CEO Today had the pleasure to meet with Darrell Jacobs – Cofounder, Co-owner and CEO of Switzerland-based Clinic Lémanic. Back in 1998, Mr. Jacobs and Dr. Véronique Emmenegger (FMH), who is also Chief Doctor at the clinic, set up a small enterprise for skin treatments, which 20 years later has grown to become an internationally recognised medical, anti-ageing and aesthetic clinic. Below, Mr. Jacobs tells us more about the origins of Clinic Lémanic and the things that make it Europe’s best aesthetic clinic!
Can you tell us a bit about your education and career path prior to co-founding Clinic Lémanic?
When I was younger, becoming a CEO in the medical and cosmetic sector was never a goal of mine. When I was still a student in the Collège de Champittet in Lausanne, aged 16, I started a sports career at a nearly professional level. I did boxing and began taking part in professional fights, on a European level. However, a motorbike accident put a sudden end to my career. What followed was a difficult period in my life with a lot of doubt and loss of confidence. But I overcame it. It is my “go-getter” nature which allowed me to pursue an independent career in marketing. Being an athlete taught me how to be disciplined and hardworking, as well as the importance of putting in the effort to reach a goal.
Another thing that greatly helped my development is the fact that I also have an autodidact side of me: I learnt how to play jazz piano on my own! I also have a sixth sense when it comes to PR and I love being in contact with people, which is very important for this job. My zodiac sign is Leo and I was born in the year of the dragon – two signs that are a very good combination according to the Chinese zodiac. And over the years, I have noticed that whether you believe in it or not, you can always feel the strength that comes out of it.
What were Clinic Lémanic’s beginnings?
As with probably quite a few businesses, the idea was born out of multiple small factors that were combined into a larger concept. Meeting Dr. Véronique Emmenegger directed me towards my current career – when we met, she had just opened her practice in Dermatology and Allergology FMH with a speciality in laser and cosmetic treatments and I was able to help her with the marketing and business development side of the clinic. The instant success of the practice presented an opportunity to grow it and start a clinic dedicated to both health and beauty – which was the official beginning of Clinic Lémanic.
How did you improve on the existing market offering?
Our key focus has always been on the therapeutic aspect of aesthetic and anti-ageing medicine. We don’t only take beauty in consideration – we also think about our patients’ health. This has been our mission since the very beginning and is without a doubt what differentiates us from the existing market offering in aesthetic medicine.
What does a typical day look like for you as the CEO of Clinic Lémanic? What daily challenges do you encounter and how do you overcome them?
I try to oversee everything, pay attention to everyone and be present when I’m needed. And then of course, I try to find the time to do my own work which keeps me in my office for many hours. Traveling is also a big part of my day-to-day responsibilities. It’s just something that has to be done. In addition to our local clientele, we also have many international clients, whose number continues to grow every day. I also supervise this aspect of the business.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your role? What motivates you?
The one thing that motivates me is that 20 years later, I am now realising what we have achieved over the years and the notoriety we have gained at our level, which is just incredible! Especially when you take into account the fact that we have been a family-run business since the beginning and our shareholders haven’t changed. Four years ago, we won the highly respected Crystal Trophy in Moscow, which recognised Clinic Lémanic as the Best Aesthetic Clinic in Europe. In 2012, we were awarded the IIPP prize for ‘Merit in the Development of Medical and Aesthetic Technologies’ at UNESCO in Paris, recognizing the innovative nature of the services we provide and the excellent results for our patients.
It is so rewarding to be the head of a company that is recognized internationally for its achievements and quality of services. Operating in this field is tough and competition is fierce. You can be the best in your area, offer the best treatments, and aim for excellence in the medical sector, but if you fail to promote yourself properly, you can quickly be overtaken by competitors who are not necessarily as good as you. Offering excellent products and services is not always enough – you need to find the right ways of communicating them and make sure that people know about them.
Our beginnings were modest, but today, we are well known and have been featured in innumerable publications on an international level.
Tell us about the range of products that you’re developing?
We have launched our HEALTH BOOST® line of 100% natural micro-nutrition anti-ageing and regenerative products, as well as our 24hr face cream ‘La Crème’. In order to develop these exclusive products and find the ingredients we needed, Dr. Véronique Emmenegger and I traveled all the way to Australia. The whole experience of being able to take part in the conception of our own products has been absolutely fascinating and very rewarding.
What was the best advice anyone ever gave you, and did you follow it?
Never give up after the first ‘no’. Our company and our successes are a perfect example of this.
What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced CEO?
No one can survive alone in life or in the business world. Wanting to be surrounded by loyal and competent people is natural. My piece of advice for young entrepreneurs is to surround yourself with people you can trust and listen to their guidance, whilst keeping in mind that the final decision has to be yours. Don’t forget to be cautious about what people say, don’t believe everything you hear and don’t lose track of your goals.
How will your market look in the near future?
We hope that we have communicated and developed our services in countries where the need for high-quality medical treatments is high. We have noticed an increased demand for medical consultations in cosmetic and anti-ageing medicine in Switzerland and on an international level. Anti-ageing and regenerative medicine is a branch that we are paying close attention to developing.
With our exclusive products La Crème and the HEALTH BOOST® line, all of which have been developed in line with Swiss quality scientific criteria, we are entering a new phase of our business which complements our traditional treatments. We recommend using these products in addition to a personalised treatment or a programme of treatments. We always aim for excellence and there is no limit to perfection. Our 20 years of experience in taking care of patients has allowed us to offer treatments which are becoming more and more personalised, and I firmly believe that this is the future of medicine. There will always be an increase in the supply of cosmetic procedures, but after a certain point, what will differentiate them from a similar product that you can get at the supermarket? We aim to differentiate ourselves through a very well developed medical pole which goes from the diagnosis through to long-term after-care. We try to carry out all of our treatments in an artistic way. Leaving your face and body in the hands of a doctor, an aesthetician or a surgeon is scary – every person is different, which is why every treatment has to be tailor-made. At Clinic Lémanic, the process always begins with a reliable and precise diagnostic, provided by experts only. Everyone has their own specific needs, which is why our aim has always been to provide personalised and tailor-made treatments.
How do you see the company changing in the future?
As a family-run business, we have reached a critical threshold. Our premises are now three to four times bigger when compared to when we first opened our doors in the centre of Lausanne. I have asked myself if we should continue expanding. Perhaps establishing subsidiaries in other areas? In other countries? However, this could mean losing our authenticity and reputation. Our patients like to know who they are dealing with and want to be treated by doctors and a team they are familiar with. This is why we are therefore looking to further consolidate our position, all whilst being attentive to the trends, both in the medical and cosmetic sectors. We are looking to build customer loyalty with a high-end clientele, locally, nationally and internationally. With 20 years of experience, it is a choice we can afford.
On of this, Dr. Véronique Emmenegger plans to further develop the medicalised department in order to grow out of the stigmatised idea of cosmetic beauty. The future of Clinic Lémanic lies in the creation of two areas of focus which are both distinctive but complementary: firstly, a facility dedicated to cosmetic medicine, and on the other end, a department committed to health, which will include preventive medicine and anti-ageing. Of course, both areas could cross over as for us, health and beauty go hand in hand. This is how we plan to continue fighting against the ruthless cosmetic medicine market.
Are there any current exciting projects that you’d like to share with us?
I am happy and proud to announce our partnership with the Swiss watch enterprise Carl F. Bucherer, which has been owned exclusively by the Bucherer Family since its foundation in 1888. The partnership will include a number of joint events, so stay tuned!