While Dr Joanna Delia’s name has become synonymous with aesthetic medicine on the island, her journey within the industry started – as so many interesting stories do – with “a bit of an existential crisis”. Today, she is the primary aesthetic physician in her med-aesthetic clinic, People & Skin, and is passionate about leading with purpose, putting her values at the forefront of her business.
Having trained as a doctor, Dr Joanna Delia admits she quickly felt out of place in a hospital environment, describing the role as a vocation which, despite fascinating her, wasn’t a match. Aa a self-proclaimed lover of life, it opened her eyes to its fragility, and set her on a path of discovery.
“One of the human values I love most is the pursuit of beauty,” she begins, speaking of how she began working at an aesthetic clinic after considering her options, including shifting tack completely to study architecture.
“I then realised I could use my skills to make people happy. We use science and medicine to maintain and improve ourselves on the inside, and we can also do that on the outside,” Joanna says, using her knowledge and practice to combat the sometimes-negative perception of aesthetic medicine. “I find myself fortunate enough to have discovered this way of using science and my skills, and started from there.”
Pretty soon, Joanna came to the realisation that she wanted to open her own clinic. “I am the kind of person that always wants to better things. It started out as a dream but, as it turned out, circumstances dictated that, within a few months, I set up my own shop,” she recalls, likening this leap of faith to jumping into an abyss.
Every time I made a big move – from leaving the hospital to setting up my own clinic – it was extremely scary, and came with huge lessons to be learnt,” she reveals humbly, and going it alone makes her especially proud of her achievements.
“When you’re looking up from the foot of the mountain, your brain is racing, you’re doing all these algorithms in your head. But you do it, step by step,” Joanna says, describing each step as incredible, adrenaline-filled and rife with learning experiences. “The process itself has been very humbling. I’ve made lots of mistakes along the way but, ultimately, one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is the importance of having a set of professionals you trust around you.”
Her role at the helm of People & Skin today is a multifaceted one. While she continues to find satisfaction in offering her services as an aesthetic physician to her patients, Joanna has also developed a keen interest in the administrative side of things – though, she admits, it’s come as somewhat of a surprise.
“No one in my family is involved in business, and it was never my plan to run a business,” the CEO affirms, noting that, as the clinic has grown, so too has her output as a business owner. “I’ve been reducing a bit of my professional work, which is also helped by the fact that our other doctors are so extraordinary. I’m happy to be moving into a more supportive role and having more time to develop and improve things.”
And she’s not quite had her fill yet, she reveals, as she shares plans to start another company. “This has been in the works for a number of years. It is a product I intend to launch internationally, so not being able to travel due to COVID definitely threw us back, but we are catching up, and I’m very excited about it,” she smiles.
As a business leader, Joanna, who was recently named Female Entrepreneur of the Year at the Malta Business Awards, has also become known for progressive practices that prioritise enjoying life, including a three-day work week and taking sabbaticals – a topic she is emphatic about.
“Flexibility is one of the most beneficial things for business,” she maintains, noting that, in adopting these practices, she wanted to prove to herself – and perhaps more so to the country – that not only can it be done, but that it is also incredibly fruitful. “It takes a lot of trust, and you have to be able to delegate. I trust my team completely, and know that they can rely on each other, so, for example, I never take note of working hours or vacation leave. All I am concerned about is that the work is done, and that it is done well.”
The business owner herself takes full advantage of these practices and, alongside administration work, she generally sees patients three days a week, for 25 weeks in the year. As a result, she spends more time with family and doing what she loves. “I’m never not willing to go to work. It requires planning, but works out beautifully – everyone is happy, and I know that our clients feel it as well. When you invest time to find a way to get the best out of everyone, while giving them space to deal with their problems and look at their time at work as a time where they can shine in a safe environment, the output they give is incredible.”
Apart from this emphasis on flexibility, Joanna brings another of her passions to bear on the business: her love of the arts. “The biggest vehicle of education, post formal education, is culture; and if we don’t support artists of all genres and produce art, society moulds and dies,” she affirms, making a case for supporting contemporary artists, as well as Old Masters.
“Apart from supporting the arts on a personal level, as a business entity, choosing to deliver your message or associate yourself with support of the arts really works. A company legacy, when associated with art, is eternal,” she adds, quipping, “after all, how many people remember that Henry Tate was actually a sugar magnate?”
Looking ahead, Joanna’s plans for People & Skin will continue to centre on one important concept: “I value advocacy, experiences and lifestyle more than profit.” And while she admits to being averse to “a lot of” growth, the business is definitely growing, and will continue to do so, albeit on a “soft curve”.
“I’m extremely happy to continue to extend our professional services to more people while always maintaining the highest standards. I have no dreams of cloning my business; I believe our secret is simply being a strong team. I am also passionate about sharing the business’ success with my colleagues. The satisfaction you get from sharing your success built by your team with the team is incredible.”
Meanwhile, Joanna is also looking forward to launching her second company, which she hopes will be “riding some nice waves” in the years to come, as well as continuing another passion project she’s developed over the years: investing in and restoring old properties. “It’s tough but extremely rewarding, and I’m now restoring a place in Sicily, which I’m so excited about.”
This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2023 – the sister brand to MaltaCEOs.mt and an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders
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