Eric Schweiger, M.D., F.A.A.D., is the founder and CEO of Schweiger Dermatology Group (SDG), a leading cosmetic and medical dermatology practice in the tristate area.
Dr. Schweiger founded SDG in 2010 with one office and a single employee and has since grown to over 45 offices with over 700 employees and 140 healthcare providers. Over the past four years, Dr. Schweiger has raised over $100 million in private equity capital which has been deployed to help facilitate SDG’s growth via a combination of de novo offices and strategic acquisitions.
The mission of SDG is to deliver the Ultimate Patient Experience and make high-quality dermatology services easily accessible to people in the Northeast. Wait times to see a dermatologist are historically long, and Dr. Schweiger’s goal is to increase access to dermatologic care by opening new practices and revitalize existing practices throughout the area and by offering same-day appointments and extended hours. Today, SDG provides dermatology care to over 500,000 patients annually.
Dr. Schweiger received his B.A. from the University of Michigan and his medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He completed his post-doctoral training at New York University and the University of Kansas Medical Center. Dr. Schweiger also serves on the dermatology faculty at Mount Sinai Medical School in New York City.
Dr. Schweiger is honored to have been a 2018 EY Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist and Schweiger Dermatology Group was named to the in both 2017 and 2018 to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies in America as well as the Crain’s New York Fast 50, which honors the fastest-growing companies in New York.
How did the concept for Schweiger Dermatology come about?
I wanted to make healthcare—a visit to the dermatologist in particular—an easy, hassle-free, and even enjoyable experience. There have been complete overhauls and advances in other industries like dining and transportation (think Seamless, Opentable, Uber) that are customer-ease focused. My mission was to create the Ultimate Patient Experience, giving patients a wide array of options and availability while making every interaction in the process, from the first appointment scheduling to settling the bill, a positive one.
How was the first year in business?
The first year of business was intense and exciting. Against lots of advice from friends and family, I moved forward with opening my practice in 2010 when the economy was far from ideal. It was only myself and one other employee when we started. At the beginning, there was so much anticipation thinking, “Are patients going to find us? Are they going to come?” Only four months in (at the time it felt longer), we started to see a dramatic increase in demand and new business.
What was your marketing strategy?
Digital marketing was my first key strategy when I launched SDG. At that point, healthcare still significantly lagged in online engagement, especially for outpatient practices. People were first finding (and actually seeking) doctors online, and the majority of doctors really didn’t know how to target potential patients. I read SEO for Dummies and wrote all of the web content by hand and started a blog. Fairly soon, we were number one on Google for all the top search keywords in dermatology, to which we accredit a lot of the early traction.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Early development was focused on organic growth, much from word-of-mouth and website traffic. In the first couple of years, we established three additional offices from the ground-up. In 2014, we shifted focus to acquisitions and quickly grew to 11 locations throughout the boroughs and into the New York Tri-State area. Our corporate and support staff grew immensely as a result. Now, only four years after the shift in expansion strategy, we have 50 locations and almost 800 employees.
How do you define success?
I define success as doing something you love every day. And for me that was fulfilling the needs of our customers, being a great place to work, and the ability to build something from scratch that has an impact.
What is the key to success?
Remaining focused even when there are millions of distractions. That meant staying dedicated to dermatology in our local market and making our patients and providers happy. We’ve just now branched into Philadelphia, which are our first locations outside of New York and New Jersey.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
I’ve realized how important it is to be surrounded with the right team. When you are a start-up, you end up doing a lot of things on your own. When you scale, it is essential to have people around you who have experience and specialized skills to help you take it to the next level.
What are some of your favorite books?
I read a book a month, which has given me so much insight into running and growing the business. I highly recommend Scaling Up, Awaken the Giant Within, Good to Great, and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
It’s not news that one of the greatest challenges during growth is cash flow. Growth really does suck cash. One day in 2014, we were notified that a significant capital investment was delayed by a month and the realization crept in that we may not be able to cover our next payroll without it. Luckily, we were able to secure last minute financing and subverted that crisis.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Surrounding yourself with the right team is key. Our leadership team is strong and focused; it’s added motivation to continue leading and pursuing a larger goal.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Focus on your core strategies. Don’t be afraid to fail, and be ready to adapt at any moment. Also, every company goes through massive ups and downs, so don’t get too excited when things are going well and too down when they’re not.