Interview: Kary Smith

Written by Chris Stock

Chris Stock helps Plastic Surgery Practices and Med Spas grow their revenue by converting leads into patients. With over 30 years of sales experience, including 15 years as a world-class sales expert and speaker, Chris has the expertise, know-how and strategic vision to deliver results every time.

Love the insight?

This is a small highlight of the expertise we have and how we can support you in converting more leads into patients, enhancing the customer experience and increasing the revenue and profits within your practice.

We bring the same love you have for practicing medicine to helping your practice thrive. Contact us

In this interview TouchMD CEO, Kary Smith talks about the impact of COVID-19, how he and his team are supporting practices during this crisis and how to prepare for the recovery.

Chris 

I’d like to welcome Kary Smith, managing partner at TouchMD. Kary has led the business for over 10 years, TouchMD is a visual consultation, marketing and imaging software system that utilizes touch screen, iPad and smartphone technology, to enhance the patient experience and increase practice revenue. So it’s a privilege for me and an honor to have the opportunity to interview you. Kary, welcome.

Kary 

Oh, well thank you Chris. It’s a pleasure to be here today and have an opportunity to discuss, share some thoughts. So thank you.

Chris 

Thank you. And I know it’s a crazy time, so let’s just jump in. What have the last few weeks been like for you?

Kary 

Well, gosh, I want to say, you know, maybe five or six weeks, It’s been a little bit scary. We have nearly 52 employees so there’s a mixed bag of those that are at risk and high risk and those that aren’t. So that’s been a little bit interesting. Another fundamental change is that all the trade shows have been canceled. So when you look at what does that do to your company from a revenue standpoint with your sales team? And the same thing really has happened with in-office demos, with the practices primarily being closed. So it’s just been a little bit different navigation. I feel like there have been some peaks and valleys for us as a company through this time.

Chris 

I’ve often described it as a roller coaster, and as you look at those people potentially at risk, what’s that like for you?

Kary 

Well, I believe in people first of all, I think that’s the number one asset any company has. And I know there are different companies that look at things differently, but that’s one of the main focuses that we have here. The nice thing about TouchMD is we really can be a totally remote company. Everything’s cloud-based. Nobody would have to come into the office if they didn’t want to. We have a number of employees that work remotely and we have meetings here at our company headquarters. But with that being said, even through this pandemic time, we’ve left our company office open because we haven’t been mandated to shut. So our leadership team and those that have wanted to come to work have been able to do that. And those that didn’t want to come in stayed home, we respected that.

You know, everybody’s becoming proficient at the virtual meeting, so that’s been a plus. But I will say, I think from a morale standpoint, how being here for those that have wanted to and having some normalcy with  their day has been a plus. And, during this time I think there’s been a change, not a change in our culture, but a little bit of a change in energy and focus that’s taken place as everybody really has said how are we going to move forward and progress?

Chris 

What’s the biggest challenge you have as a leader right now?

Kary 

I think the biggest challenge that most companies are probably dealing with is number one, cash and how to handle cash and hold cash and protect the cash, so that you can make it through this time. The other part is projecting revenue and what that can look like or should look like over the next 60 days, 180 days and beyond. So those are two exercises from my level that have taken place that we’ve been working on. And then we hit on it a couple of times, but really morale and culture and making sure everybody’s feeling connected, safe and part of what our message is and what we’re presenting to the market in a collective effort. 

Chris 

That makes a lot of sense. It’s that old adage ‘Cash is King’ and as you say, what’s going out, what’s coming in and what’s actually in the bank. Let’s change the focus a little bit now onto your customers. What specifically is TouchMD doing to support practices during this crisis?

Kary 

Well, it’s interesting, we’ve always been known as the ultimate virtual consultation tool. To have that superior experience when you’re one-on-one with the practitioner, the educational value that you get with a TouchMD consultation versus other types of consultations they’re having in the aesthetic space. Doctors for a long time have been using TouchMD. We built the technology around being able to do a consultation with someone living out of the country or out of the area that could potentially share their images. The doctor can bring them up, they can have some communication about. So once this happened we really understood the huge pain point practices are having. How am I going to keep these consultations I have on the books now that this pandemic has happened?.

I don’t want to say we pivoted because we didn’t, we already had this available, but we refocused our energy around the virtual consultation. And the thing that’s valuable for us is we’re not the communication platform. We either work with Zoom or GoToMeeting or whatever the practices medium is for this face to face communication. But once they’re able to share their screen, a doctor can provide all the elements that they have in the office virtually, which makes it totally different than having a FaceTime conversation and you know, not being able to educate that patient during that virtual consultation process. So that’s been a huge win for our company and a huge win for our current TouchMD clients. Now along with that, because we felt like this was such a huge pain point for the market, we’ve never done this before, but we offered a 60 day free trial of TouchMD during this timeframe. 

So practices could get our technology, they could get up and running and they could use it to help with their virtual consultations, so that they could present some of those things they’re used to doing in the office in a virtual way. And in addition to that we came up with our most aggressive pricing that we’ve had to date, to help offset some of the loss that practices are experiencing, having been closed and still making it viable for them to purchase our technology and implement it, maybe during this time they have a little more downtime and the ability to integrate it with their practices. So aggressive pricing, the 60 day trial, and then the other thing that we’ve done is we’ve done a lot of practice check-ins, through our account management team just to make sure practices are okay and they’re doing all right, we’re understanding when they’re reopening. Then we’re offering additional trainings that they may want to take advantage of during this downtime that they have. It’s funny, most of our people are saying we’re more busy now than we were prior to COVID-19 because of this focus and the energy we’re putting around helping practices succeed.

Chris 

I’ve seen the TouchMD software in use within a practice and I love how you’re taking that to the virtual consult stage, which is just a natural extension of what you guys are fantastic at doing anyway. If you’re new to TouchMD do you have any sort of specific advice in terms of how to get in touch with you?

Kary 

So, they can go to the website, request the 90 days or 60 day trial and they’ll be plugged in. It’s been really interesting, you know we’ve had practices that were shut down on the West coast and the East coast that just implemented this virtual consultation. One of the practices commented to me just recently and he said, look at what you’re doing for my practice during this downtime. And he said, what are all these other companies doing for me? And he just was raving about it. He’s busy with consultations five days a week virtually, with nobody coming into the practice. And then he’s future scheduling those patients when he’s seeing this lifting 30 to 45 days out.

But he’s establishing that revenue path for his practice once he comes out. We had one group that, you know, just on a check in and we’re talking about these check ins that said, Hey, we don’t know what we’re going to do. And our account manager suggested the virtual consultation, and the office manager’s wife actually started crying and just said you saved our practice. And so I know some of these practices run really cash tight and everybody runs their business differently. So those kinds of confirmations have just been gratifying for everybody in our company.

Chris 

I think it’s fantastic and as you know what I do, I look at it through the lens in terms of that sales process, the consultation process. And I think sometimes it’s these crises that allow us to start working and operating in different ways, which actually is going to be far more efficient. If we do a pre consult or 50, 60% of the console remotely you’re going to see far more patients or potential patients and then in my language you’re qualifying the right patients for you and for them and it becomes a far more efficient process.

Kary 

I totally agree with what you’re saying. I think there’s going to be a very significant behavioral shift that takes place with our learnings as a society right now. It’s not just virtual consultations, virtual work, the government agencies are determining that this is much better. And this idea of making a patient drive three hours round trip for a followup when that could be done through a virtual process is something that’s going to stay. And I think you identify just through the sales process, I don’t want to use the word screening, but just making sure it’s the correct fit for the practice and the patient and being able to do that as part of their process is going to be huge. It’s more time efficient and it’s a cost savings to the practice and a revenue opportunity.

Chris 

I totally agree. Other than recommending TouchMD, which as we talk through clearly becomes a no brainer. What other advice are you sharing with your customers at the moment?

Kary 

Well, I mean obviously we’re telling them to continue to consult. We think that that’s a big piece. I also believe that the practices that seem to be forging forward out of this are continuing to communicate with their patients. And that’s done in a number of different ways. Phone calls, emails, social media, but there’s some type of communication mechanism. Not, Hey, we’re planning on being closed, but how are you?, this is what we’re doing, these are our services, let’s re-engage. And they’re using this as a positive time to communicate with patients in whatever forms they can. Which I think is great because as we come out of this, I know there’s going to be, we poll a lot and we know pretty much every area in the United States when they’re planning on reopening and their dates and all those kinds of things.

But as we poll them, they’re really seeing this pent up demand that’s happening because patients are at home, they’ve missed some treatments and they want to get back on the books. So coming out of this on reopening practices may want to ease into it just because of the social impact, but they’re going to have the opportunity to see quite a few patients coming out of this. We’ve also talked to them about improving their business processes, not just the processes that we talk about, but rather than sitting on the spare time they have, some training for their staff. All those kinds of things is what we’re suggesting to practices.

Chris 

I agree. I think there are huge opportunities by being proactive in the practice and working that through. I think social media and all of those ways in terms of communicating with patients is critical. I also think it’d be a great opportunity just to phone every single client. And for me it’s not about selling, it’s just about connecting and just saying, Hey, we’re here. This is our plan, this is what we’re doing. And just just checking in and making sure they’re okay. Pretty much like you said earlier on in terms of your account managers and phoning your customers. I think that we just need to be continually doing that. As practices start to see the easing and we are hearing that start to be spoken about, what should they be doing in terms of getting ready for a reopening?

Kary 

We’ve touched on a few things. My feeling is that each practice should be perfecting the virtual consultation process because of this behavioral change. I know it’s going to be something that stays. The virtual follow up, all these things should be something that a practice is contemplating how they are going to succeed in these various areas. The behavioral change, I hear that over and over and over again. One of the practices that I talked to said we’ll never see the 40 patients a day again. We may see 10, we may see 15, but the rest of it needs to happen in these virtual ways. It’s better for the patient, it’s easier on the practice. This is something that is a learning that I’m hearing, not insignificantly, but significantly. So I think coming out of this they need to understand that their peers are going to be doing this and how they are going to compete with other practices and what they offer from a virtual standpoint, as well as you know, what’s going to happen when patients come through the door. You’re a sales guru and so you know that there are so many things from the call to the check in to the exam room, what part of that will be done remotely? What part will be done in the practice? But everybody needs to change their thinking right now about what that’s going to be the future.

We feel fortunate from the standpoint that TouchMD with its virtual consultation really offers the best of both worlds. We have the ability to develop that two way communication piece, but you’ll see from what’s happened, there’ll be consolidation and there’s going to be a lot of things that happen on that piece of software. So the fact that we stay independent of that, we don’t care what a practice loves, if they love Zoom, they use that. If they love GoToMeeting, they use that. Whatever their thing is that they like or prefer, we just plug into that. And as far as being a company that offers this educational superior consultation process, we’re the only ones that we know of in the aesthetic space other than a company that would require you to change your EHR. And then of course we integrate with 26 different EHR’s so you can plug our technology and so I don’t know what will come in the future, you know, as far as competition with that. But right now we feel fortunate that we’re the only company that appears to be offering that in this space.

Chris

I think you’re making some hugely significant points. Too many for me to summarize in one go, including the very nice compliment so thank you for that. I’m changing back to a little bit about you. You’ve been the managing partner now for 10 years. That doesn’t happen by chance and I’d just like to think about it from a leadership point of view. I’m sure you’ve had great mentors and coaches over the years. What’s the one lesson you’ve learned or piece of advice you’ve been given that really stands out for you?

Kary

I was taught as a child by my parents, first of all, that respecting people is really what matters. And then each of the mentors that I’ve had along the way really have reinforced this idea that people matter. There’s a lot of products, but your success in your organization is going to be dependent on the type of people that you bring in, the cultural fit and then the way you treat those people over time. I’m really proud to say that our company, you know, we have great values and ethics, no doubt, but our environment is more like a family. You know, everybody matters, sometimes we disagree, but at the end of the day we’re all working for a common goal and everybody gets on board with that.

I think primarily that’s probably the thing that stands out to me the most. I mean, I’ve had mentors that have taught me how to work the channel, different business aspects. But when it comes down to it at the end of the day, what you take away from it, much of the gratitude gratification that you get from running your business is your customers, the relationships you have with your customers, even your vendors, you know, the relationships you have there and then those that you work with on the day to day basis. So if I were to say anything, I would just say work on perfecting and reinforcing those relationships up and down your organization.

Chris

I love it. For me, it’s all about the relationship. And you’re right, you need to learn sort of strategies and tactics, channel management, all of those things. But you know, the relationship for me is absolutely key and core to why we do all of this. I’m conscious of time. So to wrap up, what are your final thoughts or reflections you’d like to share at this stage?

Kary 

Oh geez. So this is kind of funny. When we did our SWOT analysis at the first of the year and we were evaluating threats, the management team did theirs and then each one of the auxiliary teams did theirs. The support team did their SWOT analysis, the dev team, the sales team and two out of the other three teams really came up with this idea of a recession. And from the management standpoint that really didn’t hit the radar. And so we were pretty much thinking that 2019 was great, 2020 is going to be better, you know, this is how we’re going to get to our goals. And then this idea of a recession, I don’t think anybody saw the pandemic coming. However, it did cause us to reflect a little bit.

I don’t know if mainly our groups were filling that cyclical thing that happens, you know, it seems like every eight years. But we took a few precautions. So my final thoughts are we’re going to come out of this, it’s going to be great, we’re going to be better than ever. I think the market is going to rebound. I would be shocked if the aesthetic industry is actually less than it was in 2019. I think it will forge past 2019 in product sales. But at the same time, I guess, the idea of planning for a rainy day is something that the pandemic is really trying to make us all aware of. I know that PPP programs by the government and some of the other initiatives are helping out, but there needs to be a little bit of a cash nest egg moving forward because you never know.

Chris 

I think there’s a lot of positivity there to end on. So again, thank you so much for being so gracious with your time today. I think you’ve provided such amazing insights. It’s really appreciated. Thank you.

Kary 

Oh, you’re welcome Chris. It has been a pleasure and thank you.

You May Also Like…

Interview: Scott Bell

Interview: Scott Bell

In this interview Scott Bell, CEO of Bell Media talks to Chris Stock about personal challenges he has faced, building a winning team and what it takes to be an effective leader…

Interview: Tom Seery

Interview: Tom Seery

In this interview Tom Seery, CEO and Founder at RealSelf, talks about the trends he's seeing coming out of COVID-19,...

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *