Nick Mann stepped into the role of Managing Director for Swisse Wellness in early September 2019 after being promoted internally from his position as Director of Sales for Australia and New Zealand.
Having been with the group since 2017, he was well placed to strengthen the business strategy and lead the 50-year-old company into the future. Little did Nick know at the time, that bright future would soon be riddled with COVID-19.
While he initially looked forward to reinvigorating the company’s core DNA elements of innovation, energy and quality for its next phase, he’d soon be challenged with doing all of that and so much more.
“I was in my role as Managing Director for just five months before COVID-19 emerged,” Nick remembers. “Everything was going according to plan, and then it hit. It’s been really challenging, but I’m proud of how we’ve handled it thus far.”
If our team is healthy and happy themselves, and they’re really clear on their roles and celebrated on their successes, then they can create millions of products that will make millions of people happier.
With an unwavering people-first approach, Swisse Wellness placed communication at the forefront of its COVID-19 agenda. It was all about immediate communication on a personal level with its employees, scheduling a number of private one-on-ones with the executive team and reinforcing its message.
“It’s been key to keeping the business rolling,” Nick says. Completely aligned with this people-centric philosophy, Nick led his team with a delicate yet effective approach that balanced empathy with performance. “For us, taking a people-first approach is very natural. It’s our standard method of operation and it just makes sense,” he explains.
“Nobody can perform at their best if they’re under stress. If you want your team to perform well, which we all do as business leaders, then you have to make them feel safe, secure and as de-stressed as possible. Getting that balance of empathy and performance is challenging, especially now. But it’s really important and, so far, we’ve done a good job at it.”
According to its employees, Swisse Wellness has done a great job. In a recent survey sent to the brand’s nearly 300 employees, the company scored soaring marks on its response to the COVID-19 crisis.
“We sent out a series of questions to all of our teams, asking them how they felt we handled COVID-19 as a leadership group,” Nick reflects. “We scored over 90 on every question, significantly overachieving the benchmark on each of those questions. Our overall engagement has increased. Our employees feel safe and secure, and we can get on with running the business.”
For Swisse, that business is all about making millions of people happier and healthier – the mission it’s been delivering on for half a century. And it starts with its own people.
“If our team is healthy and happy themselves, and they’re really clear on their roles and celebrated on their successes, then they can create millions of products that will make millions of people happier,” Nick says.
“They will be able to serve our customers in a way that we want. That’s why we put our team central to everything we do.” The company has a healthy dose of programs and incentives to keep its employees happy and well. From professional development and leadership programs to extra days off per year, Swisse’s emphasis on its team’s wellbeing is inspirational.
“We have a highly productive workforce that’s built on positivity,” Nick shares. “Every day, we give each of our team members an opportunity to participate in something for their mind, health, movement and nutrition. We also encourage them to take a day every quarter as a ‘health and happiness day’ to go out and do something uplifting with their families.”
Not only does this create an energetic and caring atmosphere, Nick says it also equates to fewer employee sick days being taken. “We only have a third of the sick days of a normal company,” he says.
“Everything we do combines into a really positive environment. We believe that humans work at their very best when they’re having a conscious pursuit of life and nutrition at all times.”
So outstanding is Swisse’s attention to its people that it has been recognised as an Employer of Choice in The Australian Business Awards for four consecutive years.
According to the annual awards program, the accolade recognises organisations that have “developed workplaces that maximise the full potential of their workforce through practices that demonstrate effective employee recruitment, engagement and retention”.
An integral part of H&H Group, Swisse is an Australian company and global brand that stands out in a saturated wellness industry for a number of reasons, but the most striking is perhaps its trademark positivity.
“Swisse has always been a lifestyle brand,” Nick stresses. “People aren’t just buying a vitamin with us; they’re buying into a lifestyle – a very uplifting lifestyle. That means we don’t ever talk about the ailments. Instead we talk about how wonderful it feels when they’re better. We’ve been able to take what has been a traditionally negative category and flip it on its head into something positive with our breakthrough formulations and packaging, which promote wellness in a much more proactive way.”
The most fascinating thing about this marketing strategy is that no matter where Swisse goes in the world, this message is always warmly received. “Everywhere we launch around the globe, consumers are happy to think of a wellness or supplement brand in terms of being a lifestyle brand,” he says.
“We call this our PPAE model, which stands for premium, proven, aspirational and engaging. This model has worked everywhere that we’ve adopted it from New Zealand to Hong Kong. It really strikes a chord with consumers all across the world.” Beyond world-class vitamins and supplements, Swisse also offers Biostime (an infant nutrition range), children’s probiotics and skincare products. These categories were a natural fit for the brand’s portfolio.
“It’s all about adding the elements of lifestyle, so people want to buy it,” Nick explains. “Then by using our global ambassadors, we’re able to get people to think of wellness in a different way.”
From Chris Hemsworth to Elsa Pataky and Nicole Kidman, Swisse boasts some of the most influential and highly acclaimed local advocates and ambassadors in the industry. While these impressive names are invaluable for driving reach and creating brand consistency on a global scale, Nick says the company’s local ambassadors are just as essential.
“We work with a multitude of ambassadors, not just the big global guys. They all play a specific and different role in the organisation,” he shares.
“Having that diversity of ambassadors is important; it differentiates us. A lot of them are even involved in our product development.” Swisse knows that the key to its future success lies in continually finding ways to help people be happier and healthier, which is why innovation is such a high priority.
“Innovation is right at the top of our strategic pyramid. It’s at the core of everything we do,” Nick says. “We’re looking into how we can use big data and personalisation to make millions of people healthier. Our ability to create specialised solutions, deliver them digitally and continue to innovate is really exciting. We’re doing it for all the right reasons in all the right ways. There will always be better solutions for our wellness mates out there, so we’ll never stop innovating.”
Moreover, the brand will never stop looking for ways to be better. Knowing that transparency is incredibly important to its consumers, Swisse is on its way to becoming B Corps certified by 2025, globally. “It’s not just a great thing to do, it’s the right thing to do,” Nick stresses.
“It involves a lot of areas around supply chain transparency, packaging and how we design our new products. It’s been a war cry for us internally to drive this certification but, especially with COVID-19, people are concerned about environmental factors more than ever and they want that transparency.
We are very fortunate to have some really good partners in the industry that we’ve been working with for a long time.
“We also work with the Therapeutic Goods Administration and comply with its standards. It’s widely recognised around the world for being the best administrative body for therapeutic goods. Even though its checks and balances are reasonably arduous, and it costs us a bit more time and money, having this compliance gives us such a competitive advantage.”
So, too, does choosing the right business partnerships. More than strategic, Nick says relationships with partners like efm Logistics, Rapid Labels and Vitex Pharmaceuticals are absolutely essential.
“We are very fortunate to have some really good partners in the industry that we’ve been working with for a long time,” he shares. “We’ve worked with efm for over seven years – seamlessly servicing our customers domestically and internationally. They are the leaders in logistics and we’re so proud of our partnership with them. So much so, that we have recently extended our partnership with efm from just logistics to now being our full 3PL partner.
“Vitex has been a production partner for more than 15 years and we now have a completely symbiotic relationship developing products, sourcing ingredients, forecasting and innovating together. Vitex is taking the industry to the next level when it comes to quality. We also wouldn’t be who we are today without Chemist Warehouse, API, Sigma, Symbion and our other community pharmacy wholesale and retail partners. We value our retail partners as much as we value our supply partners.”
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