INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Dr David Heath on Teamwork, Innovation and Transforming the Skincare Industry with Technology
Dr. David Heath, company director at Cutitronics tells us about the use of technology in beauty and skincare.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Dr. David Heath: My family and I are doing well, all things considered. The pandemic has afforded us extra time to spend together, which I am doing my best to take full advantage of, spending quality time with my two children and getting involved in lots of outdoor activities. There are many things we miss doing TECHNOLO such as day trips or short breaks away, seeing more of the wider family or friends, going swimming and so forth. We very much look forward to getting back to many of these simple things we took for granted a year ago.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Cutitronics.
Dr. David Heath: My career in BeautyTech really took off in 2014. I had completed my Ph.D. research in transdermal medical technology at the University of Strathclyde a few years earlier and then progressed an academic career in postdoctoral research into biomedical engineering and medical devices. I was presenting my research findings at a skincare conference when my “lightbulb moment” struck, and I realized that the technology and the experience I had gained could be adapted and transferred to help solve major challenges within the global skincare industry. Brands are constantly searching for ways to strengthen their relationships with consumers, helping them achieve optimal results from their product offerings. At the same time, consumers are consistently failing to see the results they expect from their products post-consultation. In 2014, identifying the gap in the market and understanding the tech transfer opportunity, I spun out Cutitronics.
By harnessing product breakthroughs in science and engineering, Cutitronics’ technology supports brands to create a more tailored experience for their clients, allowing consumers to scan their skin in real-time and understand exactly what their skin needs at that precise moment. Our corresponding app takes external factors such as weather and location into account to determine exactly the right amount of product required and track the efficacy of the regime over time. This advanced level of personalization allows consumers to see the results they expect from their skincare routine from the comfort of their homes.
How does Cutitronics innovate?
Dr. David Heath: A big part of Cutitronics’ innovation comes from our exceptional, multidisciplinary team. From the engineers developing our suite of technologies to the commercial team building relationships with global brands, every team member gives 100%. I think that shows in the incredible progress we have made over the past few years.
At the moment, we are focusing a lot of our efforts on building key relationships within the industry and exploring new avenues for product development. We recently partnered with an organic skincare specialist, ishga, to trial our technology in spas across the UK and support spa owners as they take steps to reopen later this year. Ultimately, it’s by understanding the challenges faced by our consumers and creating tailored and robust solutions that Cutitronics remains truly innovative.
How has the coronavirus pandemic affected your business?
Dr. David Heath: Like all businesses, we faced initial challenges in having to pivot our business models overnight and adjust to operating as a fully remote workforce. This was particularly difficult because much of our research and development takes place in a lab-based environment. However, the team’s flexibility and our strong company culture made the transition feel seamless. We had to completely overhaul our onboarding and training processes to adapt to a virtual way of working, but we’ve been fortunate to grow our team this year while maintaining the collective enthusiasm and drive that has brought us to where we are today.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what were the lessons learned?
Dr. David Heath: With regards to human resources, the most important adjustment made this year was an even bigger emphasis on wellbeing and self-care to accommodate the new challenges we were all facing in our daily lives. No one could have prepared for the events of 2020, so our main aim was to ensure our entire team felt as supported as possible. This included everything from flexible working policies for working parents to encouraging frequent breaks and lunchtime walks to prevent burnout.
Without the strict work/life boundaries that come from working in a physical office, it can be too easy to work longer hours and experience a blending between our work and personal lives. It is true that some tasks need that bit of extra time to push over the line, but there comes the point when overworking begins to create the opposite effect, hampering productivity. For this reason, we also encourage our team to schedule frequent holidays as they would have before the pandemic. It can be tempting to try and save up annual leave for when things begin to reopen (I’ve done it myself!), but we shouldn’t let lockdown distract us from taking proper rest. It’s not only pertinent to our wellbeing but allows us to produce our best quality work too.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Dr. David Heath: Our customer relationship management evolved significantly as the world switched to digital, especially because in-person trade shows, events, and conferences had been a primary avenue for us to meet, build and nurture relationships with clients. It is, however, great to have seen so many of these events transfer online – giving them a much larger reach.
Receiving prototypes of our technology was an exciting milestone of the last 12 months. Usually, these would have been unveiled at trade shows but, as a result of Covid, we have had to revise our strategy. We have relied instead on virtual demonstrations, video content, and offering short trials of the prototypes. In hindsight, this has actually been a perfect way of getting customers familiar with the tech – getting it in their hands so they can see the benefits for themselves.
In some ways, the move to video calls has helped accelerate relationship-building – instead of waiting weeks or even months to get people together, it became easier to get an initial meeting in the diary. Previously, we spent a lot of time traveling for meetings, but now we can get different stakeholders on a video call and very quickly get a feel for where our technology could integrate into their customer offering.
We welcomed our first Client Relationship Manager, Louise, to the team in April last year. She has played a vital role in building our client relationship strategy and fostering relationships with key industry representatives, despite being the first new team member to join Cutitronics virtually. She has a wealth of experience in strong client liaisons, and she’s been a great addition to the team.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Dr. David Heath: When Cutitronics was in its very early stages, I was lucky enough to achieve an enterprise fellowship supported by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Social Enterprise. This backed my initial training to lift Cutitronics off of the ground and turn my idea into a reality. In 2014, I was awarded the Scottish Smart Feasibility Award, which helped me to push through R&D processes and officially launch the company. These opportunities were pivotal in the early days, allowing me to expand our team and technical capabilities to get to the exciting pre-launch stage we are at today.
Your final thoughts?
Dr. David Heath: 2020 came with its fair share of challenges for companies in every stage of growth and in nearly every sector. It’s a true testament to our team that we have managed to continue developing our business through such a turbulent time. It was fortunate that we had already spotted the demand for contactless skincare solutions and were well underway in developing the technology to facilitate this. When the pandemic magnified the issue, we were already ahead of the demand with a solution and well placed to support brands in creating strong relationships with their consumers outside of the physical store.
Last year, we welcomed 12 new members to the team, expanded into the beauty capital of the world, Paris, and took important strides towards the launch of our CutitronⓇ device. I am exceptionally proud of our progress, and I cannot wait to see our product move into commercialization later this year.
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