, how every step in your journey kind of lead you to where you never thought you’d be. I worked in several different fields of Medicine, you know, out of school and ended up in Women’s Health. And I had always in my history, done some sales and been interested in just artistry and skincare and different things like that.
Never thought that that was going to circle back to actually merging with medicine. But in Women’s Health, the Physician that I worked with at the time was a Surgeon and wanted to find something where he could make revenue in the office when he was in surgery. And what he had wanted to do, didn’t work out so well, and so he asked me, “What do you think about this whole laser stuff?” And I was like, skincare, lasers, all of that, that’s where it’s at, that’s what’s happening. I think we should look into that. And so that became my job. And so over the course of about a year, we launched an aesthetics practice within his surgical practice. And then a year later, I had the opportunity to go to Mariposa. So I took over that business.
Tim: And at the time, right, that was just chugging along a little bit, right?
Kristy: Well, it was actually chugging downhill and basically they were – I met them, when they were actually closing. They had opened their practice four months before I opened the one at the physician’s office. So they were four months ahead of me and the following fall we all got a letter saying, “Hey, we’re closing our doors. This is a list of equipment we have.” And I thought, well, maybe we can pick up something, you know, maybe we’ll get a steal.
And so I went and met them, looked at their stuff and pretty quickly, saw why they weren’t doing very well. You have to choose your stuff. You have to deliver results or your business isn’t going to go anywhere. And so I need to say I didn’t buy their stuff, but, they did end up approaching me to buy their business, which was again, the titanic, at the time so I was like, “No, no, thank you. I don’t want to captain that ship.” But in hindsight, I really should have, you know. What we ended up doing is just negotiating an agreement. I came over and started running Mariposa. We both gave it six months and if they saw that, “Hey, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not a freight train, we’re going to keep going and if not, then I’m looking for a new job and they’ll go ahead and close their doors.” So that’s how I kind of got started at Mariposa.
Tim: So let me get this straight. You found a troubled existing practice and you personally, through collaboration with the folks you work with, got it into the Inc 5,000 as one of the fastest growing companies in the US?
Kristy: I guess I did. Yeah, that’s exactly how it happened.
Tim: Put some perspective on that. Right? So first of all, Kudos! Congratulations and Kudos to you.
Kristy: Thank you. It was fun.
Tim: So let me ask you this. You don’t- That takes a lot of business acumen. Right? So where does the business acumen come from?
Kristy: You know, I get asked that a lot because I don’t have a Business Degree, at all. My background, my undergrad degree was in Education. So I had taught school, which I think gives you a whole host of other skills. But, from a business standpoint, I approached this honestly with nothing but common sense. More money has to come in than it’s going out. It’s not, you know, in my mind I’m thinking this is not rocket science. You guys are spending, you’re just hemorrhaging money, and this is a startup. You don’t have patients yet. You know, and you’re bringing in patients of little at a time and I very quickly saw where all that money had gone. It would be gone to stuff that doesn’t matter in the beginning. It’s nice to have, but it doesn’t matter.
Tim: Can you give us an example? Some things that they were-Because these are common mistakes, right? I’m sure this isn’t the only place that does that. Right?
Kristy: Right, exactly. Or else every place would stay in business. Right? And so what happened when I came and took over, of course I walked in and looked at closets and looked at their- They had boxes and boxes of you know, stationary and business cards and branding. All of their branding. They had been sold a ton of marketing and branding materials. And again, how much letterhead do you need? I don’t think I ever used any of that.
I think we ended up cutting it up and using it as scraps. So I was like, “Why did they buy this?” They had ordered a lot of custom paper tabs, but the tabs were wrong. So there were, it was, I found the bill. $2,000 that they had spent making these, only to not use them. So I’m like, no, that’s not happening. So we actually cut the tops off, put new brands on, taped them in the new folders ourselves and made them work. Because why buy more, when they got, a closet full of them that they aren’t using and they already spent $2,000 on? So it was wasteful, but not on purpose, it was accidental. You know, they just didn’t know what to do with that. And how-
Tim: So let me ask you this because I know a lot of our listeners obviously are young med spa owners, right? And so this is a really important conversation to have. And if you in hindsight, where do you- So two sides of the question. Where do people go wrong, typically, out of the gate? And when you talk about it’s not really just build it and they will come business model, you’ve got to get start generating revenue. So if you had like you know, four or five bullet points of tuition that we could share with our listeners, what would that be?
Kristy: I think just my gut instinct as far as where people go wrong. I think that they open their doors with the idea that they have to compete with the biggest in town. I think that’s a big mistake. Because it makes you feel like you need to have all the bells and whistles because they have them. And I don’t think that that’s what’s important. We did not, we were not in a great place in town, location wise, the building wasn’t pretty. I mean it was just, it was there.
And I really quickly learned that geography is not what makes your business. The equipment you have is important because it has to deliver results, but the most important thing is you have to know who you are, as that practice. You have to know your identity. And I went into it, with a very clear vision to be the medical spa that anyone can come to. Because the ones that were in my town at the time, I felt like kind of cater to our upper income–
Tim: That kind of demographic yeah.
Kristy: Yeah. You know, in our city and that’s great. But there’s a whole lot more people like me? You know, that used to teach school and that, you know, are working 40 hours a week and trying to, you know, pay bills and –. I just think there are more people like me, than there are like that.
Tim: Yeah, true.
Kristy: And so I went after the masses and tried to craft a practice that anybody could walk into and feel comfortable that didn’t feel pretentious. That didn’t feel like there’s no way I can afford this, just because they walked in – and the lobby looked intimidating, you know. So I think people need to know who they are, and who their target, you know, audience is going to be, who they want their patients to be. And they need to stay true to that. And avoid a lot of the minutia that really doesn’t matter. It’s nice. It’s pretty, it’s whatever. But that’s more of an ego boost than it is a business.
Tim: I feel like in my experience, people spend a lot of time, to your point, trying to contrive a brand versus–. For me, brands come from internal, like you said. It’s who you are as a human, who do businesses culturally, and then that’ll just manifest itself out into the world, and people will get you.
Tim: I feel like I talk to a lot of people about-. They go, “Well, Tim, you don’t understand. I have a very unique way of doing Botox.” And maybe they do, but I’m not sure that I would spend $50,000 to try to invent my five step, whatever, versus, “Hey, I’m really cool. Let’s try to get together and–.” So I see a lot of that. And by the way while we’re on that subject, you do some consulting, right?
Tim: And so if someone wanted to get ahold of you and talk to you about how, you know, the way that you think in your philosophy, what’s a great way? Is there a site or email?
Kristy: We are building our site right now so we don’t have that finished. Most of them are contacting our office. And then either emailing me and saying, “Hey, this is what my practice is like, these are the issues that I have, you know, what would you suggest?” And then we set up a time to kind of visit and talk and decide if they’re going to come to my office or if they want someone to come and kind of look at their setup and look at their situation. So it’s very individualized. It’s very personal.
And I did it that way on purpose because you know, there’s a lot of different training things out there and sometimes you go and you pay your money and you sit and you think, “Man, I’ve got to take home some little pearl that’s going to help build my business.” And it’s hard because if you’re talking to a whole group, everybody’s business is different.
If you’re talking to one or two people, you can really get down to the nuts and bolts of where is their struggle? And what will I do to turn that around? If I were going to do what I did at Mariposa, at their place, what would I do? And it’s hard to do that in a room full of people that you’re training all at one time. And so I like to do it on a very personal individual basis so that we can actually send them home with something that is tangibly executable.
Tim: Right, right. And so when you think about the switch to technology right now, because obviously with the proliferation of noninvasive technology that’s kind of-
Kristy: You love technology?
Tim: A big fun of the game.
Tim: But I also know that it can be-You get trouble with that, right?
Tim: The device is $200,000. Talk a little bit about how you contemplate that technology, the mix of technology with fillers and like- What’s kind of the, hey, you know, there’s not a one size fits all, but this one is pretty good.
Kristy: Right? You know, that also goes back to what do people do wrong? People start with everything, because they feel like, well, I need a body machine and I need a, you know, IPL machine and I need a laser resurfacing machine. And so next thing you know they have, five or six different devices that they’re spending thousands and thousands of dollars on and they don’t take a time to evaluate each device to see if they’re making- If they’re making their payment, on what that device is bringing in.
And that was something that was wrong at Mariposa when I took over. They had a, oh I would have loved to had it, but a tattoo removal device and it was a top of the line, but they were making $200 a month doing tattoo removal and spending $4,000 on the machine. I was like, this is insane! So we had to sell it. Broke my heart, because it was a great piece of equipment but we weren’t ready for it. And I think businesses need to be in practice and just they need to be honest, with where they’re at in their growth, as a business and know that you can have that cool device, later, when you’ve built your business. Yes, exactly.
And so the other thing I think is that it’s real easy to want everything and you don’t need it. It’s- Yeah, we bought a platform to start with so that we would have four or five different services, but in one device. And that was to me the most economical way, instead of buying one device of this and one device of that.
Tim: Yeah. I hear that a lot. Trying to get a workhorse that’s multi-functional.
Kristy: Yes. And we still have that. And we’ve had them for 10 years. Been paid off for four or five now. And so it’s pure profit for the last five years. Little bit of maintenance and that’s all you’ve got. Still, those workhorses are worth every penny, but you don’t need that and five other devices. We didn’t have a body device for several years.
And then brought on CoolSculpting and then brought on you know, you do it as you have demand for that and as you know that you can pay for that device and then, it’ll eventually evolve to while you’re paying for those devices in cash, because you’ve been able to get enough reserve built up and you’re not leasing everything and paying interest on everything and-. But people start off with way too much equipment.
And to be honest I think they start off sometimes with way too many staff. Just way too much of everything. Instead of start where you are, get your identity and honestly, what builds your business is the kind of care you give your patients. The kind of result they get, and the kind of customer service and care that they get from you and the staff that you have. Because the word of mouth will spread and that will grow and it will build and it doesn’t build overnight. But if you do it right, and you do it with the right intention, and the right focus, then it will. And then in a couple of years, you get another device and then, you know-.
But reevaluate every single device on the science of that, to make sure it’s going to deliver results, because if not, you’ve not only wasted your money, but you’ve also put a big dent in your reputation. Because now, especially with social media, you know, everyone’s going to know. I went there, I did this device, it didn’t work. You know, and I never ever wanted to have that kind of exposure. I didn’t want to open it up to something if I say it’s going to work, it needs to work. And so they need to protect your reputation as well, with the devices they buy.
Tim: And it would seem to me having this multifaceted device, there’s got to be some foresight, because some of this stuff is trendy, right? So in other words, people get excited about the new, latest, greatest they go like I got to get that machine, and then they find out maybe the science was, you know, not there. How do you avoid that? Because I see people, I hear that a lot. I just bought this device and now I’m looking for a location. I’m like well then why did you buy the device?
Kristy: Yeah. And you know, you’re right. That’s a struggle because you know, most of us in this business love the technology. We love those devices and we want to see what they’re going to do and all that. And you’re right. Sometimes you don’t always know how much of a result you’re going to get until you actually have it and you’ve worked with it. And some of it is technician dependent.
You’ve got to know what you can do with that machine, not just the machine. But some of them are under-powered and whatnot and so you’ve got to be able to evaluate that. And it’s difficult because we’re not trained as medical providers in laser physics and all that. I spent four months, teaching myself that, calling different people at different companies, the laser people and i was like, “Explain how this works. I don’t understand this and you know all the parameters.” But most people don’t spend that kind of time so that they really understand the mechanics of it, to pick a good device.
Tim: And they get sold.
Kristy: They get sold. Exactly. And that’s a shame, because there are great salespeople out there. And maybe their intentions are great, but you know, you never see them after.
Kristy: So you have to ask yourself, is that really happening or not? But for me, I always looked at the science of that. I never just took the sales reps word for it. I always like “Well, tell me who you have that does this device.” And called around, talked to different practices.
If I felt like all I got was the good news, about the device, I’m like, nope, I’d call the next one on the list because somebody needs to be honest and say it works great on this and this. We struggle a little bit getting the brands or whatever it might be. I want to talk to practices that are honest about those devices. We know not every device is going to do everything 100%. So you know, if someone’s making it sound that way, that’s a red flag to me. And-
Tim: You got to pick and choose a little bit.
Kristy: Yes. And be smart about it.
Tim: So let me ask you this because we’re talking about startups and then I want to talk about leadership and then we’ll wind it down. So, we spend a lot of time, energy and effort with the American Medical Spa Association and as you know a lot of those events are, you know, 60% of those folks are between either real startup or contemplating startup or whatever it is. And a lot of times, their talk track is, I spent so much money on the buildout, I spent so much money on the equipment, I just really don’t have a budget for marketing right now. How do you- Because to me as a guy who- I’m a marketing guy, I’m thinking to myself, well first I’m going to try to sell something. And then if I figure out I can sell it, then I’ll build it. First, let me make sure I could sell it to them, you know? And so, it seems like what kind of flipped on that?
Tim: So how do you manage that? And-
Kristy: What I would tell a new practice is, if you don’t have your phone ringing, nothing else matters. The laser you have doesn’t matter, your staff doesn’t matter and if the phone is not ringing and a patient’s not walking in your door, it does not matter. So, you have to do your marketing. You just have to. For me, at Mariposa, we started out, at about nine to 10% of revenue, going towards marketing. Because we had to completely re-brand, we had to convince people that it was new management because the people that had already been there for a year and a half, when it was getting ready to close, didn’t get results, from the equipment.
So I felt like we needed to start fresh and let them know, technology is changing, management is changing, everything is different, give us another try, kind of thing. And so to re-brand and all that, it takes a little bit of an investment in that. Now when we- When I started that, it was like that recession was happening, you know, and so in the-I was like, okay, we have to figure out, how much marketing can we do when everything is kind of going down. And what I felt like is, anything in Oklahoma, you know, comes and goes with the oil thing, you know. And so for us, it was ride the wave.
I kept the marketing where it always was, and I cut in other places so that when it turned around, Mariposa’s name was everywhere. They had done nothing but hear about it for two years while they were going through all that and we were building. And that way when it all flipped around, the floodgates open, which is where all that growth came from, was maintaining the marketing all along the way. Now, 10 years down the road, I use, we have about 5% you know, four or 5% of our revenue is my budget for marketing.
Tim: And it’s still strong. It’s still going strong, but you’ve been able to taper back a little bit.
Kristy: Right. Because you know the higher your revenue is, it’s not like you have to spend 10% of where our revenue is now, to get the same result because the branding is there, our name is there, I mean, everybody pretty much in town knows- I mean not to sound bad-
Tim: There is some recognition.
Kristy: They know who we are, and they know that we’re good at what we do and that we can be trusted. So we don’t have to go back and do all of that. But I think it’s really, really critical to do that. But just like with lasers and everything else, you have to be careful who you partner with. Because they can take advantage of someone who doesn’t know marketing. And I don’t know marketing.
I got really blessed and I ran into someone who is honest, and who helped me understand it better, and then we kind of grew it from there. So they need- People need to be aware that not everybody is going to have their best interests at heart, because that marketing person has their business directive, you know and so- They need to really-
Tim: Good reputation.
Kristy: Yeah. Find somebody whose philosophy is the same as theirs, basically.
Tim: Exactly. I think that’s the whole thing. And then the last question I have for you because, this to me is super important because you’re technologically savvy. You’re smart person, you know, you’ve a business sense, which can be somewhat fleeting at times in the space, but my instincts tell me you’ve built a really strong culture, in your practice. And so in a couple of minutes, talk about your leadership strategy because you were talking about management versus leadership. Your leadership strategy, how that’s impacted the organization and do you spend time on training and do you meet as a group and-. Talk about that.
Kristy: Yes. I think it’s very important. I think businesses that grow are businesses that have leaders at the helm, not just managing day-to-day operations. Yes we do training. We probably do a ridiculous amount of training but as a former educator, I think that knowledge is power. It’s where it’s at, you know. Every single staff person in my office has to be the best trained person in the office.
Whether they’re doing a treatment or whether they’re answering a phone, they all need to have a high level of training. So we have a staff meeting once a month. It’s about two and a half hours. And about the first hour is actual housekeeping, you know, staff meeting. The other is training. Once a quarter, we expand that and it’s one to five, it’s half a day and it’s training. We’ll do their hour of that, and the rest of it is training.
Usually there’s a training session we rotate whether it’s a customer service training or a laser training or some kind of a clinical type of training but at that long extended quarterly one, we do a team building also. So sometimes we’ll go out, we’ve done a ropes course, we’ve done-like- I can’t remember the name of it now. We went to a company who did like scavenger hunt thing. So we were on teams and did all that just fun but something that was competitive and something that they had to work together to do. So I think all of that’s important. You have to build that team concept in your practice. That’s it.
Tim: Yeah you’re building a strong culture.
Kristy: If they’re just coming in as an employee, that’s not good enough. They have to have some internal sense of ownership. You know, they know that they don’t own it technically. They get to go home at five and not worry about all the other- But when they’re in there from nine to five, I want them to feel like they own it and that the patient walking in the door is their person, not my person or not my patient or you know, that kind of thing. We did the same thing with providers. We don’t have providers with their own individual caseload. It’s every patient is a Mariposa patient, not Kristy’s patient or Kelly’s patient or somebody else’s patient.
Tim: It’s important, right? Because they are going to get exposed to the entire business services.
Kristy: That’s right. And if somebody leaves, they still stay at Mariposa. Versus trying to follow that person wherever they go next, you know. And it’s- We don’t have a lot of people leave because again, everybody is part of a team and they’re part of a family. And that’s what we care for.
Tim: Well I tell you what, you know, at Crystal Clear we work with hundreds of practices, you know, and we love them all. And outside of that, we go to 80 shows a year. We want to meet a lot of folks who have truly given the amount of time, energy, effort, creative thought that you put into this and we’ve been grateful to be able to work together for a while. So in closing, what’s next for you? This consulting thing is – I know you’re excited about that and you’ve public speaking now and you’ve got this great reputation so, first of all, would you like to give your email? Where could somebody if they had a question for you, they might be interested in talking with you about their practice, where would they email you?
Kristy: Okay. They would just email me directly. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tim: email@example.com, M-U-R-R-O-W?
Kristy: Yeah. K-R-I-S-T-Y M-U-R-R-O-W@gmail.
Tim: And they can see the stuff that you’re working on Mariposa? What’s the website?
Kristy: Yeah. They can go to Mariposaokc.com and check out our facility, you know how we have it set up. Of course we have a beautiful website courtesy of, Crystal Clear. You know I was going to give my shout out, really, but you know, you guys have been a great help though. Truly.
Tim: Thank you.
Kristy: You’ve been a great help. And again, taking a business that’s doing well, but taking it to the next level and that’s probably what I’m most excited about in training other people and helping and consulting other practices. It’s such a fun thing to set a goal for your practice, reach that and then be able to do something at the next level, whether it’s redo their website or whether it’s take their digital marketing to the next level or whatever. You can’t do it all at once a lot of times, but when you get there and you can do that next thing and you see what it does, it’s a really exciting, very rewarding thing. So you guys have been great to work with and help us to that.
Tim: My only concern about you – you seem like you lack passion.
Kristy: Yes, it’s a weakness of mine, you know, everybody’s got a flaw somewhere. Right? For sure-
Tim: This was so much fun. I really appreciate taking the time. I only have one request, promise to come back, six months from now.
Kristy: Sure, of course.
Tim: People will love to hear what you’re up to, see where you’re at.
Kristy: Yeah, I would love to.
Tim: I’ll be grateful. Thank you Kristy.
Kristy: Thank you so much.
Tim: Have a great day. Appreciate it.
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