My WFH Routine: James Lafferty, CEO of Fine Hygienic Holding
James Lafferty, CEO of Fine Hygienic Holding: My Morning / WFH Routine looks each week at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions just for fun. Speaking to us this week is James Lafferty (LinkedIn), the CEO of Fine Hygienic Holding. Edited excerpts from our conversation:
My story with Fine Hygienic Holding actually started when I was in the fitness world. In the early 80s, I started a company for corporate wellness services along with three doctors — we were basically teaching executives how to lose weight. A client once suggested to me that I become a brand manager — which is what I became with Procter & Gamble. After a few years, I left for Morocco, where I spent five years, followed by Poland and the Levant. I was the first general manager for the Levant, which meant I opened countries like Jordan, Palestine, and Syria for P&G. After several years of moving around some more, I took early retirement and joined Fine’s board.
Fine recruited me because I was the guy who launched Pampers in Jordan against Fine. Almost 20 years later, they found me and I was happy to join because I’ve always loved the Levant — especially Jordan — so I jumped at it the moment they asked if I was interested. After a couple of years on the board, they asked me to step in as CEO in 2018, and that’s what I’ve been doing since.
From the minute I landed in the region, I’ve felt at home with the people, the culture, and the food. When I left the US in 1990, I thought my favorite cuisine was Italian. But you don’t know what you don’t know — after tasting some delicious Lebanese food at a restaurant in Morocco, I said “My favorite cuisine has always been Lebanese; I just had never tasted it.”
Outside of my day job, I keep a very active life — I’m still coaching olympic athletes, I write columns occasionally, and I just ran a 12k this morning. I stay active even though I’m getting old, but I always tell people that if you can’t get in shape in your 30s, you’re screwed, because it only gets worse.
I’m up early. I usually sleep only four or five hours a night. I don’t know why, but I feel fine. I don’t drink any coffee or caffeine, either. Every morning, I go to the gym or run, so it’s seven days a week of exercise, then I start the workday. I’ve been working from home around 90% of the time, and we only allow 20% capacity at the office anyway to reduce the risk of covid-19 transmission. I’ve already had six employees pass away from covid and that’s six too many. I have an office in my apartment with my computers hooked up to the company server. My productivity is quite strong; the only drawback of working from home for me is just not knowing when to switch off.
I don’t have a set time in the day for it, but I read Enterprise and other news roundups for our key markets on a daily basis. I obviously need to stay on top of the major happenings in the countries we operate in. I also get a daily report on the pulp market, which is an important part of manufacturing diapers and other paper products.
Egypt is one of our major markets and we fully intend to keep investing there. We’ve invested more than the USD 35 mn we had planned in 2020, and we’re doing more next year. A lot of these investments go towards new machines and maintaining the ones we have. One thing people maybe aren’t aware of in the paper industry is the degree of complexity in the technology we use — and how expensive it all is.
Right now, I’m reading Barack Obama’s memoir, A Promised Land. I’m not much of a TV show or podcast kind of person — sometimes I’ll listen to a podcast episode if it comes recommended, but I don’t follow any particular programs.
This year taught me a lot that people show their mettle when they’re under pressure, or staring down the barrel of a gun. I learned this lesson early on from my brother, and it has really resonated with me this year.
When life goes back to normal, the first thing I’m going to do is travel to see my family. I have five kids and three grandkids. I have a grandkid I haven’t met yet, and I haven’t seen one of my kids in 16 months.