Douglas Preston: President of the Inspired Esthetician

Written by   Douglas Preston

As a career-long aesthetician, spa owner, and business coach, Preston has strived to separate fact from fiction, in both skin care treatment approaches and the various influences on new and seasoned industry professionals. He has often been considered an outlier in this business, bucking popular trends and readily embraced beliefs. Such work has made a positive difference for those trying to find success in a crowded, often misguidedly informed field.


Why aesthetics?

I originally worked as a freelance makeup artist both privately and for the major color houses. Clients continuously asked me questions about their skin which, at the time, I was unable to answer accurately. So, I decided to learn more about the canvas I was painting and the skin care bug bit. I rarely do makeup services today.


What have you learned about yourself running your business?

That I possess more patience and focus than I first thought I had, both of which are beyond necessary for success.


Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader?

There have been so many. Perhaps the most influential was a psychology professor in my first year of college who helped me trust in my own vision and to express it convincingly to others (nevermind that my visions were often faulty in those days.)


What is the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

My day spa partner and I began to disagree on how to manage that business, so I left operations to her and set up a spa and aesthetics coaching agency. I had no clients or established reputation for attracting prospects. It was a struggle in the beginning but worked out to be a prosperous decision.


What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?

To be honest, I’m on a glide path to eventual retirement. My good work over the years as business mentor and still practicing aesthetician seem to carry me to this day. The methods are as sound now as they were when first conceived. Quality rewards for a long time.


What motivates you each day?

Everyday it is different. Sometimes an unexpected challenge to conquer or an inspiring read reminding me to keep in mind what is most important in life. And, always, my wonderful wife and partner.


How do you approach change or the unknown?

With open arms. Because change is ever-present and unstoppable, it is one of the best things about life one can embrace. If we like the way things are now, as opposed to decades past, it was change that got us here from there. Fear is what makes most people dread change and, yet, while stuck in fear, things changed even then.


How do you keep yourself grounded? What do you do to unwind?

Entrepreneurs can struggle with their natural creative impulses. In business that can mean the temptation to start new ventures or take on added responsibilities. Suddenly you’re overwhelmed. I resist that now and turn my attention to writing, reading, gardening, long walks, and short romantic holidays.


What is your favorite spa treatment?

It is called the Preston Premier Facial Treatment. Essentially, this is an all-inclusive program that permits me to do whatever I see necessary for the client at that appointment. There are no add-ons in my work, as I have priced my services to account for anything I elect to use during a session.


If you could go back in time to when you first were starting out, what advice would you give yourself?

Taking a quote from Paul Hawken, I would remain “small, fat, and happy” as a business owner. I had the right intention, to operate an upscale but compact skin care practice, but other voices and ideas led to a large spa with many employees, expenses, and headaches. I never aspired to manage a large company and still don’t.


What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?

Take the compliment, silly.


What’s your most irrational fear?

That a cure for acne and aging will be discovered before I retire.


What’s something you wish you’d written?

More checks to my IRA.


How do you stand for what you believe in?

If you live your principles faithfully, few people will require you to stand for them.


What do you love most about your job?

Just that – it is my job. I can shape it, direct it, develop it and work it however I please. The rest is pure reward.


If you could ask another leader any question, what would it be?

How much do you charge and are you getting it?


How do you measure success?

By seeing the four key elements of a plan ripen in concert: work satisfaction, financial security, material rewards, and personal and spiritual enrichment.


Early bird or night owl?

Depends on what the evening movie is or what is for breakfast.


Sweet or salty?

Frankly, both are regular aspects of my personality.


Laundry or dishes?

I find that serving meals on dishes works far better than on laundry.


Camping or glamping?

I swapped them out for Airbnb.


What is your proudest accomplishment in the industry?

Having invented the Preston Comedone Rxtractor 37 years ago. It has been a huge success and used by aestheticians internationally.


What is the biggest myth in the industry?

“Do what you love and the money will come.” For money you can live on, it takes much more than that.


What hurdles have you had to overcome?

Oh, not much: four recessions, my spa catching on fire three times, legal struggles with business partners, and my entire business being absconded by an unscrupulous vendor. Just a stroll in the park, really.


Where is the brand headed over the next five years?

When I retire from direct services in a few years, we will become an online entity only selling career coaching and educational programs and tools, and will continue the growth and sales of my skin care line.


Where is the entire industry headed?

I see more fragmentation into specialty services and business targeting an even more specifically defined customer strata. Online sales will continue to eat away at institutional skin care retail sales resulting in more proprietary branding.


What distinguishes your company from others in the industry?

As a business coach, I have always highlighted the tougher aspects of business management, including budgeting, monitoring profit margins, understanding industry fact from fiction, and the underlying fears and motivations and falsehoods that influence the decisions and fortunes of spa and skin care professionals. These are not the most popular topics but certainly among the most critical.


What are your current goals?

To build up my retirement savings, step back from my salon business, hopefully pass my clientele on to a competent protégé, travel with my wife, and then maybe write a non-industry book or two. Oh, and get another Welsh corgi.


How would you define your company’s culture?

No nonsense, to-the-point, reality-based, and mixed with a lot of fun.


What has been the hardest lesson learned in business?

To trust myself first and all others second, or third, maybe.


How do you motivate your employees or team?

I sternly bark out orders and take no excuses for failure. This works pretty well, since I have neither employees or a team.


Gut instinct versus expertise: Which is more important and why?

In my view, they’re equally important, inseparable. One wisely advises the other.


How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization?

A second glass of wine usually kicks it in.


Where do the great ideas come from in your organization?

Since the organization is now only me, I will give you three guesses. My wife is increasingly helpful in this area. She was extremely successful in her career but now retired with lots of energy and valuable ideas to direct toward me.


What are the most important decisions you make as a leader of your organization?

Get out of bed and go to work. From there, things flow fairly easily.


How do you stay relevant/current?

I read business blogs, follow professional online groups, stay in touch with industry colleagues, and study DERMASCOPE Magazine, of course.


What is the hardest thing about being a leader?

Being a leader. I never aspired to that distinction in the industry, but seem to have earned it as a result of my articles, lectures, and coaching work. Being considered a leader brings a great deal of personal responsibility. You must be consistent, honest, and dedicated to the interests of followers over commercial or ego-centered motives. In business, there are many temptations to deviate from such a commitment. I have done my best to hold the appropriate line.


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