Engaging Your Employees in Uncertain Times
How Nuts.com CEO Jeff Braverman is leading by example to motivate his employees during the pandemic
What makes Nuts.com different from most businesses trying to keep their doors open during the pandemic? The size of those doors: giant, opening to a 150,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in New Jersey.
Enter Jeff Braverman: husband, father of four young children and next-generation leader of the family business that his grandfather Sol opened in 1929.
Before COVID-19, Jeff was laser-focused on transforming what started as a tiny storefront selling premium-quality nuts into a booming online enterprise.
Now, his only focus is leading by example to get his company, his employees and his community to the other side of this crisis.
Giving Back to His Employees and the Community
When the pandemic hit, Nuts.com instantly went into survival mode. Even so, Braverman felt a huge need to give back. It’s part of the company’s DNA.
He took care of his factory workers with care packages filled with chicken, rice and potatoes. “They were working so much overtime, they had almost no time to shop or cook,” Jeff said.
Next, Braverman’s employees pitched him the idea for one of the company’s major charitable initiatives. “They said, ‘What if we sent every hospital a box of 100 Nuts.com snack packs?’” With that idea, the company launched Essential Snacks for Essential Workers, donating snacks for frontline medical workers at 6,500 hospitals across the country.
Finally, the company teamed up with Feeding America, matching every donation from its employees and customers to raise over $100,000.
“I had to put $1,000 in from my credit card just to get the program going,” said Braverman. “For me, that was really brave. Because I didn't know if we were going to go out of business.”
Motivating Employees by Leading From the Front
Because Nuts.com also sells pantry staples like flours, grains and spices, it's considered an essential business. “We’re an online grocery store,” said Braverman. “We owed it to people to stay open.”
Since pausing to regroup wasn’t an option, Braverman had to solve unprecedented new problems with his workforce.
“I asked office employees to start working from home and took a safety-first approach for factory workers, who didn’t have that option,” said Braverman.
“What we’d normally sell in a month,” he noted, “we started selling in a day.”
To handle the surge in orders, Braverman and his executive team worked seven days a week on the factory floor alongside his production workers.
“It was exhausting running the company and working the production line at the same time. But I couldn’t ask people to do anything I wasn’t willing to do,” he said.
We were a minute away from having to close the plant. If not for my relationship with our factory workers, they’d have walked out. I’m sure of that.
Putting Employees Over Profits Even When Times Get Tough
When the pandemic escalated, Braverman’s factory workers–many of whom live in multigenerational households–worried about contracting the virus. Soon, the callout rate was 70%.
He responded by taking decisive action.
“We built separate production lines for our employees and temporary workers,” said Braverman. “Also, separate bathrooms and breakrooms.”
Braverman then raised his factory workers’ pay. He also sent home employees 60 and older or with preexisting conditions and continued to pay them.
Trusting That People Will Stay With His Company for the Long Term
In spite of all the uncertainty, Braverman believes this is his company's moment.
If he can keep delivering for people when they need it most, he just might make customers for life.
“I want to do right by my people and our customers, of course,” said Braverman. “But how do I build an enduring business that lasts another 90 years? How do we keep compounding goodness? Every day is a new day, and we just stay consistent. I think we’ve proven a lot.”
Jeff Braverman, Nuts.com CEO, Capital One Customer Since 2015
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