Inspirational Women: Suzie Hoitink
Each week SHE‘SAID’ will feature an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chosen field, someone still on their own path striving to make a difference or simply someone with a remarkable story to tell. But these women will contribute their own knowledge, expertise and life lessons in order to truly inspire others.
Name and role:
Suzie Hoitink, Entrepreneur, Clear Complexions Clinics
Tell us about your role? What is it? What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
I’m a registered nurse and I started the Clear Complexions Clinics in 2005 in response to a need in the community for a medical approach to skin conditions such as acne, sun damage, ageing, scarring and rosacea. All treatments in our clinics are performed by qualified nurses and doctors who, using the latest skin rejuvenation technologies available, not only improve the health and appearance of our clients skin but their overall confidence as well. We currently have three clinics in Canberra, a forth under construction and last year opened a beautiful clinic in Balmain, Sydney.
My role is diverse. I do still see clients but my role now is primarily to run and grow Clear Complexions as its CEO. On a typical day, I will sit in on the morning’s 10-minute meeting at whatever clinic I am in to stay in touch with what is happening with staff and clients. I usually meet with our operations manager, either in person or by phone, and then the rest of the day is a combination of seeing clients, mentoring new nurses, discussing complex client presentations, PR-related activities including social media, working on marketing, spending time on writing blogs or articles for magazines, as well as our own Inner Confidence magazine, and preparing for conferences and other public speaking events.
How/when did you know this what you wanted to do as a career?
Clear Complexions was actually born out of a need for a little help with my own skin. Since my early teens, I have suffered acne which continued well into my 20s, in fact into my 30s. Then, if that wasn’t enough, in my early 30s I developed hormonal pigmentation from being pregnant with my two girls. Anyone who has had problematic skin will know just how debilitating it can be. It can affect every aspect of your life. My self esteem took a beating. It sounds silly but when you don’t feel confident about how you look, even if it is relatively insignificant, it can steal moments from you – and it did me.
I had tried everything – pills, creams, diets – but nothing worked. I was nursing at the time and had heard about new technology that was helping people with their skin. This was at a time when light-based therapies were just coming onto the market but access to them was limited to a select few dermatologists and plastic surgeons. I began to research. I realised there was no one out there dedicated to looking after the health of your skin so I set about getting myself an education on the different types of technology and, in early 2005, bought my first IPL (intense pulsed light) and opened the first clinic.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I became a nurse for the same reason my mother and most nurses choose this profession – to care and to make a difference in people’s lives. That is exactly what I do today and every day, but I never thought I would be running a business doing it. Nurses traditionally aren’t the most entrepreneurial of thinkers but the niche I found between a dermatologist and a beautician for a medical approach to everyday skin conditions is just perfect to be filled by nurses. Every single client is inspirational to me. They have had the courage to face a personal insecurity, something that may be insignificant to others but which affects their self confidence and how they see themselves.
My other inspiration is my husband Alex. I have been with my husband Alex since I was 13 years old. We were childhood sweethearts, so almost all my life I have had by best friend by my side. He also happens to be one of the most astute business brains I know and has an amazing entrepreneurial spirit, and a gift for thinking outside the square. He has always made me brave, and encouraged me to be the best I can be. Nothing seemed really risky, just exciting. He is my mentor and biggest fan and he is absolutely the reason Clear Complexions is as successful as it is today.
Did you have a mentor? Who/what helped you to get your career off the ground?
I never had a mentor when starting Clear Complexions although often wished I did. Back then I relied on instinct. Now I surround myself with talented and successful business women through networking groups like Women in Focus and Little Black Dress. Through the Telstra Awards, I have also forged strong relationships with focused and generous women who are always there when I need the “push” or the “pull back”. I have learnt two things from these women: Firstly, reciprocity, to share knowledge freely and expect nothing in return and secondly, to stand out be brave and bold.
What were the stumbling blocks, initially getting started on your career path, and since then? How did you overcome these?
One of the main challenges when we were starting was that there was no precedent for a medical clinic, specialising in skin that was owned and staffed by nurses. We were not received well by a few doctors who simply didn’t know where we fitted in and whether or not we were a threat to their businesses. It took a while, but now we have a strong collaborative approach with those same individuals, and we cross-refer often to ensure the best interests of our clients.
Opening the second clinic was a big achievement and one that taught me the most about business. When you operate over two or more sites, it brings up a whole host of complications that need to be overcome. It was a huge relief when it opened and was well received by clients but what I learned though was the need for systems and the true value of culture to a business. Up until that point, I had educated staff by mentoring them but as we grew and the need for consistency in clinical care was obvious, I realised I needed to develop operating, clinical, and educational systems in order to facilitate growth and ensure clients received the same care from all clinics. That started me on a journey to document every aspect of the clinics, from how to answer a call to how to perform a fractionated laser. What we have now is effectively manuals on how to open and run a Clear Complexions, which is essential for our future growth.
Having multiple sites across two states also highlighted how vital culture is to the success of any organisation and we are certainly no different. We pride ourselves on having a culture aligned with our core values of trust, transparency, empathy, clinical excellence and empowerment, and I work at ensuring this pervades every aspect of the company every day.
What are your goals for the future?
We have a lot planned for this year. We have another clinic opening soon and we are expanding our skincare line. We have the first of our education courses for nurses outside of the Clear Complexions team being launched and will continue consulting to other practices interested in improving their non-surgical practice. Our magazine Inner Confidence is taking on a life of its own and I love being able to profile some truly inspirational men and women through it.
My goals for Clear Complexions are that we continue to open clinics in new cities, provide excellence in nursing education and continue to be a leader in the industry. Personally I can’t see past leading this team of incredible people all dedicated to providing the very best care possible to our clients. Very happy to keep doing what I’m doing.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to follow the same path as you?
This is the one of the most exciting industries to be in. The growth in popularity of non-surgical skin rejuvenation has outstripped surgical options and continues to gain momentum. I would advise them to get as much experience and education as they can, including attending the relevant conferences. There are some fantastic ones available now. But most of all I would advise them to get onboard. This is a dynamic and exciting industry to be involved in with and the opportunities for the entrepreneurial spirit are endless.