In the South African medical aesthetic landscape, Dr Maureen Allem and Victor Snyders have created one of the leading medical aesthetic clinics through a unique blend of medical excellence and entrepreneurial flair. The clinic is one which competes on a global scale as a result of the fact that the clinic is a business that is ultimately about a passion and not profit for both of them. Both Victor and Maureen had a desire to change people’s lives and, through their work, give people the gift of self-confidence in ensuring that they become the best version of themselves.
The fact is that the lives they change continue to be as much the patients lives as the employees within every growing and constantly evolving business.
An Organic Growth
Dr Maureen, who had qualified as a healthcare professional, saw an opportunity to see patients privately for medical aesthetic treatments. Dr Maureen, medical director and founder, runs and owns Skin Renewal with her business partner and life partner, Victor Snyders. Victor and Maureen didn’t ever sit down in 2004 and think, ‘let’s build this business’ it happened organically, and they had no idea where the business was going. It grew from Dr Maureen operating from her apartment into a multi-branch and then multi-provincial offering.
Reinventing the Constant
The essential difference is they force the journey through the doctor but in a way that the medical aesthetic doctor and medically trained therapist are equal. Every patient’s Skin Renewal journey begins with a doctor’s consult, following which the doctor and therapist work together. To ensure synergy between doctor and therapist, Skin Renewal created its own in-house training academy.
“Very early on, it adopted a culture of rapid and frequent change – change is underlying and constant – we reinvent ourselves constantly,” states Victor Snyders. The organization doesn’t change for the sake of doing something different. Still, it engenders a culture of a willingness to embrace change, constantly reinvesting in the business as there is a high redundancy rate in technology. There is the need to reinvest and reinvent. In building the business, Victor made as many mistakes as possible. He believes, “if you limit your mistakes to being small mistakes and leverage your success to being a success – weighed venture capital. When something is not working, stop trying to be right.”
Victor and Maureen make a phenomenal power couple as Maureen is the medical director, ensuring that the business remains one of South Africa’s leading medical aesthetic clinics in its solutions. Victor is the business brain with a unique ability to find opportunities in adversity and troubleshoot to ensure that there is no lost opportunity at any point. Victor, decribes himself as a generalist as, although he is an architect by profession who spend many years in the property development industry specifically in retail development, brings with him a huge understanding of retail and consumer behaviour. Maureen is the specialist. Although they describe themselves as Beauty and the Beast.
The perfect blend of scientific knowledge with a vision and business acumen has made the business excel and continue to grow.
Victor and Maureen have mastered the creation of systems. They attest to the fact that they have been able to scale a personalized business in which individual approach is integral to the fact that they have created and implemented effective systems. They constantly ask and access ‘what is the path that ensures consistency but allows personalization.’
Virtually every business function is in-house, marketing, HR, finance, training, and logistics; they don’t use outside other than on a freelance basis. It allows people with experience and qualifications in another industry to be involved in a business like theirs and bring a different perspective. They teach outside people the industry inside out and try to balance the two.
Victor and Maureen are also mindful of the importance of not only attracting but retaining good staff. In building a business which employs over 200 people there is a huge opportunity for growth to ensure that the talent pool remains strong. Senior members of staff are from diverse divisions within the business and ensure that the business also has continuity and is robust and not solely reliant on Victor and Maureen.
Maureen and Victor also built Skin Renewal on the premise that you treat yourself as an employee. They believe, “Separate the fact that we own a business that is an investment division from the fact that we run a business as a role – when we talk as a shareholder and as a person who manages the business. We need to ensure we have the ability to wear different hats and put the interests of the business first.”
Dr Maureen believes that when it comes to catering to the ever-evolving need of the healthcare space, it is critical for healthcare companies to align their offerings with the latest advancements.
She states, “the difficult thing is understanding the technology you acquire – is it sustainable or is it a fad.” All technology is positioned as the industry panacea; hence one needs to know which things to follow and adopt. Further, she believes that you are stuck with it once you embrace it. Investment in technology and machinery is capital intensive.
The pandemic meant that the company created systems (systemization) – part of it out of necessity. Maureen and Victor could not be at the coal face and had to find ways to monitor and measure the sales floor’s business, so they created systems to give them strategic input. Victor emphasizes, “data was accessible, and systems were put into place so that we could analyze the business performance and make decisions accordingly. Effective communication also became key.”
Victor is passionate tech guru having self taught himself the intrcties of numerous anyaltics tools. Everything within the business is measured in real time, benchmarks are created and KPIs put into place. Due to the implementation of real time measurement system Victor is able to ensure that the business is nimble and able to respond to changing dynamics immediately.
Valuable Piece of Advice
When asked about their valuable advice to the budding entrepreneurs, Dr Maureen states, “Choose the team you surround yourself with but wisely.”
She further advised enthusiasts aspiring to venture into the healthcare business, “No fear. You have prepared to make mistakes. On one side, it’s an ego-driven thing, and on the other, a finance-driven one. People. Above all, the ethics, the ethos, and the morality of the people you employ have to be in line with the company. People either get what we do and are part of it – any skill can get taught, but fitting into the Skin Renewal mold is either intrinsic or not.”
When narrating about scaling Skin Renewal, Victor states, “we are in a fortunate position where we don’t have to grow because the shareholders require growth; the growth has to be organic.” He believes the business opportunity for growth is for people in the company to grow. This puts the company in a position to be very picky, and it doesn’t grow for growth’s sake but where the opportunity is right. He further states, “we are very selective about how and why we grow. Variations in the business model to expand into SA or Sadic markets/ Internationally.”
“Another important thing is recognizing we don’t have a single business; we have multiple businesses that need to be run differently and create flexibility in the structures (nuts and bolts). We have 18 clinics, and each one has its nuances,” states Victor.
This last comment is key as Skin Renewal boasts 18 clinics but due to the South African climate and the fast that the 18 clinics are based in 3 different provinces they cater to different skin types, different languages, different cultural nuances. The marketing team under Victors leadership needs to ensure that each marketing activation and campaign works effectively at a micro level.