An international economist by training, a business leader by vocation, she speaks four languages, plays jazz, swims in the outdoor pool and goes downhill skiing. Can easily perform in front of an audience of 11,000 and lose 12 kilograms in less than a year. We asked Irina Silina, CEO of Herbalife Nutrition in Russia, about what helps her to be an effective leader and at the same time remain a great wife and caring mother, as well as how balanced nutrition and success in life are connected.
Before joining Herbalife Nutrition, you worked for 10 years in leadership positions in companies that are world leaders in the pharmaceutical industry. Was the transition to a new sphere for you organic?
I am sure that everything we do in life is needed for something later. We just don't know about it now. For me, this step was absolutely logical, although the pharmaceutical business is not very close to what Herbalife Nutrition does. After all, the pharma turns on when a person already needs to be treated. We give him the opportunity to embark on the path of a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet, which helps to avoid the problems with well-being that arise as a result of improper eating habits and excess weight. And these problems can be many.
Besides, it is always important for me whose team you play on. When I met my future manager, I immediately realized that I wanted to work at Herbalife Nutrition.
Was there a moment that finally convinced you to join the company?
You know, the mission of the business is very important to me, and at Herbalife Nutrition we strive to change life for the better, to make the world healthier and happier. It sounds very big, but we are confident that helping people change their eating habits and make it balanced, we are changing their lifestyle and outlook. My personal health consultant, Herbalife Nutrition, worked with me. Thanks to her support, I was able to part with 12 kilograms in eight months. * It's not even that, having lost weight, you look better, feel better, and can radically change your wardrobe. The main thing is to make a decision and start acting. I went through the full path that our client usually goes:from first meeting a counselor to visiting a weekly health club and following my mentor's personalized nutrition and exercise program. You lose weight, and in return you get a colossal charge of cheerfulness, a new circle of friends and a new attitude towards yourself and towards life.
It is often said that the ideal weight is the one in which you are happy …
This is a common stereotype. In fact, the ideal figure is easy to determine with a scale and body weight analyzer. I went through this testing. It is with him that the nutritional consultation in our healthy lifestyle clubs begins. This helps to determine the starting point and further control the dynamics.
Why are health clubs needed? Can't you just set a goal for yourself and start losing weight yourself?
We are not reinventing the wheel. The things that our consultants tell in the clubs are well known to many. You need not to starve, but to eat a balanced diet every three hours, drink at least two liters of water a day. The use of our protein shakes, which provide energy and building material for cells, helps to achieve the desired result faster. * But it is not easy to get on the rails of proper nutrition alone. Regular visits to the club not only allow you to monitor the process with a consultant, see how successfully you are progressing according to your individual meal plan, but also gives you the opportunity to feel part of a community of people like you, and even take part in the competition. In the club, everyone motivates each other: who has lost how much, who is feeling how. You see the result of another, and you want to get better. This group motivation is statistically better.
You yourself have lost 12 kilograms. Relatives did not want to follow your example?
The first to light up was my husband, who also began to eat a balanced diet and lost 5–6 kg. * Mom initially showed skepticism, but after a year of observing me, she also decided that she would go to a healthy lifestyle club. Its result is minus 5 kg in two months. * But their motivation was not so much to part with excess weight, as to join the philosophy of proper nutrition. After all, you need to change not only externally, but also internally. This is exactly the case when being determines consciousness.
Your previous work experience was mainly in the FMCG and B2B segments. Herbalife Nutrition is a classic direct selling company. To what extent do you think this business model is in demand today?
I would say that direct sales today are experiencing a kind of renaissance not only in Russia, but all over the world. In society, especially among the millennial generation, there is a growing demand for so-called free employment - for their own business, flexible working hours, independent time and financial management. People want to decide for themselves how much, when and where to work. They don't need bosses, they value freedom and mobility. The Herbalife Nutrition business was originally built on the idea of free enterprise. We give a chance to people of different social levels, with different education and work experience to create their own business and fully customize it for themselves and their rhythm of life. In addition, young people today pay more attention to a healthy lifestyle, sports, and nutrition. They find it all with us.
The company's brand is still perceived ambiguously in the Russian market. Didn't this bother you when deciding to switch to Herbalife Nutrition?
On the contrary, I saw it as a challenge. I am motivated by challenging and interesting tasks that force me to leave my comfort zone and achieve a large and interesting goal.
It's probably a pleasure working for prestigious glamor brands. But someone before you made them beautiful and recognizable. You just have to mechanically implement the brand strategy that has been worked out for decades. Someone will say that this is cool, but I would be bored. After all, what is my role then? What changes can I make? I'm not saying that my task is to revolutionize, but I like that at Herbalife Nutrition I have the opportunity to try to apply some approaches and techniques that are used in other industries, or, say, in FMCG companies.
In the media space, the company remained unobtrusive for many years, but recently you came out with a full-blown advertisement. Why suddenly? What goals were set and what was the reaction of consumers?
Essentially, the ad campaign had two objectives. On the one hand, we wanted to convey to the audience that a balanced diet is important and simple for the whole family. Overweight, according to statistics, today every third person faces. This is a global problem that needs to be talked about with a loud voice and to a wide audience.
Last year, for the first time in many years, we launched a large-scale advertising campaign on the Internet and on the radio. This is the story that a good day begins with a well-balanced breakfast with your family. Our Russian brand ambassadors Alexey Yagudin and Tatyana Totmianina helped us to tell it.
On the other hand, we also wanted to say that Herbalife Nutrition is a completely different company. Many people perceive us very narrowly - as a brand for weight loss. According to Euromonitor, we are indeed the world leader in the weight loss product category. ** But Herbalife Nutrition goes far beyond that. For example, if we talk about our food offer, then today only in Russia there are more than 50 items, including protein shakes, sports nutrition, products for maintaining immunity, digestion, cardiovascular system, etc.
The first reaction of the audience was expected: "How is Herbalife still alive?" As you can see, he is not only alive, but also successfully developing. Even amid the economic crisis, the company demonstrates enviable financial stability.
Are you satisfied with the results of your advertising campaign?
Well, first of all, it is still ongoing. In the spring we are launching the next wave of the campaign. But this time, her face will be Cristiano Ronaldo. This global soccer star is more than just a global ambassador for the Herbalife Nutrition brand. Recently, in America and Europe, together with Ronaldo, the company launched a new product - CR7. It will appear in Russia in April-May of this year and is perfect for all those who monitor their physical fitness and maintain an active lifestyle. As for the results of advertising activity, even based on intermediate data (and this is an increase in the number of visits to our sites and filled applications), we can confidently say that there is definitely a demand for Herbalife.
In all the companies where you worked, you moved up the career ladder very quickly. Can you share the secrets of such rapid growth?
I'll probably say basic things, but they really work. In a career, as in any business, it is first of all important to have the desire and motivation to move forward. Don't wait for someone to open the door and bring you new opportunities on a silver platter. Opportunities are something you have to find and take for yourself. Look at the world through the prism of possibilities - they are around you, and only in your hands and in your head how to use them.
On the other hand, it is impossible, working "inside and out", in other words, without going beyond the scope of your job description, to expect dizzying success. I am not saying that you have to work 24 hours a day, although, I will not deny, this helps a lot to career growth. But if you want to do a little more, a little deeper and a little wider, an eight-hour workday is clearly not enough for you.
Set ambitious goals for yourself that go beyond your professional competencies and engage in cross-functional projects. This will immediately give an explosive impetus to understanding how a business works and how different departments contribute to its work. You will have expertise in areas that are new to you. I'm not even talking about how much your circle of contacts and influence within the organization will expand.
When I worked in the pharmaceutical industry, I was lucky enough to participate in such a project. The task was to improve the efficiency of the business as a whole and increase sales. First, we investigated possible growth points not only in the selling, but also in the supporting divisions. For example, in marketing, these could be products with high margins, and in logistics, high stocks of commodity items that did not sell well. When all growth points were identified and priorities were set, we developed a roadmap and began to optimize processes. The project has brought positive results, and it is only natural that the company's management began to treat us differently. The project team automatically became a talent pool.
You have lived and worked in France for five years. What did this period in your life teach you?
At the age of 21, I married a Frenchman and left Russia for several years. What I acquired there became a platform for personal development and further career growth. In a foreign country, you are like a tree without roots. You need to prove to everyone from scratch that you are not an empty space, but are capable of something. Since I didn't want to stay at home, I had to take up my education again, including learning the language and studying at the university, in order to stake out my place in the sun. Then I went to work in consulting, which was a continuation of my previous experience.
The French know how to respect themselves and enjoy life and work. They are in a good way more selfish and focused on what they like. It is important for them to be able to realize themselves creatively. If you are not happy with yourself, do not like what you are doing, and you have a negative attitude, then you need to change something, and not look for someone to blame. It is impossible to be successful if you drag yourself to work every day as if on a lasso. This is a matter of self-awareness, to which they pay great attention.
And it was also France that laid in me an interest in healthy nutrition. There it is instilled from childhood. The French never overeat, but they always eat at the same time. Combine vegetables and proteins, avoid a lot of carbohydrates, drink a lot of water. However, they do not go on diets and enjoy food.
The modern leader has to be in the information flow 24/7. What communication channels do you use most often? What helps to keep such a volume of incoming information in your head?
Two hundred percent of my working time is communication. Today's success depends on how quickly, fully and accurately you convey information to those who should be involved in solving a particular problem. In our business, a special stake is placed on communication, since, unlike retail, we communicate directly with independent partners. I myself am subscribed to many groups in Telegram and WhatsApp, I participate in distributor events. Previously, as a leader, of course, I also had to speak at all kinds of conferences, but at Herbalife Nutrition this is a completely different scale. Last fall I made a presentation for 11 thousand people. I would never have believed that I was capable of this. But if there is a problem, it must be solved. And it was another victory over myself.
There is really a lot of information, and it comes in a continuous stream through different channels: meetings, teleconferences, calls, email, instant messengers and social networks. At first I rejected the latter, but then, thanks to my fifteen-year-old son, I plunged deeply into this issue and now I perceive them as an integral part of the modern world. At the same time, I continue to write down the most important and necessary things in notebooks. I can write about a dozen in a year. It's easier to remember and organize. As a child, I studied music. Probably, since then, there has been a need to simultaneously turn on auditory, motor and visual memory.
With such a tremendous workload at work, where can you find time for family and home?
Finding the perfect balance is more difficult here than in a balanced diet. (Laughs.) You need to clearly prioritize. Make plans, take on large and urgent tasks first and be 200% included and involved in what you are doing. It doesn't matter if it's personal life or work. Even if there is a little less time left for the family, it must be carried out efficiently, and this can only be achieved by careful planning. Therefore, my weekends are as scheduled by the hour as weekdays. Only instead of calls and meetings, there is a joint trip to the pool, a game of badminton, a family lunch or a heart-to-heart talk with a teenage child.
Do you have time for yourself? Do you go to beauty salons? What cosmetics do you use? Do you do fitness?
France taught me natural beauty, so no arrows and scarlet lipstick. Pencil, mascara and lip gloss are usually enough for me. But I take skin care seriously, and our Herbalife Skin line helps me in this, which has absolutely everything, as we say, for external nutrition.
There is little time left for sports, but a trip to the Chaika pool and a 20-minute morning exercise under the guidance of a fitness trainer from our healthy lifestyle club are always on my weekly schedule. I also love mountains. In the mountains, like nowhere else, you suddenly realize that you are a small grain of sand in this big world, but, on the other hand, the thought does not leave: there are so many opportunities around that you did not even suspect. It is important to believe in yourself and constantly learn: nothing is impossible in the world.
Who did you dream of being in childhood?
What have your business mentors taught you?
Don't make hasty decisions
The main wardrobe item?
Little black dress
Jazz (played by my son)
Your usual breakfast?
Herbalife Nutrition Protein Shake, Aloe Plant-Based Drink & Herbal Tea
How did you spend your recent vacation?
My husband and I went to show children London
Lancôme Tubéreuses Castane
With what thought do you wake up every morning?
I know for sure: the impossible is possible.
* Any statements regarding weight control relate to the Herbalife Weight Control Program, which includes, but is not limited to, a balanced diet, regular exercise, daily fluid intake, dietary supplements as needed, and adequate rest. All results are individual and may vary.
** Source: Euromonitor International Limited, Consumer Health 2017, per weight loss and health product category definitions, retail sales by value, 2016 data.
Photo: archives of press services
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