Neil Spiers: Analyzing Trends to Help Shape the Future of Herbalife

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When you’re involved in the planning of a global company’s future, there’s only one thing that’s more important than the rigorous development of that strategy. “It’s about conveying and fostering a sense of confidence in the ideas and plans we have and the direction in which we are going,” says Neil Spiers, Herbalife Vice President, Global Strategic Planning, Business Optimization and Real Estate. “As our CEO Michael O. Johnson likes to say, ‘The real value is in the conversations that go into building the plan.’

Since Spiers joined Herbalife in 1999, he’s had plenty of opportunity to sharpen his strategy and leadership skills. Starting out as Member Relations Manager for Northern Europe, he then took on the role of Director of Member Services, where he was responsible for service standards delivered to Independent Herbalife Members throughout the EMEA region. As Subregional Vice President, he went on to lead, at different times, 19 of the markets within the EMEA region. In 2012, he transferred from EMEA to the Herbalife corporate offices in Los Angeles to take on his current role. Overall, he has more than 25 years of experience managing operational and customer-facing teams across international markets, 17 of those years with Herbalife.

Tracking Trends

A critical part of the strategic planning function at Herbalife is to be keyed into the latest trends, both within the nutrition industry and outside of it. “We know that when most people make a decision to buy or not buy a company’s product or service, they also make a judgement about how they feel about that company,” say Spiers. “By taking a position on key trends, and being genuine and transparent, we can positively impact on their decisions.” Spiers’ team works with the insights group, led by Monica Wood, to monitor 50-plus trends that are going on outside of the company that might have an impact on the Herbalife brand. They look at macro trends in food, retail, obesity, unemployment, technology, social consciousness, connectivity, consumer empowerment and personalization, just to name a few.

The implications of these trends lead Herbalife to consider tailoring more of its products to specific age, gender and other groups – for example, should the company create a Formula 1 Healthy Meal Nutritional Shake Mix specifically for men and another one for women? Another approach the company is looking to test includes converting some of its tablets to powders so that they can be added as a booster to the flagship Formula 1 product. Spiers’ team also thinks a lot about the merits of existing choices the company offers. “Today, our approach as a company is to provide our customers with product choice alternatives, such as non-GM and allergen-free. Whatever the direction in which we go in the future, again being keyed into trends will help us to make the right decisions about which choices we should offer.”

Yet another trend Spiers and his team stay on top of are the millennials. “By 2025, millennials will make up seventy-five percent of the workforce,” says Spiers. “It’s imperative for us to know how they fit in the workplace at Herbalife. Far more than previous generations, members of this younger demographic are looking to take jobs at companies that align with their own personal values. They want flexible work schedules and when they are in the office, they want to work in modern workspaces,” he says. “As a company we want to continue to attract top talent. The workplace environment that we provide plays an important part in that.”

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For millennial and non-millennial employees alike, Herbalife offers a strong company culture with an active feel. Employees appreciate the casual dress code and a policy that allows staff in many departments to telecommute on certain days of the week. The new Herbalife Los Angeles office (on West 7th Street) is an example of how the company has moved toward more modern workspaces. It offers an open floorplan with low partitions, and the company is looking into other potential workplace enhancements (watch this space!). “At the same time, we are being more mindful to use space more effectively and at Herbalife offices in the United States, we are moving towards a new standard size of offices and workspaces that provides better facilities for its teams, while also being more efficient and flexible.”

Promoting Internal Conversation

“We are only one department of many at Herbalife that gathers and has access to relevant information,” says Spiers. “Strategic planning is a receptacle and internal conduit of information, not an oracle. We look for opportunities to promote internal conversation and debate, not only so that we can share information with other teams, but so that we can learn from them, too. We strive to foster an environment of healthy dialog.” Spiers also gives much credit to Independent Herbalife Members for their knowledge and willingness to share openly. “Members are our not-so-secret source of success. It’s because of them that we have achieved all of our growth. We do a lot of work to understand who they are, who our customers are and what drives their decision-making. We work with the Sales teams to understand the developing methods that are driving the success of our Members so that we can identify the ways in which the company might better support those things and ensure that they are reflected in the company’s five-year plan, which the Strategic Planning team coordinate and refresh every year.”

As an employee with a long track record at Herbalife, Spiers says that working at the company has afforded him the opportunity to contribute to a variety of projects that he never dreamed he would get to work on. “I look forward to seeing how the work we are doing today is going to shape our company in the future,” says Spiers. “With the talent and momentum we have, the one thing I know for sure is that our future is bright.

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