Jeffrey Frentzen

Here’s the good news: The economy is improving. It may be happening more slowly in your town than in other places, but consumer spending is up over last year. The increase may be slight in many locales, but it is up not down. Those who have jobs are thinking more about getting a jab of Botox or a lunchtime lift. Even those who don’t have jobs are thinking the same thing—looking younger may improve their prospects for getting a new job.

Here’s the bad news: The improvement is happening at a sometimes-glacial pace. This is to be expected, so do not be disheartened. Regardless of what news you may read in the press, or what you may take away from media pundits whose job it is to divide and polarize the population to one side of the political spectrum or another—or from a government that persistently and confusingly sends mixed economic signals to the aforesaid media machine for dissemination—the economy is coming back from the brink.

The next logical question is, when will the economy rally or rebound in a significant way, and what can we expect to profit as a result? You must make your own assessment of the business climate in your town, as well as take a close look at your practice and figure out the effects of a recovery on your line of work.

As much as many plastic and cosmetic surgeons recoil at having to read their own “business tea leaves,” now is still an excellent time to reassess and figure out where to go from here. If you already reassessed your business prospects this year, do a re-reassessment. The distance to a more profitable horizon is closer than it was even 6 months ago.

If dealing with your business side truly is anathema, find someone to help you dig into your business practices, identify where you are making or can make money now that the 2007 recession is officially behind us, and where additional changes must be made.

Do not stop to listen to the mainstream media in its dismal attempts to prognosticate about the future. These are “bad news bears” that will tell you that the recession isn’t over, that we are going to experience a so-called double-dip recession, a major global depression, and other ugly tidings. The end of a recession is a fixed point in time when certain economic milestones are met or surpassed. According to the best minds in the economic field, we have reached and/or surpassed those milestones. In fact, some have declared the entire recession experience of the past few years has been a “market correction”—albeit a major one.

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See also "Preparing for the Recovery" by Tor Valenza in the June 2009 issue of PSP.


Make a sweeping analysis of your ledger, listen to your neighbors and competitors, and maintain that all-important dialogue with your customers. In other words, take your own temperature, and do not expect the “nanny state” to help you out of this mess.

As plastic and cosmetic surgeons, you have an advantage over many other medical practitioners. You don’t rely on insurance payments or Medicare to pay the bills, for the most part. One can argue that this may not be an advantage, but in the current economy it is. There are no “blue sky” advantages in this recovery. The economic climate we are entering is quite different from the one we left in 2007.

For example, the physician who operates on a cash basis does not have to rely on the government or the increasingly Machiavellian insurance industry for his bread and butter. Those who do will be the victims of a wild experiment in nationalized medicine, American-style. It’s not a pretty picture. Both groups are going to be subjected to getting paid more slowly than in the past, or having to deal with onerous procedures for obtaining credit needed to expand the business.

The physician who works on a cash basis can control his or her own destiny more proactively in an increasingly over-regulated world. This is your cue to work toward becoming that proactive businessperson. Embrace and don’t fear that business side.

The recipe for success in the near and far term is filed under the heading, “Reinvention.” You must recast your practice in proactive and thoughtful ways, now that you recognize that you are of a privileged group of practitioners. You can be part of that exceptional group of people who will have the freedom to be entrepreneurs over and over again, to reinvent your business as much as is needed in order to meet the needs of an increasing number of patients who desire to look younger, feel better, and in many cases compete more effectively in a very harsh job market.