John Paul’s daughter Michaeline DeJoria is joining her dad by taking the reins of Paul Mitchell. In this interview with Estetica’s Sergi Bancells she talks about what it’s like working with JP, her leadership style and their commitment with hairdressers.
Michaeline, what’s your role at John Paul Mitchell Systems?
“My title is Vice Chairman and, basically what that is in layman’s terms, is that I’m really Dad’s right-hand man. So I oversee all aspects of the business: product development, new programs, new advertising… there are a lot of moving parts, and they are all interrelated, so I have my hands in everything. I’m a total Type A. So I’m a good fit for this job, because there are so many little things going on that you can’t live in a bubble when you make the kinds of decisions I do.”
How do you work with your dad John Paul?
“We really don’t have a set anything. We’re both so self-sufficient and we have such an organic working relationship that we’ve never really had to carve it out. It’s just not our style. I don’t even think we could between his life and mine. I have two kids and I am the only one who takes them to school every day, picks them up… So between balancing that and my dad always traveling, I couldn’t even tell you one set time a week when I’m always in the same place or he is. And it’s always been like that, even when we were growing up. He’ll find me or I’ll find him.”
JP told me once that he is not much for e-mail.
“It took me years to convince him of social media being a thing. (Laughs) He said, “Oh, we don’t need to do that.” Oh, my God! It’s such a funny thing about working together. We’re such a dad and such a daughter still. Titles aside, it still comes down to, “Dad, that’s not what’s cool right now.” And he says, “I know cool. I’m the coolest guy ever.” (Laughs) There are so many times when something will come up at dinnertime. We get to have those side conversations and talk through things. It’s nice because I get so much wisdom from him that many people don’t get.
You worked in various departments before taking on this position.
“I’m grateful that I chose to do that when I came in, before going to an executive position. I really wanted to spend the time in each department for that reason. You don’t realize all the implications in a company this big, but there is a domino efect If I change one letter on that, R&D changes, legal changes, the SKUs change… Everything! You have to make choices that you are confident in, because it’s difcult to undo. No room to be reckless.”
You studied product development, marketing and communications. Was this planned ahead of time with your father?
“No, I always wanted to do what I’m doing right now. I always wanted to run Paul Mitchell and I always wanted to be a mom. I don’t think in my entire life has Dad ever said to any of us, “Have you ever considered doing this?” Never. I always loved coming to work and watching what he did, seeing the kind of decisions he made. It was really inspiring. I just wanted to start and learn. So I did – and I managed to have a couple of kids along the way. So that worked out, too!”
What is your mantra as the Vice Chairman?
“Be a leader, not a boss”. I’m definitely not a micro-manager. I pay attention to detail, I want to know what’s going on, but no way would I ever jump into someone’s office and look at what they’re looking at or try to critique what they are doing. I think it’s important for me as a manager to trust and support my team very much.”
What is it like working with all these creative stylists, like Angus, Robert and the team?
“I have tremendous respect for anyone who can even blow-dry their own hair, let alone someone who’s a hair stylist! So anytime they say, “You should do this” or “We’re thinking this”, I’m just like – Wow! I have such a business-y brain and they are so much more creative and eccentric and outside the box and colorful. It’s really nice. I definitely appreciate what they bring to the company, because I know where I’m strong and where I’m not. And at the end of the day, hairdressers are who we are working so hard for.”
Talked to your dad some time ago, and he told me about the 360 year-trust to maintain the company in the pro-beauty industry forever.
“That’s right – JPMS would never go retail. Never, ever, ever.”
“None of my children will be able to do it,” he said. How do you feel about that?
“I wouldn’t do it anyway. But there is no way any of my kids can, or whoever my successor is or their successor. We are fully committed for hundreds and hundreds of years. Because it is all about the hairdressers. When he started the business with Paul, they said, “Please have faith in us. Give us a chance and we promise we will never abandon you.” They helped us and they believed in us, and here we are.”
Does this commitment inhibit growth?
“Absolutely, on a fnancial level. Overnight we would skyrocket our sales now, because retail is everywhere. But that’s not why we do it. We’re not here to see how much money we can make of of John Paul Mitchell Systems. We’re here to see how much money we can bring to the hairdressers, how much we can bring to our staff here. We want to see how much we can grow as a company, without compromising our integrity.”
How do you see the company evolving in the next years?
“I’d say to stay on the track that we’re on now. Dad and I have just a great harmony, he does his thing and I do my thing. And as I become more and more involved, it’s been great. And I don’t see his involvement slowing down at all. We are better than ever as a company, with growth every day, so I would say, ‘don’t mess with what is defnitely not broken’.”
The Charity Gene
The DeJoria family has always been involved in charity. Philanthropy plays a big part in Michaeline’s life and she’s also involving her own children. She remembers, “Dad would always say to us as kids, ‘That little something you do can make someone’s life so different.’”