Mark Lees, Ph.D., M.S., is an award-winning speaker, master clinical skin therapist, and product developer of Mark Lees Skin Care products, specializing in acne, sensitive, and aging skin, and author of “Skin Care: Beyond the Basics,” the “Skin Care Answer Book,” and his latest book, “Clearing Concepts: A Guide to Acne Treatment.” His products are available through skin care professionals throughout the United States.
People feel better about themselves when they look better. Skin therapists help clients look better, improving confidence and quality of life.
What have you learned about yourself through running a business?
I enjoy making people feel better about themselves and I enjoy the challenge of finding answers for skin problems.
Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?
There are so many! Christine Valmy taught me the basics of skin care. Dr. James Fulton taught me about acne. Dr. Peter Pugliese has always been a source of knowledge about how the skin works. Dr. Howard Murad taught me about the need for skin wellness. I consider Rebecca James Gadberry and the late Erica Miller to have been guideposts and brainstorming colleagues. Last, but not least, my mom, the late Dr. Virginia Lees, was a very popular professor and I think I inherited her teaching skills.
What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
I did not know it at the time, but starting my private skin care practice. I was so positive about my success I did not listen to naysayers. One of my favorite sayings is, “People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.”
What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
I carefully observe each generation to understand how best to communicate with each. I also keep up with all new skin and ingredient science and never stop taking updated courses in skin treatment and cosmetic chemistry. I have been an active member of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists for many years.
What motivates you each day?
I am very project oriented and I have an ongoing agenda of projects that is constantly growing. I’m a list person!
How do you approach change and the unknown?
Step back and then carefully study before getting involved!
How do you keep yourself grounded? What do you do to unwind?
I love experiences like Disney, parks, zoos, music, and theatre. I am an avid power walker and go to the gym regularly. I also love to cook and enjoy great food and wine!
What is your favorite spa treatment?
A great massage!
If you could go back in time to when you first were starting out, what advice would you give yourself?
You do not have to solve the world’s problems in one day! Study the problem thoroughly before moving on it and think longer down the road.
What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
It is okay to not be 100% sure what you want to do yet. Your career will find a path.
What is your most irrational fear?
Probably flying, which I do all the time, but is not my favorite thing.
What is something you wish you had written?
I feel like I have done this! My books are my thinking and philosophy.
How do you stand for what you believe in?
Speak up. Vote. Express your opinion.
What do you love most about your job?
I love everything about skin care, especially that I get to wear many hats: skin therapist, author, speaker, product developer, entrepreneur, business owner, and consultant.
If you could ask another leader any question, what would it be?
I love learning about what makes people succeed. So, what is their secret to success? I have found most successful people have a good reason why and, mostly, it is hard work, dedication, and loving what they do.
How do you measure success?
By how happy you are with where you are in business or life.
Early bird or night owl?
Sweet or salty?
Salty, but I like sweet, too, occasionally!
Laundry or dishes?
Camping or glamping?
I like both.
What is your proudest accomplishment in the industry?
There are two: my book, “Skin Care Beyond the Basics,” and the success of my product line.
What’s the biggest myth in the industry?
Establishing a skin care practice is easy and that you can start a business with little or no funding – both are wrong!
What hurdles have you had to overcome?
Skin care is a very competitive business. I think the only real hurdles I have had is healthy competition, which I think makes businesses better.
Where is the brand headed over the next five years?
I love my products being the choice of independent practitioners. I like working with dedicated skin care practitioner entrepreneurs.
Where is the entire industry headed?
When I first became an aesthetician, people did not know what an aesthetician was. Now, almost everyone knows. Because more and more people are actually taking care of their skin, I think this field will just get bigger.
I do worry about trendy silliness and aestheticians getting caught up in trendy non-science. I would really like to see aesthetics become a two-year college program, similar to nursing. Aestheticians would be much better at their jobs if they had more biological sciences and chemistry in their backgrounds.
What distinguishes your company from others in the industry?
We have a truly scientific approach. This includes case study backup, being able to show case study examples of all our protocols and programs for various skin issues. Also, thorough outside testing, including independent dermatologist testing. All of our programs are programs. We try to instill in our practitioners, as well as our patient and clients, to look at skin care as a program, including homecare protocols, regular clinic treatments, and expert consultation.
What are your current goals?
To grow the company more and to continue to educate skin care professionals and consumers in science-based skin care concepts.
How would you define your company’s culture?
A real-world, science-based skin care service and product company with exceptional professional service. We believe that real changes in the skin can only be achieved by a program approach.
What has been the hardest lesson learned in business?
For me, learning patience has been a challenge. I want things accomplished now and not everything can happen quickly. Also, I have had to learn that not everyone has my high expectations.
How do you motivate your team?
Listening to them and respecting their ideas and rewarding good work, especially dedication and work ethic. Those who whine about extra work or are not flexible are not rewarded and will not be here long. We design promotions and new services as a team and I involve team members in new product development. I think it is very important for all team members to understand what the final objective is for any task.
Gut instinct versus expertise: which is more important and why?
I believe that expertise is why we have gut reactions. Knowing right from wrong is learned.
How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization?
I listen to every idea from any team member and want them to feel free to contribute ideas. I am lucky to have very dedicated team members who take the success of the business very seriously.
Where do the great ideas come from in your organization?
Finding needs and fixing them. When we create a new product, we know that there is a need for that product. Because our company has both a practice and product company, we are aware of consumer needs and desires on a firsthand basis.
What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?
Choosing the right team members is extremely important. Deciding on marketing concepts is crucial. It is very easy to waste money on the wrong marketing and advertising.
How do you stay relevant and current?
I read many journals and constantly try to stay updated in new science and new ingredient technology. I attend cosmetic chemistry, dermatology, and health science classes regularly.
What is the hardest thing about being a leader?
I think you have to love being a leader and I do. Knowing I am ultimately responsible for the well-being of all my team members and all of our clients is a challenge, but I love doing it.