When Shawna Chrisman, acute care nurse practitioner, opened Destination Aesthetics in 2011, she hoped it would provide her with some flexibility and positivity, both of which were in short supply in her previous career in critical care medicine. Thankfully, medical aesthetics became her passion, and she recently spoke about her career and love of the industry with AmSpa Content Writer/Editor Michael Meyer.
Michael Meyer: What inspired you to open your practice?
Shawna Chrisman: I was working as a nurse practitioner in an acute care setting in critical care medicine in the hospital, and I was looking for something to do on the side. I was looking for something with a little bit more flexibility because of my kids and my family. I thought it would be something fun and positive instead of something sad—I was working in a hospital setting and taking care of dying patients. That is actually what inspired me. It really wasn't to build Destination Aesthetics into what it is now. That was never part of the business plan at all. It was really just something to do on the side—something fun and uplifting and something that I thought would bring some positivity with my licensure and professional degree.
MM: What's different about your practice now versus when you opened it?
SC: I started it just with myself as a solo provider and my medical director as my partner. I mean, I was the receptionist, I did chemical peels, I did my bookings, I was the janitor, I did my ordering—I did everything in one room, and now we have three locations and 27 employees, and we’re ranked number four in the nation with Allergan a little over seven years later.
MM: What's your most popular treatment?
SC: We focus on cosmetic injectables, so Botox, primarily, and fillers.
MM: What do you think is the most important factor to your success?
SC: Passion is the most important factor, because I'm not in it to make money. I'm not in it for the attention. I'm in it because I love it. I love what I do. I love my patients, I love my team, and it's just a positive feedback loop that keeps giving. That's what's empowered us to move forward and be successful in a short amount of time. It's all because of the passion for our industry and for our patients.
MM: What makes your med spa different from others?
SC: What sets us apart is, I would say, our level of patient satisfaction, and again, our passion and our pride in what we do. Really, it's our teamwork. We have a very strong, cohesive team. We hire from the inside out, with strong minds and powerful hearts who really care about the patient and about each other. I'd say that that is the primary integrity—the core of Destination Aesthetics. There's so many things that really set us apart, but primarily I'd say it’s the integrity and passion that we have for our patients. I mean, I think everyone would say that, but again, it's that positive feedback loop that we keep revving us up and empowering us to continue to do the best that we can do.
MM: What specific metrics do you use to determine success?
SC: We look at all of the benchmarks that, I'd say, everyone kind of pays attention to—the profit and loss, profitability and net income. We look at patient satisfaction rates, we look at patient retention, we look at first-time patient retention. We pay attention to the percentage of retail to overall revenue. We look at run rates on inventory. We look at return on investment from marketing. Those are kind of the metrics that we focus on.
MM: Who inspires you?
SC: I get a lot of my inspiration from my patients, because I see a lot of survivors of horrible tragedy. I see patients who survive terrible medical diagnoses. A lot of my patients' stories have inspired me, and there are a few that really come into play. One is a patient who was beaten in her own front yard when she was playing when she was seven years old. This guy got out of his car and just started beating her with a baseball bat, and it was a hate crime because of her race. Because of that, she had multiple facial fractures and had to literally have her face rebuilt. The power that we have with what we can do with our hands, making someone feel confident and beautiful, is really the driving factor and what keeps us moving forward and kind of paying it forward, but in a different way that no one else would understand unless you were part of our industry. When she says to me, “You're the only one who has ever made me feel this beautiful,” after she's had such traumatic experience, it's like, yes, this is what I'm supposed to do.
A lot of people think that our industry is about vanity, when it's really so much more than that. I've had elderly women come in and say, “I'm trying to maintain my position in my job market, and I'm trying to compete with 20-year-olds who are just out of college. I’m 70 and I really need this job to continue to live the lifestyle that I do and pay my bills. And the Botox that you gave me just made me feel so refreshed that I went into this interview really confident and I got the job.” Those are the kind of things that make you say, “Wow, that's amazing.” And there are so many more. I mean, I could go on and on. That's where I get inspired. That's what inspires me. It just keeps me wanting to continue to deliver that type of medicine to the heart and the mind with my hands.
Our industry has such a stigma from people who have never had any type of aesthetic procedure done. But when it makes people feel the way that they do, it's incredible. You have almost an instant gratification, positive feedback, and it's very rewarding. And then they continue to pay it forward, and it's the gift that keeps on giving.
MM: What do you love about, what do you love most about aesthetics?
SC: On so many levels, I feel like it brings people together because of the way it makes people feel. It's a positive form of self-love and self-care, and I think more people need to focus on that. As people continue to get busier and busier in their lives, and we move away from the personal touch—more towards everything technology-driven and hands-off—it’s great to deliver a personalized service to someone where you are catching them and you are speaking directly at them. It's great to continue to be able to provide a service that is so connected to one another, versus over the computer or iPhone. I love that. It's still kind of old school like that. You can go to the hospital now and be seen by a robot who's basically a doctor on a screen who could be 500 miles away from you. But we're still seeing patients face to face, interacting as we have for generations and not relying on technology to deliver our services. And I love that patient connection.
MM: What do you love about being an entrepreneur?
SC: I love having the flexibility and creativity to develop something that I feel is rewarding to not only myself, but also so many others. I love the freedom to create those ideas that come to your mind, and not have to rely on the corporate structure to make things happen. You can execute on your own terms, and I love that. I just love that freedom and that ability to create.
MM: What advice would you give to other medical spa owners?
SC: Only enter this field if you're truly passionate about aesthetics—don’t be financially driven. Also, nurture your team, yourself and your patients, and have those be the top three priorities, other than your family—obviously that’s number one—but really focus on team-building and personal self-care, and have your outcomes be completely patient-driven and satisfaction-driven.
MM: What would you say is the goal behind your medical spa's design?
SC: The goal is really just to create a well-oiled engine that focuses on patient satisfaction and patient outcomes, and to deliver a brand that is luxurious yet professional and maintain a high level of respect in the community.
The branding is very compatible. All of our interior design and social media and everything, it all encompasses our brand in that it's a luxury medical professional entity. We want it to be a place away from home that feels comfortable and upper-end, but still maintain that professionalism in our community. We're trying to take the medical spa connotation into the next level. It's not anything basic. We want to be everything but basic. We want to be next-level.
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