Case Study: PCA Skin

PCA skin was launched by a solo entrepreneur 1990 and then purchased by Richard and Jennifer Linder.  Richard is an HBS alumni well versed in the power of alignment to drive ROI, and Jennifer is a dermatological surgeon who provided the technical expertise for the products and application methods.  Richard Linder was intent on improving performance metrics through development of a strongly aligned physical brand and organizational layout that would support specific behavioral goals within the enterprise.

PCA Skin will only sell their products to licensed skin care professionals who have been trained by them in the proper application techniques.  Richard decided that the best way to amp up the value proposition was to consider these external customers as an internal part of their team.  What PCA Skin now “sells” is not the product, but learning and success for their customers who then resell the product to their customers.  In everything PCA Skin does, they work to make their customers more successful.  The PCA Skin facebook page has the slogan “wanted, those seeking greatness”.  The business strategy response was to remove all of the us-and-them barriers between external and internal team members and to increase the quality of available support.  Two examples of how that manifested in the facility are as follows:

The PCA Café is located between the office and the training room so that it acts as a breakroom for both internal and external staff.  It is stocked with good coffee, a drinking ice machine, and healthy snacks to encourage people to use it.  It has the look of a café rather than office lunchroom so that people are more likely to hang out, bump into other team members, and end up in conversations that add knowledge on both sides, internal and external.  The fact that it is functional for both office workers and visiting customer/trainees helps them to feel like they are on the same team.  Research shows that diversity is a key element in innovation and the design to attract diverse users supports that.  In many surveys one of the key indicators for retention is “having a friend at work” and if we can use this lunchroom to help create connections and freindships then the space serves two purposes.

PCA gets its customers through cold calls selling training and through its support staff selling additional products and services while they respond to help questions.  The old office had these key customer touch point staff set up in individual high wall cubicles.  The first move was an HR strategy to upgrade these positions so that they were staffed with aestheticians and nurses who had actual experience using the product.  The next problem was solved by a facilities move, using lower walled, glass topped cubicles but arranging them in loose circles so that an individual could face into the corner (towards the sound baffle panels) for their phone call but if they needed help from another team member with a question outside their expertise, they could spin around in their chair and talk loudly and then transfer the call to whomever responded affirmatively that they had that experience.  As a business strategy, PCA began moving team members around every three months, putting weaker employees next to stronger and sitting different backgrounds and capabilities adjacent to each other.  This allowed people to overhear other conversations and the measured improvement was an over 30% drop in training times.  We also set this up in teams of 6-8 because anthropological research shows that across cultures people bond best in groups of this size and retention was a real issue.  This helped people make friends, and think of themselves as a team, a move that could potentially be reinforced by a team bonus compensation.

The facility strategy did not make the business strategy happen by itself but the business improvements would not have occurred without those facility changes.  PCA Skin sold about 2 years after we launched these efforts for a significant financial return on both the initial company purchase price and the facilities investment.