To hear about public health and hygienic paper products to tackle the global pandemic, we reached out to James Michael Lafferty – an accomplished CEO of Fine Hygienic Holding (FHH) who has also been described as one of the most unique and diversified CEO’s in the world today.
Can you tell us a bit about your professional journey? How did you come to be the Chief Executive Officer at Fine Hygienic Holding?
This is an interesting story. In my early days, I worked as a youth track and field coach in Cincinnati. One of my clients at the time introduced me to the world of brand management and after a lot of hard work, I was hired by Procter and Gamble (P&G) and joined their Brand Management Programme. I gained a wealth of experience in the US market and then the international markets, and rose within the ranks to the position of CEO.
This posting took me on an incredible journey to a number of different countries over three decades, and I was privileged enough to work as the Chief Operating Officer for multinational companies like Coca-Cola in Nigeria, and British American Tobacco in the Philippines.
Before joining Fine Hygienic Holding, I was sitting on the board of the company, and I was asked to join and lead as CEO in 2018. Since then, we have seen enormous growth in the company, and we will continue to expand as we explore our IPO on the London Stock Exchange in 2021/22.
I may have moved on from my early days of track and field, but sports and coaching are still a major part of my life. I still coach and train to this day, and have worked with national level athletes across the USA as well as Nigeria. Most recently I coached the Philippines Olympic Athletics team at the 2016 Rio Games. I currently coach 2021 Tokyo Olympic Pole Vaulter EJ Obiena. I enjoy marathons and participated in the Philippines National Championship in powerlifting. Aside from the sporting arena, I incorporate the values I have as an athlete in every aspect of my life – and that includes the way I work, and the way I expect my teams to work.
How have these experiences helped shape the leader that you are today?
Being an athlete has had a huge influence on my managerial style. I firmly believe businesses can benefit greatly from studying the greats of the sporting world. Paying attention to the values practiced there by the winners, the top-level sports stars, will help businesses to thrive. In the world of competitive sport, champions are constantly innovating and changing the game, and this makes great athletes excel in their respective sport rather than merely just knowing their field.
Being business savvy is important, but it will only get you so far as a leader. I place great importance on understanding and empathy, these are two crucial traits, especially during a time of unprecedented challenges such as the one we are currently facing.
A leader needs to understand that the employee’s mental wellbeing might not be the best as they struggle to cope with the challenges of navigating day to day life in the new realities of the pandemic.
We at Fine understand that and have several policies in place to ensure that the employee’s mental and physical wellbeing are looked after.
We view physical and mental wellness as vital to create a positive corporate environment, and this is a key pillar of my management at Fine. In the last couple of years, we revamped our offices to include gyms and training facilities to give employees the option to destress through sport during the day rather than being hunched over a computer all day.
What are some of the recent developments within FHH in the times of Coronavirus?
Fine recently pivoted into the manufacture of personal protective equipment (PPE) – producing a range of reusable Fine Guard masks and products to help protect and ensure the safety of the communities we serve during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the past couple of years, we had been working closely with a Swiss biotech company to develop hygiene products, including the Fine Guard face mask, using their proprietary technology.
The launch of the Fine Guard mask line in February was a preemptive response to the pandemic and, thanks to the incorporated textile technology, which is scientifically proven to be effective in killing the virus, we have had an overwhelmingly positive response from the regional market.
As we constantly looked to evolve and following this success, we launched a Fine Guard comfort mask plus a sports mask, children’s mask and gloves.
Ensuring consumer health and safety, it is imperative that we have one eye on the future and consider what the post-Covid world might look like. That’s why we chose to produce reusable products, to help us minimize the environmental impact of masks. A reusable Fine Guard mask has a one-year life with the technology and two years as a fully functioning N95 mask, equating to 1,095 disposable masks.
Aside from the reusable products, we also launched Fine Disinfection Solutions in response to the pandemic, a B2B service that disinfects and ensures a germ-protected environment for businesses operating in a broad range of sectors.
Tell us more about this targeted approach to home and workplace hygiene – what is it and why is it so important?
During lockdown, governments and businesses had to identify a way forward, a way of getting back to normal or as near normal as possible for the sake of the economy. But because of the unknowns of the Coronavirus, there was also a genuine concern in society about that new normal.
We launched Fine Disinfection Solutions in the region as a response to the pandemic, and as a solution for a broad range of brands looking to get back to business in a safe, germ-free and hygienic environment.
The service is hugely important as it enables us to offer reliability and reassurance to operators, providing peace of mind in terms of mitigating risk of infection and protecting brand reputation.
Fine Disinfection Solutions disinfects and prevents the spread of germs in a wide range of premises, including restaurants, hotels, gyms, schools, restrooms and laboratories, as well as offices, warehouses, factories and also homes, killing 99.9% of bacteria, germs and viruses including Coronavirus.
This broad-spectrum solution includes treatment, waste management procedures and state-of-the-art techniques in spraying and fogging, delivered by highly trained disinfection professionals and a full armory of personal protective equipment (PPE), including suits, gloves and Fine Guard face masks, as well as Fine sterilized paper tissues and no-touch wastebaskets. All products used in the process have approved data sheets and are fully endorsed by relevant authorities in each regional market.
As one of the most trusted brands in the hygiene industry, Fine Disinfection Solutions is well placed to support governments, businesses and communities as they adapt to a new normal of greater hygiene, health and safety requirements across the MENA region.
What is the strategy FHH intends to operate for the emerging/evolving Saudi markets?
Saudi Arabia is one of our biggest markets. The Kingdom is on the brink of huge economic and cultural change and it is one of the five major markets we operate in throughout the region. As with any community we serve, the wellbeing and health of the consumers is paramount, which is why we will be launching mid this month a special promotional campaign on our Fine Guard comfort masks where the consumer will get one free mask for every mask bought. Another good example is our recent launch of Fine Disinfection Solutions, which was prioritized for the Saudi Arabian market.
Our dedicated B2B arm also supplies hygienic solutions to the Saudi HoReCa (hotel, restaurant, and café) industry as well as corporate offices, industrial facilities, healthcare institutions and more. Commercially, we manufacture 27 different product lines and our operation and distribution facilities in Riyadh and Jeddah produce an extensive range of products from facial and pocket tissues through to table napkins, hand towels, diapers and more. We have a tissue capacity of approximately 66,000 tons and a total diaper capacity of 285 million pieces annually.
Thanks to our unwavering commitment to quality, strong brand recognition, and strategic outreach, we have been able to develop a highly elevated presence in Saudi, and the other MENA regional markets that we serve, and our long-term strategy will continue to focus on expansion – both in terms of consumer reach and investments.