Jeff WACKER - George J. Miller
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by George J. Miller

Yes that's HIS REAL NAME!
I met Jeff about 3 years ago at a distributors Power Breakfast. There were about 20 people in attendance but Jeff stood out, first he's tall, then he has a long beard, then he has a long pony tail, then he has a long history in the Beauty Profession as a "nice guy", I vote for the nice guy tag too. Jeff is currently an Educator for ALTERNA and he owns and operates a 25+ station Award winning Salon in Aliso Viejo CA. Jeff helped me give a class at COBA a Beauty College in Orange CA and I had a chance to find out a lot more about this talented and artistic business like person. We sat down in his Salon and started to talk.

Let's start with where did you go to Beauty College?

I'm a Beauty College drop out, I started when I was still in High School, it wasn't working for me, but as fortune would have it about 2 years later a friend of mine was opening a Salon and he needed a receptionist, he knew I liked the Industry, so I started there as a receptionist and a few months later he made me the Manager and told me that if I wanted to I could start an apprenticeship program at his salon and within a short time I was in the salon working as an apprentice, that required about 2 years and I took the Barber exam and worked with him for about 5 years.

Why don't we find out a little bit about your early days in the Beauty Profession?

O.K. I started doing hair about 26 years ago, when I was 3 years old, (george: Funny you don't look a day over 27 ha ha). I have only worked in 4 Salons in all that time, I don't believe in changing Salons, my wife was into Interior Decorating and about 11 years ago we decided to open our own Salon. I turned a small portion of a warehouse into a 6-chair Salon with no employees, since then we have expanded by tearing down walls and have over 6000 sq. ft. with 23 chairs, 2 skin care rooms, and we are in the process of adding a Medical Skin Care program for our clients.

Have you owned Salons prior to this one?

No, "Salon Platinum" is our first one.

How many people work in your salon today?

Aprox. 25 including Estheticians and Assistants.

You are a busy guy, you are well versed in many aspects of our business, but what part of the Beauty Industry do you like the best?

The One on One with the people, one on one with the client in the chair, I like that a lot, I think that when they call you back and they are having a great day or they go to a party and they feel special, I think that's really important, I always tell people I don't think there's a person that you can't give a compliment to, I think every person has something that you can compliment, something you can give them good energy about.

I know you and Diane (your wife) are active in giving back, are there any projects that you are involved with now?

We just did a charity motorcycle run, where they give all the proceeds to the "Fallen for Injured Police Officers & Firemen Fund"; we just did that last weekend. The big charity we gave to last year was "Wigs for Kids"(Locks of Love)?

Did I hear that you also work with Habitats for Humanity?

Yes, Diane has us on as a Sponsor for Habitats for Humanity, with the project "Hairdressers Unlocking Hope".

I'm sure a lot of stylist's would like to hear how you became an Educator for ALTERNA?

When they came to me to put their products in my Salon, first I want you to know that I already liked the products and the company ALTERNA, I turned the tables on them, I told them that I wanted them to bring me into their company as a Educator and it worked, they brought me in to do some local educating and in a short amount of time, I was helping Michael Shawn Corby (he is the Global Artistic Director for ALTERNA) at the ISSE show in Long Beach, CA, at that show I must have impressed Michael Shawn, because he asked me to join him 2 weeks later at the Mid West Show in Chicago, that pretty much sealed the deal, then we put together the "ALTERNA Dream Team", the name now has been changed to the "ALTERNA Artistic Team" we now have a core team of about 5 whittled down from about 10.

Is it fair to say that the team was made from the ones who "Showed up"?

I do think it is showing up, sometimes the logics are involved, but when a stylist thinks they have some talent and that should carry them, that doesn't work, in the end showing up, being there everyday, and keep coming back, it's called "staying the course" that is what is primarily needed to become part of highly functioning team of professionals.

How do you handle all the many different parts of your career, from running a successful Salon to going out to do Magazine photo shoots and still have time for the family?

You know I think it's my cliental that suffers the most, because they get the last minute call that I have to change their appointments, other than that I come to the Salon and it's not too crazy, I come in 4 days a week, so I don't stress myself out, managing the Salon has a lot to do with hiring the right people, they manage themselves, I'm not their babysitter, there's not a lot of drama in my Salon, my best managing skill is picking the right people at the beginning, I make sure that they will fit with the team I already have.

Do you have any relatives that work in the Profession?

My Aunt did way back for a short time, maybe there was a seed planted then, but I don't know, there's really no one else.

Would you recommend our Profession to your children?

I have 2 daughters, to answer your question Yes, if it was right for the person. It has to be right for the person; it's just not good for everybody. I know people who are definitely not making it in our Profession, but that said it's not the Profession, it just isn't right for some people. One of my daughters is very artistic and very much wants to be in the business, and I feel she will do so, the other one is going into the Medical Profession.

What specifically helps you to Inspire or Motivate your Salon staff?

This question goes back to hiring the right people, at one time I had 9 different Platform Artists/Educators going to all the Industry Shows and they would come back from the Shows excited and with new ideas, that really keeps the Salon buzzing. I also believe it is vitally important for successful Salons to hold monthly classes, I know that that can be a challenge with stylist's, but the difference from when we don't have classes is night and day. I recommend taking advantage of the product companies that will give you free education, but any education free or paid for is what is needed, because it really will benefit everyone in the Salon, when you bring in an Guest Artist to your Salon it's like steroids or a jump start for your heart, you FEEL it. I always recommend stylists to attend Professional Beauty Shows; even joining other Salons in your area in bringing in Educators is something to be considered.

In closing is there any last thoughts that you would like to share?

Our Profession is a Great Industry, it allow us to expand in many different directions, I am into photography and that offers me a way to expand my creativity, I am working on a photo shoot in Santa Monica, then 2 weeks later it's Fashion Week in Los Angeles.

Let me interrupt you, I think our readers would like to know how you get "hooked.up" to these events, is it because of your work with ALTERNA?

No, no matter where you live there is a news channel, there is a newspaper, there is a new boutique opening up down the street, or the local Radio station, even the High School or College has a Fashion Program and almost every city has a mall, I think it goes back to finding what works in your area, and I am more than willing to do it for free, sometimes you have to do it for free to help out someone who has a small company, but then their company grows and they come back to you, and they pay you. Sometimes I will receive photos of the work for my portfolio, and the work is beautiful and that makes it worth the effort. It would cost a lot of money to have someone shoot my work, so it's a win-win situation. Anytime I can help someone in our profession I am happy to bring them along on a photo shoot, it makes me feel I've done something to help other people.

End. I've really enjoyed talking to you and congratulations to you and your continued success in our Industry.

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