Fine Hygienic Holding (FHH) is one of the world’s leading wellness groups and the MENA region’s leading manufacturer of hygienic paper products including facial tissues, napkins, kitchen towels, toilet paper, baby diapers, adult briefs, and jumbo rolls. However, in the last couple of years, the group has been pivoting further into the Wellness category. Last year, Fine Hygienic Holding acquired a majority stake in Nai Arabia Food Co, which produces natural and healthy iced teas.
Most recently, Fine Hygienic Holding began producing a line of personal protective equipment (PPE)— Fine Guard, which is among the most technologically advanced and effective reusable masks and gloves on the market, protected by a highly advanced technology that kills viruses.
Through its corporate arm Fine Solutions, Fine Hygienic Holding has also launched Fine Disinfection Solutions, a dedicated disinfection service for companies and businesses across all sectors navigating the COVID-19 pandemic in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt.
The group has operations across the MENA region and sells its products in more than 80 countries across the world.
A Transformational Leader
James Michael Lafferty became the CEO of Fine Hygienic Holding in 2018. He joined the company as a board member and fell in love with the brand and the Fine family. He was ecstatic about the opportunity to join the group, and so far, it has been an amazing experience.
Before entering the corporate world, James was a professional track and field coach, and a fitness trainer. In 1984, he was hired as a fitness instructor for Procter & Gamble, but it wasn’t long after that James entered P&G’s brand management program. Eventually, he went on to become a Brand Manager and later was transferred into an international career that took him to North Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Western Europe, Africa and Asia into various CEO roles. James also headed other multinational companies including Coca-Cola in Nigeria and British American Tobacco in the Philippines.
As a track and fitness coach, James worked with extremely talented and disciplined athletes. He acknowledges that there’s one particular attribute that the athletes share— a willingness to win and a refusal to rest on former glories. Any time they enter the field to play, they treat the contest as a new challenge. It’s that unique attribute that separates good athletes from the champions and that attitude is needed in business.
James expresses that he is always shocked at how many business people reach high levels, but then relax and somehow think they can coast because ‘They deserve it.’ By contrast, James believes in the philosophy that he must live each day seeking to re-earn his position and his pay. James refuses to live off his past victories, which means he comes to work every day with his A-game and he’s always looking to set a new personal best.
Making Rejections a Ladder to Success
One of the first challenges James faced in the initial days was being rejected by Procter & Gamble for the position of Assistant Brand Manager. He was working as an exercise physiologist back then, and one of his clients who worked in P&G’s brand management told him, “Hey, you ought to do what I do.” So, James applied for the job. But after his interview, James received an apology letter. He refused to take ‘no’ for an answer, so James looked up the name of the HR manager, wrote him a letter and said he deserved another chance. His perseverance paid off and Procter & Gamble called him back for an interview three months later. The company made him an offer and James joined in 1985 for the assistant marketing role. That was one of the moments that taught James to fight for his goals.
Foresight and Looking Ahead: A Must for Leaders
James believes that the most important attribute of a good leader is foresight; the ability to see around corners and to understand what is coming down the line. According to James one of the most important aspects of his job is to anticipate impending trends and that is what happened when Fine Hygienic Holding launched masks back in February this year. By paying attention to data and the thread of events, James understood the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic before people talked about it. Therefore, he was able to act quickly in the best interests of not just the company, but for public health as well.
Beyond the skill foresight, James continued, a good leader must be steadfast in their decisions because not everyone in the team will understand what is coming. Fine Hygienic Holding’s pivot to hygienic masks was not a universally popular decision internally, but James was resolute in his decisions and as a result, Fine Hygienic Holding has been able to produce one of the most technologically sophisticated line of protective equipment anywhere on the market. It is essential for all businesses to view the future and adapt, and that, remarked James, is what leadership is all about.
Reshaping the Wellness Industry by Safeguarding Consumer’s Health
James is certain that Fine Hygienic Holding is actively reshaping the Wellness industry each day. For example, during the COVID-19 crisis, the company acted quickly and shifted its focus on safeguarding the health of its consumers by developing the protective line, Fine Guard. Since then, others in the industry have begun to move in the same direction.
Furthermore, as one of the largest companies in the region, Fine Hygienic Holding greatly contributes to the social and economic prosperity of the countries they operate in; the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, and to date, the group employs around 3500 people from more than 25 different nationalities. Beyond economics, Fine Hygienic Holding is committed to its role in the social development in each of the above-mentioned countries, giving back to the communities through charitable donations, social programs and sponsorships.
Fueling Innovation with Limitless Possibilities
In today’s age of technology, each day brings a new advancement, greater innovation, and according to James, the possibilities are practically limitless. With the rapidly progressing landscape of disruptive technologies, the only thing people are limited by is their imagination which means that every day is an opportunity to do something that’s never been done before.
As a leader in today’s world, James notes that other leaders must always be seeking knowledge and working to broaden their horizons beyond the scope of their industry. He believes in the idea of being a student for life, and as such, each day he takes seeks to challenge himself by exploring different avenues and taking on new assignments. He adds that growth happens when people get out of their comfort zone, and as a direct result, they will be leading by example. James remarked that when his team sees James taking courses and trying new things to better himself and broaden his horizons, this self-development culture cascades down and helps the entire organization to grow.
The Next Sustainability Frontier in Consumer Wellness
James determines that right now, more than any other time in recent history, the world is seeing wellness at the forefront of global consciousness. The Covid-19 pandemic has completely shifted the way people think about their health and will likely continue to impact consumer wellness decisions long after the virus is eradicated. As an example, James offers that people are now becoming more selective int eh wellness products they trust. Rather than selecting any brand, people have begun looking towards safer and more effective solutions like Fine’s uniquely sterilized tissues, which offer consumers far more protection against germs than unsterilized products.
As a longstanding leader in the wellness category, Fine Hygienic Holding’s aim has always been to improve the lives of its customers and consumers. Now, the company is looking to do more than ever before to help the people they serve. Moving forward, Fine Hygienic Holding will continue to lead as an innovator in the industry as they push to expand and diversify their portfolio into other areas of wellness.
A Final Word of Advice
In conclusion, James offers future business leaders a simple piece of advice: Know your stuff. Be a student of Cybersecurity. The field is changing all the time, so in order to climb the ladder of success, you must be hungry to learn, always be seeking growth, and never underestimate your competition. There are smart people on the other side, and it’s crucial to steer clear of complacency because there is always something new to learn.