Leveraging Category Thinking to Grow the Aesthetic Pie
Ep. 65 - Eddie Yoon
66 minute view/listen
In this captivating episode, author, strategist, founder & creator, Eddie Yoon gives us a taste of his unique brand of thinking and shows us how category science and atypical data sets may just be the key to unlocking a whole new tier of consumer adoption within medical aesthetics. What can we learn from aesthetic super consumers that could unlock a whole new wave of growth for the category? Tune in to find out!
Why is this category aesthetics so transformative and yet so niche at the same time? Boggles the mind, shouldn't be the case. And we think we have the answer.
Dr. Grant Stevens
Hello everyone and welcome back to the Technology of Beauty where I have the opportunity to interview the movers and shakers of the beauty business. And today is no exception. Today you're gonna get to know Mr. Eddie Yoon, who's flown in from Chicago. He is legendary and you're gonna get a chance to know him, see his books, and listened to his thoughts about the aesthetics business and the beauty business, and he's been through it.
So Eddie, thank you very much for coming. Appreciate you coming from Chicago to be with us today on the show. Oh, glad to be here, grant. Thank you. It's so wonderful since the day I met you, I've wanted you on this show, Aaron says hi, hello to Aaron. You bet. So in an effort to get to know you bet. Eddie, tell me where were you born and where'd you go to school?
I was born and raised in Hawaii. Okay. Actually, my parents were immigrants from Korea, so I was about a month from being a Korean citizen to a US citizens. I was right on the dark margin there. I went to the same high school as Barack Obama, Punahou, great private school out there. And I ended up doing my undergraduate at the University of Chicago.
I'd never been to Chicago. I'd been to the mainland once or twice beforehand, and I figured they gave me the most financial aid I should go. That's how I made my decision. And what did you major in? I studied in economics and political science. Not knowing exactly what I wanted to do other than my immigrant parents wanted me to be a professional of some sort.
Econ was a logical choice given the university's history with the econ department Sure. And all the Nobel Prize winners there. But what I found was I liked the blend of political science and econ one of my favorite professors at Chicago was a professor John Meir Shimer, who's of some notoriety now because he's an international relations specialist and he had predicted the Russian invasion of Ukraine some five, 10 years ago, just based on his whole theory of, power dynamics and when a rising power will take preemptive action against another one.
And he, that class that I took from him, wore in the nation state was my first exposure to making a forecast of some sort. Loved it, loved the quantitative nature of economics. And so what the, my senior thesis that I wrote, I still remember, was the future of the Chinese automobile industry.
Very nichey. In particular, my thesis was, you had seen already the Japanese take over the auto industry. The Koreans were coming up. But what needed to be true for China to work was the capital markets had to be there. It wasn't so much about the companies and the engineers, but state run enterprises don't really work.
You need to foster entrepreneurialism, capital markets have to work. And, I'm some 30 years later, like it's now finally coming. True. You have Tesla, you have B y d, and a whole bunch of Chinese automakers that are likely to be the future alongside Tesla. So did you get it right? Mostly right now it, it's still, we have to see we're the mood swings within, Xi Jinping about how capitalist or communist they want to be. So we, we've seen the, Jack MAs of the Alibabas of the world, like they're billionaires and then they disappear. So you don't really know the state of is it good to be a billionaire in China or not, but, the idea that you could become one was very much central to the birth of all of these companies. And I you, I know you ask about crystal balls, I'll give you one right now. Is that okay if general Motors and Ford will may survive, but many of the US automakers will not survive this.
Many of the Japanese ones will not survive it. If you believe that some of the German ones will be relegated to niche luxury brands, but you're gonna see Chinese automobile companies and Tesla, maybe Ford, but that's gonna be about it for the future of the car industry. So I think. I didn't get the specific brands right.
But the idea that capital markets are key to creating incentives for entrepreneurialism, which is the key to create new change, that's very much true.
Dr. Grant Stevens
Okay. So I got that right? Yes. Good. Okay. After the University of Chicago, and you got, it was at your bachelor's degree?
That was my bachelor's degree, yeah.
Dr. Grant Stevens
Did you, what did you do next?
I was uncertain of what to do. Many of my friends were going into academia. I had a buddy of mine. He said, Hey, let's try this consulting thing. I said, what's consulting? And thankfully they were interviewing. And that was my first foray into professional services.
I thought I'd be there a few years and go to graduate school of some sort, which is what my parents wanted. Sure. Cuz I, I could not explain what consulting was to my immigrant parents, that's not lawyer, doctor. I'm not sure what you're doing. I'm like I'm doing something right. But I ended up staying and so I, I've been a career consultant.
I've never had a real job, grant. I spent the bulk of my career at the Cambridge Group, which was a growth strategy firm. I was 18 years there, a senior partner there. And we were we sold our firm to Nielsen some 10 years ago and which was great because I got access to a tremendous amount of data.
Yeah. Of what people buy and what people watch. And then so you stayed along? I stayed along with Nielsen through NI Nielsen and was a wonderful experience. Met a whole bunch of great folks cuz Nielsen had gone private and we took that public and the like and, but what was fascinating to me was a couple things.
One was the first nine of my consulting career was working with humongous companies. Anheuser-Busch was a big client of mine that a 48 share of beer in the us. Gillette was a client 70 share of worldwide men shaving. The world record I think is that for me at least is incinerator owned by Emerson Electric had a 93 share of garbage disposals in the us so is you can mathematically, it's not easy to get the 94th SharePoint when you have 93%. And so what began was that was the embryo of my kind of career as a writer thinker in the sense of the traditional ways you grow a business do not work if you have a 93 share. And what that led to was the discovery was that, you know what, 99% of what we call strategy is based on military thinking all comes outta the military.
Competitive strategy is really what we talk about. Strategy. Strategy, it's a lot of definitions for, it's something like how do you allocate scarce resources to higher return? But it's really what it boils down to is we are here, we wanna get there, how do we get there? And traditionally, if you think about it from a military standpoint, is like Grant, you're your general grant.
Now I'm General Eddie. Okay. Is here and there is very clear. I want you to lose so that I can win. Okay. That is not how the business world works, it works in the NFL, it works in the military, but there can be many winners right? In business. And that I, what I have found is that and especially if you're Gillette or Anheiser, the only way to grow really profitably is to make the pie bigger, not focused on splitting the pie, or you create an entirely different pie.
And so that began this whole I can't rely on previous thought leadership because it's based on a set of assumptions that don't make sense in a world that's changing rapidly and technologies all over the place. And my clients eventually shifted to what I call these category creators.
I worked with American girl owned by Mattel, just down the street here. This whole kind of, I, I have two daughters. I have three kids. Had went through the whole like, explain to me like, these American girl dolls are 10 x more than a Barbie. I don't understand that.
And we're going to an American girl store to for what reason? To have a tea party with these, it boggles the mind, but then you realize that it's not a toy company, it's an education company. And it's a company that reframes for a little girl what it means to be a woman and a successful woman.
And you're like, oh, take my credit card on all my money and that's good. Which most businesses struggle to do. I did work with Keurig and one of the most amazing meetings I sat in was with Michelle Stacy who was the president of Keurig, which was, they were off to great start.
They had a number of their own brands. And the question was, do we let Starbucks in the fold or not? , big strategy question. Right? Conventional strategy thinking says, no way, Jose. Competitor. Why would you let Howard Schultz Fox in the henhouse? Category creation thinking is No, we want the pie to be bigger.
For the pie to be bigger, there has to be more abundance and value to the consumer. And so we may lose share, but we're gonna gain a whole lot more users on their platform. And that is exactly what happened. Actually, both came true, was that they let Starbucks in, they let Dunkin in their share went down, but the pie got a whole heck of a lot bigger.
And Howard Schultz, six months later launched their competitive single serve coffee machine. Called Verno. Now, this is instructive for a couple of reasons. One is that being a category creator, you have to be comfortable with atypical thinking and that this idea that we should collaborate versus compete is very foreign to most people.
And he launches his single serve coffee machine fails. Cuz do you have a verus no. Nobody does. No. And it goes to show that no matter how pow, like it's not like Schultz isn't an amazing executive and that Starbucks isn't an amazing company, but copying and competing, not so effective of a strategy as it is to create and to grow enterprise.
So I, I did a whole bunch of work with that. And that led me to realize that, boy, the stuff that we teach aspiring executives and business school students increasingly doctors who wanna learn the business side, a lot of it is wrong. And I can only have so much of an impact, a few clients at a time.
By the time I was a senior partner, I had three junior partners working under me. I had nine clients. And it was just frustrating cuz I liked doing the work. I grew up doing the work and it was too far removed and I was just overseeing it was unhappy. So I, I left actually related to one of the books I'll talk about is my, my middle daughter Audrey, who, when she was in sixth grade I got a call from her email from her English teacher was like, Hey, I had a school assignment daughter the kids were to write a children's book.
You really ought to read what Audrey wrote. I'm like, all right. I open the book. The book is about a yellow balloon that comes to life and relentlessly pursues her workaholic father before he loses his family. And so that, this is the book here, actually it's called Joy, that she wrote. We actually had it published because the moment that I read it I had two questions like, is this about me,
And why? Why is this story in the universe? What am I supposed to do with it? What you're supposed to learn from it, what I'm supposed to learn from it? And what I she actually wrote it very cinematically. You read like a movie script. So I was like, you know what? I knew a guy who ran a children's book publishing company.
I sent the manuscript to him and two questions, it's about you. And then you go, oh, maybe it's about me. And I was like, you know what? This story needs to be out on the world even though it'll probably raise some questions with me. And then there's a whole issue of how do immigrant kid in a professional services environment, you end up being a workaholic.
And there's consequences and there're benefits to that. But the book really led that made that clear. And that was around the same time I was working on my book that you probably know me from Super Consumers published by Harvard Business Review. And those...
Dr. Grant Stevens
Can you give that to me for a second? I just want everyone to see this is an unbelievable book called The Super Consumers. I recommend every one of you read this book.
Thank you. Yes. In both books, what I realized were it allowed me to scale the impact that I had in the world. Okay.
Dr. Grant Stevens
It allowed you to scale the impact that you had in the world.
Yes. Okay. Yes. And that the reason why I stick, you know, I was like why am I still in my career here? And then I love helping companies grow it. It was such a joy to do that and in, in a way where it was atypical and unconventional and it was like, oh, this whole idea of scarcity out the window, you don't have to lose.
For me to win, we can both win. We just have to think differently about it. And what I realized was that consulting, like most professional services, like many academic fields has a strange set of incentives, for me to be successful, you have to perceive me to be smart. Okay? To be smart, I must have some knowledge.
And usually to demonstrate my knowledge, I need to create new words that most people don't understand called jargon. Okay. And the more jargon I have, the smarter I appear to be, and therefore the more I'll pay you, the more. Exactly. And so the problem was that behind all the jargon was.
A very simple set of ideas, like, why did you just say that earlier? This whole idea of super consumers is that there's a small set of people who passionately care about the category, whatever it is. And spend a disproportionate amount. And it's true in every category that this is where my time at Nielsen came into play.
I I had this idea for my consulting career, but I had access to hundreds of categories in hundreds of countries. And it was like, the pattern's always the same. The top 10% drive 30 to 70% of category sales. Now that's in physical products, in digital products it's even more extreme. I'll give you a great example.
The number of video gamers in the world has more than triple than the last eight years, from 50 million to a hundred and, over 150 million. And they're not teenage boys in dark basements playing a hundred dollar consoles, playing violent military games. It's a lot of middle-aged women, many of the clients that come into aesthetics, playing casual games like Candy Crush or Words with friends that have different business models and different pricing mechanisms.
And what you realize is that this whole idea of super consumers, cuz most of these casual games are free, the only way they make money is if you get so addicted that you I just have to spend money to unlock these other things. And so what ends up happening is 0.5% of the consumers in casual gaming drive 50% of the revenue there.
Oh, beat darn. Half a percent. Half a percent. Are they addicted to it? They are is like gambling? It's certainly there are addictive properties of what it is. What I've found is that the reason why people are super in their categories is it's not just that they derive enjoyment to the point of addiction.
It is, they are the MacGyvers of the category. They've figured out that this casual game entertains me, but it provides a use case that no one's ever thought about beforehand. That I derive tremendous value from the rest of my life. In that, what you'll see is that it's I only imagine as a surgeon, you go in, you're looking for something.
Oh, I see these other things that are there. Is that what I always say is a super consumer of one category. This is the most important idea in my book, okay. Is a super consumer of nine other categories, some of which are obvious and some of which are non-obvious. Okay? And all the great strategies are in the non-obvious thinking.
So the example that I write about is I did work for Generac, which is a standby generator company, okay. Hard to sell. It's seven, the $15,000. You have to talk about the power going out related often to a bad weather event, bad stuff. And I want you to spend a lot of money on something that you may never use. Not easy.
Dr. Grant Stevens
Like for here, it's earthquakes.
Exactly. You all have 'em. You all have 'em. And, selling earthquake insurance, probably really hard to do. And so this whole thing was like customer acquisition, really hard. May sound familiar to the aesthetics industry. Like how do I find the needle in the haystack?
And what we found was that people who there's a lot of people who bought a generator after a bad power event . And yet there were a small set of people who were buying them exogenous of a bad event happening. The weather was fine, power was fine, and they proactively sought this out. So we said, what's up with that?
Like that's the, why is this seemingly aberrant behavior happening? And I love, this whole kind of weird data I was talking about, that's the best stuff. It's all the nooks and crannies, the peaks and vans. Like why is this, st. Statistical anomaly exist and we figured out, Those people, we matched it with credit card data.
Say, okay, you bought a generator, let me match credit cards of people like you look at the credit card statements. See in aggregate we're not actually looking at your credit card statements. But turns out you went down the rabbit hole and they were super consumers of life insurance.
They were way over and short than they needed to. They tended to have three to four refrigerators and freezers at home, and they love vitamins. And so you look at these categories, seemingly nothing to do with each other. And you're like, what do they all have in common protection? , proactive protection.
That I may never, ever use or need. I may never, I don't need to know that I actually got a benefit from it because the primary benefit I get is I feel peace of mind right now. Peace of mind. And that you follow a peace of mind. Super consumer is an amazing person to sell a generator to. in that if you are Generac, and this is what they actually built out, was a whole predictive model that allowed them to say, if you do this in some far away category, you're gonna be a great prospect for me.
And so there, there's a whole bunch of trends going out. You talk about your pod is the technology of beauty. Yes. What's happening in technology is there's a set of things that are true is that when technology makes a massive leap, productivity goes up, costs come down. Yes. We have a place in Hawaii, we have solar panels there.
The my favorite app in the world is the Tesla app. When I open it up and there's free electricity from, heaven coming down and it's a won, it's a wonderful feeling. So energy costs are going to zero, which is gonna be an amazing thing for the world. And that think of all the wars that we fight over scarce, energy and the like, like this is gonna be an amazing outcome and abundance for the consumer.
A computing costs are coming down. You can go AWS or everything, like all that's gonna zero. I think marketing costs are going to zero as well. And how's that? Is that when people figure out that, hey, the, your best customers grant are sitting in my data set and I may not be in at all your same category.
Okay. And for the generator? Like the generator, so you take a savvy doctor, a plastic surgeon in the aesthetics business will understand that you know what the, if you're listening to this, the first thing you should do now is find your local orthodontist because somebody in and you say to them, let's partner up.
Tell me the adults who are coming. Braces, discretionary, braces, maybe insurance covers and maybe it doesn't cash pay. Those are the same people who are likely to be the same aesthetic, super consumer. Because I actually, I was listening to your conversation with Brent Hauser.
With Brent Hauser but actually with with Josh Makower. Remember? Cause I, what I and I always, again the weird data is what I love very successful person. I honed in on the failure that you asked him about. It's , the weight loss thing. I, it was an issue up here, not down there.
I, my, my favorite quote is, pie may take four hours, but pie is going in the hole. One way or the other. In the thing that I think I find amazing because I know Josh from other work that I've done, is that you look at how wise and smart he is. And it's just a matter of timing.
Now if you rewind the clock or let's time travel, he takes that product in this day and age, you can solve that problem, you know why? Because we can take marketing costs of zero. Because the way that you find somebody who, gets that lap band procedure and keeps the weight off, is you look for that same behavior in another category, which is to say I want evidence that you can pass the marshmallow test somewhere else.
Because that shows me that you'll be a good candidate. Me, you'll be a great candidate for that. And that data is actually very easy to find. You just have to find the right partners and you're gonna end up trading customers and trading data in a way like you see what Elon Musk is doing with Twitter now it's interesting, but the reality is the advertising category is bad. All, most of it is bad. It's it's not human communication. It's, I have a megaphone and I'm shouting at you when you at the wrong people, at the wrong time with the wrong message. Like, how do I know that you want this GM car, this or that? I don't. So I just shout it louder. And I hope for the best. You pray and pray. But the reality is if I can deduce through empathy and analytics that boy, I see Grant your exhibiting this behavior, costly behavior, monetarily, willpower, energy, emotional, whatever it is. But the fact that you have done this tells me that you'd be an amazing candidate for that.
And let me I won't tell it to you. I'm gonna tell somebody else who was like you. Okay. And have them tell you what's going on there, because word of mouth is the most powerful form of marketing that you can have there. So and it, this one I think is you tell me.
I think a lot of doctors are feeling like, ah, I, if I had the time, I would learn more about business. This is an opportunity to learn what people who are great at business don't know how to do now. Okay. Which is...
Dr. Grant Stevens
So traditional business teachings and tra traditional business models are not the future for aesthetics. Or for doctors in general.
Yes. I would tell folks is that do doctors should not waste their time and money getting an mba.
Dr. Grant Stevens
Okay. I was just gonna ask that. A lot of guys and gals are going back and getting their MBAs. And I know a number of MD MBAs and frankly, I don't think they're doing all that great.
And that may be why. So why don't we take what you're just talking about and apply that to the aesthetics business, if you will. Absolutely. The beauty business. I know initially I met you along with Clint Carnell and HydraFacial with Aaron. And I'd ask to ask you, when did you first get involved in the beauty business or the aesthetics business?
Was it when you were with Nelson? Was it more recent? How did you get involved in that part of the world?
Yeah, great question. I'm often the least informed person wherever I am working.
Dr. Grant Stevens
But that's what's refreshing though.So tell me the beauty business, how you got involved.
Mostly Colgate was a longtime client of mine. Okay. I did a lot of work and actually you'll find this fun is some in skincare there, some in oral care there.
But the formative learning for me was on pet care. and you may what does pet care have to do with, aesthetic? I'll explain right, is that if you look at the super consumers of pet care and you overlay the same super consumers of infant formula, they are identical, oh my goodness.
Identical. People who will do whatever the vet says or whatever the ped says, science rules the roost to moms who are like, Nope, breastfeeding is best. And pet owners who are like natural is best, and I, science is evil. Two different people. But if you know who one is, you can predict their behavior with amazing accuracy.
And I've been waiting, I've been telling companies forever there's a lot of pet food companies that should just buy en famil, from me, Johnson, or whatever, like the data that you can get from when you have a baby. And it might be the reverse is true, but it's like, You see these when you have the diversity of experiences that I do, you see the patterns everywhere.
And that, what I realized was that the consumer set in oral care identical to the consumer set in aesthetics, but people haven't connected the dots with it. And that the...
Dr. Grant Stevens
So oral care, even like toothpaste? Toothbrushes, white mirrors?
Not even orthodontics. Because, orthodontics is an amazingly strong signal.
But what you'll find is that there are oral care super consumers which Colgate vehemently denied the existence of. That doesn't exist. People brush for twice, everybody brushes twice a day. There's no variance in the data. I'm like, not everybody brushes their teeth. Come on. And some people brush a lot.
And of those people who brush a lot, many of them spend an amazing amount of dollars on. Sonic Cares cen, they buy sensodine. They don't buy the regular toothpaste. They buy floss and in fact the oral care super consumer drives probably 60% of the revenue and they buy on average eight different oral care products.
So you tell me if you had a list of consumers that were so fastidious and disciplined about that would that be useful or not useful information for a surgeon trying to make a decision about what kind of treatment would you be regimented for or not? So oral care was fantastic.
I also did work on the the vet side and the dentist side. Fascinating. Is that the same motivations the different types of super consumers on the provider practitioner who are HCP side identical to surgeons and germs in the sense that I had some veterinarians who were like, do you see my house on the south of France?
Petru prescription pet food bought that for me. Huh . And they love prescription pet food. It was like, you know what, it was great lead gen for my practice. People would come in for, royal canine, their science diet or whatever it was in that it allowed me to win their trust for surgical medical pharma, pharmaceutical type stuff.
It was the secret weapon for them versus other people. You know what, nutrition is a waste of my time. I'd rather be doing surgical. And the difference was amazing in terms of the productivity of the practice, but also the long term success. It's so much easier to sell a vet practice that has a huge nutrition and prescription pet food business than one that's predicated on doctors, just the Dr.
Grant cutting and sewing and all and so you can see those folks who were really savvy, business people for sure who had not just healthcare goals and. Patient care goals, but also aspirations to, how do I create something new and different? And the macro theme that I actually found was that this is a fun one.
This is why I left Cambridge, was that one of the emerging trends that you see in business and professional services and in healthcare is that people are waking up to the fact that being a professional is great. Being a pirate is better, exponentially better. And I grant You are a pirate.
Dr. Grant Stevens
You are not like the others.
Dr. Grant Stevens
And those of you who know me know that I always say that it's always best to be a pirate.
That's why my, my co-authors Christopher Lockett and Nicholas Cole, we founded we, we call ourselves the first ever what we think business writing band.
We write books together.
Dr. Grant Stevens
Okay. Instead of making music, you're a business writer, man. Yes. So show us some of your books.
Category design toolkit this is the whole discipline of category design and creation, what we talked about of don't compete, create, and collaborate, like this is all of our writing here.
And the second one that I wanna highlight is the Snow Leopard. This is a book about how to be a one of one as a writer, a digital writer. And I'll tell you why I think doctors in particular, this is the secret to unlocking all your professional aspirations, which is the, this is about how you write with clarity.
Not be clear, not clever, number one. Okay. But the category of digital writing, not as opposed to traditional creative writing. Traditional creative writing in that. Can I see that? Yes. Yes. The, are you gonna leave this for me to read? These are all gifts and act actually thank you so much. I'll explain.
Because, you're Grant Stevens, like anyone listening who wants a free trial, the category pirates, our substack, I'd be just let them have them reach out to you and I'll grant them a free trial.
Dr. Grant Stevens
That's very generous of you. Cause I can't wait to read this, Category Pirates.
And this is my fundamental premise: crystal ball, another one is that the most successful doctors, classic surgeons, derms, whatever it's are going to be the ones who master digital writing. Not Instagram and YouTube. Not, Yes. Some of that, but the people who can formulate, we call it languaging, which is a verb that we made up. Okay. It's how do you language magic words that convey an amazing punch with piff. And I you tell me, this is my assertion unencumbered by facts is that there are two words that are probably the most valuable in all of plastic surgery. Okay? Mommy makeover.
Dr. Grant Stevens
I wonder who came up with that. You're looking at 'em.
Which is why you're a pirate. Why, I don't have to explain to you. But it's, you trade up, you bundle all the things, but in two words, you captured the aspiration of the aesthetic, super consumer, and no explanation necessary. I want that. Do whatever you wanna do.
Here's my credit card. The key is what are the next couple of awards? What's the next, what is the Mommy Makeover 2.0. And it is not, how well you do sur surgery your outcomes. These are table stakes. We expect that to be the case. And which is mostly true for, every doctor out there, but the ability to, to recognize that.
The more expert you are at something, the correlation is very strong that you are, your language is complex and you do not speak clearly. It's just the way that it always works. You are so in love with the thing that you're good at, that you have all this unique jargon, Alexa, the, you lose your ability to speak with clarity like Mommy makeover.
This is all about how you become the one of one to create the next one because I guarantee you more powerful than the number of Instagram followers you have is your ability to frame, name and claim a niche within aesthetics is everything to. Which is to say you don't want, a Tommy Tuck, you don't want a fake, you don't want a mommy makeover.
Right? And that's languaging at its very core. And that what I feel very why we wrote the book. Is that I actually think this is your other question about MDs going to get MBAs, is that higher education's, let us all down, let's be very honest about it. Like medical school, fantastic.
Everything you learn, you have to apply. It's very much clear. You go to medical school to become a doctor, you have residency and be the line to a career and a vocations. Crystal clear. , law school, yes, to some degree, but not as in my opinion, clean as medical school.
Business school. No, it is. You're there for the stamp. You're there to make a job, transition to network. There's the primary value in most business school is not what you learn. and not the skills that you developed while you're there, which is the reason why I you know I never, my parents begged me to go to graduate school.
I was like, I'm having fun in my career. I don't need to go. And, and I'm thankfully now in hindsight, it was very good for me to not go, cause it just helped me accelerate my career. However what you're finding is that college enrollment is down a million and a half students in the last 10 years.
Okay. The value prop, like what you pay now to go to college is not necessarily gonna give you a payback depending on what you study. And consumers, students have to be very careful about where they choose to spend their time and their money on what education actually matters and which ones don't.
And that the reason why this book is so important is that I. I think there's no reason why you picked your favorite in a higher education school. College tuition should not be the same. It should vary by major and English majors should be a fraction of the price of a regular college degree because they're worthless.
, they don't teach you how to write, they teach you how to read. They teach you how to read other people's stuff. They should be, and it's hard to monetize and it's hard to monetize that right now. Now here's the reality is that actually there's a, the next book I will send to you what we're working on.
It's called Intellectual Capitalist. And this is all based on a framework that I've really fallen in love with. I the test it with you. Tell me if you agree with this or not, okay. Is that this, and this is, it's so up your alley, the technology of beauty. We talk we open the book with a parable.
Hunter gatherer dad, takes daughter says, let's go hunt and gather. Daughter says I have a different idea. I think we should farm. I think farming might be better than hunting and gathering. The rewards aren't immediate, but it'll be better in the long run.
Hunter gatherer. Dad says, daughter, you don't know what you're talking about. You're young and you're naive. We've been hunter gatherers for generations. And so you have this kind of divide between what I think is happening now is a native analog human, which is you and I over the age of 35 versus a native digital human, a new kind of human.
Somebody below the age of 35. And the reason how you how you distinguish them is their primary life experience is digital versus analog in the real world. It's the difference of, you see a beautiful sunset on Manhattan Beach, would you rather look at it or would you rather take a selfie of it?
That's the divide there. In that, what you're finding is that the American dream is an analog one. You go from laborer to knowledge worker to creator in analog, meaning you, you do it in a physical way, at a physical place for a physical company. And what I would tell you is, and it's no, no different you, money isn't everything, but you can use it as data.
Is that, a resident makes less money than a surgeon who makes less money than a pirate doctor out there who's creating everything that they want to do. However the only way you get to escape the matrix, which is to say, a laborer sells their body and time for money.
Knowledge worker sells their mind and time for money. Still selling time, which is the most precious resources you have. You get the creator, you no longer have to sell time, because you've written books, you've ideas your YouTube channel and that is, it's not how much money you have, it's how much agency you have over your life.
It defines your wealth. Because if you have, and this is from my high school, I have 10 friends who become doctors. And during c o d my family, we were fortunate. We went to a place in Hawaii, we hung out there and it was actually very nice to be there. During Covid and I was having a conversation with a buddy of mine who he's a cardiothoracic surgeon, just chatting about actually a biomed, which is j just acquired.
He were just talking about, he was asking some things. He was like, explain to me what's going on? Are you still working? I'm like, he's he was just asking me how I'm doing my it doesn't really matter where I am. I've gotten to the point where I've focused what I do to the highest value parts of it.
and I don't do the rest of it cuz it's irrelevant. Like most consulting things. Here's another reason why not to go to business school is that the best professional services firms like the McKinsey's and Boston Consulting Groups secret, they're teaching hospitals.
You think you're getting Grant Stevens, you're getting first year med students, you wanna pay the premium for that. You can, and you trust that grant is overlooking the work and make sure that's good, but you're training newbies, great ba what? No one really talks about that.
And what you're finding is that within professional services firms are people who become professionals. The most senior partners are exiting to become pirates. I left, I didn't, I was not good at managing people, so I left. Do my own thing on my own time, cuz I didn't wanna run a firm.
I wanted to do my work with clients. I wanted to write. Byron Trot is Warren Buffett's investment banker. Okay. Left Goldman Sachs, did not need Goldman Sachs. Guess who Warren Buffett stayed with? Byron Trot. I know folks who are leaving the top tier banks, law firms, the most senior partners who are like, why am I here for the title?
Does that really matter? I want to escape knowledge work to creator, because that's when I get time and agency over mind. Now here's the problem is that it's not easy to go up that right and that what most doctors that I've talked to be it, vets, orthos, dentists, surgeons derms, it requires them to admit that I'm still a knowledge worker. I'm a very highly paid knowledge worker.
Dr. Grant Stevens
Or in the case of surgeons, I oftentimes say I'm just a high pay, highly paid carpenter. Yes. I don't actually totally believe that incidentally. But it is for sure. There's some truth to it. I'm laborer, I'm a carpenter.
And the way that, again, money isn't everything, but it's a data point. Is that, you'll tell me is that, doctors, surgeon, specialists are at the pinnacle of knowledge workers. Make seven, maybe eight figures in some cases. Nine, how many billionaire knowledge workers do you know. You have to be a creator to get there, and it's not.
And again, whether it's the money or the ability to dictate your time and your place, you have to get through that creator phase. Now here's what's interesting, those that ladder up is now a two by three because there's an analog and a digital version. Because here's what's fascinating, is that there are analog laborers.
I, I work, I'm a resident, I'm doing this, and there are digital laborers, which are do you know there's a guy by the name of I think I'm getting it right, Dr. Ali Abdal. name? No, he's a British doctor. Went to Cambridge practice for one or two years in the uk. General service makes $4 million a year as a YouTuber now.
As a what? As a YouTuber. Okay. And so he is, what do you call this guy? He's a creator. He's a creator, but he's a digital creator. And the analog creators of the world in the medical, it's no. You gotta practice. You gotta put in your time, you gotta earn your chops, get all the, speaking events and publications.
And then you maybe if you are worthy of creating something amazing, you can be a creator. This guy did none of that and jumped to becoming a digital creator immediately. He can do his work from wherever he wants. That, and so this is the part that's really interesting to me is that the American dream used to be an analog one.
You just one way up. Laborer to knowledge worker to creator. You add a digital layer to all of this. You can be a digital laborer, meaning, you get the, you're still laboring, you're still trading your body and time for money, but do it from wherever you want to do it. You can be a digital knowledge worker, not just an analog one.
And it's the same kind of thing. You get paid for your expertise and your mind. You're still trading time, but again, maybe you're not confined to a place you can dictate the terms of your life in that, like part of the challenge with I, I think one of the weird causal or correlations with the medical plastic surgeons is that you have to be located in an area that people can afford your services.
Which means that your income, the higher that it is, probably gets chipped away because of your expense structure that you have to run the practice and lay your life there. Right now, imagine you can be a digital knowledge worker, earn what you want to earn and live where you want to live, and That, that changes the math entirely. And this whole idea that I have to put in 20, 30 years, then I earn the right to become all out the window now. And that part of I'll explain the math of the business or the publishing book industry we did the data where we bought from Bookstand, which was owned by Nielsen, the top 444 books in business.
And we deconstructed, what works, what didn't work. And what was really interesting was in that process, not only do we understand what works, which, is that the top two categories of books within business, can you guess? No. No. You would think it'd be strategy.
You'd think it'd be, something kind of high polluted management personal development, personal finance, it's about them reader. It's not the person, not the author. I'll be darn. And so what you find is that there's a funny pattern. So you see this so this book, big title category, Pirate's, not at the Bottom.
I give this to friends, like, where's your name? It's not on there. Because there's a correlation. The bigger the name, the worse the book does. Is that right? If you put your picture on the cover of your book, the worse it does because people buy books for them, not about you. Now there are some circumstances where there's a memoir, celebrity, we all learn about somebody.
Yeah, all that kind of stuff. But Billie Eilish, amazing Pop singer, wrote a book, bombed. People know her, she's famous. People will buy her book. It was about her. Nobody really cared. So this whole concept of how, do you not only write something that is compelling? That's why the whole writing, I think, is perhaps the most underleveraged skill that a physician can undertake.
You can practice now, like nothing's hauling your back from doing it. You have the intellect, you have the discipline. If you got, if you have the will and the skill to become a doctor, you have the will and the skill to become a great digital writer. But it takes time and it's a whole different type of humbling education that you have to go through.
And why that's important is that my first book was published by Harvard Business Review. My co pirate, Christopher Lockhead, he wrote a book called Play Bigger. Oliver, Sequoia and Capital, being in the VC's Silicon Valley World, Harper Collins, neither of us went back to the big publisher houses.
Why? Because to be an author means that you have to sell 90% of the ownership rights of your ideas to the publishing houses. I didn't know that. 10% royalties. Every book that you have. So why is Taylor Swift re-recording all her songs? Because when she was up and coming, somebody else recorded the song.
They own a piece of that studio master, somebody else distributes, they own a piece of it. The creator gets very little coming out of it. And there's a whole it's hilarious. There's a whole drama about some private equity firm wanted to buy her songs. Like the Beatles, albums are worth millions if not billions.
And so she said, screw you guys. I'm just gonna rerecord all my, it's my music. I'm gonna rerecord it and I'm gonna own it. And so what you're finding is that we write on subs now, which is a, subscription service. Great journalists have gone on there and it's, you go direct to the consumer with that.
We write, we charge 20 bucks a month, 200 bucks a year. Subs stack takes 10%. Great. And both of these books we wrote On CK first and published on Amazon second. Interesting. We own these entirely, we will rerecord them as audiobooks, monetize it again that way. Like the whole book industry is completely backwards and ups and down and negative against the creator.
And I don't know how many doctors you run into are like, oh, I'd like to write a book, and is that a thing or, yes, absolutely. Yeah.
Dr. Grant Stevens
Most it's usually about their experience or educational. In surgery it's how to do surgery in the various ways in which they approach a problem. To optimize the appearance.
So what if I told all of those doctors that there's a way to do that without squirreling away 18 months in a cabin writing. You can still practice and do that. But rather blog your way to. But don't, but do it in a way where somebody pays you to write the book and you retain a hundred percent rights of all your content.
It's yours, you're the creator, you should own it. And that in doing that process, you may come up with the next mommy makeover that actually lights your practice on fire. Cuz it is the magic words that matter to unlock because it is, there's no problem with your surgical skills. It is. You haven't framed, named, and claimed the problem yet. The magic words are critical doing that.
Dr. Grant Stevens
I would agree. What's your advice to plastic surgeons then? An aesthetic surgeons aesthetic and cosmetic terms?
I would say number one, reject the. Everything you've been taught, probably no longer True anymore. Okay. Or increasing. And it's not that you learn the wrong thing, it's that technology's changing the game.
What a time to be alive is the real sentiment behind it. There's so many new things that have emerged that we're not present. So 20 years ago, 30 years when you started out. Good on you for doing what you've done, but recognize that the game is different now. It's a great time to be alive.
And, if you wanna stay practicing, that's fantastic, but if you wanna be a creator, never been a better time to be a creator. And let me put it differently, you want to be a pirate? Never been a great, better time to be a pirate, cuz you, you look at again I'll look in business.
Have you seen, there's a chart called the PayPal Mafia. Have you seen this one? I have not. It's a big constellation of all the entrepreneurs and investors and executives that came out of PayPal. Okay. Elon Musk being one of them. And so the YouTube guys Chad Hurley and Steven Chen Sequoia Capital David Sachs, there, there's Peter Thiel.
There's a whole bunch all from this one thing. What I will tell plastic surgeons is that there is an aesthetics mafia being formed. Would you like to be? Pardon? But if you do, that's you would be in there. Clint would be, you know who I'm talking about. These are people who are missionaries.
They're not just great doctors. Yes. They're not just great CEOs. They are pirates. They see a future. The present angers them, and they will not stop until the future looks like what they want it to look like. And there's gonna be a chart that says, within aesthetics, there are 20 or so guys and gals that, hated the way the world was and pushed heck to get it to the what it should be.
And they changed everything about how plastic surgery was practiced. They changed how you monetize your practice. They changed productivity, they changed everything to the point where it's not about being a seven eight figure plastic surgeon. It's, let's talk about being a nine 10 figure plastic surgeon.
Let's talk about billionaire plastic surgeons. Again, money isn't everything, but it's about people who can no longer be controlled by their practice and no longer controlled by their patients, necessarily. Because importantly, patients are going to increasingly have more and more power. You have to do this route.
And so this, there's a world where you're gonna have, you know this aesthetics mafia, it's gonna be full of pirates. And you know what? The water's gonna go out before you see who is John Scully versus Steve Jobs. John Scully was the ex Pepsi guy brought in to bring run Apple. After they, apple Board smartly, not smartly fired Steve Jobs.
And turns out being a professional good in some circumstances, but doesn't make you a pirate, doesn't make you part of this aesthetics model. And Steve came back and rescued you. Steve came back and rescued, and you see this happen over and over. The pirate won again. Pirates always win. Okay,
Dr. Grant Stevens
We could go on and have chapter after chapter and course after course.
This could go on forever. And I have learned a ton. And first thing I'm gonna read is right there, snow Leopard. Perfect. Yes. The aesthetics mafia. I want to dive into that a little bit. And that's both, you mentioned CEOs and surgeons, so it's industry as well as the providers. And it's the, especially the non-surgical space, and I know the financing procedures, that's a big deal. Subscription models a big deal. Metrics and KPIs that, used to be that profit. Still in a lot of medical conferences, profit is a four letter word. I gave a talk on that years ago. You asked about the future you mentioned about mommy makeover. How about daddy do-overs?
The male, the emerging mail population that we're targeting through Marina Man Land and other male directed services, the do the daddy Doover, the gummy Bear Breast implant, the Laser Bra. There's a number of things that were not well received initially, because unfortunately they were seen as being lowbrow.
And medicine's high brow. And profit was a four letter word. Now it turns out, as you mentioned, all we have is time. So the creators are leveraging their brains and they're, it's not a time issue. So I couldn't agree with you more. There are gonna be many who watch this, who will not agree with you.
And that's never, I'm not shy of that, and I know you're not. I can tell. So this is all very interesting and I've learned so much from you. What are you doing right now in the aesthetics world in particular? I've heard that you're working with Aubrey and or Clint. Dear friends of both of ours. What's going on in your life, in the aesthetics business?
I'm still doing EddieWouldGrow, my consulting business, still doing category pirates. My, my primary goal is to educate and teach in through writing. But, life's funny. Clint Aubrey Rankin Gary Berman and I, we've created something called Grace Space, which is.
Most people want strategy to be black and white, but it's usually, shades of gray within that. It's a different kind of professional services firm full of pirates, not professionals, as I mentioned. In that you have people of different disciplines. I, I'm a growth strategy guy and a consumer guy.
Clint is a one of one. He's Clint and Aubrey, started HintMD and sold it. And obviously, as a technology person and Gary is an amazing finance and ops executive, and we are here to serve the ecosystem, cause I was gonna say, there's people think of innovation as I launch a new product.
It's moved from that to, I launched a new company to nope, launch a new category. But really where it's at now is let's launch the ecosystem. Cuz I, I think collectively we're on a mission that is like, why is this category aesthetics so transformative and yet so niche at the same time?
Boggles the mind. Shouldn't be the case. And we think we have the answer within the collective disciplines that we have in a way that we hope one plus one equals 11. We're gray space is not designed to scale gray space. That's not the goal. It's not about money, it's about impact and unleashing the next set of entrepreneurs because there's a lot of we talked about MBAs.
There's a lot of CEOs, there's a lot of them out there. Most of them are manager stewards. They weren't there when it was created and they weren't there when it was scaled. And the hockey stick part of the S-curve , Clint's one of those. It's a rare individual to do, to find. And so what we are trying to help are companies that have not yet hit the hockey.
hit that figure out whether it's our motto is we simplify strategy and accelerate execution. But a lot of it is, the classic cold things of strategy that we do, but it's the languaging. Which Clint is a master at, you're a master at, and I've done a lot of it, but so much of what Clint has done, back at HydraFacial and everything else.
It's great operator, great ceo, great with investors, but he's a master language. Three steps, 30 steps.
Dr. Grant Stevens
Once you get it.
And three steps, best skin of your life. What people are finding is that because it's not taught, again, angry at the English professionals out there you need to do a better job.
It is not taught well. Is that what happens when great CEOs and entrepreneurs like Clint are great languages, that everything else feels a little off? It's the difference between the Rolling Stones and a cover band sounds the same. doesn't feel the same. And that again, Clint, like me he can have value being a ceo, he'll have more of an impact teaching other CEOs to be a pirate. A pirate. So that's what GraySpaces really is. Okay.
Dr. Grant Stevens
So are you working with Clint with this this new company that he's running?
Yes. Yes. So I'm helping him out in the team with a Janelle part of luminous similar kind of evolution of, when Clint became a free agent, Hey, do you wanna run Geneo?
No, I know. I got claims on my time and InBrace CEO and Orange Twist with, grant everything else. What will you advise? Okay, so that's Grace Space was born that way. Let's do a different type of advisory work to how do we go from advisory to help? And so we're still looking for the right words to describe what we're doing, but we've taken over a leadership of the US portion of Geneo.
Still in conjunction with the luminous executives and the private equity owners that have 'em. But we've structured the arrangement where we are working in conjunction with, but we have parity freedoms to do piratey things, because that's, that they know that's where the value's gonna be unlocked, and it's not doing it the way that it was, but seeing how it could be.
And we need new language for what exactly we're doing. So in, which is also to say, I'm not exactly sure what we're doing either, but we are curious people. The mission is very clear, how do we get this gateway to aesthetics become bigger and broader for more people, but also the mission that we have, hundred thousand estheticians in the us.
How do we make them not five figure professionals? about 6, 7, 8 figure professionals, cuz it's absolutely doable. And what the digital American dream that I laid out. It's not just for physicians to go from seven, eight figures to eight to nine 10 figure folks is imagine the impact will have on society when your classic esthetician, maybe a single mom, maybe not having a college education becomes YouTube famous and a creator.
And can have agency in her life give treatments when she wants to give them, we've actually been calling them X Entrepreneurs. So they're not just sds Yes. But like they're entrepreneurs in their own right. But that, that the clarity of the mission that we have is we know that if Geneo scales alongside HydraFacial and everybody else, like it's in this it'll be good for the aesthetics category.
And it's actually we are collectively creating a new ecosystem within aesthetics. And you might go, what is that? And I will borrow language from what Clint is doing at InBrace. Which is, you don't have to look worse before you look better. Wow. Starts now. And the category, the subset that we're talking about is this whole idea of a portion of aesthetics where the wow starts immediately.
Wow. Starts now in that, be like Botox. It's successful. Why is it? Is it because of the brand? Is it because of the No, it's because it starts now, same thing with a HydraFacial and aeo. Same thing with an InBrace. It goes behind the teeth. Your smile improves immediately.
You don't have any aligners or bracing the outside this whole immediate gratification without compromising outcomes. Is the new future of aesthetics. And the more that fellow pirate creator doctors understand, oh, how do we make the wow start now in every category that we do, growth will happen.
How do we find Wow. Starting out consumers, I, again, prediction you're gonna see a lot of co-located plastic surgeons with orthodontists, because it's the same consumer. Absolutely.
Dr. Grant Stevens
We talked about that when Brent was on, Brent Hauser was on, and we talked about embrace, and I've been talking to a number of people in that business with my job, with engaged technologies about putting teeth str— well, aesthetic dentistry, not just straightening, but whitening and the whole mouth aesthetics.
Combining it with plastic surgery, aesthetic plastic surgery, facial plastic surgery, because it's the same consumer. There's absolutely no question. It's the same consumer, which is why marketing goes to zero. And Okay. And the other thing about this, we're talking about Geneo and HydraFacial. I'd love to hear your thoughts about home-based care because it is my feeling also that if you could give someone a home-based HydraFacial will say, or Geneo. Or silk peel, diamond peel something where they take it home and they can cleanse, extract, exfoliate and then infuse. That is a home run.
Undeniably macro trend in all of business was historically businesses ran. Hey, consumer, you come to me , it's gonna be Nope, we go to you. So home base businesses make the complete...
Dr. Grant Stevens
And I think that'll bring 'em back in and the estheticians will sell it. And then that'll, but that'll drive business back into their office. Absolutely. Some will be afraid that somehow they're giving 'em the keys to the city. But I feel very strongly that will generate more business.
High gets bigger. Absolutely. High gets and, I'll tell you funny story. One, my, my eldest is in college now, and my middle daughter, I'm helping her with her entrepreneurial class. I have real questions in my head about, we've talked about the value of higher education.
They miss their mark and I worry about what you study. And is college actually a good idea or not a good idea? I'm not sure. But would I be better off dropping a quarter of a million dollars for my kids' education? We're buying them, a half dozen Geneo machines. It's a real question. If you have any fidelity to the math, you would say they would make far more money right out the gate than any college degree from any prestigious school that you could get.
Dr. Grant Stevens
If we measured the quality of life with just with dollar bills, then you might be right. Yes. But the relationships and the experiences of a college education to me, are the number one value. It's not the return on the investment. So that, this is where I disagree on charging less for the English major, because I think the value of higher education, that's secondary education. And even there beyond, it's the experiences, the contacts, the relationships you develop over the whole course of your life.
This might be something I come back and we really discussed this in thoroughly because I agree with you. For us, what happens when you send your kid and your kid is on Instagram the whole time there.
Yeah. This is the, to me it's like, iTunes was successful, unbundling songs from the album. All I'm saying is unbundle the college experience so people can cherry pick what they want. Cuz you're exactly right. If I could, pay specifically for that networking, character formation, making mistakes, the community that's worth a quarter of a million dollars.
Not the education necessarily. Okay. And so it's, but it's all from again, what a time to be alive. You never know. Oh, absolutely. What might happen.
Dr. Grant Stevens
It's the most exciting time. Eddie, you've been talking about your substack, how can we go and subscribe to it? What can the consumers do?
Yeah, you can go to category pirate sub or just search those three words and you can sign up there.
I will also if you ping me on Twitter at EddieWouldGrow or email me [email protected]. Tell, just tell me. I'm a friend of Grant's. I'm a listener of Grant's, and I'll give you a free comp subscription. And you'll tell us if you like it or not, if you wanna subscribe, but to me we are all about helping people escape from the matrix.
So if that's you, we want to help.
Dr. Grant Stevens
It has been absolutely wonderful to have you on the program and to listen to you. Will you come back?
Dr. Grant Stevens
I'm gonna read them all and I have some ideas. I must share with you a couple things, please. I sold my practice, I sold it to myself in a sense.
Athenix now owns Marina plastic surgery. And Marina Med Spa. And I'm on the board of directors of a Phoenix and I'm part owner of a Phoenix and so forth through outstanding lattice work capital, which frees me up and frees my time up. And I want to do just what you're talking about and just like why I do this.
The opportunity to meet people and learn from you and people like you and to network. And as there are people right outside that's room who who you network with. And who,
I'll give you two words, grant, to describe what you just did. Personal IPO. You took yourself public.
Dr. Grant Stevens
Okay. That's interesting.
Yeah. Leveraged myself. You're right. I did. That's interesting. Thank you sir. I appreciate it. Safe travels back. You going back to Chicago? Okay. It's a little colder there than here. It is. It's been an absolute delight. Thank you very much. Thank you, grant. And I wanna thank all of you for joining us in this episode of The Technology of Beauty, where we interview the movers and the shakers and the forward thinkers of the beauty business.
Thank you very much, and we'll see you next week.
The Technology of Beauty
Produced and co-founded by Influx, The Technology of Beauty is the podcast of renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Grant Stevens. Tune in to hear interviews with the innovators and entrepreneurs and who are shaping the future of aesthetics from the industry side.