Leadership in Aesthetic Practice Management with Terri Ross

November 1, 2023

In this episode we are joined by Terri Ross, Founder and CEO of Terri Ross Consulting and Founder and Co-CEO of APX Platform. Terri is a practice management consultant and one of the OGs in the aesthetic industry. She joins us to share how passion, energy and drive make for a great leader. Terri also opens up about her unique leadership journey, sharing both the highs and lows that have shaped her approach. Later in the episode, we pivot to an essential, and often challenging, topic of leadership – considerations when parting ways with an employee.

Listen to the full episode using the player below, or by visiting one of the links below. Below is the episode’s transcript which has been edited for readability. If you have any questions or would like to learn more, email us at info@byrdadatto.com


Intro: [00:00:00] Welcome to Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto. Legal issues simplified through real client stories and real world experiences, creating simplicity in 3, 2, 1.

Brad: Welcome back to another episode of Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto. I’m your host Brad Adatto, with my co-host, Michael Byrd.

Michael: Thank you, Bradford. As a business and health care law firm, we represent clients in multiple business sectors, especially health care. This season we are finding common ground for our audience regardless of your background, our theme is Leadership, where each episode we’ll talk about leadership from various perspectives.

Brad: Now, Michael, before we bring in today’s awesome guest, I have a quick question for you. Have you seen the new Barbie movie?

Michael: Oh, my. We need a doctor in the house Riley. Brad, this movie question is way too relevant for you. This is actually a current pop culture question.

Brad: Thank you very much. [00:01:00]

Michael: No, I have not seen the movie. There’s been much discussion in my house full of women, but we have not seen it. But I want to know what made you ask a question about a movie our entire audience actually will know versus what you usually talk about, which is something from the sixties. And have you seen it?

Brad: Well, let’s slow down there. I was trying first impress our guest today and show my cutting edge awareness of pop culture, so thanks for recognizing it and calling it out in front of our awesome guests. I have not seen it. My daughter has seen it two or three times and loves it. I’ve heard all about how awesome it is, but I have not seen it.

Michael: Well, I actually saw an article that made me think about this. This is an article about a Barbie movie phenomenon. It’s called Barbie Botox.

Brad: What?

Michael: It’s a trend on TikTok.

Brad: Okay. So, Michael, maybe I’m not understanding this. Why would you want to put Botox in a Barbie doll?

Michael: You’re not understanding it correctly, Brad.

Brad: Okay.

Michael: So apparently, [00:02:00] there is a dual purpose of getting Barbie Botox. It is injected into their necks. Now, I actually talked more scientific than that in the article, but I went with neck.

Brad: Okay.

Michael: And apparently, it can help reduce neck pain.

Brad: Okay, first of all, I didn’t realize Barbie was known for having any problems, much less neck problems.

Michael: Well, fair observation, but the nickname probably comes from the other reason people get it. People also get this Botox injection in their neck to have a longer looking neck.

Brad: I’m afraid to ask. Did they inject – did they have a Ken Botox injection?

Michael: And where would that be? No, Brad, let’s keep our 13 year old tendencies off air. Fair observation, and very funny. I knew exactly where you were going with that.

Brad: I was just – what is the Ken Book?

Michael: 13 year old Michael approves, but let’s switch on. Switch to another pop culture phenomenon. [00:03:00] Have you seen the Apple TV show about Beanie Babies?

Brad: I have not. No.

Michael: It’s called the Beanie Bubble, stars Zach Galifianakis. Now, it actually is loosely based on the true story, on the true story of how Beanie Babies came into existence. And they had a disclaimer at the beginning of the show that said that some of it was true and some of it was completely made up, but it was pretty fascinating.

Brad: Got it. So mostly true, except we can really stretch all the facts that we want to and make it fun.

Michael: Yes. And it was interesting. And if it was true, the parts that I saw, if they were true, the founder was off his rocker. There was all sorts of craziness about how this stuffed animal company by Ty, T-Y, sure you’ve seen that a million times, created this pop culture revolution. [00:04:00] It was just the struggling company that was trying to make different kinds of stuffed animals of all things.

Brad: Yeah.

Michael: And the movie kind of one of the heroines of the story was one of the first employees. It was this college kid trying to get a secretarial job that ended up being the genius behind the entire thing.

Brad: Gotcha. So I guess this college kid really was thinking out the box to make Beanie Babies a craze.

Michael: Yes. So, Brad, I’ve got one more pop culture story now that we’re on this topic, and then we need to move on it before we go to our guest.

Brad: Does it have anything to do with GI Joe? Because you talked about Barbie and now beanies. Is there something else?

Michael: We’re moving out.

Brad: Okay, of your toy box.

Michael: All right, so you can feel safe. Your GI Joes are safe. Do you remember the story from back in 2015 about the dress that broke the internet? Because people would fight over whether the dress was black and blue or white and gold. [00:05:00]

Brad: Yeah, vaguely. I actually think one of our first seasons, we actually, you brought this up. Why are you bringing it up again?

Michael: I believe we’ve talked about it before, and you and I may have not agreed on what color the dress was. But there’s an update.

Brad: Okay.

Michael: Yeah. The update is, is that the husband who caused the internet to go broken and for this dress to go viral because this dress was for he and his wife’s wedding back in 2015, he’s found himself in a little trouble. Yeah.

Brad: Well, he did marry some shape-shifting lady that can go from a black and blue to a white and gold dress, so of course he’s in trouble. Did his like five minutes of frame go to his head or something like that?

Michael: I don’t know about that, Brad. He was charged with attempting to kill his wife.

Brad: Wow. Okay, that got dark real quick there, Mike. I hope his wife is able to shape shift away from him, and she’s okay. Anything else you want to discuss to help bring down the show before we bring on our awesome guests?

Michael: [00:06:00] Yes, don’t ever call me Mike again, number one.

Brad: I thought you’d like that.

Michael: Yes. I think I’m good. Let’s just understand that not all things in pop culture are fairytales, Brad. Your toy box is magical, but the real life is sometimes messy. Okay, let’s bring on our guest.

Brad: Yes.

Michael: Today we have back for the third time longtime friend Terri Ross. Terri is the founder and co CEO of the Apex Platform and CEO of Terri Ross Consulting. She is a renowned practice management consultant, international speaker. She has her own podcast, “In Touch with Terri” that we’ve been on a few times. Speaking of you breaking the internet with the sound, I’m so sorry. An OG of the Aesthetic space. Terri, welcome.

Terri: Hey guys, how are you? So good to be back. Thank you. Thank you so much. I always love to shoot the show with you guys. [00:07:00]

Brad: Yes. We love having you on too. And Terri, I guess to really jump into today’s show, I want to just get in there right now and figure out, were you part of like the Beanie Baby Craze or the Barbie Craze? Does that miss you?

Terri: Well, clearly, hence the pink shirt right now. I was such a good segue. Who knew? Done with the Barbie craze.

Brad: Okay. Well, there you go. Awesome.

Michael: All right. Well, Terri, for those of our audience who haven’t heard you on in the first couple times, love just to have you take a couple minutes and introduce your business or reintroduce your business to our audience.

Terri: Oh my God, thank you guys so much. We go way back. Well, for those of you that don’t know, I think Michael did a great introduction. I come from Fortune 500. I was with Medesis. I launched CoolSculpting in the US and Canada, started Terri Ross Consulting back in [00:08:00] 2012. Really the impetus is just helping practices launch, grow scale. We incubated Apex Platform, which is a practice optimization platform in the middle of Covid, and that recently went through a merger in March with Engaged Technologies.

Brad: Fancy.

Terri: Very, very exciting. Yes, I know, fancy. So we’re working through that right now and trying to take things to the next level. And as you guys have always done, really bring this business and compliance and legal aspect to the industry.

Michael: Talk about how you help your clients.

Terri: Look, I think we all can agree that the business side of aesthetic medicine is just, it’s always been lacking, and hence the topic today. I think that there is a lot that continues to come up in the industry, and it’s leadership, it’s culture, it’s training, it’s understanding the data and the finances, and that is what we do. I think I’ve had the pleasure of working, being in sales my entire career, [00:09:00] and then working with very big names in the aesthetic industry and Beverly Hills and across the country. I owned a medical spa for five years that sold to a big chain. So it’s lended to my credibility and expertise and what fundamentally happens within a practice and or what should happen. And so, we really do a very deep dive practice assessment. We look at every division of a business, finances, marketing, conversion, sales of consultant, you name it. And I always say I identify areas of opportunity, not what’s wrong, and coach them and give them the tools and the training and the resources with how to fix it.

Michael: I think I have a lot of opportunities for Brad. That’s a great word..

Brad: It’s going to be that kind of show people. And it’s great going back to, as you were – kind of our focus for this season really is understanding leadership. And so that’s again, why we’re so happy to have a leader like yourself on it. [00:10:00] But we’d love to hear some of your thoughts as to like what was your first leadership position? I know audience members, we were having a sidebar before the show started, and full disclosure, Terri’s daughter is running for vice president of class, so we know where the daughter’s leadership started. But Terri, what was your first leadership position?

Terri: No, thank you so much. Such a great question. It’s so interesting. I don’t know if you guys even know this, I don’t know if I shared it with you. So Catholic family, raised in the Midwest, my mother, she’s born legally deaf. I don’t know if I ever told you that.

Brad: No.

Terri: And she’s legally deaf, and my parents met in beauty school. They own very successful hair salons in Michigan, so I grew up with an entrepreneurial family. And then just an interesting concept with my mom being deaf, it’s ironic she doesn’t sign she can read lips. And her being in such an [00:11:00] environment where there’s blow dryers and conversation and loud environment, she ended up having the cochlear implant many times. But I think it really stemmed, I’m the oldest of three kids, and it really stemmed from growing up with them and seeing my mom really make an impact. I mean, she learned how to teach aerobics and do things that you would think that a deaf person could not do. And then they were pretty hardcore too. I mean, I remember packing bags. I mean, you guys call it – I don’t know if you guys had Sam’s Club, remember that? The big Costco. You know, working at a young age, saving my money. I mean, certainly other people have contributed to my leadership over the years, but I think it really started there.

Brad: Well, that’s great understanding that, that background. So obviously you had your parents and actually your focus on your mom and the leadership. But what did you learn? Like, what did you learn from becoming a leader once you started being one?

Terri: Yeah, I would say, look, first and foremost, just having [00:12:00] a true passion and desire for whatever it is that you’re doing. Really being able to lead by example, being agile and adaptable. It was really the form of the hustle because we didn’t have a choice. My parents didn’t go to college. They were hairdressers. And so, it was also starting working young. I mean, I think I was working at 14 or 15. As much as I hated it, I was able to buy my own car at 16. And they made me save all my money. They took it all, and I hated it. But in the long run, it taught me responsibility. And it also allowed me where there was moments I questioned, why don’t my parents push me to go to college because they didn’t. And I had to really kind of navigate those waters and figure it out for myself. I wanted something bigger and better. And even though they were successful, I wanted more. But they pushed me with those, I think [00:13:00] just the morals we grew up with, the moral compass.

Brad: It’s almost like you learned a hustle leadership style from an early age.

Terri: Yeah. I did. I definitely did.

Brad: And did you feel like that influenced you, like in school as well? Did you have a…?

Terri: Yeah, I mean, I was captain of the cheerleading squad, I played softball and I was very athletic. I also – you guys aren’t be no surprise. Like what you see is what you get with me. Like, there’s just no bullshit. I’m very transparent. Like, I go after what I want, but I have worked very hard to earn that. It wasn’t always easy, for sure. Did

Brad: You have, besides your mom, other people who you can look back at and say, oh, this person mentored me for this or that, that you can say, well, I learned a lot from them as you’re leaving college and joining other organizations.

Terri: Yes, when I [00:14:00] got promoted to my first director position for a company called EMD Serogo, which was based in Boston. It’s a big endocrinology company. I had 20 states, literally over $20 million, and I was the rep who got promoted into that region at 32. And I had a guy, his name’s Mo Olivier, he lived in Rhode Island. He had a PhD, and the company actually hired him to coach me; to coach me in leadership to taking on this big, huge role. And to this day, he is in my life, he’s like a father figure, grandfather figure to me. Because I ended up having to fire that entire team and start over. And they were people that were my peers. So I was thrown into very difficult situations fast, and yet being responsible for a $20 million region that I had to continue, while I proved myself as the [00:15:00] account manager, how was I going to step into that and lead other people?

Michael: You were 32 at the time when all this happened? That’s amazing.

Terri: Yes.

Michael: First of all, how did you recognize that you needed to get rid of your team? And then from a leadership perspective, how did you go about kind of identifying that and then having taking the steps to make that bold change?

Terri: Yeah. You know, we were selling human growth hormone to pediatric endocrinologists with kids that had a short stature, so we all called on children’s hospitals. The regions and the territories were large, very different than in aesthetic territory. And I loved this topic so much because I think sometimes being a female and in what was a very male dominated space, I have had to really work [00:16:00] hard and prove myself and have the misconceptions, oh, she’s blonde and she’s ben-bowey, you know. But shake my hand, like, that’s not who I am. And I’ve worked really hard to again, prove my worth. And so I think my success as being a rep, managing the territory, I could lead by example and say that this is what really works. And for those of you that are subpar in your sales goals, why? And there was also a lot of drama and naysay, and he said, she said, and why did she get promoted? And all of that. And I think [16:38] that, and I just said that I wanted the job. I mean, I was striving to earn a management director position, but I was not willing to settle for mediocrity, not if it was going to be under my responsibility. So it was what we did. And it was the best thing, and I still do it to this day.

I worked with Mo, and one of the things that we did, [00:17:00] we can talk about personality tests, but how would I manage a region of people when they don’t really know me? They might see me hitting goals and making money, but they don’t know who I’m, and so he formulated a list of questions, very raw questions, like what makes me happy? What makes me mad? Like, how do I like to be worked with or communicated with? And there was a whole host of questions, and we went to a hotel for two days, and it was almost like trial by fire. I stood up in front of a room as vulnerable and raw as I could be. They got to ask me anything that they wanted. And what it did was it almost just like we all got naked with each other really. We peeled back the onion to say like, this is exactly who she is and who she’s not. So by the time we left, them having the ability to work, not just for me, but with me was like, God, we believe in her and now we understand [00:18:00] there’s no gray area. And that was just something that has resonated with me my whole career.

Brad: That’s very powerful story. So just thinking through that, was that the day in which you realized that you did have to terminate all these people? Was that one of your worst leadership experiences? Or were there other individuals you can point to that you worked under that was horrible too? Yeah,

Terri: I mean, that was definitely one. It was, again, coming into something new and having to do that and then rebuild the team. On one hand, it’s exciting that you get to hire people that are going to support you from the get go. It was another to feel the stress of a big number in a very, very large organization, where I’ve probably sacrificed certain things in my personal life for that. But that was one of them. And the other very impactful story in my life was that prior to me [00:19:00] getting the director position before I got it, there was a different manager that I reported to, an African American woman who did not come from the medical space at all. She came from managing in a different environment. And it was a, it was a racial issue that she had with me. Even though I was literally surpassing my goal, 110% to plan, all the clients, everything was there, my reviews were bad. And I struggled with how do I handle it? And it was a jealousy thing and whatever her reasons were.

And I remember being at a big national sales meeting, and it was very close. I always stepped up to take on an additional initiatives and projects and work conferences. The company was based in Boston, I was here in LA, [00:20:00] and they were like, “Why is Terri so quiet? She’s never quiet.” I just kind of cut my head down and mine did my own business. And I remember it was like a cocktail event at night. And the CEO at the time said, can I just pull you aside? And at that point, I thought I really had nothing to lose because I was either going to quit or just speak the truth. And everyone knew, so I did. I said what I had to say. And he called a meeting in a room that night during the cocktail hour, and the next day she was fired, and a week later I got her job. I got the job. I think that was hard to have to go through. And I’m sure many people face that. You either really have good managers or leaders you work with, or it’s a very bad experience.

Michael: I would think too, in sales, because that’s where you grew up, that it’s a pretty intense pressurized expectations. And I would imagine you’ve seen [00:21:00] all types of kind of leadership from the different managers that you’ve had.

Terri: Oh, you have no idea. And it’s sad, really. I mean, no, really, because part of it is, one thing to want, it’s one thing to be an excellent rep or account manager, whatever title you want to give them. It’s one thing to hustle, make money and be in that top 10%, 5%. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have the right leadership skills to move into a leadership role and manage other people. It’s different. And I’ve been super blessed that I would always try real hard to let my team know. If money motivates you, and you are happy doing that, amen, you should stay there. But if you want to excel, but it’s a different thing. You take two steps back, you don’t make as much money. You don’t. You take two steps back, you reduce your salary, but you have sort of an obligation and a desire and a passion to want to help others. And when you do, then you start seeing them excel. And for me, [00:22:00] that was a big part of what I had wanted. And then you see people, again, when we’re talking about the ride alongs, they’re riding along your car, but not contributing to anything that’s going to help you grow in your business.

Brad: Yeah. And obviously we can tell your leadership style as Michael said, is the hustler, which is is so true as we know you so well. But taking a kind of step back for our audience, and really again, you have this great history of being in aesthetic market and being a leader in the medical aesthetic industry; what are some of the areas that concerns that others should be mindful of that is often missed that you think this is something as a leader of your organization, this is what you should be concentrating on?

Terri: Oh, I love that question. If you’ve never listened to Brene Brown, there’s strength and vulnerability. And I think that it’s really important trait to have. Lean [00:23:00] into that. You know, we all don’t have to claim to know everything, so I think it’s just being vulnerable and being honest with your leadership style, really identifying what that is and ensuring that the team knows the mission and the vision and the why. I love Simon Sinek, right. The why! Why do we do this? What is your job? And it’s not just about what and how, it’s about why do we do it and the value that somebody can contribute. I think it’s never stop learning. I love working with clients and they can be the best plastic surgeons or running top medical spas, but there’s no glass ceiling of education, so never stop learning, and certainly inspiring confidence in your team and being agile and adaptable.

Brad: That’s great.

Michael: Awesome. Well, I can’t believe it, but we’ve already reached the end of our time together. It flew by as it usually does. Terri, thank you so much for joining us. Brad, we can go into commercial and other [00:24:00] side do a quick legal wrap up from our discussion today.

Brad: Yeah. Thank you, Terri.

Terri: Thank you both so much. Really such an honor to always share this time with you and I hope you guys enjoyed it.

Brad: We did.

Michael: Absolutely. Thanks Terri.

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Brad: Welcome back to Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto. I’m your host, Brad Adatto, with my co-host, Michael Byrd. Now Michael, this season, our theme is Leadership. And boy, we had a – I don’t know if we can say badass [00:25:00] but we had a Og hustler, Terri Ross joining us. And what a very powerful story how she was able to open up and really share her experience as growing up in a house with leaders. But more importantly, she dressed how hard it can be to be a leader. Everybody wants to be the leader, and sometimes they don’t realize hard decisions have to be made. And one thing I found fascinating was, first standing up for herself. That’s a great leader. But secondly, once she took over a team, she realized it wasn’t the right team to continue the growth of the vision of the company, and she had to make some really hard decisions by letting people go. And I thought maybe for our audience, we could talk about from the legal perspective, things to consider when you unfortunately do have to let an employee go.

Michael: Yeah. I mean, it’s so true. You have oftentimes being a leader, you’ll make a decision that will collide with legal implications. And to your point, Brad, here we go. She was going to fire an entire team. And [00:26:00] once you have your own team, there’s an employment side of it, of hiring in the right way and developing your processes to recruit and make sure you get the right team in. But she didn’t have that choice here.

Brad: Yeah.

Michael: So then it comes down to firing, and there’s any number of considerations when you start to go down that road. First and foremost, you have to figure out, do the employees have employment agreements?

Brad: Yeah.

Michael: And they may very well. These were salespeople, and so there’s implications that go with that. And then for the company, I’m sure they have an employee handbook.

Brad: Absolutely.

Michael: And is there processes that have to be filed or followed on that front?

Brad: Followed, then filed.

Michael: Yes. And then finally what does the employee file show to that? I mean, if she walks in and thinks that [00:27:00] they’re dead weight, but they have all these history of reviews that show they were five star, the best employees that can create risk for an organization. And so, having a well-documented file and also looking at it when you’re making as a leader, a decision on how to terminate an employee becomes so important. And then there’s various labor laws out there that can influence risk for a business that if someone’s in a protected class, that can create some risk as well.

Brad: Yeah. And I think the last piece, I’ll add, all great points is, if you do, once you figure all those things out and then you do decide to terminate or separate from this person, what do you do at that moment? Do you just let them go? Do you say, because of all these state laws or federal laws, or protected class, or you enter some type of severance agreement to help kind of buy them out of that employment agreement at the same time, buy yourself some protection. So there’s a lot of processes [00:28:00] that you have to go through as a leader, not just to pull the trigger but to think through each one of those steps before you get there. Well, Michael, I mean, all those are, you know hopefully our audience realize that it’s tough being a leader and you had to take a lot into consideration, but I’d love as we close out the show, what are some of your final thoughts today?

Michael: Yeah. I really appreciated how Terri kind of leaned into her vulnerability. First of all, she showed it.

Brad: Absolutely.

Michael: As you saw, just sharing about her childhood and how leadership kind of came to her through her family and her family circumstances, but then she talked about it as well. And I think there is something to being relatable and being able to connect with the people that you’re leading that she tapped into. And that is, again, we’re talking about employees that you’re trying to hire and keep and hopefully not have to fire. And I think that goes a long way if you’ve got good leadership [00:29:00] and you’ve got that vulnerability that she spoke about.

Brad: Audience members, we will see you next Wednesday when we bring on Jessica and Melissa from Bodify who are going to help come in and talk about their leadership styles. Thanks again for joining us today. And remember, if you like this episode, please subscribe, make sure to give us a five star rating and share with your friends.

Michael: You can also sign up for the ByrdAdatto newsletter by going to our website at byrdadatto.com.

Outro: ByrdAdatto is providing this podcast as a public service. This podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast does not constitute legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by ByrdAdatto. The views expressed by guests are their own, and their appearance on the program does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. Please consult with an attorney on your legal issues.

ByrdAdatto founding partner Michael Byrd

Michael S. Byrd

ByrdAdatto Founding Partner Bradford E. Adatto

Bradford E. Adatto