From Crisis Comes Creativity

A guest article by Stefan Mund: Key Insights on Navigating a Business Through COVID-19 From Henkel’s Head of Beauty Care Hair Professional NA

Sustainability Consumer Brands Oct 1, 2020
Stefan L. Mund, Regional Head Henkel Beauty Care Professional North America in front of a glass wall with view of a seminar room with people

We are all continuing to see the COVID-19 pandemic take a toll on countless lives and businesses across the country and around the globe. Throughout the U.S. alone, major industries are struggling to stay afloat, and others have been forced to restructure or shift models to meet the changing needs of today’s environment. The beauty professional industry, for example, is one that has been hit particularly hard and will continue to see the long-term impact as it navigates the ongoing complexities of the closings and re-openings that vary from state to state, and even city to city. The reality is that a substantial number of Hairdressing and Barber Shops might not be able to re-open their doors, and those that do, can’t open them at the same capacity as they were used to.

Now more than ever, it’s important for our industry to identify opportunities to do what we do best: leverage our creativity and demonstrate our entrepreneurial spirit. This means finding creative ways to meet customers’ needs in today’s ‘new normal,’ as well as identifying opportunities to adapt to long-term industry trends that strengthen the future of our business. One of the silver linings that I’ve found emerge from crisis situations, is a team’s ability – and agility – to adapt to the situation and find new ways of working. This agility to quickly shift both our mindset and our business capabilities at Henkel, for example, is what navigates our beauty hair care professional business through this challenging time.

Stefan L. Mund

Connect with Stefan on LinkedIn!

I see the current crisis as a catalyst for change in how we work, in a positive way. The pandemic, while highly distrustful to our industry and many others, was aligned with the timing of the rollout of Henkel’s new strategic framework for purposeful growth. Our new framework includes a major focus on digitalization, as well as enhanced leadership commitments, including agility, owning your results and entrepreneurial spirit. These commitments, coupled with quick decision making and willingness to adapt, are key qualities for success that have never been more evident as they have been these past several months. One example of this is the adoption of a micro vs. macro approach to our customer base that has allowed us to overcome current market dynamics in the beauty industry (i.e., varying salon guidelines, re-openings, closing).

One strategic shift that we’ve made since the start of the pandemic is an increase in digital and social media activity. While 80 percent of educational trainings and events were ‘live’ pre-pandemic, almost 100 percent of these classes are online now. This transition to social platforms is essential for customer engagement. In fact, many of our educators have found that their class attendance has increased, attributed to the fact that people are increasingly active online in today. We’ve also invested in more digital resources. Our Sales associates, for example, who can no longer make in-person visits, are creating and using customer databases to support current and future communications with their customers.

Stefan L. Mund juggling Henkel Beauty Care products



This agility to quickly shift both our mindset and our business capabilities at Henkel, for example, is what navigates our beauty hair care professional business through this challenging time.

The reach and multiple touchpoints of our portfolio of brands have also allowed us to gain multiple perspectives and deeper insight into the changing needs of our customers during the pandemic. With this information, we have been able to quickly develop programs & solutions that supported not only our customers, but also the broader beauty community including end-consumers. By leveraging these insights and thanks to  the passion and dedication of my team, we launched a number of community-driven programs and initiatives over last several months, including the Help Your Salon affiliate eCommerce platform, the global fundraising and world-record-breaking event “Hairdressers United”, financial and product donations to support salon owners and the Professional Beauty Association (PBA) COVID-19 Relief Fund, and most recently the Beauty Care United program, to support salon owners with their re-openings.

Stefan L. Mund in a yoga pose

Participating in a virtual yoga class with my team.

In addition to leveraging our new framework, I’ve found that while COVID-19 is unique in many ways, some standard practices still apply. For example, establishing structure and communication is key to any crisis. As I watched the pandemic first emerge and grow in other parts of the world, I knew it was important to establish a crisis team immediately. Since early-on in the pandemic, this core group has met every day or every other day. It’s critical to communicate frequently, openly and in both ways; top-down and bottom-up. In addition to employee Town Halls, Video messages and regular email updates from company leadership, we have created an online hub for our Beauty Care Hair Professional employees, where they could find real-time updates and could ask any questions, combined with the promise to receive an answer in 24hrs, at the latest.

During uncertain times like this, it’s important for us to acknowledge and celebrate our most valuable and creative assets: our employees and our community. In fact, the crisis has created a stronger sense of unity and spirit within our industry and our teams at Henkel. We view our Culver City, CA office – which serves as Henkel’s North American Beauty Care Hair Professional headquarters hub – as not just a place to work, but a community where people go to find purpose in their work. I’m proud of the team’s initiative and passion to keep their connection with each other through regular virtual team building sessions– I even joined a yoga class myself!     

As we continue to adapt to our ‘new normal,’ it’s increasingly critical for teams and industry to view this crisis as an opportunity to develop creative solutions. From crisis comes creativity. Embracing agility, gaining new perspectives, and adopting new approaches are essential to addressing our customers’ needs, as well as our progress over the next few years. By leveraging our creative ingenuity, we can support the long-term resiliency and success of our teams, ours and our customers business and the entire professional community.

On Oct. 7, Stefan will be participating in PBA’s Executive Summit, joining colleagues from the industry to share and learn more of their insights and creative solutions in the beauty hair care professional industry.