Leading aesthetic industry entrepreneur Deb Farnworth-Wood, founder of the Australian Skin Clinics franchise, reveals how she built a $70 million business and talks about her latest achievement – her appointment to the board of Timely appointment software.
She will be the first to tell you the journey hasn’t been easy. Here she shares her most valuable business lessons.
The glamorous image of female entrepreneurship isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Women in the workplace are often held to different standards than men, but Deb reveals she likes questioning the status quo and is up for a challenge.
“I’m from a place called Lancashire, and the women from there are tough – you don’t want to mess with us!”
Her career has seen her achieve a stellar list of ‘firsts’. Deb was the first non-doctor to become a partner in a multi-disciplinary UK medical practice, then a group she formed became the first non-pharmacists to own a UK pharmacy. Next, she opened the UK’s first drive-through pharmacy.
“I particularly like to do things people say can’t be done,” she says. “With the pharmacy, everyone said ‘you can’t do that, it’s not normal to hand drugs through a window, but doing something different is what excites me.”
Twelve years ago, Deb and her family emigrated to Australia’s Gold Coast. She was planning to retire, after a productive career in medical management.
Once in Australia, she quickly discovered that retirement was not for her: “Completely coincidentally and by accident, I found out that there was a clinic for sale on the Gold Coast. I went to check it out, not necessarily to buy, but to just compare what aesthetics services were available in Australia compared to the UK. But I walked in, and within 20 minutes of being in the building, I just knew I was going to buy it.”
Deb knew that aesthetic services were gaining popularity – she’d included a small one in the one- stop medical centre she set up in the UK, so she had some knowledge of what was involved. Initially, she thought the Gold Coast business would be a bit of a hobby: “It seemed well set-up…
I thought, ‘the manager can run it and we can semi-retire”. Within six weeks she was at the helm.
Within five years, Deb had transformed the business into Australian Skin Clinics, a 60-clinic franchise turning over $70million. The clinics broke new ground by offering medi-aesthetic services in shopping malls.
“When I decided to launch my franchise, everyone said ‘no one will want to get Botox in a shopping centre’. I said ‘yes they will’.”
It took her 18 months to convince the first shopping centre to give her a go, but she persisted: “I knew that more people were having treatments in Australia, they were more readily accepted. I knew that come 15, 20 years, everyone would see that as the norm. And that’s exactly what happened.”
Deb has been recognised by her peers in the wider business world as well as the aesthetics industry. She was nominated for EY Entrepreneur of the Year in 2016, and won the Gold Coast Woman in Business award in 2017.
Her latest achievement is to be appointed to the board of Timely, a software system that streamlines booking, client management, inventory, staff, reporting and business admin.
Deb brings her aesthetics industry insights and business nous to Timely’s governance group, which also includes megastar Australian hairdresser and salon owner Tabatha Coffey.
With more than 36,000 people using Timely software globally, across 80 different countries, Farnworth-Wood is excited to be a part of Timely’s rapid growth.
“I love the challenge of business,” Deb says. “I love to see other people succeed. I enjoy being able to share my knowledge and experience, to help influence the way companies grow and develop.”
As a “very systems-oriented” entrepreneur, Deb understands how the right technology can make or break a business.
“Software has always featured in my career. Even in my jobs way back, I was involved in the specification of EFTPOS systems when EFTPOS systems first came out.
“The more complex the procedures and treatments are that you carry out, the higher the risk. When you’re looking at things like cosmetic injectables, you’re now stepping into what is medical treatment. Things like medical ethics come into play, medical confidentiality, auditability. I’m interested in how you drive a small business safely, and how you make sure that you have got the right tools.”
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