As a part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Joseph Mannello.
Joseph is the CEO of MYOS RENS Technology Inc in Cedar Knolls, NJ, a research-based company focused on addressing musculoskeletal health through the development and commercialization of advanced nutrition products for both humans and pets. Prior to joining MYOS, Mannello was the Executive Managing Director at Brean Capital LLC, an independent investment bank and asset management firm. He also served as head of corporate credit for Gleacher & Company, Inc., a publicly-traded investment bank; was Head of the Fixed Income Division of BNY Capital Markets, Inc., a subsidiary of The Bank of New York Mellon Corp.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
I don’t have one specific story but when I first started in this business, I knew a lot about finance and sales, but I didn’t know as much about nutrition. I was naïve and believed everyone in the business and thought they were telling me the truth. I didn’t realize that everyone had their own agenda. Moving from the board of directors to becoming the CEO, I made mistakes but grew from them. Over time, I got a lot better understanding the business, and surrounded myself with smart, talented and loyal people.
In the beginning, the biggest mistake I made was not taking the time to find someone who knew this business. I thought the people I was surrounded by knew the business and I listened to them. In the end, they really didn’t really know the business well at all.
The lesson here is to hire the right people who can help grow the company and partner with the right companies.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There is not one person…I have had some great mentors who have helped me, and I am grateful to all of them. My greatest supporters were my parents who have helped over the years.
I have been able to rely on many of the teams that I have created over the years. They have helped me by giving me some great advice and even by disagreeing with me along the way.
In the beginning, my teams taught me more about finance and when I joined MYOS I had the skills of starting and selling a business, but not much guidance about management or sales, and what makes the business grow.
I started my first company in finance and my employees were with me for 30 years, as we grew the company. It was great to have good quality people; it made it so much easier. As a leader, you set the tone of what you expected. If your employees buy into it they become great leaders themselves. We built that culture.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
A start up company’s first purpose is to be profitable and grow.
Our vision was to create a unique product that had more science than anyone else had. We weren’t just selling a commodity. If this company was going to stand out among others in the field, as well as help consumers, we knew it needed the science behind the product.
Our purpose was to create a product that consumers saw such great results ultimately changing the quality of life for many. So many of our customers see such great health benefits for themselves and for their pets. That’s why 40% of our customers are repeat buyers.
Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
Now more than ever, it is important to understand what your employees are going through, at home and personally. We are all more productive if we are in a good emotional state. We are also more productive if we know that if we have issues at home that our job is secure. During uncertain times like today, everything is magnified, everyone reacts differently, especially regarding their health and safety. So, it’s important to touch base more frequently. At the onset of COVID-19, MYOS offices closed mid-March under NJ state of emergency order and our employees moved to working remotely. I initiated a bi-weekly call (2x a week) to check in with employees’ emotional well-being as well as to set a clear direction for the firm. I used these calls to bring levity, optimism, and structure — understanding each individual was dealing with the pandemic through their own lens.”
The best way to stay emotionally connected with your employees is to maintain a sense of humor amid high-stress situations. I have found that when I share my emotional state with my employees, it makes it safe for them to communicate their emotional state even if they are uncomfortable. And it’s very simple, you just ask how they are doing. I have worked in finance and sales prior joining the healthcare sector and, in each business, I set the tone early that health and family come before work. The hardest thing to do but most powerful is to listen.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
Absolutely, I have considered giving up many times in my career.
Early on when I first started working, when I had a rough day, there were times I wanted to give up. When things are tough, it is easy to get in this mindset.
Recently, as I watch business friends retire, and they are out on the golf course, there have been one or two times when I have given it thought.
But I am motivated because we have a great product backed by science. I share the passion of the team working here, we’re all motivated to create something great! I have a sense of responsibility to my team, employees and shareholders who are counting on me to support them and their efforts.
Even though I am 63 years old, I am completely driven, and some days my fastball gets faster.
Especially in today’s world, we are driven blindly and we just don’t know. Some professionals feel the fear, the mental anguish of the unknown, but I say, just plow through it. This is actually a time of great opportunity — many things have come about during this time. As it has been said, I believe we should “never waste a crisis”. We took it upon ourselves these past few months to think outside the box and offer CE Courses and webinars to veterinarians to expand awareness and educate the end user on our product. We chose to play hard rather than pick up the ball and go home.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
Stay optimistic and listen. Sometimes just telling people it’s ok, means a lot.
Even if you’re fearful or concerned you can share that but do it in a way that is upbeat and positive. You can speak about what is happening, but stay optimistic. You can be honest and say, “Yes, these times during COVID for example, are rough but they will pass. And at MYOS, I tell my employees, we have had some good science coming out of all of this.” During this pandemic, we have been able to further research the relationship between muscle health and immunity, which we can pass on to our consumer.
Be a leader — help your people lead.
Get everyone together, make sure there is follow-up.
Make sure everyone knows they are part of this.
Keep a sense of family, make family first. Connect with your employees to see what they are going through.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
Best way to boost morale for me is to be who I am, and for me, keeping a sense of humor is important. If you can make people laugh, it makes them feel that everything is going to be ok, at least on the work front.
In uncertain times, it is more about having a vision for the company. There can be a plan but the plan needs to be flexible/fluid as in the case with COVID-19, as you need to be adaptable. I work with my employees to outline what they see six months from now.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
Usually the best way to communicate difficult news is to gut it up and address it as soon as possible. Don’t avoid an announcement. Usually it goes much better that way. All the fear and anxiety you have about communicating this news is usually nothing. In the end, you usually find that it gets received better than you think.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
You always have to plan even when things are unpredictable. Plans are made to be changed and adjusted especially in these uncertain times. Whether you are in the midst of a pandemic or something else is going on, you have to be able to pivot.
Get ready to do what it takes.
During these times you take a bigger piece of the smaller pie and when it grows you are going to have a bigger piece of a bigger pie.
For example, MYOS adjusted plans when the pandemic hit. We gave three webinars because we knew that veterinarians had down time and were unable to practice in their offices. We found ways to give free product to both doctors and vets to try MYOS on their own and on their dogs during the quarantine. We tried to come up with different ways to come up with ideas while people were in the midst of quarantine during these unprecedented times.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Communication is the number one principle to help guide us through the ups and downs.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
- When businesses think that they can carry on the same way during a crisis such as the pandemic, and don’t adjust their plans accordingly.
- When businesses don’t create a plan for these difficult times. Everything is cyclical no matter what, consumers buying habits change even during traditional times. There are turbulent times happening all the time in business. During our lifetime we have had pandemic, stock market crash, 9/11, and many other crises. Turbulent times teach us a lot.
- Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
- If there is a crisis such as the pandemic or if your customers business is changing in some way, the way to generate new business is to engage with your customers.
It might not be a short-term fix, and you may not generate profit that day, but this is very important for long-term growth.
At MYOS, we took our energy and marketing and pushed into direct-to-consumer because we knew that channel was open to us. So, we shifted to an area where we knew we could get more traction. We also offered CE courses and engaged in consumer events in different ways.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Communicate/Keep the channels open
- Maintain a sense of humor
- Don’t assume everyone is dealing with turbulent times the same way. You don’t know what is going on at home, family, health, etc. Everyone deals with stress differently. We have been flexible and empathetic as we know that many of our employees are wearing multiple hats — as a MYOS employee, a parent, a “teacher”, a caregiver — during this challenging time.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Lead by example.” I’ve created a company culture that my employees come first and to ensure that we all lead this way at MYOS.
How can our readers further follow your work?
Follow me through myosrens.com and through the company social media channels on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
How can our readers further follow your work?