Today, the uncertainty and volatility are constantly affecting every aspect of organizations, and it’s clear that every business leader must address these changes of the 21st Century. Among all strong attributes, the most significant ones that are required to effectively manage, harness and leverage the constant changes are foresight and follow-through, believes an ardent leader, James Michael Lafferty. He asserts, “It is important for us as a business to view the future and adapt, and that is what leadership is all about.”
“If you want an omelet, then you must be prepared to crack a few eggs”
An American Chief Executive Officer, Olympic coach, award-winning journalist, philanthropist, James started as a fitness coach and has been at the helm of many well-known businesses. Currently, he is serving as the CEO of Fine Hygienic Holding, one of the world’s leading wellness groups and manufacturers of hygienic paper products. Let’s find more about his entrepreneurial journey through an interview conducted between Insights Success and James.
Below are highlights of the interview:
Kindly take us through your journey on becoming a proficient tech business leader.
Before entering the corporate world, I was a professional track and fitness coach. In 1984, I was hired as a fitness instructor for Proctor & Gamble, but it wasn’t long before I entered P&G’s brand management program. Eventually I went on to become a Brand Manager and later was transferred into an international career that took me to Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, The Middle East, Western Europe, Africa and Asia.
Throughout my career, I’ve always kept a finger on the pulse of the tech industry; I would (and still do) take note of the latest advancements, innovations and disruptive technologies, which allowed me to see unique windows of opportunity that could elevate the companies I worked for.
In 2015, I joined Fine Hygienic Holding (FHH) as a board member and fell in love with the brand and the FHH family. So, in 2018 when I was offered the CEO position, I was thrilled, and I leapt at the chance to develop a progressive vision for the company utilizing new technology and innovations, and nurture Fine’s incredible potential to positively impact the lives of people, not only in the MENA region, but around the world.
How do you diversify your organization’s offerings to entice the target audience?
At Fine, we stand by the age-old truism, “If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything.” Whenever we conceptualize new products, we focus on how we can create something that will actively enhance our customers’ lives; this means taking into account the biggest concerns or challenges our customers are facing and making sure the products we produce go above and beyond to exceed their expectations. This is what we’ve done from the beginning—as the only manufacturer of sterilized paper products, we give our customers the best in quality and hygiene from tissues to paper towels, to diapers and more. In 2020 before the pandemic really began, we were able to understand what was coming and act quickly to shift into producing antiviral reusable personal protective equipment (PPE) enhanced with advanced, technology that actively kills viruses, including Covid, and other harmful pathogens on contact, thus launching our Fine Guard line. Since then we have rapidly expanded our offering within this line with the launch of our long-lasting germ protection products, giving our customers the utmost in protection and value, and offering them the peace of mind they need during this difficult time.
Where are you focusing your energy now, and where do you hope to make an impact next?
We have already launched some exciting products since the beginning of year, including our latest all-natural supplements ‘Motiva’, which are clinically tested and have high bioavailability that boost your immunity and improve brain health. We have a number of product launches in the pipeline which will encompass a full range of products that will cater to several verticals. As we continue to shift further into wellness, we are exploring new capabilities and innovative technologies which will play a huge role in upholding our commitment to producing safe, sustainable and value-driven products. Though we are shifting into new avenues of the wellness category, our goal as a company remains the same: to improve the lives of our customers around the world.
How do you keep yourself updated with the latest technology?
We’re living in the age of technology and each day brings a new advancement, greater innovation, and with that comes practically limitless possibilities. And as a leader in today’s world, you must always be seeking knowledge and working to broaden your horizons beyond the scope of your industry. I believe in the idea of being a student for life, and there’s always something new to learn and discover. Every day I take the time and opportunity to learn explore the latest innovations and technology—even when they are not directly related to my industry—because you never know what opportunities knowledge will bring.
What roadblocks or challenges were faced by you in a corporate business? And how did you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges that any business can face is stagnation or being resistant to change. So, when you want to take an already successful group to the next level, you’ll face that resistance where people are hesitant to move away from how they’ve always done things. But change is necessary for growth, so I’m constantly looking for new ways to challenge myself and to get out of my comfort zone and lead my team by example. Developing this proactive culture is the key to creating forward momentum and breaking through barriers to reach that next step, but once you do, the potential is limitless.