Mr Adrian Richards shares his journey into plastic surgery and the ethos that has led to a successful career
“That’s the beautiful thing about medicine, whatever you are interested in, there’s an area for you”
“When I left medical school aged 23, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do,” explains consultant plastic surgeon Mr Adrian Richards. Although Mr Richards was sure he would become a medic, after been brought up in a medical family, it took him a little longer to discover his niche. “I wasn’t really sure what type of surgeon I wanted to be until I saw a plastic surgery operation for the first time. It was the simplest operation, a skin graft, but as soon as I saw the surgeon do the procedure, I knew straight away that’s what I wanted to do. That’s the beautiful thing about medicine, whatever you are interested in, there’s an area for you.”
Mr Richards trained for 15 years in plastic surgery, which began at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, a specialist reconstructive surgery infirmary. He then went on to train in a number of plastic surgery units, including the Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire and divisions in Oxford, London, the US and Australia. He finally became a consultant plastic surgeon at the age of 38, in 2002. After initially working three and a half days a week in the NHS and a day and a half privately, Mr Richards made the decision to focus purely on private work, and set-up his training programme Cosmetic Courses in 2002, followed by his practice Aurora Clinics in 2006; these are achievements he is particularly proud of. “Doctors are generally rubbish business people! A lot of my plastic surgeon friends have started hospitals and got involved in business ventures that they have come to regret. So I am really proud of not only having a good medical background but also creating a sustainable, growing, vibrant business that runs alongside our medical principles.”
But as well as being a good surgeon and a good businessperson, Mr Richards believes it’s important to be able to have good people skills. “If you’ve got good social abilities, like people and get along with people, then you are likely to be successful. What we really emphasis on our course is the importance of the ‘three As’: availability, affability and ability; the ability to work hard, to be able to get along with people and to be able to do the treatments well. Those are the really important things if you want to be successful.”
Mr Richards gets a lot of job satisfaction from his work, despite feeling that members of the public sometimes misunderstand the plastic surgery industry and assume it is purely about vanity. “The reality is that these patients are real people with real issues. You get these really young, fit and healthy people that have real physical issues that have a real impact on them, and, with a relatively simple procedure, you can correct that and let them get on with their normal life.”
For anyone looking to get into the aesthetics industry, Mr Richards advises, “It’s not for everybody. Some people may have slight issue with the fact you’re not treating ill people, you’re treating well people. You are making a big difference to their life, but they’re not ill. So if you have an issue with that, this is probably not the right industry to get into,” adding, “But you are changing people’s lives.”
Mr Richards explains that he works by a humble ethos, and believes a simple and honest formulae leads to success, “If you treat people well, make the whole experience positive, make sure the treatments are effective and do it in a nice environment, near where they live, at a reasonable price, you don’t need to do anything else.”
What treatment do you enjoy giving the most?
I’m mainly a breast surgeon and we have a new operation which I really enjoy doing. I have put two of my surgeon friends’ techniques together and created a new solution for people who have descended breasts, after having breast implants in for a long time. Technically it’s a very clever operation and it has been very successful.
What technological tool best compliments you as a practitioner? It sounds a bit pedestrian but I’ve started using a ‘funnel’ to put breast implants in. Normally, when you put the implants in they touch the skin, but now there is this ‘funnel’ we use, which is lubricated and ensures the implants don’t touch the skin. This means a smaller scar, no bacterial contamination, and it is much better for the patient.
Do you have an industry pet hate? There are people in the industry who over-hype things and make claims that are untrue that easily mislead people. It’s usually when there is a new trend or craze, but people need to wait until they know the facts and not make decisions based on these claims.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently? I’ve probably been too trusting of some people. As a very busy plastic surgeon, I tended to trust people, and perhaps some of them I shouldn’t have done. The thing I perhaps regret is not getting trusted business advice sooner.
What’s the best piece of career advice you have ever been given? If you’re in the aesthetics industry, you need somebody who can give you simple advice and for me, that’s my dad. Years ago I was working in a hospital and had a very small slot to operate, between 7pm and 9pm, and the plastic surgeon before me would often overrun. So I said to my dad, ‘I’m trying to build-up a practice but I’ve only got this small window in which to work.’ And he said, ‘Well, is there anywhere else you can operate?’ It was so simple, yet I hadn’t really thought about it. I ended up going elsewhere and it became really successful.
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