When Dr. Anais Aurora Badia started her dermatology practice in Fort Myers in 2001, it was a one-woman operation. “I didn’t have any employees, so I was doing everything myself,” she recalls.
She’d chosen Fort Myers because she saw an opportunity there. “There were not a lot of dermatologists in the area at that time, much less female dermatologists,” says Badia. “It was an area that had been undiscovered.”
And when doing her research, she discovered any dermatologists already there were booked six to eight months into the future. She herself wound up with 13 patients scheduled on the first day of her practice, further validating the market need. “That was the beginning, and it just took off from there,” she says.
Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, Florida Skin Center has grown to five offices in Southwest Florida and has 65 full-time employees. Revenue in 2021 is projected to hit $12 million, which would be an increase of 14.2% from $10.5 million in 2020 and up 150% since $4.8 million in 2016. The payroll has grown 171% since 2016, when the practice had 24 employees.
Badia says the growth has partially been driven by the practice’s focus on customer service, not just health care. “We make our patients feel like they really are important, not just by taking care of their medical concerns, which of course we pride ourselves on, but also that human factor to make sure the patient feels welcome in our offices,” she says. “We try to relate to them as people and explain things to them as we would want things explained to us. By focusing on these things, we’ve been able to grow a lot from patient referrals.”
‘We try to just stay true to ourselves and worry about competing with ourselves. If you just worry about that, everything else comes second nature.’ Dr. Anais Aurora Badia, Florida Skin Center
She also paid attention to where patients lived, noticing some were traveling from Cape Coral and Lehigh Acres to visit her Fort Myers office. That helped drive Florida Skin Center’s expansion to those locales.
An even bigger turning point for the practice came in 2017, with the hiring of George Gulisano as CEO. For Badia, it was know-your-strengths-and-weaknesses moment — a key entrepreneurial lesson. “At that time, I felt as if we were doing well, but we were kind of at a crossroads where I couldn’t really do everything myself in terms of continuing to manage it,” says Badia. “He came in and was able to evaluate where the need was and where we could focus more of our resources. He was able to really break it down.”
A CPA by training, Gulisano provided insight that led to the practice’s expansion to Punta Gorda, Charlotte County, and the hiring of Mohs surgeon Dr. Chetan Vedvyas.
Careful hiring practices have helped create a strong team, another key to the growth. “We are really very focused on the individual when we hire them, their innate personality and where we think they would fit best,” says Badia. “I think that’s an important part of it. We don’t put people in roles where we don’t think they will be best; we let people kind of shine.”
That approach has paid off: Florida Skin Center has been recognized three times on Florida Trend’s Best Companies to Work for in Florida list and was named a 2020 Best and Brightest Company to Work For by the National Association for Business Resources.
Providing a uniform experience across all locations has also helped support the practice’s growth. That requires effort to train employees to the same standards, but it pays off in patient confidence levels. “Our patients are just very familiar with us, and they feel comfortable referring friends and family to us,” says Badia.
The COVID-19 pandemic has of course been a challenge, but the practice has tackled it the same way as other difficult situations in the past — by being proactive. “We’ve just had to try to think a step ahead,” Badia. “For any situation that may arise, or if we see something that isn’t working, we don’t just try to fix the problem. We look beyond it and say is this an inherent problem? Is this something that may be an issue that’s a more widespread situation, or is this just an isolated issue? I think trying to be proactive really makes a difference in the way we practice and helps us navigate things as they go along.”
Badia doesn’t have any further expansion plans at the moment. And though other dermatologists have followed in her footsteps as Southwest Florida has grown over the last two decades, she’s not especially concerned about competition. “We try to just stay true to ourselves and worry about competing with ourselves,” she says. “If you just worry about that, everything else comes second nature. Just do the best you can, and the patients feel that and are pretty loyal to you.”