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Tuesday, 03 January 2012 19:42

Douglas Preston: Aesthetician, Business Consultant, Educator and Lecturer

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Douglas Preston
Aesthetician, Business Consultant, Educator and Lecturer
Douglas Preston is a business consultant and frequent lecturer in the day and medical spa industry. Preston's business articles frequently appear in DERMASCOPE Magazine, Spa Management Journal, American Spa, MedicalSpa Magazine, Les Nouvelles Esthetiques, and others. Preston is a past-president of Aesthetics International Association (AIA), and served as committee chairman for The Day Spa Association (DSA). He was named The Day Spa Association's "Spa Person of the Year" in January 2006 and received the distinction of "Favorite Spa Consultant" in American Spa Magazine's 2006 readers' poll. As consultant to spa owners, physicians and practicing aestheticians he has taught and mentored thousands of skilled professionals worldwide and continues to do so. Preston has owned and operated Preston Private Label Products, a provider of fine skin care for the spa/medical industry, since 1996. In addition, he has maintained a California aesthetician's license since 1982 and is also licensed in the state of New Mexico.

I chose aesthetics as a career because it was a natural outgrowth of my work as a freelance makeup designer. In 1983, I began a small skin care practice in the San Francisco Bay Area that grew into a multi-million dollar day spa operation which continues to thrive to this day. Since selling my interest in that business in 2001, I have worked as a business consultant, aesthetics career mentor and as the founder of Preston Private Label Products. But, along the way I also cleaned the toilets, dusted the shelves, folded the towels and hauled out the trash just like every other business newcomer whose ideas and dreams were bigger than his budget. What has surprised me the most during my professional journey is easy … just how much there has been to learn throughout my 29-years of business and practice. There is always a new epiphany, a mystery to solve and regularly new generations of clients with concerns reflecting their time as emerging adults. It is fascinating! I believe that more emphasis should be placed on skilled communication and customer-centered awareness instead of product study and technical training. As a business consultant I feel it is imperative that aestheticians, whether they own their own spa or work as an independent contractor, appreciate the importance of the business side of their profession – because the business aspect of aesthetics is as important and critical to the well-being of the practice as the treatments themselves. By ignoring the realities of cost-control, marketing, sales goals and employee behavior a business owner will soon end up with a career they no longer love … or worse! With this in mind, routine employee training and superior quality management is what separates the best clinics/spas from the rest. Routine employee training and superior quality management; the funky but customer-loving spa can out-perform a glamorous luxury location if it recognizes and honors the clients’ need for genuinely personalized attention and kindness. Be generous … generous with your time, your appreciation, your attention and your praise of others. Customers never forget why they come to a spa, and it is not to hear our life story; it is to tell theirs and to be understood and validated as human beings.

Douglas Preston’s advice for someone wanting to open a new spa?

Talk to others who have done it ahead of you and ask the hard questions:

“How difficult was it?”

“How many hours are you putting in?”

“Do you enjoy your work as much now since operating your own business?”

“Has it been worth the investment?”

These are things that are important to know right from the start. The answers to these questions will quickly provide a sense of what you are about to get into – with ambitions in high gear. If you do not like what you hear then do not move forward. It is not likely that you will find the magic method to avoid the hardships and risks of business management.

For more on our chat with Douglas go to www.aestheticsprofessional.com

Find Douglas on Twitter at: @skinartz

More from our interview with Douglas:

 

DERMASCOPE:

According to your biography, you have been a licensed aesthetician since 1982. Why did you choose aesthetics as a career? continued …

Douglas:

From my own observations of the skin I was decorating and the many questions posed by customers and models it seemed obvious that more of my attention should be devoted to correcting, not merely covering.   

DERMASCOPE:

Which of the various roles and/or positions you have held over the years has taught you the most or had the most impact on you and how?

Douglas:

It is a tough call but the years I performed skin care treatments were probably the most instructive in terms of understanding the values and sensitivities of people in general. Those are insights one can use lifelong and in any setting. They make you a better person and increase your ability to perceive and communicate in a healthy and more productive way.

DERMASCOPE:

Do you have any regrets, or is there any one thing you can point to and think, “I wish I would have done that differently” or “if only I had known then what I know now.” Please explain.

Douglas:

Yes, allowing my professional focus to stray a bit far off field from my core career. I have the “entrepreneur’s disease” of constantly wanting to explore new ideas and directions. While that’s not so bad in itself I can see how some of that diverted attention impaired progress in my primary professional purposes. Live and learn!

DERMASCOPE:

It is obvious that education plays a significant role in your professional and personal life. Please elaborate on why you personally feel education plays and important part in aesthetics. continued …

Douglas:

Keeping up with an ever-evolving profession makes perpetual education is as essential as renewing one’s license to practice it. But, I also believe that more learning emphasis should be placed on skilled communication and customer-centric awareness instead of largely product study and technical training. That’s just as important if not even more so in the long run.

DERMASCOPE:

Has there been a constant theme that has led you from one point to the next throughout your training and career? (i.e. asking questions, reading certain material, et cetera)

Douglas:

I would have to say that it’s a restless inquisitiveness in me that has kept me opening new doors and questioning so-called established facts regarding skin care, products and even the tools aestheticians use in daily practice. From the beginning certain accepted “givens” about the profession just didn’t seem to make sense and I began to challenge questionable concepts when I encountered them.

DERMASCOPE:

As a business consultant for the aesthetics industry, why do you feel it is imperative that aestheticians, whether they own their own spa or work as an independent contractor, appreciate the importance of the business side of their profession (i.e. tax laws, appropriate software, service menu, et cetera)?

continued …

Douglas:

… If you love food but hate to count calories and consider proper nutrition you may eat yourself into a serious health condition. The same is true for practicing skin care professionals.

DERMASCOPE:

What advice do you give to spa owners who are experiencing economic difficulty?

Douglas:

Get professional help and do what you are advised to do! Most clients, of business advisors, drop out of the relationship when they begin to face the fact that some of their sacred cows need to be put down, or that they will have to become proficient in skills they either do not have or do not want to develop.

DERMASCOPE:

Why do you think people come to a particular spa/skin care clinic?

Douglas:

Clients want to feel well-treated and appreciated by those that serve them. Aesthetics is still a relationship-based profession and whether business owners like it or not the practitioner and client will form a meaningful bond that goes far beyond the facility it develops in. More attention needs to be paid to this one fundamental fact of customer loyalty.

DERMASCOPE:

What advice would you give to a company/spa that is looking to increase their visibility?

Douglas:

Forget a bigger sign on the building but, instead, work to create a truly great story about customer care that people love to tell to others. It’s all in the story – a positive and fun-to-tell story, not in fixtures or signage.

DERMASCOPE:

What suggestions would you give to an aesthetician/spa owner on how they can become an inspiration to their clients? continued …

Douglas:

Aestheticians are like candles: facilitators of a flame but not the flame itself. That energy comes to us through passion, burns in us through commitment, and is then passed forth in generosity. We must never make the mistake of trying to be both the source and supply of goodness all on our own.

DERMASCOPE:

Realizing you are also a manufacturer and educator: How does one cut through all the marketing to find the line(s) that are right for them?

Douglas:

I think we spend far too much time searching for the perfect products when, in fact, even the best of them are rarely used by customers in a way that will allow them to perform their true magic. I have no loyalties to products but, rather, in offering competent solutions to skin care needs and then working like crazy to achieve the highest level of user compliance possible. Accomplish that and you have created a small miracle.

DERMASCOPE:

You wear so many hats; manufacturer, distributor, educator, skin care company owner, et cetera. What is your secret to keeping life in balance and enjoying the journey?

Douglas:

It is by never forgetting why I do the work I do – to improve the lives of those I serve and then witness the results of the effort. Not every profession offers an opportunity to make such a positive difference. What we do in skin care could seem very small or it could be perceived as a world-changing gift. I prefer the latter definition.


 

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