Dr. Seiler is a speaker, preceptor and physician trainer for Lumenis and injection trainer for Allergan (manufacturer of Botox & Juvederm).
Birmingham Alabama is home to Seiler Skin, Cosmetic Laser Center & Medical Spa, a single-physician clinic run by Dr. Warren Seiler and his wife. We sat down with Dr. Seiler to find out what he thinks of the current crop of cosmetic lasers, how he runs his clinic, and hear what advice he has for other physcians.
Name: Dr. Warren B. Seiler III
Location: Homewood, AL
That's interesting: Dr. Seiler is a Board Examiner and the Executive Director of the American Board of Laser Surgery and co-author of the ABLS examination text book and board certification exam.
Can you briefly tell us how you chose to specialize in laser surgery?
I spent most of my general surgery residency with the goal of training in plastic surgery afterwards. I was relatively “gung-ho” plastics during my general surgery training. I trained at a private surgery program and was the only resident interested in plastics, so I got to spend a lot of time with the plastic surgeons associated with the hospital. One of them performed a lot of laser procedures and got my interest. I actually had submitted my application for plastic surgery fellowship and decided I wanted to pursue the specialty of cosmetic laser procedures instead. I talked with Dr. Vasconez at UAB, who was my advisor, and contrary to what I thought he would say (thinking he would say that I should do plastics), he was very supportive of my choice and helped me find training in laser procedures. After general surgery, I spent a year at multiple different dermatology and plastic surgery programs and practices in different states to get cosmetic laser experience. I then started my practice in Birmingham AL and got my specialty boards with the American Board of Laser Surgery. My practice now specializes entirely in cosmetic laser procedures and injectables and I love what I do! It’s the perfect combination for me of a practice specializing in procedures and also time with patients.
As a single physician owner, how does your clinic operate?
My practice, Seiler Skin Cosmetic Laser Center, is a single physician driven cosmetic practice. I personally perform the laser and injectable procedures. I have a very good medical aesthetician working directly under me who helps patients with skincare programs, Hydrafacial, chemical peels, and laser hair removal. My wife is our marketing and website director and she is co-owner with me in the practice. We run the practice together, but we have an office manager that helps. I perform fractional CO2, Fraxel, Thermage, Laser Hair Removal, Laser Spider Vein treatments, IPL, and others. Botox and Juvederm are the only injectables, although I have tried many others, I feel they are the best. Our practice is really the only one in Birmingham in which the physician specializes entirely in cosmetic laser procedures and nothing else, which really helps to offer the experience that I provide.
Hiring and managing a staff is a challenging task. What have you learned from your mistakes?
I could write a book on this one! This is definitely the most difficult part of running a practice. It is really difficult to find good staff, but once you do, you gotta keep them! I have learned a lot in my years of practice. Unfortunately, most of it has been by trial and error (maybe more error than trial!) and learning from mistakes. I began my practice, as most physicians do, with no training at all in managing employees. I think that started without the confidence I have now and I was “too nice” to employees. I have learned a lot about managing employees. I think the thing that has helped me the most is that now I address any minor or major issue right away, in writing and in an official meeting with the employee. I document everything now! I also have developed a very good strategy for interviewing, hiring, and training new employees. I have so much more documentation of all of these things and it helps so that employees really know who’s boss and what is expected of them. I am still “nice” but I run the show much better than I did when I first started. I have tried all different pay schedules. My office manager, marketing director, front office staff, and medical assistants are all on hourly or salary. My aestheticians are on hourly plus commission with commission based on performance. We also now have group goals on product sales that everyone can get bonuses for so that there is not competition and more of a group effort. I am still learning, but I feel that things are under good control now!
You're using a number of cosmetic lasers and technologies. Which technologies do you like the most?
My specialty is solely in lasers and injectables, so I have to say that I know lasers. This is a topic that I have written articles on and have educated other physicians on who are starting their laser practices. I believe that Lumenis’ IPL is the best on the market. It is also unfortunately the most expensive! I have experience with most of the different companies’ devices and it is simply the best. (See disclosure below.) Without going into too much detail, it is the only IPL on the market that I am aware of that has the ability to change as many variables and settings as it does. It has multiple different settings for energy, pulse width, number of pulses, peak and delay times, and wavelengths. Other systems do not have the versatility.This is important when you are treating multiple different specific targets of color, depth, and size. Some of the other IPLs can “get some of the target” but fail to get the results that this IPL can. Anyone that knows me knows I say “show me the science.” This is the most important concept to be educated about and understand. You have to know how a laser works (theory and physics) and what about it should make it give the results that the rep’s pictures portray. Otherwise, without this knowledge, the physician only has price and pictures to consider. I can’t stress enough to future buyers that you have to know these things. You would never buy an expensive car just because it’s a pretty blue color and sounds cool! You must understand the theory and physics of the devices you are treating patients with.
What advertising efforts have worked well in your practice?
We really market to our current clients the most. My wife, Jill, is our marketing director and she run’s our website. I always say that we really don’t need another new patient, but just need our current ones to continue to do more! Yes, I love new patients, but maximizing each current patient is both the best financial investment and also going to give the patient the best result. Jill really evaluates all of our SEO for our website to make sure that we are at the top of the google search list for many different search terms. We also have a very good website with the proper amount of info and ease of use for our patients. We use Constant Contact for email marketing. Jill spends very little money in any paper/magazine advertising. We do not really invest in television or radio. I have tried everything in the past and what we do now works.
What treatments create the most sales?
I am a top injector of Botox and Juvederm in the state. Although per patient the profit is not the highest, I make up for it in volume, providing great results and patient return. My CO2 procedure is the most profit per procedure. I only use the best equipment which gives great results. I am very careful not to offer procedures that do not offer extremely consistent and great results. You must be careful picking up a procedure that looks like it provides results that are hard to believe. Also remember: in this business if it is painless and gives you no down time or both, it probably doesn’t work. This is something I lecture on and advise those who are starting their practices or who have established non-laser practices and are looking to incorporate these procedures. Part of my practice is offering advice and training in these areas.
What have you learned in this industry? What stories can you tell?
Number one: LEARN TO PUNT!! I can’t say it enough. If you just don’t get a good feeling about a patient, that they just aren’t going to be happy, then refer them elsewhere. Don’t be so hungry for money that you are unable to turn someone down because it isn’t the right procedure for them and they really need something you don’t offer, or that they just will never be happy. My best example is a patient that came in a couple of years ago. She told my front desk manager that she wanted to learn about laser procedures for burn scars. I am always excited to see any patient, but especially a burn scar patient because I can just help them so much with different procedures. It turned out that this patient received a self-inflicted chemical burn. She bought some pill that was supposed to make her skin look better. She thought that instead of taking it orally as recommended, it would be more effective to break open the capsule and rub it on her face. Read that again, yes I’m serious. So she got a second degree burn on the left side of her face that left her blistered and still red. Uh. . . . here’s where you punt! I simply replied that I did not have anything to offer her and that it was too dangerous to treat her with any procedure I performed. Did I lose a patient that was willing to spend thousands? Yes. But it would have been the worst headache that someone has ever paid me to have. Know when to say no!
Lastly, what tips can you give to doctors who have just started their career in the aesthetics industry?
I think that I have given good advice in this interview, and you can call me for more, but here are a couple of basics.
1. Take your time learning new procedures. Master each one before bringing on another. Don’t be a “jack of all trades, master of none.”
2. Manage your employees with concern and understanding, but make sure they know what is expected of them, what their job description is, how they are to be paid, and when they have made a mistake. Address things right away so that everyone learns and grows and works as a team.
3. Never be afraid to ask someone with more experience for help. Have a list of a couple of people that can advise you about each procedure. That’s why they call it “practice.”
4. Don’t be too quick to “hand off” a procedure to someone under you if you haven’t mastered it and if they haven’t mastered it. Stay in close touch with each patient that is under the care of those under you. The person performing the procedure under you must be able to perform it as well as you!
5. Don’t do Groupon! Enough said!
About: Dr. Seiler is a Board Certified Cosmetic Laser Surgeon. He is a board examiner and the Executive Director of the American Board of Laser Surgery and is the co-author of the ABLS examination text book and board certification exam. He is also a fellow of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery.
Disclosure: Dr. Seiler is an international speaker, preceptor and physician trainer for Lumenis Laser Company and he has recently been invited to become a speaker and injection trainer for Allergan (manufacturer of Botox & Juvederm).
His professional interests include skin rejuvenation, cosmetic laser and aesthetic procedures, laser facial resurfacing, and the use of laser scanning in the development of breast prosthetics for cosmetic and post-mastectomy patients in association with Contour Med. He is passionate about providing advanced injections with Botox and Juvederm. He sets himself apart from other practices by specializing solely in cosmetic laser procedures and injectables, which he performs himself.
This interview is part of a series of interviews of physicians running medical spas, laser clinics and cosmetic surgery centers. If you'd like to be interviewed, just contact us.