Ron Gerard, the director of NEXT Model Management in Miami, is nothing less than a powerhouse of energy and experience in the fashion world of South Florida. Hope you enjoy his candid interview as much as I did.
Susan: Are you still doing CrossFit?
Ron: Yes. Can you believe it? I went back to it after getting hurt. It’s the only form of exercise that I can get in there and not be sidetracked because it is like being in the military. You have to be there at 7:00pm. If you are late you are penalized and I can’t think of anything but that hour. So it is one hour of intense exercise. I feel like I’ve been whipped. So I can’t be thinking, “Oh my God, did this girl miss her flight?” I can’t even be thinking about picking up my phone. So it is the one of the 24 hours in a day that I can turn ‘it’ all off, and do something for myself.
There is a catch 22 going on. With today’s technology it is great what we can do, but it is never turned off. The emails are coming in constantly. My day starts at 6:00am when my alarm goes off. I sit in bed for the first hour with the laptop and my phone just answering calls and emails. They usually finish coming in around 11 at night and start back up again around 3:00 in the morning with Paris, Milan and China opening up. Everything is international these days. That’s what’s keeping us alive down here (Miami). And when someone sends an email to us they expect us to get back to them right away. It wasn’t like the good old 80’s and 90’s where you walked out of the office at 6:00 and were done for the night. You know, now it is 24 hours. We didn’t even have cell phones in those days. Now it is out of control. The phones ring NON-stop. It’s a whole different ball game.
Susan: Well, it sounds like you have the energy for it.
Ron: I guess. I don’t know how I do. Someone asked me the other day, “How do you do it?” You know, I feel like I am a robot. I just get up and go. I get up in the morning and just go: I can’t think about it. If I started to think about it, forget it. But the only time I stress is between 1 and 3 because I usually haven’t eaten and I just beg to get 20 minutes to run and get a sandwich down me. Because in the morning I just barely have time to get a cup of coffee because I am trying to figure out who showed, who’s late… it’s like having 20 kids that aren’t listening. Ya, I still have it (the energy) and maybe I just don’t know better and just keep going.
Susan: Tell me about an achievement or personal goal you’ve reached that you are proud of.
Ron: Basically what we just discussed. The endurance that I keep going. You know if has been 25 years that I’ve been doing this. It’s been 20 years with NEXT. That’s unheard of. You don’t hear of agents being with the same agency for so long.
It’s pretty funny now because the girls (previous models) are coming in with their children now. And I’m like, “When did you have this kid?” And they’re like, “Ron, he’s 17 years old now.” I’m like, “What?! When did this happen?” It’s a full circle.
So I guess my biggest achievement has been being able to keep the continuity and consistency. Because I strongly think we are the leading agency down here. And just keeping it going is an every day process. And I think about getting up everyday and keeping everyone going and INSPIRED. Because it is very discouraging down here. Miami has become a… I hate to even say this, but I don’t think Miami is even a secondary market anymore. This city had become very friendly to other activities and they fail to recognize that it was the modeling industry that put Miami Beach on the map. And we have a lot of obstacles because the city is catering to other events, not the modeling industry. You got Ultra, Art Deco, the Boat Show, Wine and Food and various other events. So all those big weekends have sort of persuaded existing clients and future clients not to come here because it is no longer cost effective. We out priced ourselves. Where a hotel room used to be $200 a night, it’s now $500 a night. But when you’re flying a team of 3, 4, 10 people down here it is not cost effective.
As the prices of the models have gone down, our costs haven’t. Our overhead and salaries haven’t gone done. And we’re no longer just an agent. We are a travel agent, a car service, a shrink, immigration, a concierge and everything else. Not that we didn’t do that before, but now it is EXPECTED of us. You know, a client will call and say, “We’re shooting in LA. Ron you book the flights; you Google the hotel. I have an $800 budget. YOU make it work.”
We have to be Jack’s of all trades. Each time I am asked what makes our agency different for all the others. I keep on saying EXPERIENCE. Not that we are better than everyone. I don’t want to have that attitude, but we’ve been doing it a lot longer. And I use this example of a child whose mother or father tell him not to touch the hot stove. Why? Because it is hot. What does he do? He touches it and gets burned and never does it again. It’s what I tell everyone else when they’re choosing agencies. We’ve learned from our mistakes. We’ve been around for so long. We’ve gone through all the growing pains already.
Susan: In hindsight, what practices or motivations have worked for you? Do you have a spiritual practice?
I say this all the time. There is no ‘i’ in team. Often my name is tattooed onto NEXT down here. But we are a team. If I didn’t have the infrastructure that I have today, I could never do it by myself. It is me catching the ball and throwing it to my team members. “Get that book online, call this photographer, email this out….”
As far as a spiritual practice goes what I tend to do is stop each day to say, “Thank God.” You know, for my health, especially after I got in that accident. Your health is everything. So during the 24 hours of the day I will take a second, either at the steering wheel or in bed, to say, “Thank-you.” It could be the last day. You just don’t know.
And I really work on having a good attitude with people. And I work on having patience. It can be tough in this business. Every day, everyone thinks we are doing brain surgery. “We need it now. We need to see the girl now!” You know, I think to myself, “We are not curing cancer. It is not that urgent. We’re not doctors. We’re booking models.” Come on. Keep it real.
Also we are dealing with people. People are unpredictable. We all are. You have to be careful what you say to the models. What we say today, especially today, compared to 15 or 20 years ago could effect these girls lives- for the rest of their lives. You can’t say, “You’re heavy.” You can’t say, “You’re too thin.” It’s psychological. They are exposed to so much these days. You know, you have to be very, very careful.
Susan: Your business is to assist your models in achieving in the fashion industry and in turn in their lives. And I heard you say that you have to be careful what you say to the models.
Ron: I watch everything I say. I have to be very careful because some people can take a little bit of criticism and go the extra yard, and that yard can be too far. And I’ve actually seen this more with the guys lately. I saw a trend in the guys of anorexia.
Susan: Considering that, what internal traits could you suggest they cultivate?
Ron: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. There are very few people in this industry that can use it as a career. I suggest people use it as a stepping stone in life. Use it as an educational piece. Enjoy traveling and to meeting new people. But don’t take it TOO seriously. Enjoy it. But continue to do other things.
Susan: Is there anything you would like from your models?
Ron: I’d like for them to listen and follow directions. I’d like them to pick up their phone. If we’re trying to get them at 9 in the morning and they’re still not picking up at 11 because they are sleeping, that is not a team effort.
I’d like some to be a little more grateful. People don’t make the money that some models make. Instead of coming back from Mexico and saying, “What a wonderful trip, thank-you.” I hear, “They didn’t give me lunch one day.” Well you know I didn’t have lunch all week, but I didn’t make $4,000 a day and stay at one of the nicest hotels in Mexico.
Susan: What is the number one pitfall you see models fall into?
Ron: Listening to other people. Especially in today’s instant society with Instagram and Facebook, etc. With other people saying, “You should have done this. Or you should do this. Why aren’t you working for this person.” Then there are too many hands in the cookie jar. Listen to your agency. That’s why you picked that agency. I hate when a model comes and challenges me and I have to tell them that I have 25 years of experience and this is why you shouldn’t go here. Then 9 times out of 10 they come back and say, “I should of listened to you. I shouldn’t have gone to Tokyo. I didn’t make any money.” Or, “You know what, I wasn’t ready for New York.”
Susan: After over 25 years booking and 20 years at NEXT, How have your ideas changed?
Ron: Oh, God. I’ve become more open minded.
I am sure this has been enlightening. Be well, Susan