Josh McCarter: “Beauty is not just physical”

Beauty is not just physical, and I believe that some people have a very hard time grasping this concept. At Mindbody, we like to speak about the ‘Seven Dimensions of Wellness’ which include: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, environmental, social and occupational wellness. Each of these dimensions contributes to your sense of wellbeing and a feeling […]

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Beauty is not just physical, and I believe that some people have a very hard time grasping this concept. At Mindbody, we like to speak about the ‘Seven Dimensions of Wellness’ which include: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, environmental, social and occupational wellness. Each of these dimensions contributes to your sense of wellbeing and a feeling of beauty. It is important to ensure that you treat each dimension equally and don’t just hone in on the physical aspect because it is the only one that you can see.

As a part of our series about “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Josh McCarter.

He is currently the CEO of Mindbody, the leading technology platform for the beauty, fitness and wellness industries. His main focus is helping to scale Mindbody’s global B2B2C platform through strategic partnerships, corporate development and all go-to-market and customer experience activities. Josh joined Mindbody in 2018 as Chief Strategy Officer following the company’s acquisition of Booker, where he was the Co-Founder and CEO.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My career in the beauty industry began in the early 2000s. As Chief Operating Officer of SpaFinder, I managed the company’s technology, operations and strategic initiatives. While still on SpaFinder’s board, I became a partner in another technology business, Arbitech, which earned Entrepreneur Magazine’s Fastest Growing Company award. Around the same time, SpaFinder started a simple scheduling solution which I ended up adapting to create Booker Software. Over the next seven years, I built Booker into the largest B2B SaaS business management and marketing platform serving the beauty and wellness industry. In spring 2018, Mindbody acquired Booker and I began my journey with the company then.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Something that I like to share with my team is the importance of not having a fixed mindset. This applies to all aspects of life, but it is so important in the workforce. For example, if someone within your company has a position that you are working towards, don’t brush it off because you assume you won’t have the opportunity to advance. Instead, change your mindset and recognize that life is fluid. The person in the job you want may get promoted or take a job elsewhere, thus creating opportunity for you. If you see the world as abundant versus scarce, you will find opportunities everywhere you look.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Are there takeaways or lessons that others can learn from that?

I started working at a very young age and it was largely due to the passing of my father. He passed away when I was 12 years-old, and that summer my mother made me get a job detailing Volkswagens at a dealership in San Diego. I continued working throughout high school and college. The jobs were typical of what a teenager or college kid would do — like managing a bike rental shop near the beach and then later selling cars while in college.

My experience working at car dealerships led me to work for the first automotive e-commerce company called Autobytel. It was right around 1996 and I was just out of college. I was hired as a sales assistant in what would become a transformative industry. Selling cars on the internet, back then, wasn’t even a thing. I had to explain to customers what the internet was and that we couldn’t actually push a car through somebody’s computer, and have it show up in their driveway!

Early on I proved myself as a sales assistant and would later receive my own sales territory, which was a big promotion, but it came with one major catch. I was put into our most difficult sales territory, which at the time, was Texas. In about three to four months, however, I managed to turn it from our worst territory to our best. From that point forward, management asked me to work on side projects and those side projects ended up being the foundation of our business development team and our international partnership program. Over the next few years, we ended up forming nine joint ventures, raised 100 million dollars and bought a couple of companies.

When I started, I truthfully had no idea what I was doing. But along the way, I received great mentorship, read a lot of books and tens of thousands of legal documents as a result of our joint ventures. So, this was really the tipping point. The most impactful thing that I learned is to be a ‘learn it all’ and not a ‘know it all.’ I have seen in myself and in others that early in your career many are eager to show everybody how smart you are or how capable you are. That is great, but on the flipside, it is really important to be a sponge and to absorb as much as you can. Steven Covey says, “Seek first to understand and then to be understood.” This advice helped me lose fear of the unknown and of taking on something I’d never done before. While you might not have experience in something, if you have will, determination and a few good mentors along the way, you can tackle any issue.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person to whom you are grateful who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I came from a family that put significant value on work ethic. My grandparents were immigrants and I remember how hard they worked. My mother was a teacher working double-time. My uncle was an entrepreneur who had an extremely successful car dealership, but also dealt with business hardships and had to rebuild his life and business from the ground up after going bankrupt in the early nineties.

Because of him, I was able to see the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur — while it can be an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience, challenges and pitfalls are everywhere and you have to be equally good at navigating challenging times. I saw this firsthand when he went bankrupt. It was front page news in the Los Angeles Times.

In addition to understanding the entrepreneurial mindset, it is important to understand yourself. My uncle once told me something that will stick with me for the rest of my life. He said, “a good CEO surrounds themselves with someone who makes up for their weaknesses.” It really is a telling comment because it presupposes that you are self-aware enough to know what your weaknesses are. Frankly, I’ve had interactions with plenty of CEOs and other executives who don’t have that level of self-awareness. So that comment really made me think about what I am good at and how I can surround myself with people who help move a business forward in ways that I cannot. Also, understanding when to lead and when to take a backseat is an important skill set to learn because you don’t have all the answers to every problem.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. The global beauty industry today has grown to more than a half a trillion dollar business. Can you tell us about the innovations that you are bringing to the industry? How do you think that will help people?

Being a technology company, the innovations that we think about are primarily technology-driven. Historically we have been more of a B2B provider, however we are rapidly pivoting to focus on the B2C opportunities. I would say that COVID has really shaped and accelerated how we are leveraging new tools and technology to benefit spas and salons.

Among them, the low-touch customer journey is something we are really excited about. It is an innovation that will be facilitated by mobile, and we are already well down this path. When you think about how a consumer books their appointments, you think about all of the steps that go into it. How do they check in? How do they fill out forms if there is a waiver that needs to be completed? And on the flipside, how does that information get transmitted back to the person who is providing the service? When the service is complete, can the consumer check themselves out with a mobile payment and book their next appointment? These are all innovations that are happening right now.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning also is playing a critical role in how we innovate. Mindbody acquired a company last year called Bowtie, which allowed us to become one of the first platforms to focus on the benefits of an AI facilitated receptionist specifically for salons and spas. This is something that from the most simplistic standpoint can help answer basic questions about a business, can automatically return missed calls via text, and from a more complex way, can also help customers book appointments or purchase add-ons. For example, through text message you can learn about what services are available, when they are available and how much they cost. We are now expanding this again, thinking of that touchless journey to recommend upsells or to help someone rebook all within text messaging.

Another technology that we are seeing become highly relevant for spas and salons, especially during the COVID-19 era, is e-commerce. To that end, we have developed a tight integration with Shopify. They have a very deep e-commerce platform, which enables these businesses to drive revenue and sell their products even when the customers might not be able to physically visit the shop because it is closed.

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the modern beauty industry?

There are a few things that really excite me about the industry — the first being the overall low-touch customer journey facilitated by mobile, as I just discussed.

The second is looking at how we can help our salons and spas manage capacity. In this new world that we are living in, salons and spas have fewer seats and rooms available. It is exciting to think through their consumer demand patterns and help them to optimize their availability. This also gets into staffing recommendations and times we would recommend that services take place based on when we see consumers searching for availability. We have the ability to recommend that businesses either expand their opening times or add staffing. Once that is in place, there is also the potential to use dynamic pricing — just like hotels or airlines use. We currently provide the ability to charge more for certain services at peak times and less at off-peak times and we are looking to evolve this even further this year.

And third, while technology has always had a place in the industry, COVID-19 has accelerated the need for innovation within this channel. Specifically, I am excited for the opportunity of AI/ML and e-commerce to propel the future of the industry. Both have the ability to further fuel the low-touch journey that will be paramount moving forward, in addition to offering greater customization, personalization and democratization across the board.

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to improve the industry, what would you suggest?

Number one through three is COVID-19. Within this context, the top priority is to usher in the ability for businesses to survive right now given expenses, uncertainty and all of the ups and downs.

Number two is looking at the impact on employment, because what we are seeing right now, both broad-based and in the service industry, is millions of layoffs and furloughs. Oftentimes those people need to find other jobs, and so they might move from something that is their typical domain of expertise into some other role just so they can get a paycheck. At the end of the day, how do you get those people to come back and as a business, what level of certainty can you provide them?

Lastly, I am concerned about the impact on the overall consumer experience. Experiences are being disrupted because you might have to wear a mask, or service providers are in a shield with gloves on. Or maybe now you can’t relax in the waiting room or have access to the locker room. This can cause consumers to have an experience that is less than what they are historically used to, causing them to disengage.

To me, those are the three biggest issues that I see right now in the industry. As practitioners and wellness businesses, we need a more comprehensive approach to wellness and beauty with our consumers. We need to always be thinking about how we stay connected to consumers including what we can do in between visits, because those in between visits may be prolonged more. Are there virtual offerings we can create? Can we recommend complementary programs or partners? Are there packages that we can sell that help retain those consumers? There are the questions that we need to be asking.

You are an expert about beauty. Can you share a few ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”?

Beauty is not just physical, and I believe that some people have a very hard time grasping this concept. At Mindbody, we like to speak about the ‘Seven Dimensions of Wellness’ which include: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, environmental, social and occupational wellness. Each of these dimensions contributes to your sense of wellbeing and a feeling of beauty. It is important to ensure that you treat each dimension equally and don’t just hone in on the physical aspect because it is the only one that you can see.

Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, Can you please share “Five Things You Need To Know To Succeed In The Modern Beauty Industry”. Please share a story or an example, for each.

First of all, you have to have grit as an entrepreneur because it is not easy to start, run or lead a business. There are going to be a lot of ups and downs and things happen that you can’t plan for. Who would have guessed during the 2019 Holidays that we’d have our entire world turned upside down just a few months later by Covid-19?

Next, you have to be a sponge and always look to absorb information that can help you grow as a person. This can be a benefit to how you run your business and how you manage the staff. Being a ‘learn it all’ very much applies here too.

Additionally, you have to know your numbers. A lot of people in this industry have previously worked for a company and then decide that they want to open their own salon but have never run a business before. It is important for them to be schooled in all aspects of running a business, be humble about what you don’t know and really seek to learn from the best resources in your industry on how to handle the operations. Make sure that you understand the ins and outs before you put any money into it because there may be things that you learn ahead of time that turn out not to be what you initially thought. This will save you a lot of time and money.

It is also extremely important to look for evidence-based approaches verses jumping on every fad. This is especially critical in today’s world where each week there is a new beauty or wellness trend. The ones that show the most durability are generally evidence-based, so it is important to understand that.

Lastly, it is so important to build your network. This is something I learned firsthand through my participation in the Young Presidents’ Organization, an organization that I have been involved with for many years. There are a lot of networks in the salon and spa industry that you can go to for support. You can also look to other peers who are running their own businesses. Undoubtedly, these people have encountered some of the same difficulties and issues that you will. It is important to speak to them to learn that you are not alone, and that other people may have solutions to the very problems you are facing. Tapping into your networks for guidance is critical.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

In addition to the most likely answer given my background, Wellness, I am a strong believer in education. My parents were both teachers and I realize how crucial it is to have educational opportunities throughout every phase of your life. This starts from pre-school and goes way beyond graduate school. I believe education is the great equalizer in the world, and if I could inspire a movement, it would be giving everyone the opportunity to receive a well-rounded education. Education is the catalyst that helps lift people out of hard socio-economic conditions. It also is the force that combats racism and bias and promotes collaboration.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have to say that the one quote that really sticks out to me is ‘If you think you can…or think you can’t, you’re right.’ To me, life is all about positive thinking and recognizing that you alone control your happiness and outcomes in life. In the current COVID-19 era, everything and everyone is moving a mile a minute. It is so important to have a moment each day where you take a deep breath and truly reflect on yourself and what you are grateful for.

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed reading “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey. There are a few points he makes that I can directly relate to, including: be proactive, start with the end in mind, put first things first to establish what is most urgent versus important and think about the win-win or mutually beneficial agreements or solutions in your relationships.

With this mindset as a backdrop, you will be able to see a world of abundance and opportunity, not a finite set of options that is a zero-sum game, where you win, and I lose. We can both win and be happy for one another.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can find me on LinkedIn!

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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