Cosmetic Surgery Startup RealSelf CEO Celebrates Growth & Admits “Sometimes It&#821…

The first thing you see when you walk into RealSelf’s office in Seattle is a chalk wall on which is written the company’s manifesto.

“This is your body. You only get one. The more you feel at home in your own skin, the more you come alive. Worrying what others think will only hold you back,” it reads in part. “You define what’s beautiful.”

Heady stuff for a website for people pondering tummy tucks, breast implants and nose jobs. But then RealSelf strives to be more than a referral service for cosmetic surgeons. RealSelf calls itself a community in which users, mostly women, find information, support and acceptance.

That community spirit extends to the 10-year-old company, landing RealSelf at No. 17 out of 50 on Glassdoor’s 2017 Employees’ Choice Best Place to Work list in the small to midsize category. Workers laud a creative, intelligent environment with startup energy and responsive supervisors. The free unlimited beef jerky and cute Chihuahuas running around are also a plus.

Founding CEO Tom Seery tells Glassdoor how RealSelf has kept it real all these years, keeping the workplace culture healthy amid startup pains and drawing on lessons he learned at his previous gig at Expedia.

What’s the top benefit of working at RealSelf?

“The number one benefit is you are in a place where you’re very fortunate to be surrounded by very purpose-driven, innovative and creative and fun-loving people. The work environment comes out of the people.”

How do you describe the workplace culture?

“What we love about RealSelf and our community is how incredibly authentic they are and their interests. We have sought to mirror what is happening in our online community in our office environment as best we can.”

[Related: See Open Jobs at RealSelf]

Employees talk about the office Chihuahuas and the free beef jerky. How else does management respond to employees?

“There is no shortage of listening. In the Glassdoor reviews, people keep referring to the engagement of the employees and the overall team and the responsiveness of managers to their concerns and interests.  We are doing formal surveys frequently, and not just taking the survey and putting it in the file drawer, but something with the data. The employees want to see that you can walk the walk.”

You like to say RealSelf is more than a cosmetic surgery referral service: How so?

“We have consumers who have come together to share very personal, meaningful experiences. We call them reviews. They’re actually more like stories that have incredible amounts of detail, photos, ideas — sharing things that people have decided to do to feel the most confident about themselves. We call it the aesthetics community, a term that’s not often used in this world that’s a relatively unfamiliar place for most people, filled with stigma and taboo. This community-driven approach has really brought an elevated conversation that allows people to make the best and safest decisions in an unregulated industry.”

What mistakes did you make along the way?

“If a founder CEO doesn’t have a litany of examples then there’s something to be worried about. I think my first mistake, at the very, very beginning, actually named the company VividSelf. And my cousin called me and told me that Vivid is the world’s largest adult entertainment business and that I may want to reconsider the name. VividSelf became RealSelf, and I fell in love with the name.”

[Related: 13 Companies Hiring This Month]

What growing pains did you experience?

“I think there have been times when we’ve hired, in the early days, individuals to work on activities that weren’t well supported. Sometimes it’s painful. You have to say no to things that seem very obvious and very important but are not making the cut. In startups, it’s about making rigorous tradeoffs all the time. If you don’t make those you find yourself in a place where you’re not actually achieving your stated goals or your mission.”

What led you to found RealSelf?

“I was raised in a small town with one industry, Schenectady, New York. It is a GE town. My parents both worked for GE for 30-plus years. As a child, I was inspired by not following that path of working for the same company for 30 years. I wanted to do something that allowed me to be more creative and have the ability to show the impact I was having.  At a very early age I was entrepreneurially driven and it wasn’t until I went to business school, at the University of Washington, that I realized I had the ability to start my own business.

I put it on pause until I could learn some more. I joined the Expedia team. I got steeped in an entrepreneurial spirit of people who are great business builders. The Expedia alumni network is extremely influential in my life and has encouraged me to take greater risks and take risks in a different way and really work toward trying to make a difference in the world.”

What is your next challenge?

“I love my job. If somebody asks me if I’m going to sell my company, I say, This is the best part. It’s fun now. The first 5 1/2 years are the toughest, you have no resources, you’re constantly in fear of going out of business. I’m actually having a great and want to continue doing this.”


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January 03, 2017 at 09:35AM


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