Joanna Delia

Dr Joanna Delia fell into business in a rather alternative way. Those that know her will say this is no surprise – many things about this young CEO are alternative, and that’s exactly the way she likes them.

“I trained as a doctor and was set to take a normal doctor’s path,” she explains. “But I have to admit that, soon after graduating in medicine, I realised the lifestyle wouldn’t be the best fit for me. I wanted to use the skills and knowledge I had gained but I also wanted to enjoy other aspects of life, including having a fantastic social life and time with my family, as well as being in an environment that is upbeat and happy. So, as much as I am in absolute awe of the doctor’s role and my friends who do that every day, I knew I had to do something a little different.”

Joanna explains that she discovered the path to aesthetic medicine and running her business by accident. Her early medical income as a new doctor could barely cover her mortgage when she was buying her first home, so she decided to supplement that revenue with a part-time job in the med-aesthetic field. “I immediately loved how cutting-edge the industry is,” the doctor enthuses.

“So much research is put into it, and I love helping people to feel their best as they get older. Image can betray us as we age, and I enjoy giving people that extra quality of life as they get to relish the successes of their younger years. I am truly grateful for every aspect of this role.”

Photo by Bernard Polidano

It’s certainly a position that has developed since those early days, as Joanna quickly found her feet in business. She first went into partnership on a clinic, before, five years ago, opting to go her own way and launch People & Skin. Today she remains the lead med-aesthetic doctor on the team, and also enjoys the creative sides of the company, like developing the brand. “It’s more exciting than I ever imagined,” she says.

“I enjoy being the source of inspiration and motivation for the team, and tackle my position as CEO a bit experimentally. I try to bring my values to everything we do, and ensure they are the foundation of all of our decisions along the way.”

Joanna says she now craves the excitement that business brings; the planning that goes into starting an enterprise and watching an idea flourish, as well as seeing it succeed – something that People & Skin did almost from the word ‘go’. She stresses that experimentation plays a huge part in all this and she is rarely afraid to try new things.

Instead, she is resolute that it’s all about learning from others and then putting that into action. “Our values, again, are so important – such as our ethos for really building relationships with and caring about our customers. When you keep that in mind, things develop naturally and that’s really beautiful and clean. I find it honourable when people talk highly of my company, and that naturally transforms into turnover. We have been nominated for, and won, several awards over the years and that’s great, but the absolute best feeling is when a client recommends us; nothing beats it. It’s the kind of acknowledgement I love for the team, too.”

That team is made up of six women, some of whom have been working with Joanna for over 15 years. What began as a two-person unit has tripled, and the CEO believes that it is this small, close-knit and dedicated band that makes the company what it is. “I don’t have much experience with big cohorts of staff, and I like that we are small,” she continues.

Photo by Bernard Polidano

“I don’t think of my team as workers or employees; people are people. They come with everything that a person comes with – shifts in moods, relationships, families, priorities. You can’t expect people to just forget who they are because they are at work. Work is life, and it should be a wonderful part of your life. Yes, my profession is important to me, but that doesn’t mean I am willing to sacrifice everything else for it. It’s part and parcel of something so much bigger.”

With this in mind, Joanna put one of her ideas to the test in 2019: a three-day working week for the company. She wanted to see if People & Skin could bring in as much turnover while working fewer hours, and the results have been phenomenal. “We’re more effective, more efficient, and more excited than ever before,” she says. “COVID-19 aside (when we closed for a while), we have mostly stuck to our plan and it’s worked very well; we actually increased turnover this year,” she says.

Beyond that, Joanna also spent lockdown working more on a personal project she is looking forward to bringing to life – although she isn’t giving too much away just yet. “It’s a new business idea that I am so excited about,” she smiles. “I know it’s something people will want, and everyone uses it every day, so I am hopeful it will really grow into something special. You’ll definitely hear more about it soon.”

Joanna is resolute that 2021 is going to be a good year – one that will see some paused projects get back on track, and that will continue her vision of empowerment, both within her team and further afield.

“This year will be all about retaining what works, continuing to improve, and even widening our portfolio. The world will still be a little uncertain for a while, no doubt, so I don’t think this next period is going to be about transposing our hopes for 2020 into 2021 but taking things as they come and being extremely grateful for what we have achieved so far. 2020 certainly made us appreciate the simple things a lot more and I am going to stay in that mindset for a long time to come.”

This interview is part of a serialisation of 50 interviews carried out with Malta’s top CEOs, featured in the bumper edition of MaltaCEOs 2021 publication, which was recently released. Despite the many challenges of 2020, this is the largest edition to date.

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