In this episode, Michael and Brad are joined by Amir Mortazavi, the CEO and founder of Vitalyc MedSpa. Amir shares his proudest business strategies, and lessons learned as an entrepreneur navigating the health care industry.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 the Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto. I’m your host Brad Adatto with my cohost Michael Byrd.
Michael: Thanks Brad. As a business and healthcare firm, we represent clients in multiple sectors and multiple specialties, especially healthcare. Obviously. This season we are searching for common ground for our audience, and we’ll be bringing in many guests to help us. This season’s theme is The Universal Language – Business.
Brad: You know, Michael in Texas you would call it business.
Michael: It seems like there has to be a segment where you are speaking a different language, Brad. So I guess this week is Texan?
Michael: Okay, well, let’s move on. I want to talk [00:01:00] today about something even more interesting than your language. It doesn’t take much. The discipline of practice.
Brad: You want to talk about the discipline of practice? No one likes to practice, Michael. I’m pretty sure they don’t even want to hear about it. So we do want people to listen. Why are you asking about practice?
Michael: Well stay with me, Brad. So without practice, it would not look so easy when I beat you at whatever competition we’ve drummed up. And yes, sure. I would beat you even without practice, but it would not look so easy.
Brad: Riley, I’m really worried about Michael today. Did you notice if he was doing some whiskey shots before he came in here? He does sound a little delusional to me. Riley’s agreeing with me. So you do sound delusional, Michael.
Michael: It’s just quiet confidence, Brad. Except without the quiet, of course.
Michael: So Brad, you have heard the expression practice makes perfect.
Brad: Yes. Practice, practice, Michael.
Michael: Yeah, well [00:02:00] when I played tennis back in the day, that’s actually a real sport. I had it drilled into my brain with my first tennis coach that no, that’s not correct. He would say perfect practice makes perfect. And it actually affects my mindset to this day.
Brad: And when you were saying tennis coach, did you mean to bring up your typing coach since you went to state in typing?
Michael: That’s a different episode. We could do a full two hour special on my typing skills.
Brad: Mad typing skills audience. If we are talking about practice, I was a football player, and so good, as you probably know that I was being recruited to play in college, but that’s a whole other story, Michael. But our coach basically wanted to make practice miserable because they wanted to prepare you for game day. And so that’s the one thing I always remembered was that if you practice harder during practice, if you practice harder than the actual game, that the games were actually easier.
Michael: Okay. Well, I’m feeling that uncle Rico feeling again for you over there. You could have [00:03:00] won state I’m sure Brad. Yes, we know. Do you know who said this quote? “Taking on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse, isn’t it? If you’re comfortable while you’re doing it, you’re probably doing it wrong.”
Brad: Sounds like a phenomenal motivator. And I’m assuming we’re going back to one of our favorite TV shows, Ted Lasso.
Michael: Yes, this is not our first Ted Lasso reference on our show.
Brad: Yes. And for our audience members who did not listen to the last time we talked about Ted Lasso, it’s an Apple TV show. He’s a college football coach who gets hired by an English premier league football club. AKA in America, soccer. Ted is a super kind hearted, great guy who has great vision, but all these awesome quotes. So we enjoy Ted Lasso quotes around here.
Michael: Yeah, and the best image for the benefits of practice for me are if you think about in baseball, those batting weights that baseball players put on their bats [00:04:00] when they’re on deck.
Brad: Michael, I don’t know if people still watch baseball. The last time I checked a baseball game was like three or four days. But use of vocabulary words, so you know I like to make people define. What are batting weights?
Michael: Fair point, fair point about baseball. Especially because they may now be playing at all this season, but who knows by the time this airs. I think everyone can picture it, they look like doughnuts and they put on the end of the bat. I actually Googled it to see what the quoted benefits are other than the obvious. And there was an article. There’s multiple reasons that these batting weights are good for your swing.
Brad: Like when you hit the ball, it feels lighter?
Michael: Well, that’s the one that I think intuitively all know, but it also said that it helps you build your batting swing muscles. It helps you loosen up your muscles. And they say it’s great for batting practice to practice your mechanics with one of these.
Brad: All right. Well, I appreciate all of the baseball talk I’ll have this [00:05:00] year. And I’m hoping our audience is not tuned out thinking they’re listening to some sports radio since we’re talking about tennis, typing, and now batting. And hopefully our guest today is not a baseball player, or we’re not throwing shade at anyone who is a baseball fan. So that’s not what we’re trying to say.
Michael: I can’t say for sure, he’s pretty athletic. Our guest today is our friend and client, Amir Mortazavi.
Amir: Hey guys!
Michael: Hello! I’m glad you’re here. Amir is a great example of running his first healthcare business with the proverbial bat weight before getting into the medical spa world.
Brad: Alright. You have to tell the audience what you mean by that.
Michael: Well, certain types of healthcare are the heaviest from a regulatory perspective. Amir learned how to navigate healthcare with all of those regulations. And so compliance in elective medicine feels like you took the batter weight off the bat when you get into it.
Brad: Well, okay, Michael, so you’ve referenced Amir. And [00:06:00] for our audience members, Amir, if you were watching the video, is a good looking boy. So I definitely recommend you go to the video and see. We finally got a pretty face.
Michael: We ran them all off when it was just the two of us.
Brad: Yes, and more importantly, Amir is our first guest ever who is actually going to be here live in studio with us because obviously we started our show during COVID so we’re happy to have him. But Michael, why don’t you give Amir’s background before we fully bring him in.
Michael: Amir is a reformed CPA. He’s the CEO and founder of Vitalyc where he leads the company’s expansion and overall strategy. He’s spent the last 12 years leading companies. He sold three of his companies to private equity. And as I mentioned, he has extensive experience in the healthcare industry.
Brad: Welcome, Amir.
Amir: Thank you guys. What a warm introduction. I think I need to record this and send it to my wife so she realizes who she is yelling at.
Brad: I’m sure you’re like, and they think I’m good looking too, honey.
Amir: No, no, she definitely [00:07:00] thinks I am good looking. Annoying more.
Michael: Well, so did that analogy fit?
Amir: I think so. You know, when I got into health care it was 2007 and it was by accident. So I had left public accounting and I was working in advertising sales. And I had invested into a healthcare company kind of as a passive investor and it was a skilled nursing and physical therapy company, home health care for all intensive purposes. So I wasn’t really involved, you know, put some money in. We had an operations team that was running it, well they didn’t do a very good job and that doesn’t work for me. So, you know, got real hands-on. The only thing that I knew about healthcare is that my father is a cardiologist.
Brad: We understand that world well.
Amir: Call [00:08:00] him if you know, someone has a heart attack or a stroke, but I mean I didn’t know anything about the rules or regulations. And when you start out in a predominantly Medicare business you learn everything super-fast. I mean, there there’s no gray area. It’s all black and white. And in that business we’re caring for generally elderly people that are rehabbing. So not to be confused with hospice, which is end of life. This is like rehabilitation. And home health held a very special place in my heart. My grandfather was able to come to my college graduation because of home health care providers. So I just knew that it was something that I could really sink my teeth into and get passionate about. But the landscape from a regulatory perspective was wrought with fraud. It had the taskforce going after a new company. I started this business in San Antonio, Texas. [00:09:00] So probably one of the more gentle markets in terms of like health care fraud, but still there was a lot of it going on. So everybody had to kind of wear these black eyes from the industry. Not because we did anything wrong, but because so many others were committing fraud. There was a big case in Dallas that you guys remember Jacques Roy, right? That was like was a billion dollar healthcare fraud in home care. And that sent ripples throughout the industry. And, you know, we never participated in any theatrics like that. We never had medical directors, we never paid for referrals. It wasn’t anything like that, but you felt it in that small community in San Antonio and that’s kind of where I would say I took my licks and kept on ticking. You know, we had to build a business strictly based on service, strictly based on the customer experience. You’re [00:10:00] competing with publicly traded companies that have a lot more sales reps than you and you just have to do a really good job. So learned how to kind of focus on the client first and do things that other home care agencies wouldn’t do like go to the outskirts of town, the equivalent of Prosper or Sherman, and start from the outside work in. Everybody wants clients that are in the city, but you got to start where you can get clients.
Michael: So I’m curious, like with it not being as heavy, the fraud in San Antonio, did you confront from a competition perspective, having to go up against people that were doing it illegally?
Amir: Absolutely. And one of the things that nobody knew at the time was a 1099 labor. And they didn’t understand how the relationship between 1099 labor [00:11:00] and a company that build federal health plans. Now we had some commercial insurance, some of the major. But most of our business was Medicare, and other companies, small companies, none of the big players, but they were paying people kind of carte blanche for referrals, essentially. The rep, not the doctor, right. And we tried to do that. Our lawyer said, no we can’t.
Brad: Good answer.
Amir: Absolutely not. And so now we’re going to these reps saying hey, you shouldn’t be doing this. And now we’re policing. We just stop trying to do that and we just did our own thing, you know, focused on our business, focused on what we can control.
Brad: So did you ever have the moment when you’re like, why did I get into this?
Amir: A couple of times. You know, and not for the reasons that we’ve been discussing before. I was mid-twenties, mid to [00:12:00] late twenties and I was kind of a hothead back then. And I was dealing in a workforce much like I am now that’s predominantly women and that didn’t go over too well. So I remember I called my mom and I said, hey, I’m having some issues like dealing with the female workforce, what should I do? She said, you need to listen, Son. Pretty much gave me my script for the next 20 years of my life, because now I just listen. I have a little couch in my office. Tell me your problems, how can I help? Sometimes there was nothing I can do to help. They just wanted me to listen. But yes, the landscape in that business got kind of strange because they were doing RAC audits and all these different audits for no reason. Like it wasn’t utilization, you didn’t hit any P or RAC [00:13:00] audit. It was none of that, it was just because they could. And it’s very hard to operate a business that’s, you know, 60% labor based if they turn off the faucet. So we did well with it. You know, we grew it to about three locations, sold it. So I mean, it was a good four and a half year run, but learned a lot of totally invaluable lessons, took it all across south Texas. So it was a learning experience.
Brad: Let’s talk about some of those experiences. So you have all this background and experience in one part of the healthcare industry. Tell our audience how you took that and applied it to the aesthetic or the med spa space.
Amir: Sure. You know, that business, I told you, it was totally by accident, right? So there’s nothing deliberate about it. Once I got involved, you know, obviously tried to learn, be a sponge, learn from the best in the industry. But what I learned from that experience was you have to start with a foundation for success [00:14:00] and that’s the business structure. Making sure that it’s compliant, making sure that its tax efficient. One example I’ll give you in home care, you have to be licensed in each county. And they don’t say that and they don’t pay you if you’re not licensed in the county. So if you’re on like a county line of say, like Collin County and Tarrant County, for example, and the person lives on the other side of the county that you went and served. You’re in violation of CMS guidelines. We didn’t know that. So we asked for forgiveness and they were pretty cool about it. Didn’t want to do that this time around. So I did years and years of research, as you guys know. I came and started talking to you in 2017 when I was thinking about getting into this business. And setting up that foundation for success, not just the corporate structure, not just the right team, learning about the services, really becoming a kind of student and going to all the conferences. I was [00:15:00] telling both of you guys at AmSpa that it was crazy for me to go back having gone to the first AmSpa conference. Was it 2018?
Brad: We like to call it the prequel since I wasn’t there.
Amir: Just how it’s grown. I mean, I felt like I was there for that growth because I’d been back to one before the Aria, before COVID, but I hadn’t been back since. So it was just having the things in place, learning about the different treatments, learning about techniques and providers. Now I don’t treat people, but I hire people to treat. Knowing the right questions to ask, and how to verify them, how to validate their training, how to do injection observations with your trainers with the plastic surgeon to make sure that they’re doing it right. I mean, all these things that I would have kind of just ran fast and loose in my twenties now, you know, being in my forties and the little more calculated. And I know what’s [00:16:00] at stake now because we’re still a medical practice. We’re still helping people, but we’re doing so in a way that is at their choice and we’re not dealing with insurance companies, we’re not dealing with any government payer, but we treat it the same. We treat it like it wasn’t a federal payer. We treat it like it was CMS regulated because that’s the right way to be. That’s the right way.
Brad: That is a great mentality.
Michael: So talk about some of your lessons learned, even with all this prep work, I’m sure that yall have gained some wisdom the hard way along the way with the med spa world.
Amir: Sure. I took a couple of years to kind of see what I liked and didn’t like about various practices. I was traveling quite a bit in 2016 to 2018, end of 2018 when I signed my first lease. But [00:17:00] one of the things that I noticed was a lot of these practices were like open three and a half days a week, and from like 9:45 to like 4:00, which I’m at work at that time. I don’t know about you guys. Joking, but I mean, the hours were not commensurate with somebody that’s a working professional. Maybe that works for them. It just wasn’t for me. So one of the things I said is like, what can we do that’s different? You know, let’s have extended hours. Let’s open really early in the morning for the people that want to catch us before they dropped the kids off. And let’s be open after 5:00. And right now our hours are 8:00 to 7:00. So 11 hours every day and weekends, you know, let’s be open for when it’s convenient for other people, not when it’s convenient for us. I’ll find the staff. That was my mentality. One of the other kind of gripes I had with the industry was, you know, how do you make an appointment? You pick up the phone and call. Who calls anymore? It was that nausea and it was so frustrating. You get there and they [00:18:00] hand me this disgusting clipboard that’s got paper on it and a pen that has SARS. I mean, like I was grossed out. I said, why can’t they have an app for booking? Like booking an appointment at a medical spa for Botox should be as easy as ordering an Uber. So we created an app that makes booking completely easy. You know, same day treatments like, oh, you have to make an appointment. And like, they’ll all tell you that, oh, we can’t, oh, we’re so busy. You’re not busy. Have the staff so that you can see people that same day. You know, create marketing that will make sure that that funnel is full and be prepared to have that concierge mentality. It’s not on your terms. It’s on their terms. We’re trying to change the industry. We’re trying to democratize aesthetics. You can’t just be open three and a half days a week and only see people six months out. Nope. You’re not going to get any new business or you’re not going to want to grow, which is counterintuitive to me. [00:19:00]
Brad: Well, that makes sense. And so now we’re taking your other business ideas, you’ve kind of applied them. And let’s talk about, for you at least sounds like maybe one of them is this app, or your proudest business strategies or accomplishments that you would have that you just brought into in generally into this industry.
Amir: So one of the muscles that I didn’t get to use much in home healthcare was advertising and marketing.
Brad: Oh, I thought you were going to say typing. Michael’s really good at it.
Amir: Amazing. I’m not. But you know, there’s nothing fun about marketing in home nursing and physical therapy respectfully. But there’s a lot of fun things you can do with Botox, and Emsculpt, and Cool Sculpting, and Juvederm. So using those creative muscles to create content and marketing. And I don’t do it myself. I have a whole team that’s super smart. Social media wizards, and [00:20:00] graphic designers, and artists, and videographers. I mean, you guys have a kind of film studio here and I joke because that’s what our office is. It’s literally a film studio. I mean, we are shooting content constantly. That’s probably the most rewarding because it’s funny, it gets people to think about something different. Like last Thanksgiving, we cool sculpted a turkey, you know, and we said like, bye-bye thighs.
Michael: That is awesome.
Amir: And it was like this whole TikTok dance.
Brad: That is awesome.
Amir: That stuff is fun and engaging. And I mean we could do a whole other podcast just on some of the marketing stuff that we’ve done that I’m super proud of. Like I was noticing that we were getting a lot of primary language, Spanish speaking clients and they were extremely loyal. They were referring us to their friends because the treatments worked and I thought, well, [00:21:00] why aren’t we doing Spanish language advertising? So we started doing Spanish language advertising and the flood gates opened, and it just starts coming in. Like you don’t realize the reach that you have. And we put together all this content and now it’s in different languages. You know, now we have a copywriter in Spanish that’s proofing all of our copies.
Brad: That is so cool.
Amir: And I would say like that’s from my personal favorites, like proudest business moments and strategies. I’m also proud of the training program that we have. So one of the things that I noticed in this industry was that you have a whole lot of newbies, you know, maybe they did some weekend injection course or a laser course or something, but they’re either an esthetician, an RN, an NP, a PA, sometimes even doctors who have zero experience in this industry. So you have a lot of those, and you have a lot of [00:22:00] people that have 10 plus years’ experience, not a whole lot in the middle. There are some, but I’d say that’s the big divide is a lot of newbies, a lot of people that are kind of set in their ways and they’re kind of the industry experts. So if you’re going to grow a company with the growth plan that we have, you’re going to need a constant influx of really sharp providers.
Brad: Yeah especially if you have that much hours open too.
Amir: Yeah so we have to constantly be training people and creating those opportunities for them, whereas nobody would ever hire a nurse out of nursing school or one that came out of med surgery or an esthetician that just got out of school. Like that doesn’t happen. They work front desks somewhere and then they earn their stripes and then they maybe look at an opportunity. We’re creating almost an apprenticeship program where we’re a cycling people, like newbies, like literally just got out of school and training them how the inside of the house works, to how the back of house works, to how [00:23:00] treatment works. And it’s, I mean, we just started it last year and so far it’s, I mean, we’re six months in, but I’m super proud of that. It’s giving us a platform to launch all the locations that we’re opening in Texas.
Michael: Have you found, I mean, you can’t open any article without seeing all the stuff about the great resignation and how difficult it is to recruit. Have you found that it’s helped with recruiting?
Amir: It has, but you know, we also train people on lasers. Like we’re a Sciton center of excellence. We’re doing training constantly. Our clinical director is a Sciton luminary. So we’re doing trainings quarterly with 50, 60 people that are wanting to learn how to fire a laser.
Brad: And are these people working for you or just in general?
Amir: They’re considering being a Sciton clients. They are wanting to learn how to fire a laser [00:24:00] and they’re coming to us to learn that.
Brad: You get to kind of kick the tires with them as they kick the tires with you.
Brad: It’s kind of smart.
Amir: Yeah. So I think in this space, and I’m a firm believer that what’s good for everybody is good for everybody. Like the same way that if something bad happens.
Brad: It goes back to your story about getting the black eyes in the old industry you’re in.
Amir: But if something terrible happens, if there’s an occlusion or if there’s a shark bite from a Cool Sculpting applicator, if it happens for one person, I don’t care what city it’s in. It affects all of us. So my wish is that everyone is providing the highest level of service, the best outcomes, and that’s going to help everybody.
Brad: Totally agree with that.
Amir: And we’re just trying to do what we can in our small little corner of the world to add to that. Create not just content, but programs that can help educate and bring people up that are interested in being in this industry long-term like we are.
Brad: And Amir I want to give a shout out to your [00:25:00] med spas, I don’t think we’ve actually said the name of it for our audience. Tell the audience where can they find your med spa?
Amir: Vitalyc, our flagship location, first location opened in the height of COVID June of 2020, that’s in University Park, so not too far from here. Park Cities location serves pretty much greater Dallas. We have Addison location that just opened in January.
Amir: We have Southlake that’s opening at the end of this month. And then Fort Worth will be opening in September. Looking to sign a lease here in Frisco in the next probably month and a half, and then onto Houston.
Brad: And so for our audience members who don’t know, he’s basically dominating the entire DFW is what he’s basically describing.
Amir: Trying to. Yeah. Dallas is home. We’re going to stick our flag in here. And that was my thesis from the beginning is like, what’s the most competitive city to open one of these? Dallas, Texas. All right, if we can do it here, we can do it anywhere.
Michael: [00:26:00] That’s amazing. Well, I’ll speak for Brad. And we’ve been on a panel with you before that, having your background, your commitment to doing things the right way is really good for the industry. And I’m just so glad that you came on with us today to share. And of course it’s been a pleasure representing you and helping you build. I’m sure we’ll be seeing some leases here soon.
Amir: Yeah absolutely.
Michael: Awesome. Well, what we’ll do next is we’ll go into commercial and on the other side, Brad and I will kind of do a little legal wrap-up on today’s episode.
Brad: Thanks, Amir.
Amir: Thank you guys.
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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 we’re searching for this common ground and our theme is The Universal Language -Business. And we just had a great time. Amir was here with us and so our audience, Amir has left so that Michael and I could talk behind his back. No just kidding, Amir we’re not talking about your back. It was awesome. And we learned a lot about where he comes from, we talked about regulatory implications, everything. But I thought one of the things that was a great takeaway for any business is understanding training and education and how crucial it is no matter what, whether you’re in the healthcare industry or any other kind of a business at all. What are some of your takeaways? Just again, focusing on the legal side [00:28:00] of that, that our audience should consider.
Michael: So, you know, any business, including us, we invest a ton into training and education and it’s so that you’ll be a better workplace and you’ll have a stronger team and all those business reasons. As a business you have to think about, okay, if we’re going to do this, how do we make sure we retain the people that work here because of all this investment we’re making in them. And that’s where the legal comes in. And that’s where you have to think about, you know, are we going to have a carrot or a stick, or a carrot and a stick approach? And what I mean by that is a carrot approach is okay, well we’re going to incentivize them by letting them know that we’re going to provide training and education. And that’s a benefit that they’ll get here. We may even create some incentive financial programs to keep them in financially. For higher level executives, it may even be equity in some [00:29:00] level or stock options or something like that. And then of course the stick approach is are we going to have restrictive covenants like non-competes and if we’re going out of pocket for training, are we going to make them pay us back if they leave? And there are state by state issues that go with that on how you can do it, if you can do it. But any business that is looking to implement these types of programs, should consider how are they going to incentivize or disincentive people from, incentivize them to stay or disincentive them from leaving.
Brad: Yeah and I think the important takeaway for that is for our audience to think of as if you are going to build out this robust training program, obviously it’s for the benefit of your business and obviously your customers, whether or not they’re patients or not, but you also need to make it a [00:30:00] benefit of your business. And the best way to do that is having one or both those programs, whether either you have the carrot or the stick. And if you don’t do it, no matter how great your training program will be, if it’s just a revolving door, you’re never going to be able to scale, which is what Amir had talked about, your business without having some ability to protect that key ingredient, which is certain key staff members. But, you know, Michael we’re almost out of time today and I’d love just any final thoughts you have before we leave for the day.
Michael: Yeah, we started the day talking about practice and listening to Amir talk about the practice or the prep work he did before he even opened a spa. The amount of research he did is so key, and I would just encourage anyone in any business to do the planning and the work to prepare yourself for success. And if you do that, then you too can beat Brad at anything without much effort. [00:31:00]
Brad: Ha-ha fake news. All right, audience, loved today’s episode. Next Wednesday’s show we have CEO and founder of MedSpa Partners, Dominic Mazzone who will be joining us. So cannot wait for that episode!
Outro: Thanks again for joining us today. And remember, if you liked this episode, please subscribe. Make sure to give us a five- star rating and share with your friends. You can also sign up for the ByrdAdatto newsletter by going to our website at byrdadatto.com. 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. [00:32:00]