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April 02, 2010

Top Desk

Write Your Own Prescription for Change

by Drs. Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields, Founders, Rodan + Fields

Throughout the varying stages of our careers, as practicing dermatologists, product developers, entrepreneurs and businesswomen, time and again, we have experienced our greatest successes when we allowed ourselves to be guided by our passion, particularly when that meant “doing it better by thinking outside the box.”

Prescription for ChangeAs we recently wrote in the postscript of our book, Write Your Skin a Prescription for Change, “Life takes you on a journey. Sometimes the journey is one you planned. Sometimes it’s to a place you never imagined. But if you believe in your dream; keep your eyes on the horizon; persevere, even when the road gets bumpy; and, most importantly, work, work, then work some more, you can reach further than you ever thought possible.”

Personally, we continue to be passionate about every aspect of our careers. We can’t wait to get up in the morning and begin our day, whether it’s seeing a patient, creating a new skincare formulation or talking to women about their skin issues. Our goal is to help empower both women and men to change their skin and their lives.

Follow Your Passion

While the saying “Follow your passion” may be trite, it is, nonetheless, true, because when you love what you do, “work” is not a four-letter word. We have never felt that the endgame of our jobs was to accumulate enough savings to retire early and enjoy a life of playing golf and mahjong. Achieving the same level of satisfaction in our careers as our parents—who are in their 80s and still working—was always our goal. Our belief was reinforced by the chairman of our Stanford dermatology residency program, Dr. Eugene Farber, who frequently advised us to find a “hobby” in dermatology or risk eventual boredom in private practice treating acne and other common skin ailments.

Think Outside the Box

Dr. Farber’s advice was both right and dead wrong. After leaving the hallowed halls of Stanford to start our dermatology practices in the suburbs, we discovered our “hobby” treating acne and other common dermatologic maladies, but we were anything but bored. From talking with our patients (our favorite pastime and the reason we often run late), we heard the frustrations they were experiencing. First, because dermatology is such a small specialty, getting an appointment can take months. Given that skin problems are often visible, impacting one’s self-esteem and quality of life, there is a built-in urgency for relief. Second, without access to professional care, people tend to self-treat. Their efforts to manage their common issues, such as acne, skin discolorations or eczema, frequently did more harm than good.

Selecting the correct over-the-counter medicine was confusing, and the available products were both aesthetically unappealing and ineffective. So, our exam rooms were filled with patients who “tried everything,” including waiting for their problem to “run its course,” all to no avail. We became motivated, seeing an opportunity to take our knowledge and experience out of our office and into the hands of individuals, allowing them to manage their everyday skin concerns properly. Proactiv Solution was born. It offered a fresh approach to both healing and preventing acne, and it struck a big chord with people who had been silently suffering with this embarrassing problem for years.

As a result of seeing millions of lives change because of Proactiv, we couldn’t stop our quest to bring additional dermatologic solutions into the marketplace under the banner of Rodan + Fields Dermatologists. The Rodan + Fields products offer medicated skincare regimens that, in addition to acne, target other common problems, from sun damage and discolorations to sensitive skin and wrinkles. Our approach to product development combines cutting-edge, scientifically grounded technology with nonprescription medication and elegant skin care. Our goal is to help people achieve visible results and feel great about their skin’s appearance.

Be Brave and Take the Road Less Traveled

An idea, a product… those are just half the battle. The biggest challenge companies frequently face is distribution, or how to get your product into consumers’ hands. We learned the value of nontraditional advertising through infomercials. In making one, we were taking a huge professional risk. In 1995, infomercials were not a highly regarded method of selling a product and definitely not supported by the medical establishment. The ability to educate and explain our revolutionary approach to treating acne proved to be a worthwhile gamble, and we felt like we were putting our medical degrees to good use.

In terms of distribution, with Rodan + Fields, we made another unconventional choice. Initially, we launched the brand in prestigious department stores, where it became one of the best-selling clinical skincare brands. However, we saw the limitations inherent in retail and knew we could never realize our full potential in stores like Nordstrom or Macy’s. Our products were selling not because of marketing efforts or advertising. The word-of-mouth recommendations that came from witnessing a co-worker or a friend’s complexion transform brought people to our counter.

This “aha” moment spurred us to exit department stores and pursue direct selling as a means of distribution. Word-of-mouth testimonials and personal relationships form the backbone of the direct selling industry. Working with consultants who have experienced the benefits of our products gives us a unique opportunity to talk directly with our customers. And the direct selling industry offered us a conduit to help people in another huge way—to springboard off our success by establishing their own independent business. As unprecedented and unconventional as the exit of our prestige cosmetic brand was from the retail environment, it was a natural evolution, given the personal approach we have always taken on behalf of our customers and our business.

Integrity Is the Name of the Game

Having started with a trite, but true, expression, we will end with one: “You have one chance to make a first impression.” As dermatologists and product developers, our goal is to help everyone look and feel their best; as businesswomen, we try to exceed expectations; and as doctors, to convey that we care.

Rodan + Fields gives us the opportunity to achieve all three. With the direct selling channel of distribution, our mission is to help people achieve financial independence. In the inimitable words of Dr. Rodan’s dad, a Rodan + Fields consultant has the ability “to be your own boss and make your own money.” In today’s economic climate, this has never been more necessary. However, we can assure you that whatever you pursue, success does not come easily. The learning curve is hard, mistakes are made along the way, and setbacks are part of the landscape. But, as we have experienced, the journey is exciting, and the rewards for hard work and persistence are enriching beyond anything material.

Write Your Own Prescription for Change

We love to see the entrepreneurial spirit in the Rodan + Fields consultants and are inspired by their enthusiasm and drive. In support of their efforts to build their own businesses, we like to share the advice that has helped us build ours: Be passionate about whatever it is you do, keep your eyes on the horizon to help you get through the bumps in the road, push yourself beyond your comfort zone, and, most important, do it all with integrity.

Dr. Katie Rodan and Dr. Kathy Fields are the founders of Rodan + Fields. The doctors wrote the national best-seller Write Your Skin a Prescription for Change with Lori Bush and co-wrote Unblemished. Both are Stanford-trained professors of dermatology and maintain private practices in Northern California.