As the founder of the American Med Spa Association (AmSpa) and the managing partner for ByrdAdatto’s Chicago office, guest Alex Thiersch’s entrepreneurial spirit has helped him create his own path in business and health care. Tune in as Alex shares the importance of taking risk to find success.
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 123’s with ByrdAdatto. I am your host Brad Adatto with my cohost Michael Byrd.
Michael: As a business and healthcare law firm, we represent clients in multiple sectors and multiple specialties, especially healthcare. This season, we are searching for common ground for our diverse audience, and we will be bringing in many guests to help us. This season’s theme is the universal language, business.
Brad: That’s awesome. Michael fun fact today’s guests is our first three peat on our podcast.
Michael: Speaking of three-peat Brad, I have an interesting story about the NBA and the history behind the three-peat. It actually connects to our guest’s two passions, the [00:01:00] Chicago bulls and the law.
Brad: All right. I’m thinking the law might be a little bit of a stretch to call a passion of his, but I’ll allow it for right now.
Michael: Fair point, but he does think compliance is cool.
Brad: Actually he thinks compliances, hashtag compliance is cool. And I think he has it tattooed on his biceps. So tell me about how the NBA and the law are combined here.
Michael: So there’ve been a half a dozen teams in the NBA to win three championships in a row. Half of them were coached by Phil Jackson and two are for the Chicago bulls. He had his third three-peat with Kobe and the Lakers.
Brad: All right, Michael, I think we made our first major mistake of our podcasts in all those seasons. We should not have mentioned the Chicago bulls. Our guests is probably now salivating thinking we’re going to be talking about air Jordan, AKA Michael Jordan, for the rest of the show, I don’t even know. All right. All right. Let’s get back to what you said though. What does the law have to do with three-peat?
Michael: That’s a great question. Back in the late [00:02:00] eighties, Pat Riley with the Lakers had won two championships in a row for the Lakers and he went ahead and trademarked the term, three-peat.
Brad: Whoa, wait. Three-peat. First off, I can’t imagine trademarking three-peat. That’s kind of funny. Second, talk about confidence in his team and it’s won two, and he’s already trademarking the third before he even won the championship. For our young audience who probably don’t know who the hell Pat Riley is, he was a very dominant coach before Phil Jackson arrived. Back then Pat was running the Lakers known as the Showtime era.
Michael: Yeah, they had Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. They were the team of the eighties. Them and the Celtics duked it out. The Lakers actually lost the next season when trying for their three-peat. So the trademark by Pat Riley didn’t actually end up making a bunch of news however, [00:03:00] a few short years later, the bulls had a three-peat.
Brad: All right. So how does that work with Pat Riley owning the trademark?
Michael: Well, according to my deep research by Googling it, he made licensing fees every time a bulls fan buys a shirt with a three-peat on it, or anyone buys a shirt printed with a three-peat on it. Apparently he made over $300,000 in licensing fees off the first three-peat. I couldn’t find anything on the internet about how much he made when the bulls did it again, but I can only guess that the price went up.
Brad: Oh man, well, do you know if he ever trademarked four-peat? Cause if not, I think we should jump on it. All right. Before he files for new marks let’s bring on our mystery guest. Who do we have this week?
Michael: We’re joined this week by our law partner, Alex Thiersch.
Brad: He looks familiar.
Michael: He is a three-peat. He is a [00:04:00] bulls fan. Perhaps a little less important, but still important, he’s the founder of the American Med Spa Association. He’s the managing partner of the ByrdAdatto Chicago office. He graduated from University of Iowa, went to DePaul university college of law. He was an employment lawyer early in his career before coming to the light and practicing in the healthcare world with the little employment twist and then finding AMSPA. He has his own podcast called the medical spa insider, married to his wife, Tony, passionate about dogs and Michael Jordan and I guess the law. Is that true?
Brad: Well, Alex, welcome.
Alex: Hey, it’s great to be here on the three-peat podcast. I can’t wait to jump into which team is better, the [00:05:00] 91 through 93 bulls or the 96 through 98 bulls. I think that’ll make for a great conversation. I personally think the first bulls team was better, which is kind of an opinion that not many people share, but I’ll stick by it.
Michael: Oh, fair enough. I guess technically, if we were to make up a shirt to celebrate this three-peat of you being the third time on our podcast, we would have to pay licensing fees to Pat Riley.
Alex: Do it. It’s totally worth it. It’s totally worth it.
Michael: We’d make a lot off of it.
Brad: I mean, I thought the real question was how much money of that $300,000 was Alex’s alone with the number of three-peat jerseys he’s bought.
Alex: Well, Michael, you can just pay him in cash and they’ll be fine.
Michael: All right, well, so this is your third time on, so people have heard you were on our very first episode that we had back at the beginning of our podcast. So people may have heard your background before, but we’re trying to connect these common themes and you [00:06:00] have obviously run law firms. You’ve run a trade association. Tell us a little bit more, kind of your professional story.
Alex: Well, first of all, thanks for having me back on. I’m honored to be the first three-peat guest. I’m not even sure what to say about that. Super-duper, duper excited. By the way, you guys are so professional and like practiced in your opening. It makes me feel very, very incompetent because on mine, I’m nothing like that. It’s just kind of jibber, jabber. I spit, I stutter. You guys are on point, but anyway enough about you let’s talk about me, right?
Alex: I like to say I’m a recovering lawyer, which is not entirely true because I am still in fact licensed and I do now and again, brush off the law books and, practice a little bit. Basically my story is I kind of stumbled on to the med spa industry [00:07:00] going on 15 years ago, with a client of mine that I got when I opened my own practice. I kind of found out what this industry was all about. Most importantly, I found out that not only was it an incredibly lucrative and quickly growing industry, but also it was just kind of bare and there were no resources for these folks to rely upon. There were a lot of people who were practicing and doing things illegally and they were doing it unwittingly. They had no idea where to go or how to find it. So that was the Genesis of AMSPA. Our desire to summarize as best we could and provide guidance to med spas and med spa owners on how to operate compliantly and correctly and safely. Sometimes you’re just in the right time at the right place with the right product and off it went and kind of [00:08:00] the rest is history. Of course, at some point I met you two fine fellows and that really is what made it click. There’s a bunch of steps in between the basically where we are now, AMSPA, we are inching up towards 4,000 members, which is going to be very exciting. We, as you guys know, we do the medical spa show. We just had our fifth annual medical special last January, our next one’s coming up end of January, 2023 at the fabulous Wind Hotel and Casino. We do a bunch of other stuff, boot camps to train folks on business and the law, webinars. I mean everything. If you want to get in the industry or if you are in the industry and you need help, that’s what we do.
Michael: And fun fact what was the original name of your trade association? Was it the Illinois?
Alex: Oh, yes. Well, yeah, I skipped that step.
Brad: That was so long ago.
Alex: Originally, I had the Illinois med spa association, which was a [00:09:00] fabulously successful, long running multi-billion dollar association that basically failed after 18 months or so. What was good about it was, that was what kind of plugged me into the nationwide need for this association and, you know, everything is trial and error. In that instance, by creating the Illinois association and doing some events and looking at the compliance tools and starting to advertise it, what we discovered very, very quickly was that there were folks from all over the country who needed the same kind of help and ding a light bulb went off and I was like, oh, maybe we could do this in other states too and that’s what happened.
Michael: That’s really smart marketing. If you’re going to go national to change it from Illinois to American.
Alex: Yeah, I’d like to say that was an easy decision, but it took me about six to eight [00:10:00] months of tinkering before I figured out that I could just change the name. I did like the way AMSPA rolled off the tongue, but at the same time, in some ways, at first, that was a bit of a challenge because everyone thought we were just a spa association so that’s why I had to keep writing out the American medical spa association. Solid point, Michael. Solid point.
Brad: Good job, Michael. All right. Now we have this long illustrious career as an attorney and then overnight you become this giant booming success of the Illinois Med Spa Association to eventually become The American Medical Spa Association. One of the things that we’re working on with all our guests this year is really finding what commonalities did you experience from the law practice that you’re applying and then the same thing in the AMSPA world?
Alex: Yeah. Well, a quick caveat, the first law practice I had I [00:11:00] don’t think I really ran it all that well so, that’s one thing. Thankfully I have you two to kind of take most of the burden because I’m not sure I would be that great at running a law practice. I do think in the end, I was thinking about this before we got on, business is business and it’s all very much having an idea and a product that solves some sort of a problem that is part of some sort of a niche that allows you to get clients or customers, whatever you want to call them. And then service those customers and keep those customers. And it doesn’t matter what business you’re in, those are kind of the three components that you always have to come up with: getting them, servicing them and keeping them. A law firm is obviously different in the services you’re providing are very specific to what people [00:12:00] need and it’s much different than what we’re doing, but in the end it’s, and I’ve seen this a lot through what ByrdAdatto has done in the way it’s grown. There’s still the marketing component. There’s still the client relations and client retention component, communication component. All of those are always present in along the same lines. There’s always the absolute need to have some sort of a handle on your numbers as well as the plan. And really those two things often are very interchangeable because the numbers inform the plan and the plan helps to find the numbers. Regardless of what business you’re in, you’ve got to be able to put together what your idea is, put that plan in place and then make sure you have enough money in order to make it work.
Michael: Yeah and then I know just from running businesses with you in the past, you used to sandbag us and talk about [00:13:00] how you were an English major and so you didn’t know the numbers, but even if your role was not directly with putting together profit loss statements, you always had an understanding, enough of an understanding of what the numbers were to help shape whatever vision you were trying to go after.
Alex: Well, that’s gotten a lot better as I’ve gotten older, because at first I had one of my uncles, that I talked to right when I started my own firm, say to me, you should really take like a basic bookkeeping or accounting course, or some sort of just basic finance course, you know? And I was like, ah, what does he know? He’s never done a business. I got this. This is easy. Then within six months, actually within a couple of years of not doing that, I realized he was absolutely right. It’s weird, like with anything [00:14:00] that requires some experience, people tend to have to learn and find out for themselves, right? People can tell you all the time, learn your numbers, do this, do that, but until you get into it and really feel it and experience, it doesn’t make sense. Over the years it’s really started to become apparent to me that if I didn’t get a handle on the numbers, there was no way I was going to succeed or at least succeed at the level that I knew I could. It’s absolutely essential and if I can do it, you can do it because I am really bad at math. Ask my wife, some of the calculations I’ll do like out loud when we’re thinking about something are just pathetically bad. It’s just like, there’s absolutely no way that I could come with that answer. And I come up with it, but luckily we have calculators and Excel and we have people that can help us, but truly anyone who’s looking to start a business that is that is a problem you have to be able to solve.
Brad: So you’re saying numbers matter. [00:15:00]
Alex: Well, they absolutely matter. I mean, really, you have to be able to measure yourself against something and you have to be able to measure what you’re doing in order to see that you’re achieving any goals. And if you’re not measuring, then how are you going to possibly know? And if you don’t know, then there’s no way to adjust. Honestly, there’s really, I’ve always found this, maybe you guys can agree or disagree, but really you’ve got two types of people. You’ve got the people who are kind of like me, who maybe aren’t quite as good at numbers and are good at kind of the idea generation and maybe some of the client gathering and things like that. Then you’ve got the folks who maybe are trained and they’re an MBA. They’re really good at numbers, but they kind of sometimes lack whatever that is to be able to make the idea, become an actual business. You’ve got to be able to [00:16:00] figure out what your strengths are and then find someone else to help you on the other side because most people don’t have both and if they tell you they have both they probably got some real estate to sell you also.
Brad: I agree with you on that. Well, Alex, so let’s talk about one of the proudest business strategies or accomplishments you’ve had in any of the industries that you have been a part of.
Alex: Well, I’ll tell you what, there’s a lot that I could go with. I was just thinking just from expanding to AMSPA from the Illinois Med Spa Association to finding you guys and being able to commit and work something out with you after some of the other firms that I’ve been to. I think the one that I’ll go with was one that you were both involved with tangentially and then became majorly involved with is when we decided, Cathy Christianson and [00:17:00] I decided, Cathy’s our COO, to kind of go all in and do the MedSpa Show, which was at the time, if you were to look at it from just a basic cost benefit analysis standpoint, or if you were on the outside and looking at what we were doing, you probably would have thought we were crazy. We were on the verge of bankrupting our entire company, but the time was right. We just knew we had to do something bigger. We knew we had to do something that if this company was going to grow to where we thought it could, we had to do something big and that’s when we decided just kind of on a whim last minute. I mean, we planned it and executed in I think about six months and it was right after our relationship started. We didn’t have any staff. It was just Cathy and I, and maybe like Allie, Art and Eric, a few other folks. We had like four or five people and we just kind of bootstrapped this thing together in Vegas and it turned out to really be kind of the final, like [00:18:00] rocket booster that has taken AMSPA where it is today. That’s another kind of a specific answer for just being able to recognize when there’s an opportunity and then you’ve got to be able to have the guts and the wherewithal to just do it. Anytime you run a business, there’s risk and you’ve got to be able to accept and take on some risk if you want to be successful. No one is going to be successful by playing it totally safe. You’ve got to just sometimes be like, all right, let’s do it. As you know, that has turned out to be just a huge benefit for the industry and for us and for everybody.
Michael: Brad and I both are probably chomping at the bit to talk because we experienced that risk like real time, because we happened to be with you guys in Vegas when you went to look at the space. Brad and I were looking at each other as we toured the [00:19:00] space, thinking this is absolutely crazy. I mean, this is what grownups do, renting the space, and of course the financial commitment that went with it. It’s just to see, to remember that moment so clearly, and to see what has become of the MedSpa Show and how important it is to the industry is such a huge hat tip to be in bold if you have a vision and you believe in it.
Brad: Yeah, I totally agree. I remember being in the room in Chicago when you pitched it to us, y’all are very methodical as to the why y’all needed to do it. The funny thing is for our audience to understand, up to that point our biggest AMSPA event ever was 50 people I think, or something like that at the most in Dallas, Texas, and you needed 200 people to show up to break even or something like that. If I have that right. [00:20:00] More than that.
Alex: Yeah. We had up to that point, we’d been doing boot camps and normally we’re talking 30 to 35 people and we need one room so there was no real complexity. Michael, to your point, we were like, we’re going to do this big so we went to the Aria, this was a beautiful hotel, beautiful space. Yeah. All these rooms and I’m sitting there going, this is going to cost us how much and how much we needed to get, I think close to 300 people to really make it work. And we did. We didn’t get much more than that, but we got enough and you got to start somewhere.
Michael: So you’re sandbagging. I mean, people were trying to get in that first one because you had to close it off. I mean it was crazy. Brad wouldn’t know because he didn’t bother to show up.
Brad: Well, yeah, that didn’t really count, the way I always looked at it. That was the warmup since I couldn’t be there for the main event, which now we’re only four years in this coming year will be our fifth.
Alex: [00:21:00] Well, we were going to change the name to the ByrdAdatto show, but now it’s just the Byrd show cause you weren’t there for the first one. Sorry.
Brad: Well, yeah, I mean, I guess looking at the whole history of the time we had spent together with Alex, it has been amazing to watch you with your legal career. It’s obviously, as you said, it’s still operational in that sense with our Chicago office, but to be able to see what the accelerant, as you said, that you were able to put on to the American Medical Spa Association. To wander down the halls of the aria and then now to the Wind, when you’re walking next to Alex, it’s like walking next to a rock star.
Alex: Tell me more, Brad. Tell me more.
Brad: It’s kind of fun to see the people flocked to the Mr. Alex and the most amazing part of all of that is when I was telling everyone, don’t worry, he’ll be a three-peat he’ll join us again on our podcast. That was why we’ll probably have 4,000 people listen to this podcast [00:22:00] alone, just because you joined, you showed up.
Alex: Well, that’s absolutely true. This podcast is really kind of my raison detre, you know? What’s interesting though is, and I’ve seen this with ByrdAdatto and really it’s any business, that there’s always these inflection points that you get to where you’ve come a certain distance, you’ve met whatever goal that you’ve tried to meet and then you kind of have that next step. The question is, are you going to take that step or are you not? Like you guys, you went, took a flyer on AMSPA and on me, which was a huge gamble on your part and it’s like at some point any business is going to have to make that decision. You’re going to come to a point where you’re going to go in one direction or another direction then the fortune favors the brave. I’m always in favor of just go for it.
Brad: Well, I can’t agree more. I mean, that’s [00:23:00] all, some really good points about running a business. There are, unfortunately with all businesses, there’s risk involved and as you said, sometimes you really have to take a big leap. And so you’ve proven that.
Alex: Yeah, well, I mean, again, a lot of this is just knowing what you don’t know. In some sense, the businesses that I see that have failed, or the people that we’ve worked with, who maybe haven’t met it, oftentimes you can point to a point where they just kind of got out over their skis or they thought they knew more than they did, and they didn’t get the help that they needed at the time, or they thought that they could do everything themselves. Then at some point you’ve got to just understand that you can’t do it and there’s things that you need help on. For instance, for the longest time we, Renee Hoover, who was part of the original Illinois med spa association and AMSPA, we were handling all the legal work that came in. We were trying to do everything and it really [00:24:00] wasn’t until we got together and ByrdAdatto, who was able to handle that work, was able to take on and take that burden off of me so that I could run the company fully. That’s a huge, kind of a huge piece of the puzzle that I don’t think we ever talked about enough because without that, without me being able to focus solely and being able to refer people to a law firm, and to lawyers that I knew were competent and understood the industry, AMSPA would not be. We wouldn’t have been able to do the medical spa show. We wouldn’t have been able to do any of this. So it’s kind of cool. It’s a good synergy. So find a good partner too. That’s the other lesson.
Michael: Yep. That’s awesome. Well I can’t believe 25 minutes has flown by, it feels like we just started. So what we’ll do is we’ll say bye to the end of interviewing you for your three-peat and we’ll go into commercial. On other side, we can add any legal insights that we want to add and we’ll look [00:25:00] forward to the four-peat.
Alex: I don’t think four-peat is trademarked. Thanks guys. I appreciate it.
Brad: All right.
Alex: Great job.
Michael: Thank you.
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Brad: Welcome back to Legal 123s with ByrdAdatto. I am your host Brad Adatto with my cohost Michael Byrd. Now Michael, this season we are searching for common [00:26:00] ground. Our theme is three peat. No, I mean the universal language of business, and we had our good friend, our law partner and the founder of American Medical Spa Association, Alex Thiersch on, who again was the first and only, so far, three-peat so it was great having Alex on catching up. It was really good to hear he likes me more than you. That was probably my favorite part of the episode, just go back and listen, you’ll hear it, but he had so many interesting things that he was talking about. I think one of the things that we both kind of took away with, when you’re growing, you start off with one idea, this is who we are, this is where we want to go and it shifts. Also, you’re changing your name, you’re changing everything surrounding it. What things did you put in place to protect either that initial name or the name that he scaled to, American medical spa association? What are the things that our clientele or our audience think about when it comes to these types of marks?
Michael: Yeah and you hear the word trademark and so people think, well, [00:27:00] what is that, I mean, I want some of that. If I go out and trademark four-peat which, by the way, it sounds like Alex just did, then I’m going to make a windfall on licensing fees and obviously, that’s kind of your lottery ticket type example, with the Pat Riley story. Understanding what a trademark is, is probably the place to start. It’s a law, there’s state laws, and then there’s a federal law, that’s the most commonly referenced, governed by the United States patent and trademark office that gives some higher level of protection to people that own superior rights to a name or a brand or their word, a mark. What makes it important is actually having that mark or that brand name and using it. So when he [00:28:00] started using the American Med Spa Association or AMSPA, he was putting a stake in the ground in some way to the world that this is mine and if someone had been using it before him, they would have a superior client potentially over him. That’s a big, important factor. What the trademark process does is it helps you tell the world that I shout out to the world, spread the word that you’ve put this stake in the ground so to speak with whatever your name is and the body of law around it gives you some heightened protections, but it becomes so important. Going back to your question, Brad, when you start developing the strategy and you start developing the name you want to start using it, putting it out into the marketplace. Same when you change your name, you’re kind of starting over. I mean, Illinois med spa association doesn’t [00:29:00] really do anything for AmSpa now so he had to start over at that point in time. That’s the same for any businesses they’re looking at their trade name, their brand, or a certain product.
Brad: Yeah and the steps you go through, there’s a whole process that you go through. As you said, there are state ones, which is great but they only protect you within your own state. If you are planning to do commerce outside of your state, you should definitely look into going to United States patent and trademark office, and going through that process of protecting that mark. Michael, unfortunately I think that’s all the time we’re going to have today. It was really great catching up with Alex. He’s just too much fun. Well, audience guess what? Next week we will be back again, we will have the A team from cosmetic physician partners join us. 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.
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Outro: ByrdAdatto [00:30:00] 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.