Fine Hygienic Holding: Breaking the glass ceiling
CEO James Michael Lafferty demonstrates progressive leadership at Fine Hygienic Holding
When James Michael Lafferty, a US-based fitness coach at the time, penned a nasty letter to a corporation for rejecting his job application in 1984, little did he know that it would catapult him into an inspiring global journey of different cultures that are often wrongly portrayed by the media.
"Back in college, I studied physiology and psychology; all I wanted to do was teach 13- and 14-year-olds, and coach track and field for the rest of my life. In 1984, when there was a new trend of corporations looking into wellness, I found myself hired as a fitness instructor for local giant Procter and Gamble, where I met a brand manager one day, who encouraged me to apply for a position in marketing; a job that is usually filled by Harvard MBAs," said Lafferty. His response to the rejection landed him a second interview and eventually a job, and so began his journey.
After working for a few years in the US, Lafferty began a series of global transfers to new posts, during which time, he discovered an affinity for Arab and Islamic culture, and ended up laying down roots in the region.
"I fell in love with the region and enjoyed constantly meeting new people; diffusing all my pre-conceived notions about other cultures, societies, and different parts of the world. I became a global citizen and have not returned to work in the US in the 29 years since," he said.
After being asked to join Fine Hygienic Holding as CEO in 2018, Lafferty entered the UAE with renewed vigour to integrate a global work ethic into the company. This included breaking the glass ceiling in the workplace, advocating gender equality, and encouraging health and well-being among employees, with an open-space office environment and state-of-the-art in-house gym - all of which have contributed to improved productivity, a passionate workforce, and importantly led to doubling profits.
"In order to truly become a global company, we've also had to undergo a restructure and redesign the office in a way that would motivate employees to be at the top of their game," he said.
From inspirational quotes, themed meeting rooms, a meditation room and quirky desk areas, to a fireman's pole between floors, suspended net hammock, skateboard ramp, and an exclusive state-of-the-art fitness centre that is open 24/7, Lafferty tore down boring office walls and transformed Fine Hygienic Holding's headquarters into a vibrant, attractive open space that magnetically attracts global talent. Alongside his wife, Carol Lafferty, he also personally leads fitness classes within the premises and encourages employees to focus on their health just as much as work. A healthy and happy employee is a great employee.
"I love what I do and try to do as much as I can to create a platform for positive change. Fine is rapidly becoming a world-class organisation and our people are its foundation. We have an outstanding, diversified team; and we are strongly committed to bringing innovative, premium-quality products to our consumers," he said.
"It is not just about making a profit, it's about impact, and I love that we are making waves in the region. We've broken barriers and hired the first female sales representative in Saudi Arabia. We have transformed our Management Board to 30% female, from none previously, in one year. We've also constructed the first production facility in Saudi Arabia with women as production managers. We are also using our platform to help the Determined Ones be part of working society.
Looking ahead, we're about to launch an effort across all markets that whenever you buy Fine products, we contribute a portion of the sales revenue to finance schools and elementary education in West Bank and Gaza. I worked several years in both places, and I have huge personal passion for the Palestinian people. Let's use our brands, not just to generate a profit, but as a means to improve the societies we live, work and play in," he concluded.
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