During this health crisis, I believe we need to share best practices and learn from each other. I was recently speaking with Asma Ishaq, a visionary CEO in Direct-to-Consumer who uses what she calls a founder’s mentality, which has helped her navigate successfully throughout challenges. When I asked her about leading through this pandemic, she summed it up as, “communications and goodwill keep this CEO’s ship sailing”. In this article, Asma shares important insights for all leaders.
Robert Reiss: What business practices are you doing to keep your people safe?
Asma Ishaq: Our practices are centered around keeping our people safe as well as Modere coming together with other businesses – as an industry – to work together and contribute during this time. With respect to protecting our people, since we have employees in ten facilities that span four continents, we’ve introduced strict measures to reflect each region’s local responses to COVID-19. In the United States, Japan, Australia, and Europe, we have implemented work from home protocols. At our US headquarters, we designated a day to help everyone set up their work computers at home, ensure they have proper ergonomic guidance, and post communications of reminders for safety and relevant updates. For employees who are unable to work from home because their roles are essential to manufacturing or shipping, we’ve incorporated best practices in terms of COVID-19 worker safety, including split shifts to allow for fewer people to be in our facility at any given time, without compromising our inventory or delivery promises to our customers. We’ve implemented measures that will allow our employees greater flexibility to care for themselves and families. Additionally, our company has been forward-leading in terms of our independent salesforce using technology to engage with customers. With respect to Modere’s responsible industry stewardship, we are working with other businesses to better understand needs during this crisis, and are adapting our manufacturing to focus on products that are in short supply.
Reiss: How are you reinventing your business during this crisis?
Ishaq: During this time of crisis, we are helping our millions of loyal customers to continue to purchase our products on a regular basis. Many of these individuals are on SmartShip (our auto-delivery program) and rely on our health, household, and personal care products to improve their health and stay healthy. In North America, where the COVID-19 situation is beginning to cause some economic hardship, we’ve increased discounts on all of our products to help offset financial constraints during this pandemic. We’re extending similar programs in our regions worldwide – It’s our way to reciprocate our customers’ trust in and loyalty to our brand while allowing them to continue to use the products they love. We’ve received an overwhelming response, indicating that this gesture has underscored our customer’s confidence in our brand. Additionally, we are producing more of the products for which we see an exponential increase in demand such as items that range from immune-supporting supplements to household cleaners. Simultaneously, we continue to pursue the research and development on new products in our pipeline as we anticipate life returning to normal. We must be prepared for the future and avoid letting today’s circumstance halt our innovation.
Reiss: What insights do you have on working virtually?
Ishaq: We don’t take for granted that virtual work isn’t second nature to everyone. Our management is resolute about implementing best practices to keep our employees safe from the spread of the virus, but we are also concerned about their mental health during this unprecedented crisis. The fear and uncertainty alone can take a toll on people in every role, and with a new isolated environment, the pressure is amplified. Setting clear expectations is one important way to keep people grounded. We have anyone who works from home sign an agreement that clarifies their responsibilities, both to help them maintain a ‘business as usual’ mentality and so that our business can continue to offer the best service to our customers. I find that video conferencing (rather than phone) with our internal team is imperative – it allows for that visible connection and instills a sense of community among peers that a voice call cannot. Recently, we posted each of our home workstations/offices on our intranet group, and everyone was very excited to see their colleagues in their personal environment. Our departments/teams have a daily video call, and on a weekly basis, I have a zoom meeting with our broader management and an additional zoom with all staff to go over company updates and answer any questions they may have. This is a time for leadership, more than ever.
Reiss: Do you have any best practices on communication?
Ishaq: Interestingly, customers do not know if eCommerce companies like ours are ‘open’ for business. Because social distancing is causing many businesses to close, people tend to generalize and believe that everything is inaccessible. It’s important to over-communicate and give frequent updates. We send out a CEO message every few days to our salesforce and customers to ensure them that our business is operating as usual and that our orders are being delivered without delay. I also do a weekly Facebook Live to give them the assurance they need that we have committed to uninterrupted service but will be transparent if anything changes. In times like these, it’s important to be visible, accessible, and communicative – leading from the front is a daily exercise. One statement to your customers or team is not enough.