Is it possible, in this current moment of stress and uncertainty, to adjust one’s work to come out stronger on the other side? Yanni Hufnagel, CEO of the new beverage startup Lemon Perfect, says this may actually be the perfect moment for employees to recommit to goals – personal and professional – strengthening skills and staying relevant.
If there was ever a time for employees to take initiative and demonstrate their leadership potential, Hufnagel says, this is it. He notes that founders and CEOs are dealing with major changes to their business plans and marketing strategies and have been forced to make major shifts and weather tough financial losses. Business leaders are looking for clear ideas and willing attitudes from their employees as they tackle the days ahead.
Yanni Hufnagel says his background in college athletics has helped him to have the kind of flexible, competitive mindset needed to succeed in more challenging climates like this one. Before launching his beverage brand, Hufnagel was an assistant coach and top recruiter for leading schools like Harvard University, University of California, and Vanderbilt University.
Hufnagel was widely praised for his skill in recruiting the best players, and the traits he looked for in athletes are similar to the ones he finds most valuable in employees, he says: drive, consistency, and strategic thinking.
Here, Hufnagel offers a closer look at the three traits he says can help employees grow in their roles and strengthen their positions at work during the current pandemic.
- Rather than focusing solely on the tasks at hand and waiting for assignments to be handed down, Hufnagel encourages employees to use this moment to make assessments of where they can be most useful in driving business forward and to make proposals. This doesn’t mean burdening upper management with an onslaught of new ideas, he adds, but rather finding specific places where there is an opportunity to improve processes or attract more customers. It could mean focusing on updating a neglected database or company records, streamlining workflow, increasing calls, or identifying places for the brand to increase awareness and grow partnerships.
Lemon Perfect has thrived because Hufnagel has built a brand that is confident in its identity and customer base. With the motto of “democratizing drinkable wellness,” Hufnagel set out to carve a new niche for a lemon water beverage that stood behind its healthiness and environmental commitments.
This identity was critical to growing a new beverage that would appeal to health- and eco-conscious customers at Whole Foods and other retailers. The USDA-certified drinks are made from cold-pressed California-grown lemons. The beverages are created using an eco-friendly pasteurization process that relies only on recycled water and electricity, and the bottles are made from BPA-free, recyclable plastic. In addition, one percent of Lemon Perfect’s profits are donated to environmental causes.
Hufnagel says he’s always looking for opportunities to find new partners and outlets for Lemon Perfect within the health and wellness space and encourages employees to be proactive in making those connections.
- In uncertain times – and the pandemic and struggling economy are nothing if not uncertain – management relies more than ever on consistency from employees, Hufnagel says. While some degree of disruption in the usual routines is to be expected, Hufnagel notes that consistency from employees will be highly prized – and noticed – now more than ever.
So what does that consistency look like? It means employees treating virtual meetings with the same degree of seriousness and preparation as they would an in-person meeting in the company conference room. While it’s easy for employees to simply “check in” as required, Hufnagel suggests that those who come prepared, ask pointed questions, and make recommendations will be noticed and valued. It’s also essential, he said, for employees to provide regular updates on their work, to respond quickly to emails and other communications, and to make every effort to get projects accomplished on time.
Even better, he notes, is for employees to use this moment to find ways to open communication channels and make workflows more efficient. Everyone’s work has already had to adjust to staff operating remotely, which has caused major shifts in how communication happens. Hufnagel says this presents an opportunity for employees to find ways to improve processes, to work across departments, and to forge new connections that can make the business stronger when more typical work-life returns.
- Strategic Thinking. Employees at every level have a unique opportunity in this moment, says Hufnagel, to look at their own department and workload, to assess how it contributes to the larger company goals, and to look for opportunities to improve that future picture.
As the founder and CEO of a new beverage startup, Hufnagel is particularly conscious of the need to adapt and innovate in response to consumer interest and demand in order to grow.
When Lemon Perfect first launched in 2017, it disrupted the beverage industry. It offered a new healthy drink option: a lemon water drink that came in four flavors — Just Lemon, Blueberry Acai, Dragon Fruit Mango, and Peach Raspberry — with zero sugar, and only five calories. The drink offered an alternative to high-sugar, high-calorie sports and energy drinks, and provided a healthy boost of immune system-boosting Vitamin C and antioxidants. Lemon Perfect was named Best New Product at the 2019 BevNET Awards.
But Hufnagel did not stop there. He soon introduced a shelf-stable product that brought the drink to many thousands of additional retail locations. And he went on to innovate further – launching Lemon Perfect sparkling beverages – also made with cold-pressed, organic California lemons – in four varieties – Just Lemon, Strawberry Kiwi, Coconut Lime and Watermelon Cherry.
Innovative ideas are always welcome at Lemon Perfect, Hufnagel says, and employees should adopt a “boss mindset” and find opportunities for strategic growth. While the current pandemic has upended business as usual, he says, it has also given employees a moment to focus on highlighting their skills and ideas and reaffirming their value and commitment to the business.
About Lemon Perfect
Lemon Perfect is a naturally refreshing, zero sugar cold-pressed lemon water with antioxidants and electrolytes. Certified organic and full of flavor, Lemon Perfect is widely considered by industry insiders to be one of the most scalable, exciting and innovative emerging beverage concepts in the marketplace.
About Yanni Hufnagel
Yanni Hufnagel is the Founder & CEO of Lemon Perfect, a naturally refreshing, zero sugar cold-pressed lemon water with essential antioxidants and hydrating electrolytes. Certified organic and full of flavor, Lemon Perfect – named “Best New Product” at BevNET’s Best of 2019 Awards – is widely considered by industry insiders to be one of the most scalable, exciting and innovative emerging beverage concepts in the marketplace.
Founded in 2017 and backed by an extraordinary team of investors, the company’s mission is to democratize drinkable wellness by making Lemon Perfect accessible for anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Before starting Lemon Perfect, Hufnagel served as an assistant men’s college basketball coach, with stops at Nevada, California, Vanderbilt, Harvard and Oklahoma. Hufnagel earned the reputation as one of the most dogged recruiters in America, consistently lauded for signing nationally-ranked recruiting classes. In Hufnagel’s 10 years coaching college basketball, his teams reached the NCAA Tournament six times.