My short bio says that I sold half a million dollars of plastic surgery in 3 weeks which led me to start this company. However, that’s not the entire story. I sold $806,390 worth of surgery in 72 days.
My first 3 weeks were nothing like the last 7 weeks. As time passed, the amount of disorganization and non-compliance created a lot of tension. Everyone became swamped. We were ordered to do clerical filing, accept and count thousands of dollars in cash payments, forge letters, and give medical advice.
I spent most of my days solving problems and patching holes. It was seemingly harmless, and everyone was doing it. But something just seemed off. I felt needed and simultaneously, unappreciated and underpaid. I felt like they owned me. Everyone was stressed and my co-workers started sneaking tequila shots at work. Keep in mind this was at a surgical center and we were medically qualifying patients. Some employees were untrained while others were under the influence. My way of responding to the stress was to write things down. I wrote & tracked everything. I began to pay very close attention to the finer details.
Paying Attention to Detail
Selling surgery is rewarding when you work for the right surgeon. However, it is a gray industry and many unethical (even illegal) things take place. The surgeon I worked for had no license to operate in the facility we worked out of. Sensitive patient information could be downloaded on employee’s personal cell phones, and we were using free apps like Google calendar to schedule millions of dollars in surgical bookings. When patients inquired about our ever-fluctuating prices, the doctor would say I was the boss and made all the prices. He’d call himself the “free labor” in whole the process.
Everything Is Connected
On the front end, we were getting a lot of customer complaints. I discovered my employer had lied on the building permit about his intentions for the facility. The municipality wasn’t even aware that the facility would become a surgical center. We started receiving surprise inspections. The prices were changing almost weekly. Patients were being medically qualified for surgery by untrained employees. There were no follow-up phone calls being made, or directive packets for healing after surgery. Shipments were mysteriously disappearing, my check was $300 short, and employees were being treated poorly.
On the back end, there seemed to be no rules. Employees were forced work uncompensated hours. The sales team was tasked with answering an after-hours emergency phone for post-operative patients. I went from being a 1099 contractor toW-2 hourly employee without benefits. My original hours were 9 to 5, but I was forced to stay until 6. Then “there was an error in accounting” that conveniently made me a salaried employee at $800/bi-weekly. They told be being on salary disqualified me from over-time pay. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when they told me I was going to have to work Saturdays without an increase in pay. They said it was because post-operative patients from Friday would be coming into the clinic for check-ups.
Asking the Right Questions
But why would a salesperson be required to work Saturdays in-house when there were only post-operative patients? Answering calls and emails at 11 pm wasn’t being accounted for either but it was expected of us. Skipping my lunch breaks to accommodate customers also went unpaid. The designated after-hours phone for medical emergencies was also unpaid, mandatory after-hours work… It just didn’t seem, legal. To top things off, patients were dying left and right at other clinics from our best-selling procedure.
I began to write down everything. I even tracked my productivity, how many patients I helped, and how many questions I was answering that I was unqualified to answer. Initially, it was in an effort to improve my productivity and efficiency. I wanted to make money, and I wanted to sell. Then one day I was looking at the numbers. I realized how much money I was making the company, and could see why they were so exploitive. The 10% deposits from my sales alone could pay the entire staff each month. And I only accepted deposits. There were several other salespeople that sold just as much, and when the patient would come in for surgery they’d pay the remaining 90%. This business model was massively profitable, and my employers got greedy.
When Growth Turns Into Greed
Even if all the patients canceled their surgeries, the deposits were not refundable. Patients didn’t seem to mind the fact that it was non-refundable because they came in droves. From the outside, the business seemed to be growing rapidly. On the inside, it was imploding even faster. Sure, startups have growing pains, but these weren’t normal growing pains. They’d lost 7 employees in 3 months (58% turnover), and the local authorities were catching onto their sketchy ethics. Like a bad trade in the stock market, it was time to cut my losses. It is easy to become greedy or too focused on the money. Greed is costly when there is non-compliance. Employees are treated poorly, consumers have bad experiences, and entrepreneurs are limited in how much they can actually contribute to their communities.
That’s Why I Started This Company
Selling self-esteem was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I love providing services that help people. I do my best work working hand-in-hand with great businesses. There is nothing more fulfilling than helping a quality product or service reach consumers in need.
However, the government will always catch up to sketchy business practices. Especially if there is enough money on the table. An employer can do 10 decent things for an employee, but it just takes one unethical decision to turn the tables. They’ll file a complaint, report a violation, or quit and disclose all of the business’ inside dealings to a federal agency.