Gordon Miller on the Changing Landscape of the Beauty Industry

Meet Gordon Miller, one of a short list of possible possessors of the secret decoder ring to much of the professional beauty industry’s inner workings. While he may not look a day over 29, he’s spent the last 39 years working his way up the industry ladder, most recently as the Publisher of American Salon Magazine and now as the newly appointed CEO of the “Craft Hairdresser” community platform hairbrained.me.

Gordon is joining some other highly esteemed names at Luxury Brand Partners’ Idealogue conference the weekend of September 24th/25th and we want to know why and what wisdom he plans to impart upon the beauty community members attending this event.

Okay Gordon, before we talk about Idealogue, we (and we’re sure some others!) would like to know why you left your cushy American Salon publishing job and jumped into the growing business arena?

As the old saying goes, “Things happen for a reason.” The first 30+ years of my career was spent deep in education (Pivot Point and Milady) and community building (National Cosmetology Association). About eight years or so ago, I had the realization that a massive shift was coming to the industry. I soon after left NCA to jump feet first into the digital and social media pool, which in time led me to American Salon, first as VP of Social/Digital Media and then Publisher/VP of Integrated Media. Over the course of three years, we grew our Instagram following from 7,000 to 650,000, and our larger efforts catapulted American Salon above our competitors in what I view as all of the important competitive metrics.

After checking off pretty much every ‘box’ I wanted to achieve with American Salon, I started casually thinking about what the future looked like. Soon after, a chance call with hairbrained Co-Founders and friends Gerard Scarpaci and Randy Taylor opened an unexpected door for the next phase of my journey; one focused squarely on creating value by way of education and content for the very much growing hairbrained (Hb) community.

Let’s talk about your role with Hb. You have donned the title of CEO, but what exactly does that entail?

My title is CEO, and although my job description is that of traditional Chief Executive Officer, we couldn’t help but put a Hb spin on the acronym, calling me the Chief Engagement Officer.

To that point, my most important work comes by way of engaging with Hb community members, our supporters, and brand partners as well as the industry at large. My day-to-day focus is working with Gerard Scarpaci and Randy Taylor and the rest of the Hb team to create value for all of the above, and to help launch a number of new and exciting initiatives in the coming year. #staytuned

How does this translate to your panel discussion for Idealogue?

I’m attending Ideologue in my role as Hb CEO, but also be there in my continuing role as host of the weekly American Salon Stories podcast. I’ll be on stage interviewing Julius Caesar, a Los Angeles-based barber and a member of the Wahl Education & Artistic Team, and John Mosley, a barbering and men’s grooming expert connected to both Hatori Hanzo and Paul Mitchell. We will have what I’m sure to be an engaging conversation about barber culture and what social media has done to enhance it. Following the event, our 45-minute discussion will be released on AmericanSalon.com and iTunes as an American Salon Stories podcast for all to experience post event.

This is really cool for those who are unable to attend Idealogue because they will be able to experience it and gain some takeaways. For those who are physically attending the event, what kind of takeaways are you hoping they get out of this panel discussion?

Without a doubt, social media is completely changing people’s careers, turning the industry on its head, and leveling the playing field for everyone. I want the audience to understand the power of social media, plug into its importance and value and actually use it to supercharge their careers and businesses. Relative to the panel discussion, I believe that the barber movement is emblematic of the power of social media for our industry and I’m so excited to dig into this big idea with the guys.

There are 13 speakers and two panel sessions, which seems like a lot of information being given to an attendee to digest and fully comprehend. What advice can you give attendees to ensure that they leave Idealogue educated and not in a “what do I do now” state of mind?

My advice is to fully take advantage of the technology that sits in the palm of your hand—your smartphone. I recommend recording audio for easy listening later. Snap pics of key PowerPoint presentation slides to be able to easily review big ideas post event. Most importantly, come with a clear understanding of what you want to get out of the event. Focus on what is being said and shared. Network your ass off and “be present.”

Hairbrained does a lot of polling and discussions. Based on this, what do you feel are the biggest challenges facing salon owners and stylists at the moment?

Clients have more options than ever relative to where they go for services and products. The beauty space has never been as competitive as it is now. The once unknown salon is now known because of social media, and that is what’s challenging for stylists and salon alike.

From an owner point of view, stylists have never had so many opportunities or challenges. Chair and suite rental is a fundamental change in the larger business model. Staff retention and recruiting it the number one challenge for most owners.

For stylists, the biggest challenge facing them is, like so much of the larger American population, not making enough money to live the life they want to live. Whether they are that independent stylist or someone working in a salon, this is a never-ending challenge. All have to continuously be upping their game to be competitive and hang onto every client…and sale.

Do you feel that the “broader industry” (i.e. manufacturers/publications) are addressing these challenges and providing solutions?

The tradition is this industry is for brands and publications to do their very best in providing the content, education, and information. And that continues today in spades. The real question is: who is paying attention? There are a lot of stylists out there who are tapping into all that it out there today, but even more who are not.

You’ve been in this industry a long time, 39 years to be exact, what patterns have you seen repeated over the years and where do you think the biggest change will happen next?

Being successful in the salon, and being successful behind the chair, isn’t that complicated, but at the same time, it isn’t easy. It’s hard work and it’s the more competitive than perhaps ever.

Everything around us has evolved—marketing, trends, and the sophistication of products and resources becoming available—and those who adopt to those changes are the ones we see growing. As the saying goes, we either “evolve or die.” Today, we have to evolve faster than ever before.

What’s your industry prediction for 2018? What is something that is going to make an impact on the professional beauty industry?

In a word—Amazon. They are clearly on their way to being a game changer for the professional beauty industry. What we don’t yet know is where this will take us.
Amazon Salon and Spa is growing fast, and with big brands like Sally Beauty now having a presence on Amazon, there is little doubt that more change is coming,

Importantly, Amazon will not disrupt those who are smart enough to position themselves as unique, luxurious, and experience-based.

If you would like to get into your own philosophical discussion with Gordon on hairbrained, you can find him here, or you could see him up close at personal at Idealogue. Either way, you won’t be disappointed and most likely walk away feeling a bit more enlightened and educated.

Photo Credits: @gordonm, @lbp, @avalondeerpark,

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