Opening a medi-spa was a natural extension of Dr. Renier van Aardt’s passion for medicine, beauty and helping people. He began practicing family medicine in Canada in 1993, and now spends much of his time in the practice of cosmetic medicine.
Name: Dr Renier van Aardt MB,ChB,CCFP
Clinics: NS MediSpa, Vitality Medi-Spa
Locations: Truro and Halifax Nova Scotia Canada
Graduated with degrees in medicine and surgery in 1991 from the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. Practiced Family Medicine and ER medicine in Canada from 1993 to 2004, Canadian Board Certified in FM. Started doing laser and cosmetic medical procedures in 2000 & transitioning full time in 2004. Now the Medical Director of 5 clinics in NS, NB & ON, President of the Canadian Association of Aesthetic Medicine and a fellow of the ASLMS, teaching and speaking nationally & internationally, authored 2 chapters for Elsevier and contributing to journal articles for Aesthetic Medicine, many TV and radio interviews.
When you were in South Africa you were a surgeon. What led to your switch to cosmetic medicine when you moved to Canada?
After leaving South Africa for Canada I was forced to abandon surgery and the many hands on procedures that I loved to do, so I was itching to specialize in a surgical area of practice. In 2000 I happened attended a presentation in Toronto on laser tattoo removal and laser skin treatments. Early that morning I met Dr Mark Lupin at the venue and he encouraged me to take the leap to offer cosmetic medical treatments in my practice. The rest is history.
You've got two clinics, one in Truro and one in Halifax. Could you tell us about your practice and where your focus is?
My practice is definitely unique and unlike most others. I have two main locations in Nova Scotia and three satellite clinics between NS, NB & Ontario. I have an amazing team that manage and operate these locations, while I focus on patient care and travel between them along with my nurse.
My focus is on injectables and minimally invasive medical cosmetic treatments with minimal to no downtime. The patient demographic ranges from teens to patients in their 80's, some medical, most with cosmetic concerns and we have noticed a shift from middle aged, to more patients in their 20's and 30's in the past 8 years. According to industry partners, my practice size ranks amongst the top 25 in Canada.
What have you learned about managing and motivating your staff? Do you work on commissions?
It has taken me many years to distill many employees into a cohesive and focusing team with a common goal of success. It is an ever evolving and constantly growing effort. Staff have to have initiative, be self motivated and have a spark of entrepreneurship in order to be a good fit for my practice. It requires a good sense of reading character and intuition to identify the individuals who will make up a winning team.
All of my staff work on some type of commission structure. I'm a firm believer in capitalism, the harder you work, the better you do. There is no one perfect compensating plan & I use at leasts 3 different types across my clinics and they all seem to work fine. All staff are subject to a 3 month trial period & If any red flags arise, we make a clean break right away.
Technology is always a critical decison for a clinic. Could you tell us more about the technologies you use and what you think of the tech you're familiar with?
I've learnt a lot of hard lessons with technology purchases over the years. The best approach that I can advise is to start your practice with low overhead procedures, build up equity to where you can make an outright purchase, or at least be in a very comfortable financial position in order to make an equipment purchase. It should never be a burden on you or your practice. Never make an emotional purchase!
In my practice, I have laser and IPL platforms that I have purchased outright that perform many functions, as well as niche treatments that we have identified as good additions for revenue and practice growth like CoolSculpting and the ThermiRF suite of treatments. These niche treatments are definitely for the more mature practice that is established and financially sound.
Most of our energy device treatments are delegated to well trained staff. As Medical Director, along with my board of directors, any device purchase is very carefully considered and the advantage vs cost and marketing efforts are considered. I'm no longer influenced by sales representative pressure and glamour and glitz presentations, but rather consider my practice goals, practicality and feasibility of an additional procedure at any given point in time. Some companies will actually partner with a physicians in a non threatening way to assess their needs and make realistic suggestions for optimizing the practice portfolio - be alert and take the time to think it over.
I don't believe that there is any "bad" technology in our industry, however I'm careful to select the best bang for the buck options that have at least some track record of performing well and providing patients with impressive results before I'd continue make a purchase. I'd also always discuss it with a colleague that has used it for a while before taking the plunge.
Any marketing strategies or tips you can share?
Marketing is challenging as we have to abide by College rules, but within the restrictions that apply, I tend to stick to the lowest cost options. My advice is to avoid costly advertising and rather spend your marketing dollars on a great website and gradually develop a solid social media following. Open houses and patient focused in-house events are also very beneficial. At the end of the day, word of mouth is the best way to build a practice. Slow but sure and consistent efforts will pay big dividends.
Botox and fillers are often cited as amont the most popular treatments in most medspas or clinics. What are the most popular treatments in your practice?
It is imperative to track every treatment's profitability and monitor what's working and what's not. We market the treatments that do best and axe those that don't perform, if possible. Injectables are our top earners, followed by body contouring, skin care and lastly laser treatments. Minor surgeries like resections, sclerotherapy and scar treatment have fallen by the wayside in my practice. One of the newest trends is vaginal rejuvenation and we have just begun promoting that treatment in our practice.
Could you tell us some stories in your career in cosmetic medicine?
There are so many anecdotes! My nurse and I have started filming little video clips of funny situations that we reenact to show at the next annual meeting of CAAM in Toronto next November. We definitely have fun and enjoy our work tremendously. Of course, like any area medicine, complications and side effects occur and we need to be ever vigilant. We've also come across scam artists that complain about their outcomes for the sole purpose of obtaining a refund and one woman wrote 2 horrible reviews of me on RateMD's because I refused to reimburse her. It's par for the course and I think if we practice ethically and honestly, then we should stand up for what we do and believe in. This particular woman screamed at the top of her lungs how we've ripper her off and stormed out of the office to the shock and dismay of all the other patients waiting. I called a few colleagues in the area and they all new her and had blacklisted her for the same reason.
Any advice for fellow physicians who are just starting out in cosmetic medicine?
Dream big. Believe in yourself. Be patient. Set goals and write them down. Have passion for what you do. Have a "no matter what" attitude. Learn from others, do preceptorships with physicians that are successful. Be open to teach and share ideas with your colleagues so that we can all grow together. Attend conferences regularly. Be a member of CAAM to network with peers and obtain good CME and have access to the complications hotline. Don't make big debts when you're just getting started. Never give up.
Believe in yourself!
About Dr. van Aardt
Dr. van Aardt has studied medical aesthetics extensively, and approaches his patients with a thorough understanding of the person as a whole. He appreciates the medical, psychological and aesthetic considerations that go into making someone feel better – even more beautiful.
Through years of experience, Dr van Aardt has perfected the art of providing medical cosmetic treatments with remarkable patient comfort. The results speak to his attention to detail and ability to reveal or enhance a patient’s natural beauty.