Financial Adviser: 5 Business Lessons Every Startup Can Learn from the Founders of The Aivee Clinic
Dr. Aivee Teo was working as a dermatologist in one of the biggest hospitals in Alabang when a colleague invited her to put up a small skin care clinic in Bonifacio Global City.
Teo, who completed residency training in Singapore specializing in cosmetic laser, initially agreed to do the venture on a part-time basis by sparing her time to visit the clinic only once a week.
Little did she know that, in just less than a year, when she began seeing patients outside the hospital, Teo started getting more referrals, which prompted her to go to the clinic as often as three times a week.
Because of the increase in demand for her appointments, Teo realized that the 100-square meter clinic that she shared with two other doctors could not accommodate her growing clientele anymore.
What started as part-time work turned out to be a full-time venture when Teo’s Singaporean husband, Dr. Z, saw the opportunity of moving to a bigger space nearby, which was more than four times the size of their clinic.
Teo soon opened her own clinic called The Aivee Clinic in 2009, which was the largest of its kind during that time. The expansion proved to be highly successful as it enabled Teo to offer more services and build a loyal following through the years.
Today, The Aivee Clinic is one of the most recognized and respectable cosmetic dermatology and surgery centers in the country with five clinics strategically located in the key cities of Metro Manila.
The Aivee Clinic keeps an A-list of local celebrity clients that include Heart Evangelista, Kathryn Bernardo, Judy Ann Santos, Nadine Lustre, Angel Locsin, Maja Salvador, Catriona Gray and Coco Martin.
How did the Teo couple manage to grow the business and become one of the fastest growing dermatology centers in the market?
Here are the five business lessons every startup can learn from the founders of The Aivee Clinic, Drs. Aivee and Z Teo:
1. Know what you want to become
If you can visualize how you want to differentiate your business, you will be able to create plans to reach your goals.
“Well, within a year I felt that we needed to expand already because we were getting busy,” Aivee says. “At that time, I had a vision of what I want my clinic to be. I wanted my clinic to be luxurious, something that is a mix of lifestyle, beauty and treatment, I just did not want a normal clinic.
“I think outside the box. I don’t follow what a typical dermatologist does when opening a clinic. I wanted something more luxurious like you are in a hotel, but you are in a skin clinic.
So, when we opened that new clinic, we had high ceilings and a very long hallway. We made our lobby beautiful and we had a chandelier and big mirrors. It was something very different from all other clinics patients in Manila got used to.”
2. Know how to take risk to grow
There is a saying that the biggest risk is not taking any risk at all. If your strategy is to always avoid risk, there is a very good chance that your business will never grow in the future.
“I was very scared because I was like, ‘How will I fill this up?’ Aivee says. “I was just too scared because I am not a businessperson. I just do it by gut or by feel but I am not the type to be so daring.
“But I wanted something, I wanted a beautiful clinic aesthetically. It was my first time to open a big clinic on my own. It was something that has never been done before. But we just did it and when we opened it, people just came.
“I don’t know if there is such a thing as luck? But I think I was just in the right place at the right time and at the right moment.”
3. Know how to stand out from competition
In today’s business environment, it is not enough to simply become the best in what your competitors are doing. You need to create something that will attract your market that your competitors are not offering.
A good differentiation strategy that focuses on building buyer’s perception of value can help develop your competitive advantage.
“It has always been my policy not to compare myself to any brand or any person because I don’t want to get distracted by what other people are doing,” Aivee says.
“In fact, never has it been since I started my practice that I follow a particular brand or business model. We basically just do our own thing. We try to be as original and as authentic as possible.
“And I think that’s what people see. It is because we are not copying anybody. We are unique. We are our own people and maybe they liked us because what we are offering is something different.
“We created a whole lifestyle clinic which was not present then. It was an entirely new concept that we had, and I think it was something that people liked.”
4. Know how to identify your target market
If your business serves a market segment, it will not only help improve your relationship with customers but also give you more opportunities to spread the word out about your services.
“If people want to look good and look young, why would they go to a hospital?” Z asks. “Hospitals are for sick people. If you want to look younger and feel good, you have to go to a place where you know that you will have a good feeling, and everybody is nice and beautiful. You don’t want to be surrounded by sick people.
“Hospitals are more concentrated on health, MRI, CT scan. We have a different niche. We target more on the cosmetic, beauty, hair, anti-aging and wellness. We want to create a lifestyle of looking good, feeling good, looking young.”
“Our only form of advertising is social media,” Aivee says. “I don’t want to have a billboard because I don’t want to put that on the bill of my patients. I would rather buy technology.
“It is different when people go to your clinic because of word of mouth,” she adds. “It is easier to believe when people tell you to see this doctor because she is really good. If you want to stay in this business, you need to have that trust with your patients.”
5. Know when to expand the business
It is much harder for a business to grow well than it is to simply grow. Growing a business by expanding may not be a good idea if you don’t have the market and resources to support it for the long-term.
“Our expansion strategy has never been about opening in more places so we can get more patients,” Z says. “For us, we open when there is a need. When we open, they come because you have ready clients with you. You don’t have to go and chase them.”
“We never felt that we should get more patients because we spent more. We never thought that way,” Aivee adds. “What we want is to offer more services because we want to give more to our patients, not because we put more capital, we must earn more. When you have the pressure to hard sell, you will lose your trust and authenticity.”
Henry Ong, RFP, is president of Business Sense Financial Advisors. Email Henry for business advice [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @henryong888