At Columbus Facial Plastics, Dr. Stephen Nogan, M.D., strives to deliver the best care possible with help from the best team imaginable.

A man, smiling, sits with his hands folded

Dr. Stephen Nogan, M.D.


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Give us a summary of your business in 200 words or less.

Columbus Facial Plastics (CFP) is a healthcare practice with a dual focus on facial plastic surgery and aesthetic medicine. As a board-certified facial plastic surgeon, I specialize in cosmetic and reconstructive procedures for the face and neck. Our team also has expertise in lasers, peels, skin care, skin tightening, injections and other non-surgical treatments that fall under anti-aging and aesthetic medicine.

Our mission at CFP is three-fold: To deliver Real Results, engineered by science, that are safe, natural and healthy; To establish Real Connection with our patients and our peers that makes us better at work and life; and to build Real Community by investing our time and talent in central Ohio and around the world.

Our primary goal is to help our patients look, feel and function at their very best, whether we are reversing the effects of aging, repairing the face after a cancer, or restoring form and function after an injury. By developing trust in a comfortable and convenient environment, we aim to provide the outstanding level of care that we would want for ourselves and our families.

How did the idea for your business come about?

I was completing a fellowship at Ohio State in Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery in 2016, and one of my mentors was Dr. Sullivan at The Sullivan Centre in Worthington, Ohio. He was nearing the end of his career, and I was just starting mine.

From 2016 to 2019, our relationship evolved from fellowship mentor/mentee to colleagues in facial plastic surgery. I got to know his patients and his team quite well over time, and I had a ton of respect for what he and his wife had built and how he took such great care of his patients. We began discussing the sale and transition of his practice in early 2019, and I took over as practice owner of Columbus Facial Plastics in January 2020.

What was the turning point for your business? Was there a moment you knew you had something special?

The first couple of months in 2020 were like trying to drink water from a firehose for me. I was very well trained and several years into my practice with thousands of cases and patients under my care, but I was a first-time business owner and now also caring for a retiring surgeon’s patients!

Like many businesses across all industries in 2020, our business came to a screeching halt in March due to the pandemic. With a lot invested in a brand new business, my abilities as an entrepreneur and business owner were quickly tested.

The turning point for me came in May 2020 when we were permitted to reopen. We opened our doors on a Saturday morning, and I was amazed by the response from our loyal clients and outstanding team members. I knew then that we had something special, and we have never looked back.

A sign reads "CFP, Columbus Facial Plastics." Behind, a building is seen.

The main office for Columbus Facial Plastics

What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur and business owner?

As someone who dedicated 15 years of rigorous training in the science of medicine and surgery, I have no formal educational background in business, finance or entrepreneurship. Despite that, I have always gravitated toward the study of principles, concepts and skills that are crucial in business and entrepreneurship—things like leadership, team-building, risk-taking, conflict resolution, creativity, problem-solving, and community service.

Striving to improve and grow in these areas takes me out of my comfort zone at times, but it’s also what I find the most rewarding about being a physician entrepreneur.

What does the city of Columbus mean to your business?

As a rapidly growing city with tons of opportunity for business growth, networking and collaboration, Columbus has a tremendous entrepreneurial energy that has been the perfect fit for Columbus Facial Plastics and will continue to serve our community well for decades to come.

Are you from Columbus?

I grew up in western Pennsylvania and went to medical school at Penn State University in Hershey, PA. During college and medical school, I spent about 2 months in rural Mexico working with a pediatric ENT and plastic surgeon. These experiences and mentorship ignited a passion to pursue residency training in Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery (ENT) and then Facial Plastic Surgery.

Ohio State has one of the best and busiest programs in the country for this type of training, and I was lucky to get the opportunity to move to Columbus and train at Ohio State beginning in 2011. When I completed my training in 2016, I had a great career opportunity to remain at Ohio State as a faculty member. We had already started a family and had great friends and co-workers. We absolutely loved living in Columbus and made the easy decision to stay.

In terms of running a business, is there anything about the culture of Columbus that feels unique when compared to other parts of the country?

Columbus seems to have as much momentum right now as any city in the country. You can read about it and you can see it, but you can also feel it. The palpable energy and growth in our city makes this a great time and place for business owners and entrepreneurs to call Columbus home.

What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to anyone wanting to start a business? 

Since I’m definitely in the early phase of my career as a business owner, I have way more to learn than I have to teach. But one thing that has seemed to serve me well over the past two decades is that I’ve mostly chosen to bet on myself when making career decisions and taking risks.

I think sometimes we allow someone else’s ideas, goals or expectations to influence our career path more than they should. If I’m going to take a big chance on something that will require personal sacrifice, then I need to be sure I’m doing it for the right reasons. We all face the uncertainty and anxiety of both the small, daily decisions, and the really big, life-changing ones, but staying true to myself has brought more joy in my successes and more peace of mind in my failures.

A group of people stand outside in scrubs

Dr. Nogan and his team in Honduras

What do you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before starting your business? 

One of the first impactful business/entrepreneurship books I read about the time I started Columbus Facial Plastics was called “The E-myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What To Do About It.”

The author talks about how, as an owner, you must work on your business—not just in your business, and that an expert in the technical aspect of a business can’t necessary run a business that does that technical work.

This has been a daily challenge for me over the past few years. I’d like to think I strike a better balance now than I did when I started, while recognizing there is still plenty of room for growth.

What’s the most challenging part of your business?

As the owner of a medical practice, taking great care of our patients is the greatest responsibility and challenge. Especially when a patient undergoes a procedure that involves some discomfort and downtime afterwards, striving to maximize results while minimizing complications in patients who are all different from one another is always the number one priority.

Every business owner has a flaw. What’s yours?

I would say that I tend to have a bias toward action when it comes to problem-solving and decision-making in our business, which can certainly be a good thing. But as I look back over the past few years of my entrepreneurial journey, there were times when I’ve acted or decided too quickly. I’m working to get better at chewing over decisions a little longer, seeking out the opinions of those I trust more consistently, and allowing the passage of time to create space for clarity.

Why do you think most business owners fail? What has made you different? 

Well, I can’t say that I have any time-tested answers to this particular question. In general, I try to fight off that fear of failure that we all have from time to time. I imagine that in many cases as small business owners, we have the passion and the product but we lack some component of the business process.

Having the right team and tools in place will increase our likelihood of success, and that’s where I try to focus my efforts.

A man performs a medical check on a patient's face

Dr Nogan, working with the tools of the trade

What was your biggest mistake and what did it cost you?

I don’t know that one mistake stands out more than the others, and I’ve certainly made my fair share of them. I think most of the mistakes I have made so far can be attributed to either bad communication or bad timing.

Effective communication with team members, patients, colleagues, and business contractors can be difficult to consistently deliver as an entrepreneur wearing many different hats and juggling many different responsibilities. But there are no shortcuts or hacks when it comes to communicating well, and it is worth the effort. When it comes to timing, what might be a great idea or decision can come up short if the timing isn’t right. I have learned this the hard way on several occasions!

What tool has helped you the most for your business?

Several years ago, we partnered with FocusCFO, a company that provides fractional CFO services for small business and entrepreneurs. Having a part time CFO on our management team added value to everything from budgeting to operations to strategic financial planning. It was also highly educational for me and created additional time to focus on other aspects of the business while managing a full schedule of patients.

When did you know it was time to expand your business, make your first hire, etc.?

As I mentioned before, I took over a retiring surgeon’s practice and founded Columbus Facial Plastics in January 2020. A couple months after that, we all found ourselves living in unprecedented times. Most of us in the business community were shut down for a period of time and didn’t know what things would look like once we reopened.

Thanks to our great team at that time and our loyal patients, we were able to get our new business back on track quickly. We didn’t immediately expand or take on new or unnecessary risk, but we did begin a 3-year period of steady growth that has put us in great position for future success.

What’s something that was a game changer for your business?

By far the biggest game changers for our business have been the outstanding team members that we have been fortunate to recruit over the past few years. Our medical practice is full of passionate, caring and experienced team members who do an incredible job taking care of our patients and clients.

What’s an idea you’ve spent a lot of time on or thought would make a big difference that didn’t pan out? 

I have definitely swung and missed on a few ideas over the years, but thankfully nothing too expensive or embarrassing. I would much rather try and fail than not try something at all. We’ve tried a few things related to marketing and outreach that definitely did not pan out, but I imagine we are in good company there.

What is something your business spends a lot of money on that’s worth it?

Overall, we do keep a very close eye on our budget and do not spend excessively. We try very hard to maintain fair pricing in an environment where all of our costs have gone up. We also reserve a portion of our appointments and surgery slots for cancer and trauma patients, regardless of their insurance or means to pay out of pocket.

We do, however, spend a lot of money on products and equipment for the procedures we provide. Over the past few years, we have phased out all of the older machines that were in the practice and either chose not to replace them or brought in better technology with improved outcomes and safety profiles.

What’s something you’re working on now that you’re very excited about?

We are expanding in two really exciting ways at CFP in 2023.

First, we will be bringing new laser technology into the practice that will change the way we can improve both the health and appearance of the skin. Together with other providers on our team, we will have the ability to more specifically customize the right combination of treatments to promote skin health and reverse signs of aging.

Second, we are expanding into the health and wellness space in a very targeted way. My wife, Dr. Elisabeth Nogan, is a board certified family physician with additional training in Lifestyle Medicine. As a subspecialty and growing movement within primary care, Lifestyle Med focuses exclusively on the lifestyle modifications that can both prevent and reverse many of the chronic diseases we suffer from. This will be a unique opportunity to add value to our patients at CFP and in the community as a whole.

(Since conducting this interview, Dr. Nogan followed up to let us know that these implementations have been working out great for his business.)

The new laser technology for skin health and resurfacing has been an extremely valuable addition to the services that we provide for patients and clients. The health coaching and lifestyle medicine work has been popular with our clients at CFP as well, and we now offer health coaching sessions for the small business community. This is a great way for small businesses to provide a health and wellness benefit to their valued team members.

 

A man and a woman stand next to a medical device

Dr. Nogan and his colleague Shireen Shatti, CNP

 

What form of marketing is the most valuable for you?

A word of mouth referral is our favorite way to welcome a new client into the practice. There is no greater compliment to our team at CFP than when a loyal client or patient recommends us to their family and friends.

Who is your best Columbus resource? 

Kegler Brown Law Firm – Mike Schottenstein and Ralph Breitfeller
Focus CFO – Donovan Gibson
Aheliotech – IT

Who do you vent to when you have a business problem?

My mom. She is co-owner of a healthcare practice in western Pennsylvania with multiple locations and many of the same challenges we face at CFP.

Where do you see your business in the next 10 years?

One thing that I love about our business and our industry in general is how rapidly things are changing. Surgical techniques continue to evolve. In some cases, surgical options exist now that did not exist five years ago.

In non-surgical aesthetics and anti-aging, new techniques and machines and creams and pills and other “shiny new objects” are popping up all the time. They are heavily marketed to practices like ours and would be easy enough to sell I suppose. But some of it is unproven, misleading or unsafe, and the problem is that it can be difficult and time-consuming to separate the good, the bad, and the ugly, and make the right decisions for our business and our clients.

We have a very serious obligation to follow the science when it comes to what treatments and procedures we offer, and when the science doesn’t exist or something doesn’t feel right, we have to be willing to pass. And while this challenging side of our industry certainly exists, I think the majority of us in this entrepreneurial space are really excited about the advances in skin science and biological aging that are coming in the next decade!

When you’re stressed or overwhelmed, what do you do to overcome this feeling?

When I find myself stuck in a bad place mentally, I will usually just go and find somebody to help. Simple and cheesy maybe, but there’s no better way to flip that negative energy around than focusing on others.

We organize a couple surgical trips each year to Honduras which requires months of planning and helps me keep a healthy perspective on things throughout the year. Focusing on my top priorities at home is another daily habit that keeps me balanced.

A woman sits on a chair, while a man shows holds up to her a mirror, reflecting her face

Dr. Nogan working with a patient

In what ways do you feel helping others influences the decisions you make in your practice?

Taking excellent care of our patients is at the core of what we do and the top priority with every decision we make. We provide every single patient in our practice with the same high level of care that we would want for ourselves if we were in their position. This mindset guides each decision we make related to both clinical care and our business.

What’s your end goal with the business? Is this something you want to pass down to your kids or would you like to eventually sell?

I don’t have a predetermined endpoint right now. I love what I do, and I’ll be working at it for a long, long time. Adding great people to our team at CFP is one of the best parts of my job, and I anticipate that we’ll continue to grow for many years to come.

What’s one component of entrepreneurship that’s much different than what most people think?

One thing that I think some people may underestimate about entrepreneurship is the amount of risk and sacrifice involved. There are some tremendously rewarding and exhilarating opportunities that come from doing what we do, but none of it is possible without a significant amount of hard work, sacrifice and risk that must take place first behind the scenes.

What other entrepreneur do you look up to most?

There are so many great entrepreneurs to look up to and learn from. Two of my favorite books over the past few years have been Shoe Dog by Phil Knight and Excellence Wins by Horst Schultze. Most of all, though, I love meeting local entrepreneurs and learning about their small businesses here in central Ohio. There’s always something new to learn, and I try to consume as much of this type of content as I can. Being as busy as I am at work and at home, I don’t get the opportunity to connect and network with other entrepreneurs or business owners as much as I’d like.

If you had to tell a visitor one thing to do/see/eat in Columbus, what would it be?

We are pretty heavy into kid-friendly activities these days, and you really can’t beat the Columbus Zoo. We also like taking the kids to Pins on a weekend afternoon and playing some games while enjoying an adult beverage.