Michaeline DeJoria’s Worst Job Taught Her How to Be the Best Leader

Michaeline DeJoria’s Worst Job Taught Her How to Be the Best Leader


In ELLE.com’s series Office Hours, we ask people in powerful positions to take us through their first jobs, worst jobs, and everything in between. This month, we spoke with Michaeline DeJoria, CEO of John Paul Mitchell Systems and daughter of the hair care manufacturer’s co-founder, John Paul (DeJoria). Like her dad, DeJoria started out working in various departments before arriving at her current position; it was important to her that she immersed herself in all aspects of the business before taking on a leadership role. This experience informs her managerial style to this day—developing processes and ensuring that all departments within the company are streamlined and organized, with an emphasis on finding new opportunities for improvement. After studying product development at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising and organizational communications and industrial psychology at Pepperdine University, DeJoria went on to helm the family biz, including overseeing the launch of JPMS latest release, the Neuro Sleek—a hot brush for extra-smooth styles and shine.

My first job ever

A nanny. Though I worked on and off since I was 12 in little odd jobs, that one was the first long-term, grown-up job). I made $23,400 a year.

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My worst job ever

I worked at a legal office one summer in high school, and one of the lawyers hated me from day one. He was rude, nitpicked everything I did, and constantly threatened to have me fired over the most bizarre things. (For what it’s worth, the rest of the staff gave me glowing feedback and offered me back anytime, so it truly wasn’t my work performance.) I completed the summer as planned—no chance I was quitting—and left with a great education on how to not be a boss someday.

How efficiency keeps me effective

My day-to-day work life includes dropping the kids at school and then getting on a phone call straight away while I drive to the office. From there, my day is filled with back-to-back meetings. The majority of them are standing meetings—to make sure I have a regular cadence with my key team members—but I usually leave a 30-minute window open in the day in case things come up (which they ALWAYS do). I usually eat lunch while I work, and I am as efficient with my time as possible—there is no dead air or wasted time. Then I leave the office to go pick up my kids from school. I will make calls on that drive if needed as well. Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency. I connect with my email several more times throughout the evening (in between dinner and family stuff, so they aren’t feeling it too much). There is no start or end time, and I work every day of the week. Having some structure and preparing in advance are absolute gotta-dos for me. At the end of every night, I look at tomorrow’s calendar so I can prep what I need, and have a mental handle on what my day looks like.

Why e-commerce is not the enemy

Since beginning my career, the biggest change to the business of hair care and styling has been the shift from mostly brick-and-mortar commission salons to independent and suite renters. Stylists don’t fit the mold of “graduate and then go to work in a salon” anymore. They have a different set of needs for their business now, and selling product is a huge part of that. Consumers and stylists have both changed their purchasing habits, and it is largely dependent on e-comm. So, we stayed true to our pledge to support stylists and the industry, and we forged our own path where we are able to do that, with e-comm as a great tool for this industry as opposed to a great enemy. It was a very delicate, deliberate, and mindful shift to make that happen in such a successful way.

On the chain reaction of business decisions

Having immersed myself in different areas of the business, the warehouse is by far the most eye-opening. The operations of our business are far more complicated than people realize, and every choice we make impacts operations. Every single one. When I change one letter on a package name, it better be worth it, because it will impact SKUs, systems, warehousing, inventory management, and product transitions on the shelf and in our customer’s warehouses, freight, returns, credit…the complexities are far-reaching. I have always said it is crucial to understand the impact of each action on the other departments in order to truly make good decisions. That is why I insisted on spending time in every department before taking on a leadership role. I knew I wouldn’t be the best leader or make the best decisions if I didn’t understand the true impact. The warehouse is the backbone of our business, and we all know it.

Where I find hairspiration

My travels for sure, my kids and their friends, and just the people I see throughout the day. I would be a total poser if I said I adopt most of what I see—I am hugely inspired by it, and it affects how I see hair, how I market, my creative eye, and even my personal style, and design. But, for my own hair, I am such a creature of habit. I have three looks: air dry, blow dry, or bun. Not very exciting, but I have a ton of hair, so it takes a lot of time for me to do more than that with it. Plus, I can’t do hair to save my life. Thank the heavens for hairstylists!

Social media’s impact on the hair care industry

It has changed everything. It changed the idea of what a hairdresser can be, and what their career can look like. We are living in a world of influencers, stylists who are their own brand, and stylists who are only mobile with no station in a salon. A world of content, sharing ideas and inspiration, and new levels of awareness and education. Social media opened all of us up to a world of possibilities, and with that comes a lot of excitement and opportunity, as well as a lot of uncertainty and challenges. I have a complicated relationship with social media, personally. I don’t love it, and I only recently joined after a five-year break because, the fact is, if businesses and business leaders aren’t there, they are hardly anywhere. It’s where the world lives now, good or bad. I don’t like the unrealistic expectations that it can set, especially as a mother of three kids. On the flip side, how amazing is it that we can experience people, culture, art…truly everything from across the world from the palm of our hand?! It’s wonderful that there is free education and we are sharing ideas and collaborating with one another. That connection is very powerful. Oh, social media…you are a complicated dragon.

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