ep59 – Gordon Miller

This week’s Headcases guest has over 32 years experience in the professional beauty industry, starting as an administrator at a beauty school and moving on to Pivot Point International, CEO of Milady Publishing, and Executive Director at the National Cosmetology Association. Meet my new best friend Gordon Miller!

  • Gordon shares how he was a young closeted gay guy in the 70s and found acceptance in the beauty industry
  • The significance of events in the beauty industry and Gordon’s passion in bringing people together
  • Gordon shares what he thinks of the game changing shifts in the salon industry
  • Listen to what Gordon says is missing in the beauty industry

Complete Transcript

Chris Baran 0:00
How great would it be to get up close and personal with the beauty industry heroes? We love and admire and to ask them how did you learn to do what you do? I’m Chris Baran, a hairstylist and educator for 40 plus years. And I’m inviting all our heroes to chat and share the secrets of their success.

Well, today’s guest is I’m really excited about because this is someone that I’ve always looked up to. We passed each other in the hallways at shows. And I really excited about not only to have him on the program, but consider him my one of my new friends. And I want you to check out these leadership roles that this gentleman has had. He’s been the Executive Director of the National cosmetology Association, Vice President of member schools for pivot point, president of Milady, publisher for American salon. He was the CEO and President of hairbrained. And his latest venture is launched social beauty makers is the launch of social beauty makers. So let’s give it up for this week’s headcase Mr. Gordon Miller. Gordon Miller, it is an absolute honor and pleasure to have you on head cases. I always feel that, you know, if you’re in the hairdressing industry, you’ve got to be a bit of a headcase. So from one headcase to another Welcome, everyone.

Gordon Miller 1:31
I am honored to be here, Chris Baran. It’s kind of a big deal to be with Chris Baran.

Chris Baran 1:35
Oh, well, yeah. Would you play that? And when you write that down, and so I can send it to my wife?

Gordon Miller 1:40
I will. Yeah, absolutely. Well, you know, what,

Chris Baran 1:42
here’s the interesting part. You know, with all the years that we’ve been in the industry combined, you know, our paths always cross. Barely, barely, but we, you know, you would hairbrained me with brands and at shows and hey, how you doing? And that was about it. And, and, you know, what, what really cemented? And I said, this guy is going to be a friend of mine. I’m gonna guarantee him that, whether he likes it or not, was, we were just at an event together. And, and you came backstage and we walked you around, and, and dammit, you’re a nice person.

Gordon Miller 2:22
Thank you. Thank you. Well, it’s hard not to be nice in the presence of genius. And I and I say that with great sincerity based on the time. First of all, by right your reputation. But that time that we spent behind the scenes at Redken Symposium, me looking at 100 or so different head pieces and mannequins that you and your team had done. And I think I sent it to you my greatest mentor in life was Leo Prassage, founder of Pivot Point, he gave my first big break, and he would have been just joyous to have been standing next to me watching what you all have created. It was it was a very special Yeah,

Chris Baran 2:58
that was fun. And you know, the interesting part of that was, you made a great comment, you said, because I’ve watched the program. But if I would have had a little bit of insight into how these were done, that when we walk you through them, it would have made it that much more impactful. And I did pass it on. So listen, I’m enough about me. I want to talk about I want to get back onto you here the so you know in knowing you now and we had a little brief conversation before we set this up, etc. So I understand everybody I think that thinks because of the what you’ve done in the industry that you’re a hairdresser.

Gordon Miller 3:38
Or they think I’m Dwight Miller.

Chris Baran 3:40
Well, your beard, I don’t know how your your beard, you’d have to grow a beard and have it much longer and right.

Gordon Miller 3:47
But more so many people say to me, are you Dwight Miller. But yes, people do assume very often. And I often say I’ve probably been in more haircutting classes than the average hairdressers. Yeah, but I am not a hairdresser. But

Chris Baran 4:02
so give me the history that what like what did like did you have other jobs? Prior to college? Did you like a new job? Do you went into college? Tell us what you went in for? And how the hell did you end up in here?

Gordon Miller 4:15
It was a happy accident of epic proportions. I am. So I went to four year college. I did have jobs before then. It’s funny. I like whenever I’m on stages, I Oh, at some point, I always like to just be right ups as quickly as I can get to the point that Hey, everybody, I’m gay. And I just think it’s important. I just think it’s important. It’s part of my belief system of coming out as important to the world, you know, showing up and just normalizing you know, my community

Chris Baran 4:44
is the reaction when you say that.

Gordon Miller 4:46
It’s amazing, actually, usually, usually it’s nothing. Again, I and I’ll explain why that’s so amazing to me. Let me go to my story, it all make more sense because the real isn’t on in the industry is because of the industry’s reaction to gay people in an early moment in my life, and so, yeah, high school, I pumped gas, I was the gay kid pumping gas one time I miss the thing that you’ve put the, for young people, we used to pump the gas people walked up to your car, put it in, and you didn’t do it yourself. And I didn’t really know how to do it. But I got a job and I missed the hole. I’m not gonna be careful here. And this is a hole and I filled up the tank, but it put gallons, probably 20 gallons of gas, you know, on the ground. And I had a stoner partner, you know, and he just sat and he’s just laughing. And I’m like, What do you laugh at that he’s like, just don’t lite anything. I worked at a Kentucky Fried Chicken. That that was another interesting experience. It had a few jobs. I’ve worked in a shoe store in Palm Beach, you know, not far from Mar a Lago. So, you know, and I wanted to be a lawyer, you know, when I was in high school, I didn’t come from much, you know, family, we’re definitely at best lower middle class at very best. And got lucky and got some scholarships and much of university to Florida, and figured out that law was a little bit far for me in terms of how long I’d have to be at school and resources. And so I decided it just wasn’t just in the cards for me. And so I decided on Investment Finance, I liked math, I liked numbers, people said, you know, maybe I’ll get rich someday. And I was fascinated. I’ve been reading the Wall Street Journal since I was 12. And so I was fascinated with economics, I was smart enough to know, you really can’t make any money being an economist. So but I had a minor in economics, which and that’s the part of my college education that continues to serve me. When I graduated, I was like, I don’t want to do this, like you spent four years and most of my four years were spent figuring out how to be gay,

more so than anything else, coming out to myself and to people in the community and start to understand who I was. And so when I graduated school, but I was in school, I grew up in Florida, once university, my folks moved to Denver. And after college, I decided to move home and you’re old enough, no, we didn’t do that. No, one night that you didn’t move back home. That was that was a shameful act very different than today. Try not to tell anybody where I was up to. But I moved back in with mom and dad. And literally about four weeks into that part of my life. Again, as a closeted young gay kid closer to my family, and again, 22 in New Town, and I was like, a), I gotta get out of the house b) I gotta get my own money. So I could just be a little bit of myself, like, live in this closet, and, and create an escape plan. And having a finance degree, I knew it took money to escape mom and dad at 22. So I opened the newspaper, the classified ads, again, for young people, we used to do that we’d open these newspapers. And there was a job for I can’t remember what it was called. But it was we now call them administrative assistants. And I was just looking for something temporary, to get some money to then figure out my life. And so and it was it said the name of the company was Lavon, Incorporated. It didn’t say what it was it was a paper pushing job. It was a temporary position for several months. And it was in a place called the Denver bank building. And I thought, I don’t know what it is. But dad will think I’m going into finance. So everything’s good. So I applied for the job. It was a little office, I honestly didn’t know what it was because the sign just said move on is incorporated. And it looked like a business office. So they hired me. And I was just there, they were having an audit of a big audit and they needed somebody to shuffle the paper route. So I got this job. Nobody talked to me for like two weeks, like I was in the back room like of this little complex of offices, maybe like five or six offices. There was a lot of people coming and going, but nobody would really talk to me. And then I think I am a nice person. And I finally wear them down by saying hi and how are you? How’s the weather, none of times where people started to give me some feedback. And they actually let me out of the cubby pole in the back and leave me in the middle of stuff. And then I noticed all these people coming through that we started talking and they told me they were chained beauty salons. I had never really been in a salon. I went to the barber shop from time to time, my mother and her sister they did each other’s hair. It just wasn’t in my understanding of life. I knew they were around, but I didn’t know what it really was about. And they owned a chain of Cosmetology schools. I didn’t even know what a beauty school was to be honest, except maybe you know, the beauty school dropout thing you know, from the movie. And so that was my only context and I had no interest in it whatsoever. I liked the people. But then I started noticing that amongst the salon managers, school educators, people are always coming in out of the office at different times, and they occasionally have beatings. I noticed a lot of gay men. And again, I’m this closeted kid and I’m just going like, and if that in that era, we were we were taught about how dangerous we taught each other you know how to stay safe and the dangerous in the community physical harm, you know, the all the bars were down alleys with no signs it was it was an era and I was like there’s all these obviously to me, obviously gay men and everybody’s so nice to them. And they’re like part of the work culture and family. It was beyond what I thought was possible in life. You know, I just thought you lived in the closet and you found your way through life. So I was really fascinated with it. And I was fascinated. The more I was around these people, it just kind of put a smile on my face. I didn’t have any aspirations. But one day, the owner came to me and said, you know, this is about to wrap up. And she’s like, What do you got planned next? And I said, Well, I’m gonna go to work in a bank. I had no plans. But I had to say, I had to act like I was a confident young man. And she said, how much will they pay you to work in a bank? And I said, Oh, you’re probably around $12,000 a year. It’s 1978. That’s probably 25,000. Today, she’s like, I don’t see that in your future. She says, you know, we think you need to stay here with us. And she said, and if you do, she’s, I’m going to train you how to manage cosmetology schools, and I’ll pay you $24,000 a year. And she says, I’m just going to be honest with you, that car you drive is a real piece of shit. And if you’re gonna work here, she’s like, You have to have a better car. So I’m gonna get you one tomorrow morning. We’ll be a company car. But every year you’re here, you’ll get a new car. So two days later, I had a Camaro, like a silver kind of gray Camaro. Part of being in the closet. It wasn’t a very gay car, but it was kind of a butch car. But it helped dad loved, you know, so it all worked out perfectly fine. And that was the beginning of everything for me. And I was with her for five years. And she I became her sidekick, you know, and she took me everywhere. And she showed me off to her friends. In business. I traveled around the country with her after a couple years. And that that led to me, a friend of her stole me away. And Brooks came to me quietly and said, she loves you. And so therefore, I’m going to love you if you’ll move to Salt Lake City, Utah, and I’m going to hand you 11 schools and you can do anything you want with him. And I was 27 years old. And he’s like, I bought 11 schools because my wife always wanted a cosmetology school, we had our 25th wedding anniversary. And I could only find 11 So I bought them all. Wow. And he’s like, I don’t know what to do with them was like and she says You’re really good. So come here and, and the short version of a three year story there almost a four year story was that I managed with her training to me and everything I learned and just being able to entrepreneur. I quadrupled the business in four years, I became friends with when Clay Bowhe opened his school I was there. That’s how Win and I say we’ve we’ve known each other longer than most people in the industry have known anybody going back? Yeah, going back into the early 80s. And then Leo Passage there’s more to the story. I won’t go there. But Leo Passsage then found me and said you need to move to Chicago and come to work at pivot point. And actually his son Robert found me first. And I did I moved to Chicago, I became head of what was called the member school division, which was just a half an inch short of being Vice President, the guy who was retiring was a vice president, we have said, you know, you’re here for a couple years, you’ll be one of the VPs of the company. So like 32 I was a VP Wow. And 10 years was Leo he became my dearest friend. He became my my second dad. And anyways, he became more important than my father in my life and especially in my career. And you know, I I can never say enough good things about Leo Posada as a human as a business person, he’s his pictures in front of me, and I get stuck anything. I’m like, layup helped me. What would you do? Yeah, would you do just like I’m good at channeling them. I used to write speeches for money, traveling and do events. So um, and then Milady publishing came and stole me. You know, what’s interesting is I’ve never applied for a job other than that first job and beauty. But I went, but I didn’t know it was beauty. Every other job was given to me or I was asked to come. And so I literally have never applied for another job ever. And so the lady was next. And then that was Albany, New York. And that was like getting a PhD in business. I was president MIT publishing and, and that was amazing. But it was in Albany, New York. And I hated it. So that led that led me back to Chicago, which felt like home after 10 years with Leo and I was executive director of NCAA national cosmetology Association. And that led to a fascination with media. I’ll fast forward. I was behind the chair for a bit, again, by invitation. And then went into consulting then American salon was a client and became publisher America salon. And after I decided I didn’t want to do media anymore. I left there to get back into consulting. And two days later, Jordan Randy with harebrained said, Would you consider coming over here and became president CEO there was there for five and a half years. And now I’ve I’m back doing my own thing. It’s called social media makers. And I’m thrilled with everything I did here with hairbrained. And I’m happy for their success, and I continue to being one of the owners. But I’m out here doing my own thing again in my last chapter of beauty for the next few years before I retired to Mexico. Oh wow. I’ll stop there.

Chris Baran 14:59
Tell me more. Mexico now what why Mexico and what what? I love the fact of you, you know, this is what I want. This is where I’m gonna go. Where in Mexico and why Puerto Vallarta? I love it. Yeah,

Gordon Miller 15:14
well first off as friends told me after I discovered it and kind of fell in love with it. It is it is known as the San Francisco of Mexico so enough that you know, and my my dearest friend in the world, my housemate Edgar, who’s the hairdresser is from Puerto Vallarta, his family’s there. And so through him, I’ve gotten to know Puerto Vallarta. And, and convinced by knowing his family that I can have a really happy life there. I’ve always wanted to live somewhere else, at some point, before I move into the whatever’s next in the odd life. And it was I always wanted to be Japan. But it’s a little too far from family. I love love love Asia of Japan in particular, love the culture of other people. But But I also love the Leo introduced me to kind of to the the Latin flavor of the world and the attitude in the culture. And I also fell in love with it. So and Mexico is close enough to home where I can come back to see family. So

Chris Baran 16:11
yeah, so the and I think so you are your water guy. You like seeing water? Is that? Is that part of it?

Gordon Miller 16:19
No. Well, no, I’m afraid of the water. Oh. So at five I almost drowned. I’m really, really, really, really close. And then I had to learn how to swim. But I never really got over it. And to this day, I’m not afraid of it. I just don’t enjoy it. So seeing it’s okay, I grew up in West Palm Beach. So near the water.

Chris Baran 16:44
Not even that. No, not even that. Okay, good. You can drink by the pool? Maybe, maybe,

Gordon Miller 16:51
maybe the balcony, the balcony overlooking the pool would be even more.

Chris Baran 16:56
Yeah, there you go. As long as you can get some vitamin D from the sunshine. There you go. I want to take you back into social the social beauty makers that so what was the what was the draw to that for you? Just to get everybody tell everybody what it is? And what? Like what was the draw?

Gordon Miller 17:14
Oh, boy, the draw I think was was I’ve always been kind of a bucket list guy. You know, I write I keep track of things. And so I kind of have always had my wish list professionally and in my wish list in life, then they’re kind of always intertwined. Because I’m a workaholic and have been most of my life. I really enjoy work. You know, people talk about life balance, I’m like, Yeah, well, to me, I’ve always felt that my life is really balanced. I just work a lot. I really love it. And all my friends, I you know, we talked earlier, I’m about to turn 67 I don’t have anybody in my life, who’s a friend is not a hairdresser. I happen to figure you know, you know, but it’s true, you know. And so a long list, I’ve achieved almost all of them. A few things that I wanted to do that didn’t quite fit into harebrained events was one of them. So I’m working on launching a series of conferences that are extremely different. I love kind of poking. I’ve consulted a lot. And to me consulting is about trying to help folks find their way to what where they want to be. But see if there’s some alternative routes to get there some things around the edges, where you can make it a little bit more interesting or exciting, or just add a layer of value that was perhaps missing. And I’ve always been pretty good at that seeing those things and I think are the events and beauty are very far away from where they need to be. And I think there’s some great, great events, but I think each of them could be even greater. Yeah, and I’ve got a lot of passionate about it because I have so much passionate about bringing people together in whether it’s online or off and, and I’m, I’m a student of outside of beauty. The reason I was successful when I moved to Utah was the first thing I did when I got there was go try to enroll in every other kind of trade school and dry Institute kind of became my model for the perfect way to present education to students. They were so good at it. And it brought that into the into a beauty school and I kicked all the competition’s assets because they weren’t thinking in the same way that to fry was Yeah, so I’m constantly looking elsewhere, you know, to say, well have other people have events, How do other people do what they do online? So events was a big part of it in the consulting space. You know, I have a real passion for online learning. I’ve been obsessed with it for since its very inception. And Leo was a fan of technology and even early technology. And you know, VHS was was new at some point for some people. Yeah. And so learning and we’ll send to me and my earliest days everybody was trying to explain what his passion in life was. He said, everything I’m doing here at pivot point is you boil it all down. It’s about how do you create efficiency and learning? Right? How do you create efficiency in teaching, how do I take the demo which Leo Passage think is a highly inefficient way of presenting information to people. But it’s the only it’s the way we do it. He’s like, how do you make it more efficient? You know, how do you how do you make it less boring? You know, all that stuff. And I’ve just carried that throughout my entire career. And so online learning I’m obsessed with, I’m obsessed with how it’s done outside of beauty. And I actually don’t believe anybody be doing it. Well, to be perfectly honest, at this moment. Yeah, some do it better than others. But what in terms of its potential. So social videomakers has a lot to do with working with brands to help them I’m working with with very large brand right now on a big project, assessing and helping them redesign their online learning so that I’ve long been obsessed with the idea of community. It’s how I got to know the hairbrained guys, I was, I was one of the early members. And I was like, Holy crap, this is the coolest thing ever. Facebook is cool, but this is way cooler, because it was our community, you know, right. Hairdressers only, and people who love the industry. And I believe that, as I was making decisions about, you know, stepping away from my role every day at hairbrained, I was like, the guy sometimes weren’t happy, but I would say this to them. And but, but they understood I was like communities debt. And I don’t mean harebrained I mean community as an idea and beauty as it’s because everything became so big, right? You know, like I say, as an example, I live in a neighborhood in Chicago, I don’t live in a community, there are many communities within my neighborhood. And I believe there are some communities left in beauty, but most of them have turned into audiences, because it just got so big. So I have a passion for that. And helping brands and others find their way back to community because I think we need that, you know. And so there’s a passion around social media makers for that. I mentioned events, I have my podcast at my little Wayne record, do my own thing. So I’ve done, I’ve been podcasting for seven years, I’ve been close to 400 episodes. And all brands related, right? People sometimes be like, I want to be a guest. And I was like, brands kind of control who I talked to. I said, we don’t make it overly obvious. But we have relationships with these brands. We say Who do you want us to talk to? You know, and so I don’t have to do that anymore. I can talk to anybody. I want that and I can talk about anything I want to talk about. And I say controversial things I always have. I’ve always been a straight talker. So give me

Chris Baran 17:21
I mean that you couldn’t have given me a bigger a better segue because I want to give you the golden prize for segue. Because I was looking at one of your podcasts. And you had you said this. He said the salon industry is forever changing. But the last 10 Plus has seen some of the really game changing seismic shifts. Give us a little more on that one. Tell what do you when you say that the shift in our industry? What is it because I’m along with you?

Gordon Miller 22:50
Yeah. Oh, there’s so many parts and pieces to it. I mean, so if you if you segment out the industry, and just kind of put some blanket things over it, because each segment has changed significantly. So schools, salons, business models within salons, distribution brands, media events, everyone has fundamentally shifted. I just was at America’s beauty show. The event space, which is a significant part of it’s one of the more one of the most important shows in the history of the industry. It’s been changed when you and I were younger, goes go back last year. Let’s go back 2030 Yes, and IBS had 12 shows. Yeah, you know, people forget that there was IBS Seattle, there was IBS, Houston. It was IBS, Atlanta, Miami. And, and a lot of other shows. And before there was that there was the NCA had 500 monthly events going on. That was you know, it was a different era. So we’ve watched consolidation across every aspect of the industry, we have fewer companies than we’ve ever had. We have big companies like L’Oreal, which have many brands under their umbrella, and nothing wrong with any of this. It’s just different. It’s it is a seismic shift. We have Henkel you know, which has a suite of brands under it. We have when you and I were growing up, we had family on distribution everywhere, you know, small companies who were distributors and it was all built on relationships, or I think our mutual friend Sam Brocato always says, you’re like how’d you how’d you do this? To me, it’s like, it’s all started with my DSC distributor sales consultant. He says his name, he’s like that man changed my life. That man helped teach me how to run a business and run a salon. And you know, those things have changed. Now we have conglomerates. And I don’t mean that in a bad way, you know, but we have these big companies, two big companies in particular that own 80% of distribution. So that changes thing. I was talking with somebody just yesterday who was sharing some statistics who’s very much in the know what’s happened and says that, that in distribution today that that only 20% of customers to the big distribution houses are actually traditional salons. And so that’s that’s game changing, you know, and interest singly, you know, and again, I think you’ll understand this. Going back to say 20 years ago, the professional only stores was a moment. Yeah. And nobody talks about this, I’ll bet you that we’ll move on from it. But when I don’t know if you have a recollection of this, but when I was first paying attention to things early in my career, you go to like a educational thing that was about business. Yeah. What was the thing people complained about? I remember it so clearly. It’s like, How do I stop my staff from stealing my hair color? Yeah, everybody’s doing hair color. And you think back, most people don’t realize that hairdressers couldn’t easily buy the good stuff. There were no stores, go buy the good stuff, you can go to Sally, you know, and not get the good stuff, right. But you couldn’t get red can hair color, you know, unless you bought it through your salon, then the pro stores happened and anybody with a license could buy anything. And that’s interesting. And then what people don’t always understand about home hair by professionals is that in the early days, if you wanted to do a hair at home, again, you couldn’t get the good stuff unless someone got it for you. And then all of a sudden, we had pro stores. And we have almost as many customers in pro stores who have licenses but don’t work in salons as we do people who work in salons, which is a really interesting thing. So the distribution, that seismic shift, I believe fundamentally changed the business because it empowered people to work off book at all right. And there remains today a very big segment of the industry, that’s taking I would argue many hundreds of millions of dollars out of the pockets of slots. And it’s not a criticism. It’s just again, I love economics.

Chris Baran 26:38
Observation. Yeah, yeah,

Gordon Miller 26:41
that nobody really talks about, but consolidation of distribution, consolidation of brands, all kinds of stuff comes with that. And it’s usually cost cutting is usually reduction of services and extras, because you just don’t have that maybe family feeling or other considerations. And then you have the seismic shift that’s connected to publicly owned brands, because the responsibility of the shareholder changes how brands have to be. And decisions have to be made to keep customers happy, but also keep shareholders happy, and there’s pressure, pressure to grow, there’s pressure to have profits, where privately owned companies have a little bit more wiggle room, you know, sometimes when it comes to those, and we don’t have as many of those companies around anymore. Obviously, the pandemic changed a lot of things. But even prior to the pandemic, we saw the school market shrinking. Again, we saw consolidation, we saw big chains. When the Palmetto innovator came, schools came in, that was game changing, you know, just completely game changing in the school market. And it resulted in again, a shrinking of the marketplace. So that shifted digital change to everything that we could talk about that for, you know, a couple of hours. And then the salon business model thing I forget to salons I think, you know, it’s not as significant as people think, in my opinion. Meaning that I know factually that, you know, about 12 years ago, 35% of all hairdressers were rental. And people didn’t seem to understand that but it was it was true. Today, it’s at about 42%. That’s not as much growth as people think. Sweets, of course, feels new. They’re 25 years old. They’ve been around for a very long time.

Chris Baran 28:19
But they weren’t every year. Yeah, there was it became evident in the hairdressing industry. But anybody that did in the fields, like I’m trying to think right now that you have other fields that that’s what they did you rent the space, in a say medical place. And that’s the way that you did your business. Exactly interesting.

Gordon Miller 28:43
And and Suites have exploded. And yet they’re I believe they we’ve overbuilt the suite market, they have huge turnover problems right now are over 40% annual turnover rate and the suites they have they have excess capacity like crazy. And then the last thing I would say on the seismic shifts that connects to that idea is the entire salon industry, I believe, is easily proved on a napkin to be grossly over built. Yeah, that if you take the number of chairs that we have in the industry as a as a like thinking of it like factories, like if we were the automobile industry, if we think if we thought it ought to be able to we would close a third of our factories, we would close down a third of our chairs, because that’s about how many more chairs we have than we need. And that is a supply and demand issue that has kept prices down for decades.

Chris Baran 29:29
And you do attribute that to and I’m gonna be overly general here. But to the fact of I’m gonna go back when, and I’m gonna say you and I were young in our industry, but the name of the game was at the time was build yourself up. And then as soon as you got a good clientele, you’d go and because suites weren’t around, then rental wasn’t around, but you would you would go out and just open your own, you know, put your shingle up on the above the door and It was your business. It was everything about I wanted to be an entrepreneur. But they were more of a self learner than an entrepreneur because they really weren’t entrepreneurs, they were really buying themselves jobs. And there they ended up having to. And I can speak from experience on this when you didn’t know how to run a business. You were the guy behind the chair, generating all the revenue to pay for all the wages and pay for everything else they could, you actually took home less money than when you were on your own. So do you attribute that mentality that helped put too many chairs have started at least any way to get too many chairs out there?

Gordon Miller 30:39
Yep. I take it all the way back to beauty school. So again, my career started in 78. This was already happening. I don’t know when it began. But on the marketing side of beauty schools back even in that year, and it continues today, the message to the public was this is a great career. I agree with for many people. You can be creative. You can set your own hours, you can be your own boss. I mean, we were saying that 1978 It’s there’s another version of that being said today, and with the with rental and suites becoming more significant, it’s even said in a louder way. And so I think we, when people are coming in, I think we set up expectations about what the industry is and what you can become, and perhaps should become, that I don’t believe people had when they walked in the door. I don’t think people coming into the industry, because they have an interest in doing because they have creativity that they necessarily were thinking oh, and I can open my own slot. Yeah, I think most people coming in are coming in because they have an interest in doing hair. And then they’re told in the very first hour that they’re introduced to the industry, in an admissions office somewhere that you can be, you can be your own boss. And so of course the wheels get turning, that’s just human nature, I think. And then we live in an American culture that says we can be anything you know, and I and so my big pet peeve in the industry is that we do a terrible job setting expectations for each and every new generation that comes in. I think that’s the the biggest failure of the industry across the board, is that we just don’t do a good job. Today, probably more than ever saying, you have to be patient. You know, it’s an industry that patience is absolutely a virtue. I don’t care what era it is. I don’t care if there’s post pandemic, I don’t care that the boundaries is a good thing. Patience is a virtue. You don’t build a book overnight, unless you’re a ninja, and very few people are Yeah.

Chris Baran 32:32
Do you think? I mean, first of all, there was about three segways inside there. But I sorry, no, no. Oh, good. But I want to, because there’s this whole shift that’s happened on deregulation. Do you think that all of that what we just talked about, is the fact that people, you know, it’s easy to pocket your own money if you got an I’m not saying that people do it or pointing it to anybody, but I’m saying it’s very easy. When you’ve got cash, business, etc, that you can just put the money in your pocket, you know, nobody loves paying taxes. But the reality is when you don’t it’s got a it’s got a knock on effect. And there’s so much going on in our industry about deregulation. Do you feel that that has something a knock on effect to this, that we’re not getting enough attention? Or that’s not the right word, that it’s bringing attention?

Gordon Miller 33:30
You know, I think it’s, it’s an internal conversation inside the industry. Yeah, the tax thing has been here forever. Again, I was the executive director for 10 years of the national cosmetology associations I worked like on a monthly basis with the IRS for 10 years I worked with the Department of Labor just came, and I worked with all the interstate, all the state boards across the country, and I worked with state legislators on laws. And so from that experience, you know, I can tell you that very interestingly, what I heard regularly from legislators was, just tell us what you want, please, like we don’t understand hair and all the laws that are here. And this is true. The entire state board system, the entire regulatory process, all of it came from us, right? It all came from us. We invented the state board, we invented the license, like the history of the license, it started in 1921. And it was a department store chains and 13 states who kind of came up with the idea of a license as a way to keep people out of the industry. It was the beginning of the industry. And it was luxury, right? It was a big, big department stores in New York and Chicago and various big, big cities. And that was the beginning of the modern salon. And so they wanted to control labor because they wanted to keep the money. So that’s how that started. To change. Dramatic Yeah, changed dramatically over the years. And in the mid 70s. NCAA put something out called the model bill and that was implemented across the country, except different states applied different hours, you know, so based on what they thought was right, because it was in some ways it was organized, but in many ways out into the hands. Throw hands, you know, people did what they felt was was right with it, which created a patchwork system, which has led the industry kind of internally to fight about regulations. I think sometimes. Because I’ve been hearing about deregulation since almost my beginning of my career, and it’s never happened. Right? You know. So what has happened is the hours have begun to shift. And I’ve been kind of on the soapbox for years saying, well, the industry owes it to coming those coming in to figure out how long it takes a person, a human to be trained to be a hairdresser who can go make a living in a salon, and the fact that we have some states where you can do it for 800 hours, and other states where it’s 2300 hours, and we’ve been at it for 5060 7080 years, and we can’t agree. And I said this to a meeting of all the states years ago, I was like, you know, we’re a grown up industry. You guys are the regulators. Most of you come from the industry. I’m like, here’s what I know, somebody is getting screwed in America right now. Because either in New York State with 1000 hours, they’re not getting enough training, or Washington State at 2300 hours. They’re being they’re being held captive in school too long. I don’t know which ones right. But we owe it to ourselves to figure it out. Yeah. And then I said, and by the way, I lean more towards less only because there doesn’t seem to be a hue and cry from the hairdresser’s in New York that they’re starving. So like, right, something’s not right here. And by the way, to anybody who’s listening, why in the hell and 2023 to somebody who wants to be a hairdresser have to take two to 300 hours of nails and skin? Why? Yeah, yeah. Why? Why? Why? Yeah, by the way, a nail license takes twice as many hours as the nails you do in hairdressing in cosmetology. And same with skin. So I keep waiting for some, or an esthetician or a nail tech to sue the state board to say, How can you let a hairdresser do nails? And by the way, dirty little secret, we know that it’s not really being taught the way it’s supposed to be taught. So why not just get rid of it? And let students go to school less hours?

Chris Baran 37:08
Or yeah, or specify, here’s a school for this. Here’s a program for this. Here’s a problem.

Gordon Miller 37:13
Yeah. So let’s hairdressers learn how to be hairdressers, and do it efficiently, and yet together, figure out what the hours should be, but we shouldn’t have.

Chris Baran 37:24
And it also makes any sense, Gordon, it it just makes perfect sense that when it when we have the you know, the states that everybody’s different, but there’s no word is slipped me. I can’t necessarily go from one state to the next without being licensed in that state wrestling. And when you are trained in hair, why the hell can’t we go where we want to live and make a living without having to take another state board exam.

Gordon Miller 37:51
And it’s because of the hours Yeah, it’s because of the difference in hours or the difference in requirements, because even two states with the same hours might have differences in the details of the law. And so that’s what a lot of it is. And there’s another thing that people forget. And that is kind of a protectionist attitude. So California is such a great example. So California has always been one of the harder states or it was until recently, I’m not sure about today to move to and go through the process of getting your license. In fact, when you graduate school, it can take you three, four or five months to get your license, which is crazy. California has more hairdressers per capita than any state in the country except for Texas, which is which is which is the number one. And so because they have so many licenses, even people in the government kind of have a sense or did in the past at least they don’t need more hairdressers, people moving in just adds to it. It’s kind of like if you move to Canada, you have to prove that you’re not taking somebody else’s job where they won’t let you in. Yeah. Kind of the same idea in this country. So yeah, it’s complicated. But and all of this does set us up for deregulation. If politically speaking you have some, like ultra conservative or, or ultra politically speaking, or ultra libertarian groups who don’t believe in regulation, who just look at us and say, why don’t you just need to be regulated? And then when you say to them, which I have have because of all this stuff, they say, You guys can’t even agree on that stuff. 1000 hours here if you don’t know that, so yeah, yeah, yeah, so we heard we heard ourselves Yeah,

Chris Baran 39:24
I think that happens happening across our I mean, I’m, I’m very opinionated on our industry right now and the things that are missing in it and how we have a whole area of our industry that is it’s just I mean, when I watch beauty ads on TV, and when I watch look at Instagram, there is no the sounds like a dirty word, but short hair. The fact of having styled you know, I don’t like the word precision per se because it kind of dates it and but yeah, People, you know, when I go out onto the roads, I find that most hairdressers are terrified, terrified of cutting short hair, and particularly men’s short hair. And oh, and

Gordon Miller 40:15
most men have never gone to salons because salons are not good at cutting men’s hair. Yeah. Yeah. You know, and it’s all my male friends.

Chris Baran 40:22
Exactly. And they will especially like if you want super short hair and you want fades and so on. And a lot of a lot of unless you really get into it, they’re not trained in it. You know? This episode is sponsored by the salon associate accelerator from trainers playbook.com. Are you struggling with the time and cost of associate training? Do you feel like your salon is running, you will get your associates on the floor, all with 90% Less time from you. So you can get back to building your business. Get them world class design, finishing color, and client care skills they’ll use every day for the rest of their career. While you focus on realizing your vision, go to trainers playbook.com and get the salon associate accelerator. And now back to the show.

Gordon Miller 41:20
So we’ve had a big conversation about texture in the last three years. Yeah, important conversation and important conversation. And I always start with the men men’s hair as an example of the challenge to me in how the industry solves its problem. I’m like, Okay, I will put race aside for a moment. Because and I’ll just say, before I put it aside that I believe that racism in America is a horrific problem. I think we’re a really racist country, it bugs the crap out of me different conversation. Okay, so we’ll put that on the side. So now we have a conversation, everybody has still learned texture. In a in an ideal world, everybody learns everything. But we also know that based on time, and based on you know, job stuff, that’s not always possible. So then I’ve said to many of my, you know, artist, friends, educator, friends who are just so passionate about this topic, as like, we haven’t solved the problem of hairdressers being good at men’s hair. Period in beauty school, even though it is required, you know, in beauty school. And I just want to use that as a starting place to think about how will we solve the problem with texture? Yeah, because if if everything comes down to muscle memory, ultimately, you know, having spent decades in schools, you know, the problem with men’s hair is that it’s just it’s done a little bit, but almost no guys come in to get their hair done in the clinic. So most students don’t have a real world experience. And then fear sets up. And fear sets in fear sets in. Most people don’t know that advanced the cat, any advanced Academy in the country that wants to make some quick money, do a long hair class. Yeah, it was still out there we thought. And in beginning my career, I was like, why? And they’re like, well, prom season is coming. And nobody can remember from last year how to do it. Yeah, because no muscle memory, they, it rarely gets done. And it’s also kind of fun. So you have these categories that are just not mainstream for most people, and could be texture, go take a class, you don’t have enough clientele to get good. men’s hair, you don’t have enough clientele to do to get good. My former partner of many years was Japanese American first generation. When we first met, I was like, Where the hell you been getting your hair cut. And he’s like every white salon in Chicago, he says nobody can do my cut my hair. And it was true. And I had to help him find a great cutter who knew how specifically and had a big Asian client, Asian male clientele and said just like it’s different, you know, it’s a different different, a different approach. And he’s like, I’m good at it. Because I’m focused on it. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be good at it. Yeah. And so it’s one of the bigger challenges we have across so many categories. It’s why specialization for many people is a good thing. And it’s also I think this helps explain something that I get in trouble for saying and I passionately believe it, and it’s the truth. And that is that. Most professionals aren’t very good at what they do in any industry, you know, average is average, kind of by definition. And when you walk down the street, if I get into my beauty head, sometimes the biggest disappointment I have is just looking at all there. And I have these moments where I go, huh? Who did all this? Oh, God, it was it was us. Yeah. And all that really matters is their happiest clients, right? I mean, that’s what matters. And people look at my hair and go, What the hell are you talking about? Like, who did that? You know? And I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but I’m, but I’m happy with it. And my hairdresser. Yeah. You know, so and I think most clients feel that way. And, and I think again, you know, average is average, you know, by definition. So, I think no matter what we’re talking about, you know, that’s one of the bigger challenges. It’s just trying to figure out like, Where where is the bar, like where should the bar be in terms of quality and standards and you know, intercoiffure is one group, you know, top red can artists like you or another group and you know, there’s so many different levels and bars and, you know, good versus great and you know, is a very confusing thing. And it’s very subjective. And I think it’s one of the bigger challenges that we have as an industry especially we start talking about income and how much how pricing is done, it’s all really complicated.

Chris Baran 45:23
You just hit a point in my brain where the that I want to talk about sort of the dissociation of artists to artists, and let me give you a little bit more. So you know, we talked about, I can remember, like, and I’m gonna take it back 3035 40 years ago doing hair, and it didn’t matter. At that time you did hair on your own, you worked with a manufacturer with a brand. But everybody hung out together. Everybody hung out together at the show was over, you went down to the bar, coffee shop, wherever your pleasure was, and y’all hung around together, and you told more stories, and you and you, you shot the shit together. And there wasn’t this? Oh, you’re from that brand? And I’m from this brand. And I want to talk on that just for a second, like, do you notice that there is? Do you notice a shift in the way that even artists are that you know, and see? Or when they’re around other people? Do they? Do you notice any of that disassociation or not wanting to associate with one another, just because of the culture of the group that you’re in?

Gordon Miller 46:37
You know, my take I think is a little different. I think I think it’s it’s some of it is that clearly, I think some of it is I feel like the opportunity to do what you described was way different back in those years, way different. More brands showed up at events, you know, you go to any of the big show, again, I was just an ABS Moroccanoil was the only significant hair hair care brand that was there. That was it. You know, I mean, there were other Dyson was there. A mica was there, you know, but but none of the, you know what I think of as the bay majors, the major, they weren’t there. So those artists weren’t there. Yeah, unless they were there on their own. And that’s been going on for a very long time, because of this consolidation of events is consolidation of brands, most of the big brands pulled out of the major shows 10 years ago, they kind of come in, and then they leave, you know, they come back and forth a little bit. So I think some of that connectivity just is the nature of how the business itself has evolved, just not in the same places anymore. And that sadly, has led to as new talent comes in, they never had experienced what you’ve experienced, they didn’t live through that era of kind of a familiar, you know, time, or artists did connect, or intercoiffure is such a great example. Yeah, I remember my first intercoiffure There’s probably 3000 hairdressers, they were stacked to the rafters at the Waldorf Astoria, and everybody who mattered was there. No, I mean, it was just it just what it was the brands, the educators, artists, the salons, you know, the top of the top and together and salons did what you described as brands doing, you know, Atlantic, Jimmy was still maybe the closest example to how it used to be because that was that was such an interesting city where everybody who was anybody knew each other, and they shared their secrets and business practices, and they were friends. And Chicago was very much that way. No longer, you know, so I think it kind of I think what you’re feeling was impacted across the industry, educators, artist, hairdressers in local markets are known for that kind of mingling anymore. But the places we mingled, they kind of went away. So the show has changed. The association’s disappeared, you know, gone, you know, because so many connected through those salons. So I think the platform’s I think one of the reasons hairbrained blew up the way it did. 10 years ago, it was kind of on the tail end of all that stuff that was falling apart. And all of a sudden here is a digital platform. Everybody was on Facebook already kind of going well. This is kind of cool. But everybody’s here and then all of a sudden harebrained crisis place only for hairdressers.

Chris Baran 49:13
And when was more agnostic, wasn’t it?

Gordon Miller 49:16
Very agnostic, and everybody started going there for a while, and then it tapered off in a grueling a different way with social media. So yes, I agree. But I think it’s the nature of the industry and that seismic shift stuff that is all connected to I don’t I don’t think it’s the artists themselves. I think it’s the life that we all live now, which is quite different. Yeah, it was 30 years ago.

Chris Baran 49:38
And it’s interesting that you say that because, you know, I you know, it’s funny, everybody sees me on stage and they think that you know, I’m this extrovert but I’m actually very much an introvert. And it’s funny that when you’re at a show that you see other people, and I’m the kind of person that I might want Want to talk to them, but I just won’t, you know, just for the fear that they might not know, like, want to talk whatever. Yeah. And and I think wondering how much of that is, is perpetuating it because we’re not around each other now

Gordon Miller 50:17
is a really good an interesting point. And I think as social as hairdressers are, I mean, many of my talks over the years, you know, pre pandemic, you know, I was really passionate about saying to young professionals, you know, if you’re lucky, you’re gonna go to a beauty show someday, you know, and I hope you’ve had a lot of your brand events, you know, and the best way to go is with a plan, you know, plan to meet a hero, at least one Yeah, somebody there. I know, you want to meet, you know, your young hairdresser. And you’re like, oh, Robert chromates, you can go up to Robert, he’ll talk to you, you can go up to Chris Barron, he’ll talk to you, they’ll all talk to you. They want to talk to you, you know, be the brave one who goes up, just introduce yourself and tell them what you like about it. You know, pick your classes before you show up? Because it’s if you’re going into a three ring circus, you’re going to be distracted by the clowns, you know, so

Chris Baran 51:05
I want you to say that again. Say that again.

Gordon Miller 51:10
You know, plan, plan your education, pick the classes in advance, because you’re going to be distracted by the cloud. Yeah, it sounds like it’s a three ring circus and is a it’s a metaphor, you know, I love clowns at a circus, they’re the best part of a circus clown, there’s a performer, you know, they’re the ones that puts a smile on everybody’s face. And, you know, I think in circus world, you know, there’s a lot of pride in being a cloud. So our performers, you know, and some, you know, in some of those stages, it’s more about throwing combs and T shirts and loud music and drawing people in and getting people excited about the brand. And if nothing wrong with that. But if you want to learn something, you go spend time in the classroom. So to me, it’s like, yeah, go meet your heroes, plan your education. Stand in the Starbucks line, and introduce yourself to the person behind you. Because you never know who might meet and you just even just doing the same thing, you have a chance to, Hey, what did you see interesting, what, and then yes, go on the show floor, but limit your time, you can do the show for him in 234 hours, you know, and if you’re new, you’re gonna spend more time, but don’t spend all your time there. Because that’s like, you know, that’s like going to the shopping mall, you’re gonna buy some stuff, but it’s not gonna change your life. Yeah, and you can change your life.

Chris Baran 52:17
And I think that I love what you said about going to were planted out so you know, what you’re going to do. And I think the thing is, is pick something, here’s what I find that a lot of people are doing nowadays is they’ll just pick things that they do already. They do in Bali, or so they’ll take a Bali art class, I do long hair, so they’ll take a long hair class, pick something that you that might even scare you a little bit and go there, because you’ll find in there that you’re probably going to have an amazing teacher who will make you feel safe, make it feel safe, and it’s okay that you make a mistake or screw something up. But you’re going to learn something, that’s where you’re really going to learn something that’s going to manifest into a wider range of clientele. You know,

Gordon Miller 53:06
potentially change your life. Yeah, yeah, change your life. Literally,

Chris Baran 53:09
there was so many people that they get stuck in a in a design or stuck in color or stuck in business, and then they do one thing, and then all of a sudden that explodes on them. And that’s where they’re, that’s where their money market is. So are they hit?

Gordon Miller 53:24
Oh, they hit a wall in that. Whether it’s successful or not, they, they, we get bored. You know, you know, we get bored with life with work with career. And this is a query you just, if you have your head on straight, there’s no excuse to get bored. You know, there’s there’s so much there’s so many opportunities. But going back to the show, thank you know, growing up in Florida. You know, I guess I’m old enough that I remember when Disneyworld happened, you know, and we went a lot when I was in college, actually, we would sneak out and go hang out dizzy, man is smoke pot, you know? Right, right? But but we learned early on and it became a thing later on that the best way to do Disneyworld is to have a plan. You know that to know where to understand the landscape to know what rides you want to go on and to know to go to the back of the park first because nobody’s back there yet and work your way through. So you know, make a plan, you’re not going to ride every ride, you know, you’re going to have the best experience you can buy plannings duty shows Disney World, you know, you’re not going to have time to see every class to see every artist to see every performance. And yet there’s all that value there. So make a plan and get a massive return on your investment potentially change your life.

Chris Baran 54:35
Yeah, no, I agree. And I love what you were saying about, about the shifts that you have in your career and there’s no reason to get bored. Because I think that when when you step outside and into an area that you might have been uncomfortable with, it could be a force of evolution for you so that you aren’t getting bored. You know, to me it’s you know, I know that we’ve all you know you and you’re in the business sense of went from one job to the other and you’re always learning something new. Yep. You know like for me even at one time at one time I was the perm guy. And because I know this about Yeah, but in the 80s I was the perm guy because I was hired I always made props because I thought doing the perm not only is it smelly, but it’s it was it could be like watching paint dry watching somebody do a roller set. So I made props, I had pantyhose, I made a life sized doll out of pantyhose and cotton baton and I would put mannequin heads on him with different primitives and, and just make it a little bit and make it fun and funny at the same time as you’re learning. But you you that you have to watch what’s coming next. Like here’s what I would say, based on what we just talked about. For everybody that’s doing barley, oats and barley. I was just good. Don’t get me wrong. Long hair is good. Don’t get me wrong. Using a curling iron on long hair. Don’t get me wrong, that’s good, because it’s now but what’s coming next. Because if you’re gonna sit in the pack, we’re all you’re doing is waiting to, uh, you’re just doing everything that everybody else is doing. And you’re not being one step ahead. By seeing what’s coming next and doing that. Then you’re gonna get left behind.

Gordon Miller 56:24
Can I go out on the limb? Yeah, cool. Way out in the land. We

Chris Baran 56:26
got we got really skinny branches here.

Gordon Miller 56:28
It’s connected to what you just said. So I’m obsessed right now. very obsessed. perms. Yeah, you know, perms are coming back, you know. And interestingly, you know, and there’s a lot of examples of it. I’m a kpop fan. By the way, there’s something trivia point about Kpop it for a very long time. There’s a whole story. But the Kpop band boys, they’ve all been get perms for years, yes. And male perms in Asia have been around for a long time. Well, they have introduced perming back in many parts of society, especially, including to women who are Kpop fans who are not from Asia. And so that’s happening, we’ve come to this big moment of texture. I was with Uber driver coming back from America’s beauty show. And I don’t know, we just started talking about hair. And I can’t remember exactly how she got there. But she had straight white, Caucasian girls phone straight hair. And, you know, she said that she wished she could have curl. She’s jealous, especially today. Because everywhere you look, there is texture, you know, in the media everywhere. And she said, she said these words to me. She said, I dream and curls. I was like, what? And she said, when I dream I have curly hair. And I was like, Oh, that’s so profound. Yeah. And, and watching what some folks are doing in the industry right now. And there’s been a couple of small companies diving back in I, I, there’s so much curl in front of all of us. So I can’t imagine that the movement isn’t going to come from it, you know, just like we saw with straight hair, and when the flat iron Kimbrough. So I think it feels like it should happen.

Chris Baran 58:07
Yeah, that’s fine. We’ll tell ya, no, I, it’s just like, always watch what’s going on. And to me, that’s one thing if you want to evolve, and you’re getting bored with something or you find, I was called a stupid name, but I always said I wanted at least one. Excuse me, I wanted at least one zing every day. And I called him a zing, just that I wanted one client come in, that I could just do something that was fun and creative. And so you could go home and talk about it. Because you know, we all know that we’ve got to make, and that’s your bread and butter stuff. But what’s your thing for the day? And if you can find out what that is and do one that’s what keeps you interested. And that’s the catalyst that will help you start to evolve.

Gordon Miller 58:49
And anybody Young who’s listening pay attention to what Chris said, because we know I know factually, statistically that 80% of people who graduated PT school don’t make it past their third year. Yeah, and I would argue that two things one is not having those proper expectations, not having patience. We see so much online news that six figure hairdressers, somebody tell young people how long it takes. Yeah, you have to It’s a journey right? And I would argue also that there’s not enough zings in everyday life of young professionals and any manager any mentors listening find a way to give those young professionals more things Yeah,

Chris Baran 59:27
yeah. That because that’s what keeps you that’s what keeps you excited. That’s maybe makes you want to come back in tomorrow. Yes. Love it. Yeah. Gordon, the I want to end up by always, this is sort of our rapid fire round that I do at the end. Just so I’m gonna throw out some stuff. First thing that comes to your brain, just throw it out. The shorter the answer on these the better.

Gordon Miller 59:54
Okay, mind you, I’m 67 So I don’t know how fast okay, okay, well, that’s

Chris Baran 59:57
okay. Because I you know, I might come back Thought of might make them might drag them out. Okay, good. What turns you on in the creative process?

Gordon Miller 1:00:12
But I’m already stuck, because I don’t think of myself as a creative person.

Chris Baran 1:00:16
Well even, like even envision, I mean, let’s face it, you’ve already displayed creativity by your vision and what you’ve seen and your ability to observe. So,

Gordon Miller 1:00:26
what excites me is math is math. And I believe that everything is math, you know, there’s some famous people who said that everything, you know, we’re made of atoms and atoms are fundamentally maths, you know, information is, you know, ones and zeros. And so everything can be taken down to math. And to me, the creative side of business is the math, understanding, and I’m passionate about the business of beauty more than anything else.

Chris Baran 1:00:51
And in the business side, what stifles that math, creativity,

Gordon Miller 1:00:58
fear, you know, love your fear of risk, you know,

Chris Baran 1:01:03
is there something in life that you desire in life in general, that you dislike the most?

Gordon Miller 1:01:13
About? That is a hard one. Not being nice.

Chris Baran 1:01:18
My whole Well, you know, it’s interesting how many people say that? That’s a huge one. And I think that’s, we got to do a collective on this at one day. And what is it that you love most? In this thing we called life.

Gordon Miller 1:01:32
People, just people, especially young people. The the most important moment of my life was years ago, but this just says it all. And I’ll do the fast version of it lost a very, very dear friend, and I was deeply depressed. And it was two months after everything went down. And it was the middle of winter in Chicago, and I was walking up a very long street with nobody on it, walking home. And far away from it, it was a woman coming in my direction, she quite far. And she had like a cloak on she was very bent over she’s walking with a cane. And it was winter, it was nasty out. And she was moving very slowly. And I came up to her and I was about five, six feet away, and she lifted up her head. And she gave me the most brilliant, no reason smile. With these eyes, it just like, screamed at me joy. And she just nodded her head and walked past me. And in that moment, my everything changed. I it lives, it magically took this despair, I was in and changed it. And I can’t say it any other way. It was a magical moment. And it was that look. And we all have so many opportunities to do that with other people. It’s that that that, you know, again, the niceness the joy. So people

Chris Baran 1:02:55
it’s interesting, I was out when the again, you and I must have this psychic connection going on here. Because I was gonna ask you this earlier, and I wanted to write this in. And this might have been that you explained it here. But is there things in life as a whole that give you joy? What gives you the most joy

Gordon Miller 1:03:16
when someone comes to me and says anything that I’ve done had an impact on them. So my positive way. And you and I live these unusual lives, I think where we get to be in touch with so many people from so many parts of the industry, we get to be on stages, you know, we get to do things like this and, and often the things that we say and do. We don’t know what the result was. And when someone a year later or two year later comes up and says I heard you say this. And it changed how I think it changed how I do it changed who I am. That eases It doesn’t get any better. Yeah, ever.

Chris Baran 1:03:58
I have to tell you a funny story that’s kind of the antithesis of that. I can remember being at a show this was earlier in my career when I was in Canada and I was working the circuit across Canada and I think that was in Winnipeg and and there was a corridor that between the hotel and the convention center. And I think I was going one way this person was coming the other way. And as you know that you can tell when somebody recognizes you. And I was walking towards them and this one girl when she said she was started the point and she was nudging her friend and she was pointing at me and she came up to me and she says I know you you’re she couldn’t remember my name but she said your and then I started to let her hang for just a little bit, you know just to get the suspense going. And she said you’re and I thought I’d let her off the hook and I said Chris bear and she said no. I love that. Okay, from that read into next one, the most difficult time in your life.

Gordon Miller 1:05:10
You know, I mentioned in personal life, you know, it was the loss of my friends, you know, who I’d mentioned, my friend Jamie, who was like a brother to me, and who was in a car accident, and I spent three years watching him just fade away and ultimately pass. And that was really, really difficult. I learned so much about myself, you know, in retrospect, in the, in the worst of it, and I was a caregiver with him and spent, you know, 20, some hospital trips with them. And, and it’s still in working and doing my careers as well, you know, and getting him into a facility and all those things. In the midst of it, it was, it was rough, you know, anybody who’s had to deal with this stuff, you know, it’s rough, it’s rough to keep business going in life going and not be angry at everything, and everybody. And one day I a friend said to me, you should take up photography. And I was like, wow, because again, I don’t feel like I’m creative. But I had this desperate moment, and I bought a camera, and I just started doing it. And I became obsessed with it. And I became obsessed with the idea of looking through the camera and seeing what I was seeing and taking the picture. And it wasn’t about the results. But the process of walking around in Chicago and just taking pictures took me out of myself, right. And so that horrible moment, that worst part of my life, in many ways, taught me one of the best lessons of my life. And that is how important it is to get out of our own heads. Yeah. And I’ve learned over time that when things have been difficult, and like all of us, I’ve had my share. That to me has always been kind of the magical trick. Since that time, it’s like finding time to just get out of my head. So I can get back into my head in a different space and hopefully deal with whatever I’m dealing with. Yeah.

Chris Baran 1:06:52
Wow. Well, again, for your loss at that time, I didn’t know it was a while back condolences. No thank the things you hate. And I think you might have said this earlier, but you might something else might come to your brain, but the things you hate most about our industry.

Gordon Miller 1:07:09
Oh, boy, oh, boy. Yeah, I don’t know that hates the right word. dislike if you could change. Yeah, I feel like we’re an emotional industry. We’re a creative industry. And as somebody who loves math and numbers since Artistics, and economics and, and loves the challenge of putting the parts and pieces of the industry together in a way that tells the story of the industry, I think, you know, much of the industry is, is a whole lot of stories that we tell ourselves, we drag around through the industry. And often they’re not as connected to the truth as they need to be. The best example I have that is the the never ending conversation about, you know, the amount of money a hairdresser can make. And people are like, Oh, the government says, you know, you make $20,000 a year. And that’s just not true. And as a person who loves math, and who ran the hairdresser association for 10 years, I’m like, Oh, actually, it is true. And I can prove it. And you know, there’s a whole much bigger story. But like I always tell people, I was like, you know, what’s important is that we really take a big step back and take in what is the industry, The Good, the Bad, and the ugly. And if we want to express the value of the industry to people, the joy the industry brings to people who work in it, not everybody, but some people, you know, then then let’s tell the story of people who’ve been in it for five years or more, let’s let’s survey them and find their salary information. I love to say that if you look at the intercoiffure salons and were to do a survey of income, you’d find a very different story than if you were to look generally at the end in the industry. 62% 61% of the industry works part time. So I always say to my friends who want to argue about how much people money how much money people make, I say, you know, statistically, if you study the industry, and you realize the 61% are part time, they’re all in that 28,000 They the part time information has been averaged in. That’s a bad statistical way to think about things. So we’ve done a really bad job as an industry, we continue to do a bad job and understanding ourselves, right? And it’s because we ignore the math. And we go with our emotions. And we have this horrible tendency, which I think is very human, to project our reality onto everybody. Right? And I always say to industry executives who who want to argue this point about the economics of the industry, say you know, the biggest challenge that you all have as industry executives is everybody every hairdresser, you know is successful, every one of them, they’re your artists, they’re your top educators, they’re your top accounts. You don’t live in the weeds where people like me like to live and and work to live so I can feel every part of it. You know, I want to know what’s happening across all of it as part of my kind of economics brain trying to understand it because if you don’t Go deep and really touch all the different parts of it and look into it and understand the math of every bit of it. You don’t understand the industry. Yeah. And I would argue that most of the industry does not really understand the industry that we live in. And it’s like everything in America, you know, there’s the good and the bad. Yeah, we have, we have our challenges. And we’re so busy trying to, I think, make ourselves maybe feel better than we do. Because we’re an industry filled with people who are, who come to the industry, often very insecure about themselves. You know, I came from very little, I showed up insecure about myself and my family and my life and money, because we didn’t have any, you know, my father was a gambler, you know, my father was an alcoholic, you know, so So you know, you can’t We can’t this is an industry I say, lovingly, I feel like I have grown up professionally on the island of misfit toys. And I’m a huge Rudolph the Reindeer fan from a kid with Burl Ives, remind me of you reminded me of our lives in this moment, Chris? Yeah, that ONVIF at the end, there’s the Island of Misfit Toys, which is my favorite part of the movie, because those toys are so ultimately join us Yeah, even though they’ve had a struggle. And but I feel that we are that way. So we drag some of that with us. And we need. We need others to help us take a step back and see what we truly are. Because the importance of doing that that’s how we make it better. Yeah, we don’t make it better by just saying we are better. We are great. We get better by looking at our foibles, that our frailties that are at our the holes in the industry and what’s wrong with it. And, and working especially at the highest levels of the industry to make it better. And having spent 20 years in the schools, I would say to folks who talk about you know what’s not right there. I said I don’t remember meeting a student. And I ran the pivot point school for a year and a half in Chicago and 500 students as part of my my time that pivot, but I don’t remember a student coming into school who didn’t want to be there. Yeah, they didn’t all make it, but I really believe that 99.9% of them came to have a better life. Yeah. And we owe it to do more. For the young people coming here is a big thing. We need more people to come into the industry. No, we need more people to stay in the industry.

Chris Baran 1:12:23
Exactly. Wow. Wow. I think I know this one person you admire the most?

Gordon Miller 1:12:31
Well, he’s not with us anymore. But the person I’ve always admired continue to admire most is my mentor Lee episode. Yeah, yeah,

Chris Baran 1:12:39
I knew that was coming. We all admire genius. Genius. Genius. First personally wish I could meet

Gordon Miller 1:12:46
EU president I wish I could meet could it be historical? Yeah. Yeah, will it be too it’d be Martin Luther King and Gandhi. Wow. Both

Chris Baran 1:12:58
at the same dinner meeting. Oh yeah. Something people don’t know about you

Gordon Miller 1:13:05
hmm Well, I said it in the budget it but it’s easiest answer but I gave it up earlier and that is I’m a fanatic Kpop fan. Next week or actually on May 3 in Chicago sugar. Sugar is a member of BTS which is the biggest Kpop and the biggest bands in the world today. And sugar is coming to Chicago he’s on a solo tour. I spent $1,300 Wow. Up front center ever ever ever ever done anything like it? But I I’ve been to several Kpop but never won this big and I’m fascinated. And the reason I like Kpop is my brain doesn’t process music lyrics. I don’t hear I don’t hear the words and songs like I can’t say happy birthday. I know Happy birthday. Happy birthday. Happy birthday. I only know Happy birthday. My brain it’s I hear singing like an instrument. So as a young child I got fascinated with Latin music. And as when when Kpop began it was kind of a take on Motown Philly and hip hop combined. And I I just loved it fell in love with it probably 12 years ago. And so yeah kpop that would be my my people don’t know about

Chris Baran 1:14:11
that thing that you’re terrified of. Water. Yeah, I was gonna say I thought I heard that song that

Gordon Miller 1:14:17
one coming especially especially the ocean. Yeah, but water.

Chris Baran 1:14:21
Favorite curse word? Fuck.

Gordon Miller 1:14:24
favorite comfort food rolls off the tongue. Yeah, that’s

Chris Baran 1:14:27
right. It can be an adjective and a verb and a noun. favorite favorite comfort food.

Gordon Miller 1:14:35
Mac and cheese not it’s a good joke trader Trader Joe’s frozen mac and cheese. You know

Chris Baran 1:14:40
what love Trader Joe’s trader does going to be an advert for I normally hate frozen food. But for Trader Joe’s Trader Joe’s makes such amazing frozen food and it’s a savior when you’re you know you’re eight nine o’clock at night you got to make something happen. So thank you Trader Joe’s something in the industry that you haven’t done but you want to

Gordon Miller 1:15:05
huh? Well, conferences you know, I want to run launch I’ve already conceptualized but I haven’t personally put myself out there in the event space as me. And so my goal was to do four events as this ties right to what you’re saying, one I wanted to and I want everything to be niche, I want an event that celebrates and inspires the gay community I want to event for gay, my entire the entire acronym, everybody in my community I wanted to vet for us. Actually, I’ve got it named already, it’s gonna be called pride called queer beauty. I want an event specifically for the independence but event to celebrate an event to inspire and but an event for them. And I want to do events by invitation only. So I’m getting I’m getting in the weeds, but I want to do an event for educators. There’s never been an event for educators, you never know. I’m gonna do it.

Chris Baran 1:16:00
I’m gonna be there. To watch you will be the, you know, and I think I’m gonna give you this one i That sounds like an amazing TV show. That if you could do something for the gay community, and turning that into a TV show, that can be very interesting.

Gordon Miller 1:16:17
I’m gonna call Garen, he’s going to he’s going to Garen us to be there.

Chris Baran 1:16:24
Okay, good. And this is a keep thinking it’s just a Canadian expression, but a do over you know, do you know that you if you if you had to do over in your life or career, what would it be?

Gordon Miller 1:16:39
Oh, I gotta have had such a good life. I’ve had such a good life. My, you know, if I was gonna do anything over this, this is weird. It would be the time that I spent with my friend as he was dying the last the last two years of his life. Because I friends would say to me, like, we can’t believe what you’ve done. And what I put into it and from every part of my life. And I would say, and I can’t express how angry I’ve been throughout every bit of it. Yeah. I myself at him at the world. So is hard as it was. I would do it again. And I would do it in a different way. Oh,

Chris Baran 1:17:28
interesting. And is and just knowing that is one part of grieving though. Yeah. Elder to it. You could last one on this rapid fire. Tomorrow. You couldn’t do anything to do with the industry? You couldn’t do anything with this. What would you do?

Gordon Miller 1:17:50
Read a book. Oh, wow. That’s a mountain. I got. I’m at a point in life where that can be my answer. Right. So yeah, I don’t have to go get another job. You know, so I’m not sure which quote, but I would read a book.

Chris Baran 1:18:04
If you in our industry. Last question. If you had one wish for industry, what would it be?

Gordon Miller 1:18:15
Wow. It’s you know, that’s a tough one. That’s a tough one. I just you probably have to edit this. Oh, God. There’s so much it’s it’s like saying, you know, what, what would you do for America? Yeah. It’s like, what’s

Chris Baran 1:18:41
one thing that we could do to get it started? So what’s the one thing that if you could only do one thing right now something for industry? What would it be? You could snap your fingers, and it would be done?

Gordon Miller 1:18:53
Yeah, it would be fixed. What we talked about earlier, it would be it would be to put the ideal curriculum, I would ask Leo personage to come down from heaven and say, help me write this out. We’re going to we’re going to install it in every state. The industry is going to be the curriculum for hairdressing that everybody follows. Everybody will put their own spin on it, of course, but it won’t be this patchwork of hours. It won’t be it won’t be old fashioned. It won’t be it won’t be based on ideas from the 1950s. Although he was saying to me, Well, of course everyone still has to learn how to do rower setting because it’s the foundation of being a stylist I would say I agree with you, Leo. But let’s you know, again, let’s modernize it. Make it consistent. Let’s make it the right amount of time, not too much, not too little. Because education is the foundation for everything. And I believe that beauty school can be such an amazing experience. But I think we as an industry today are very much in our own way because all of it sits on a 50 year old idea. Right and very little has changed and it’s a tragedy. It is what it is to me. It’s a tragedy. And I don’t blame the schools now. I blame salons I blame salons. The salons have an obligation to let people know What is needed and do it in an organized way? Because only they can change it right? Sorry,

Chris Baran 1:20:05
Gordon, don’t never be sorry. That’s one thing I’ll pass on to you never be sorry about anything and any opinion that you have, because that’s that. That is your that’s your strength to Pearl. Gordon, I can’t thank you enough for not only being on head cases, but just for your opinion, your insights, your candor, and for being my new friend.

Gordon Miller 1:20:31
was pleasure, Chris, and you know, back back at you, you know, you you, you are an icon. I hope you know, you you are effing Chris Barron. And I would have said that five years ago, 10 years that you have been a presence of great significance in this industry for a very long time and you’re respected by more people than you know, myself included and I am honored to call you a new friend.

Chris Baran 1:20:59
We will sit down and we will have that drink of whatever that is one day and hopefully dinner together because that would be nothing. You get any more joy. Same. Okay, brother, thank you so much. It was been a pleasure. And thank you

Discover more from CBcom

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.