Memo Exclusive: An Interview with Jason Yates, COO at JPMS
Jason Yates joined John Paul Mitchell Systems (JPMS) five years ago as vice president of marketing, where he led the marketing strategy for all brands under the JPMS corporate umbrella. Within two years he had absorbed the role of vice president of sales as well, becoming the first vice president of sales and marketing at JPMS. Under his supervision the company saw rapid expansion in product development and market penetration, resulting in strong sales growth annually.
Today, Yates is chief operating officer at JPMS and he draws on his 25 years of experience in the industry--as a hairdresser, platform artist, educator, salon chain managing director-- to help salons succeed and to shape the future of professional beauty. MODERN spoke with him about what’s ahead at JPMS and his views on the industry, today.
MS: As the professional beauty industry rolls up and more and more companies are being acquired, how does JPMS fit into the professional landscape as an independent company?
JY: I don’t think what’s happening is a new phenomenon. It’s gone on since I’ve been in the states, for the last 16 years, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. It helps JPMS the more they consolidate because it gives us a point of difference and delivers a resonating message to our salon partners: our promise is that the company will never be sold outside of the pro beauty and that for the next 348 years, it will be owned by the DeJorias, with the stipulation that it remain fully professional. That message resonates with me and if I was still a salon owner, I would want to align with a company that has me as their first and only interest.
MS: JPMS has been serving the industry for over 25 years – how do you evolve a mature brand to remain relevant to professionals and consumers?
JY: When I hear that I want to push back. We’re 37 years old which means we’re established but still fairly young, especially when you consider brands in our industry that are over one hundred years old.
Over the last ten or five years we have been doing a lot to reinvent ourselves. As popular as our Paul Mitchell heritage line is, we realize all salons are not created equal and they are all looking for something slightly different; salons want boutique brands, brands offering a different price point, more technology or a more natural formulas. We want to be in as many salons as possible and we realize there is much more chance of doing it if we build, rather than buy, brands so we have been keeping our brands that are strong and successful while also looking at what’s missing, areas of the business where we do not have a solution, and deciding how we address it. We have created different, very strong, brand portfolios, today, that appeal to a variety of salons and salon professionals.
MS: Where do you see growth in the salon industry on the salon level?
JY: I think the growth for salons has to be around service. The salon channel is facing challenges as consumers want to buy online. We want to help salons navigate this and the number one way is to build your ticket, stay profitable, and give guests a reason to come back.
Hair extensions are exploding. The service is a becoming more efficient and easy-to-perform and as more people become more familiar with them it will be a great service opportunity in salons. The same with treatments. Personalization is a great win for salons and gives them a way to compete. For a truly personalized product experience or a hair extension service, you have to go to a salon professional.
MS: How does ecommerce play into JPMS future strategy and what do you see as the future of professional distribution?
JY: There are challenges but ecommerce isn’t going away because it is a consumer expectation. We need to find a way to protect the brand, protect the price—both of which help salons—and to take leads and funnel them back to the salon.
With professional distribution, I think it is absolutely essential that you have a store network. And independent contractors need to be serviced omni channel; they will want to buy online and in store. If you are a distributor and you don’t have next day ship and you don’t have a store network, you’ll be hurting.
From a manufacturer’s standpoint, they must have an ecommerce platform that is available to consumers and one where the manufacture controls the brand experience and the price. Our JPMS leads go back to salons and every sale that happens online through our website we commission our partner salons 20 percent that they can reinvest back in their business.
Not having an ecommerce solution doesn’t mean the product is not online it just means you don’t control the experience. Your product is out there, unauthorized, and you have no control over the price or whether it’s real or counterfeit.
MS: JPMS has been innovative in so many ways throughout your history – do you have any new innovations in the works that you can discuss?
JY: In addition to hair extensions and personalization, our focus is going to be around hair color and building more services and commercial ideas.
MS: To grow, many product companies are looking at omni-channel marketing. What is your thought on this strategy?
JY: I think it’s a necessity. With the ways people absorb information today, no one channel works anymore. People want the convenience of being able to order, to get education, and to do these things online. This is a critical time for manufacturers and distributors to adjust to the changing times and those who adjust quickest will garner the most support. It’s important that we stay ahead of the times and people who do it best will win. What I love about JP (John Paul DeJoria, co-founder and chairman of the board, JPMS) is that he is simple guy when it comes to technology but he has a good understanding of the importance and the power of tomorrow’s world. He understands we have to make investments and build capability and we’re doing it.
MS: You have had an amazing beauty career from hairdresser, platform artist, to top executive at major pro-beauty companies. What career advice would you give a young hairdresser entering professional beauty?
JY: The first things is to be very honest with themselves and to ask the questions: why do I want to be in the beauty industry, what attracts me? When I started in the UK, I did an apprenticeship. It was long, at very low pay, and of the18 people in my salon who were also apprentices, only three made it through the program. Hairdressing is hard work, you stand on your feet ten hours a day, and no matter how you feel you have to be nice and you have to make it always about them and not you.
In the Paul Mitchell schools when we walk them through the admission process we make sure it’s a career in hairdressing they want and that they have a real love for it. It’s important in those early days that someone asks them the right kind of questions.
Our schools really help paint the career path and show them a picture of all the possibilities. We pride ourselves on a very robust curriculum and giving them life skills to succeed in the salon and beyond.