Read the Conversation
EF: If 2020 was the year of diagnostics and 2021 the year of vaccines, what do you think will be the key healthcare talking points for 2022?
JR: Healthcare is a very broad concept, and Merz Aesthetics is a niche company, but in general terms, 2022 is a year to change the conversation in healthcare. We have been focused on COVID diagnosis and vaccines for the last few years; every time a person felt sick, we assumed it was COVID. Now that is changing, we are returning to a pre-Covid state of mind. In aesthetics specifically, 2022 is the year we are consolidating a new view on aesthetics, which started shifting during the pandemic. The circumstances of the pandemic made people aware of their appearance and a desire to feel comfortable with their appearance. Looking good gives people confidence and better quality of life, and this perception became obvious during lockdowns and countless zooms and was unexpected. In 2022, people understand that looking better is not a superficial goal; when a person feels good about how they look, it is reflected in their confidence, allowing for a better life. The concept has taken root this year, and we will make that journey with our patients and customers.
EF: You have recently been appointed back to Colombia after covering different roles in other countries. When accepting your new position, what is the mission you set for yourself in your new job?
JR: I am Colombian and coming home had extra meaning for me. I want to leave my mark on the company that has helped me grow and develop. Colombia is the country with the highest aesthetics culture in the region, Brazil is maybe an older and steadier market, but aesthetics consciousness is very embedded in the Colombian people. Merz Aesthetics has a lot to offer, and my goal in returning is to strip bare stereotyped aesthetic preconceptions. It is not about trying to look like a model. Colombians generally want to look a certain way, what they consider their best version, and we can help change the old stereotyped aesthetic perception. That is Merz's main focus, and I am here to support the company in the successful growth trend it has been having. Of course, we want financial results, but it is not only about revenue and market share; we are truly committed to helping people be the best version of themselves to lead better lives, and our products can make a difference.
EF: Could you elaborate on the performance of your current portfolio in Colombia and how it will evolve over the coming years?
JR: Our portfolio globally and in Colombia is broad if you compare it with other aesthetics companies. We have a lot of research and science; over 200 studies back up our products. We have a clinical practice focused on aesthetics, and our biggest brand is Xeomin, our botulin toxin developed fifteen years ago. Xeomin is a pure toxin; this means all unnecessary protein complexes have been eliminated through investigation and science, giving the patients a significant advantage. We are the only company able to back up our claim that the patient will always be able to use the same dose to get the same results, even long-term. We are not here for quick results but for the long haul and these products are the ones that will take us there.
Then we have a biostimulator, Radiesse. The trend at the moment is to have a natural look and great skin quality, and Radiesse, our biostimulator, is the leader in biostimulation in the market. It has scientific backup for safety and efficacy with high-level techniques and protocols to stimulate collagen, giving skin a glow.
We also have a medical device: Ultherapy, a micro-focalized ultrasound; it regenerates collagen by doing skin ultrasound shots, stimulating and restoring the collagen process. We have many products and therapies for the skin, combining them for better results; for example, we can tighten the skin around the jawline. We also have Belotero, our hyaluronic acid-based product for skin hydration. We specialize in different approaches to achieving the best skin quality.
EF: Looking to the future, what products or biologicals are you particularly excited about at Merz?
JR: Xeomin is a biological product. We believe we already have a complete portfolio, so at this point, our focus is more on helping medical professionals develop protocols and techniques around our portfolio to enhance and get better patient results. To leverage and get the desired results using our products, healthcare professionals can combine them or use protocols that offer better results in different body parts. We have a new product pipeline with its corresponding R&D, but our focus is on what we already have: the portfolio, techniques, and protocols.
EF: Could you elaborate on how Merz collaborates with other companies or the public sector, if you have collaborations in the pipeline, and what can be achieved by working together?
JR: Merz is a relatively new player in Latin America; we have been here only seven years, so we have been stabilizing and consolidating the company in the region. We have been busy making landmarks, constructing legal entities, and giving the company a successful structure; now, we have reached a point where social company responsibility has become important. We are just starting our fiscal year 2022-23, and social responsibility is high on the agenda; finding where we can collaborate and support causes aligned with our values. We are highly committed to diversity and confidence for people to have better life quality based on their feeling good about themselves. We are looking for alliances down these lines to give back Merz Aesthetics' successes to society. So currently, this is high on the agenda, but it only has become a priority very recently, and even though we have plans, I can't quite share them yet.
EF: Could you reflect on your use of digitalization and technology and its benefits to Merz and whom you treat?
JR: Our products are based on technology, highly developed complex products based on research and technology. Technology is moving very fast, and we must all keep up. We have various goals:
- Internally, we believe we must distinguish ourselves in how we do things to be relevant in the aesthetics market. We already have a great portfolio, but we are not alone, there are other great products in the market, and we compete against high quality. We have to interact with our patients and customers in a way that will differentiate us and make us special to them, and back it up technologically. It is a fast world, and we must be agile to adapt to market demands, providing answers through one click. To validate our claims that we are the best partner and have the best support, customer service, and interaction, we must empower our company with 360-degree technology. We must have the best technology, e-commerce, and automated loyalty programs. We are working on improving our logistics programs with digital, agile processes to ship and deliver faster. There is a lot of technology behind the scenes offering a premium experience to those who interact with Merz Aesthetics.
- Concentrate on the technology to support our doctors, healthcare professionals, and patients -there are many developments in this area. We have identified technological developments that will help our physicians provide the best quality service to patients and get the desired results by overcoming their concerns in the knowledge that the treatments are safe and will benefit them. For example, when I was in Mexico, we developed a mirror. This simulator showed what could happen in certain scenarios supporting patients in their day-to-day decisions and procedures.
EF: Merz seems to focus on equal male and female treatments and products, whereas other aesthetic and derma companies concentrate significantly on the female market. Could you explain why?
JR: The market has historically focused on the female gender, that is a fact, but we do not agree that it should continue to do so. Merz Aesthetics concludes there should be no bias; confidence through appearance is not specific to women. It is not a gender issue but an individual's desire to look better. We offer portfolio solutions to everybody, regardless of gender, who want to be comfortable in their own skin, to like what they see in the mirror, and therefore be more confident. Everybody should have the right to access our well-being solutions.
EF: Considering your many roles within Merz, what development opportunities does it provide its employees, and how do you attract and retain the best talent at the company?
JR: Company culture has always been important for Merz Aesthetics, and people love working here due to its collaborative environment, devoid of old-style hierarchy in the company structure. We are a lean company; leadership is accessible, and all the teams participate in the decision-making. Everybody has a voice and can express ideas. Good ideas come to fruition within the company, and we promote participation. Merz Aesthetics is a company where people's dreams come true. I get to know the people I work with and their stories, and I meet their families. We get to know each other beyond the 9 to 5 knowledge of co-workers. There are countless examples of employee development within Merz Aesthetics. My boss, the president of Merz Latin America, developed his career in Merz and is a true believer in developing people. I have grown within the company, and most of the region's leadership team has grown and developed within the company, ample proof that we believe in our talented people. Also, I am proud to say we recently received the Great Place to Work certification this year. At Merz Aesthetics, most leadership positions are filled from within because we recognize value and talent. I think this also marks a difference from other companies.
EF: What achievements are you most proud of, and would you like to celebrate at the end of 2022?
JR: I am celebrating in Mexico at the Hard Rock Hotel in the Riviera Maya. Merz Aesthetics Colombia has quadrupled its size over the last four years. We have done it with our brands and our great culture. We have been certified as a great place to work; our employees, after surveys, say they are happy to work for us, and we have been sustainable. We are celebrating all the good news now, before the end of the year.
We still have lots to do, but I wanted to acknowledge the very good work of Merz Colombia over the past years. The whole company is here in Mexico, it is a sales meeting, but we closed our offices in Colombia and have come to celebrate because we all deserve it. As we celebrate, we have divided our priorities into five pillars, brands, patients, medical staff support, improving internally in automatization, and customer service to become the most relevant player in the aesthetic market in Colombia, which is our ultimate goal. We are opening new offices in two weeks, located in a Bogota landmark building called Sigma, on the 27th floor. We celebrate investing in the country, believing in Colombia, and doing things the right way. We successfully offer quality, have faith in our people, work for our patients and colleagues, and seek the best for all who interact with us.
EF: Is there any final message you would like to share with our readers?
JR: Merz Aesthetics is a company that promotes self-confidence, which is fundamental for humans to have a high-quality life. Self-confidence should not be underrated. Our mission, objective, and goal through aesthetic medicine is a tool that allows people to have a better life, feel better about themselves and achieve the confidence that will take them to places they never imagined.
- Our clinically proven portfolio includes injectables and skin care devices that meet the highest standards of safety and efficacy. In addition to this, our products were recently recognized in the Aesthetic Medicine Awards 2022 in the categories of Best Skin Tightening Device, Best Injectables - Neuromodulator y Best Injectables - Dermal Filler.
- One of our newest releases is the non-invasive procedure with Ultherapy®, a device that works with micro-focused ultrasound waves that help generate fresh new collagen in the body, allowing to lift the skin and improve the facial lines and wrinkles. Ultherapy is the only non-invasive treatment approved by the Food and Drug Administration and INVIMA to raise eyebrows and define the mandibular and neck contour.