Meet Jo Hannah, Total Face Group CEO

Meet Jo Hannah, Total Face Group CEO

Jo Hannah had a dream to build a big business – and, after just 21 months, Total Face Group became the first aesthetic company to list on the Australia Stock Exchange.

BY Rebecca Bodman, 19 min READ

For seven years, Jo Hannah focused on raising her children and supporting her husband’s career – even relocating from their home in the UK all the way to Sydney for his work. But in 2009, after moving to Melbourne, again because of her husband’s work, she decided it was her turn. “It was time to get my career back on track. After having taken time out for the family and relocating to the other side of the world I felt the move to Melbourne was the opportunity I needed to re-ignite my career and achieve my professional goals,” she tells me.

Jo joined global pharmaceutical company Allergan, having worked in the industry in the UK in sales and marketing roles. “My role at Allergan, as a Senior Business Manager, was three-fold really – I trained cosmetic Nurses and Doctors in facial anatomy, was responsible for the promotion and education of injectable products Botox® and Juvederm®, and also worked with medical practitioners and clinic owners on a business level to build clinic success” It became clear to Jo that the industry was fragmented and that there was no reputable brand leader in the medical cosmetics space. “If you were going to have your hair done, you know you could walk into a Toni & Guy salon and be in good hands, but there was nothing like that in this sector. I felt strongly that this was an exciting and growing industry, but the clients didn’t have enough information to know who to go to and didn’t know where to turn to be assured that they’re in competent medical hands. You only have one face, it’s important you entrust it to the right hands”

Jo began talking to Jane Fielding, one of Australia’s leading nurse injectors about the opportunities there were in the industry. In 2014, together they acquired their first clinic, the Melbourne Collagen Foundation from Dr Peter Bartnicki and Total Face Group was born.

Her turn

Stepping into her new role as a business owner meant it was Jo’s husband’s turn to take on the leading role at home. “I knew I had to give everything to this new role,” she says. “My husband gave up his corporate role in order to support me and help run the household. It was very much a family conversation. It had to be.

“They knew how passionately I felt about this because it’s hard for us as women in these types of roles, particularly with start-up companies that demand so much from so many different parts of you.”

“It had to be a conversation that we had with our children and I needed to be sure everyone understood exactly what it meant and how little they would see of me. I now don’t beat myself up about it every day. I think making the decision together is vital because it enabled me to throw everything into it – I know we’re on this journey together.”

In just under three years, Total Face Group now have 15 centres under their umbrella across 4 states – they have fierce growth goals enabled by their strategy of acquiring established businesses as well as strong organic growth, but that, of course, comes with its own set of challenges. “When we acquire businesses, the reputation of the doctor and the reputation of the team is key. We now have 18 doctors and Key Opinion Leaders within Total Face Group which is significant because that enables us to provide a high level of service and expertise to our clients. Three of our doctors are on the Cosmetics Physician Board of Australia and three are on the Allergan Advisory Board, so our cohort of doctors has significant expertise and experience that benefits our team and our clients, it’s critical to how we grow.

“The challenges we face when acquiring new businesses are around communication and culture and are the challenges most businesses face when growing quickly. Jane and I have been very focused on building the right culture. We are aware that when a new group of team members join Total Face Group we need to nurture them and spend time with them to make sure they understand who Total Face Group are, the vision we have and the direction we’re headed. Taking people on that journey and spending the right amount of time to do that is critically important, but also it is one of the biggest challenges as all aspects of the business require so much from you.”

The integration process is hard when you grow so fast and this is something that Jo focuses on too. “For me, ensuring that my team and I are spending enough time on the integration process is essential. And that’s everything from HR, to our day to day operations, to brand awareness, to clinic profitability – everything that touches our staff and therefore feeds through to our clients is critical. We want to assure our clients, and our team, that all the great things [about the established business] stay, but we can add new technologies, exciting new treatments and an unrivalled level of industry expertise – that’s the benefit of being a part of Total Face Group.”

Women for women

Total Face Group employ over 100 staff now, 90% of them are women, including – except for the chairman – an all-female executive, of which Jo is immensely proud.

“All of our executive team have kids and we all juggle on a daily basis. We’re very proud we have a team of so many women and we are dedicated to growing and supporting them under a bigger corporate banner.”

“This really is the first time the medical aesthetic industry has been corporatised. I see that there’s a role for us as mentors, as mums, as ambassadors and as role models. We employ a lot of younger women, this is a journey for them as much as anyone. Total Face Group offer many career opportunities giving employees the ability to work in different clinics, inter-state, to learn new treatments and services, to attend international conferences and to be mentored and trained though our robust internal training program.”

Serious about making their mark on the industry, Jo and Jane listed Total Face Group on the ASX in January 2016 and went through their first round of capital raising, raising $10 million dollars to acquire their next group of clinics. “We always planned to grow quickly; we have an aggressive growth strategy which will position us as the most successful, respected and influencial company in medical aesthetics. Listing on the ASX has been good for TFG and a huge learning curve for many of us within the organisation. But again, it’s fascinating. It’s a world where it’s still quite novel to be a woman. The good news is, Australia has shown an increased trend in female CEO’s in the past 5 years, however a recent report shows that the overall number is still low and has stagnated. Whilst gender diversity is on everyone’s agenda I question whether we are really seeing the imbalance being addressed? I don’t believe in postivite discrimination to achieve quotas and targets but we need to create an environment where capable, talented women can realise their potential and rise to the top.”

“Part of my role is to regularly present on the business to the investment community. I’m sure it’s quite unique for them to have a woman talk about the cosmetic industry. What’s fascinating is that cosmetic and anti-ageing medicine is something that everybody is aware of, everybody’s heard of it. I talk quite openly about how women are feeling, how their partners are feeling, how their daughters are feeling about the way they look and feel. Let’s now forget it’s not just for women, men also want to look good! We need to understand that there is an emotional connection to these treatments. It’s not about price, not about product, it’s actually about an emotional need. We very much understand that and we believe that we’re a business run by women for women. We understand how those women feel when they look in the rear-view mirror of the car, driving the kids to school and ask, ‘Where did those lines come from?!’ So how we engage, connect and support our clients is an important part of our strategy and brand positioning.”

Jo hopes that by sharing her story she’ll inspire more women to want to build big businesses. “Women are inspired by women. When I first took on this role I read an article that stated,‘Men, when offered their next big role, always think, ‘Yes, I’m more than capable of doing that,’ whereas women will always think, ‘Can I do that? Am I good enough?’ Why do we do this? I think it’s such a shame and it’s inbuilt in all of us. I made the conscious decision at the start that I was never going to say that. But I think that’s why we love to hear stories of other women who have been successful because it’s so inspiring, that’s why I value being a part of the Business Chicks network. It is inspiring to listen to other women who have worked hard to achieve their goals and stuck to their paths. It makes women out there think, ‘Absolutely. It’s all possible.’ The more of us that do it, the more we inspire others to do it. I also think for women it’s important to have that person who can be a sounding board or a mentor, particularly if you’re working in a male orientated environment, we need to be there for each other.”

Judgement-free zone

Jo has the type of job, and works in the type of industry that incites a lot of questions. “When people feel they’re in a safe environment, they want to ask a lot of questions, because who do we ask these questions to normally?” she probes. Also surrounding the industry is a lot of judgement – a certain stigma that seems to have stuck. “Unfortunately, it’s particularly ripe in Australia. Australians talk about supporting each other and about being caring to one another, but we’re all very critical and judging when it comes to our looks. I see this in Australia more than other parts of the world. On one hand it’s okay to have your teeth whitened or your hair done, so why do we judge people for doing specific treatments like Botox® ? I think it’s wrong. Absolutely wrong.”

“At Total Face Group we believe in a world where acceptance and compliments should come naturally. It’s okay to want to look your best and look good and it’s okay to do something about it. And if that’s what makes you hold your head a little higher, or walk with confidence, then that’s okay and we should support each other on that.”

Jo is seeing this change with the generations though. “Market research completed last year told us that 25-35 year olds are twice as likely to have cosmetic injectable treatments and cosmetic treatments. But they’re much more likely to talk about it too. So it is a whole different generational trend coming through with the millennials and this, for us, is very exciting to see. My age group still only tell their best friends, because I think they feel that somebody will criticise them.”

Regardless of what people think of the industry, it evokes emotion at some level. “People either say, ‘Why would women do that? That’s ridiculous’ – or they completely embrace it or have it themselves … it always creates some kind of reaction,” Jo says.

“I think I like that because it’s always a discussion point, people feel passionately about it. There are people who don’t know who to ask about treatments, products or who to go to for advice. There are a lot of unknowns and a lot of misconceptions. At Allergan I would often be asked to present on cosmetic treatments and would always start the talk with a Q & A session. I would get all sorts of questions. I’d say to them, ‘Ask me whatever you’ve heard, let me tell you the truth.’ When people understand the truth behind the products, the safety profiles of those products and the outcomes that can be expected, it changes a lot of things. I feel very strongly that Total Face Group’s role is also one of education, the more we can tell the truth about what questions to ask when you have the treatments, who should be doing them, what products should be used, what are the risks, the better. There are far too many women who come in and say, ‘I’ve had a treatment before’, and we ask what product was used and they don’t know. So it’s important. We need to start asking the questions. What are you putting in my face? Or what are you treating me with and why?”

It’s cliché, but you really can hear the passion Jo has for her work when she speaks about it. When you combine that with her smarts and the power duo Jane and her make, Total Face Group are absolutely on their way to becoming to the medical cosmetics industry what Toni & Guy is to the hair industry – the brand leader in the space.

“We’re all very passionate about what we do. So many times we treat clients and we hand them a mirror at the end and they burst into tears because you give them a little bit of themselves back. They walk out with their heads a little higher, their shoulders back and that is so rewarding.”

connect Connect with Jo here


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