Journalist turned health and wellbeing guru, Liz Earle was once synonymous with the buzzy morning TV shows that defined 1990s Britain. At the time, Earle was one of the earliest mainstream advocates for natural skincare solutions and inner, (and most specifically) – gut health.
Then came her award-winning Liz Earle skincare brand that captured the audience imagination, and was the perfect middle ground between out of reach high-cost brands, and the (as of then) sub-standard fare of the high street. After the beauty company was sold, Earle returned to her passion for journalism and started the zeitgeist publication, Liz Earle Wellbeing.
She talks to Business Advice about wellbeing, implementing brand values into the heart of her business, the positives and dangers of personal branding, and why the customer is always right…
Real Business, (RB): Where did your interest in health and wellbeing come from?
Liz Earle, (LE): When I started out as a journalist some 35 years ago, I found myself writing for magazines at a time when health and beauty were first being connected. I was interviewing a number of weird and wonderful therapists and nutritionists and health practitioners – and I absolutely loved what they had to say about bodily health, plus I was suffering from skin issues that I had to get sorted. So, I used lots of dietary techniques which were quite new at the time. That really started my whole journey into health and wellbeing.
RB: What’s been the secret to your success in the sector?
LE: Everything I’ve done has always really been based on trust and authenticity which is so important in the wellbeing sector. In business, there has to be credibility. I think my background as a journalist taught me to go after the facts and chase the true story behind something, which really helped me curate my brand story and keep it strong by staying true to the original message. Your messaging needs to be consistent and true – and it shouldn’t vary from that truth. It’s hard to create an artificial history because customers will always naturally resonate with authenticity.
RB: You’ve also produced a series of wellbeing books and podcasts. What business lessons did you take from that period of your career?
LE: I became known for providing trusted, reliable and credible information about health-boosting ingredients, and people were responding well to this information, whether that was a new book on bodily health or an article. I think ingredients are the bottom line no matter what business you work in. We, business owners, are the sum of our ingredients both literally and metaphorically, if the ingredients are bad, the level of leadership and the brand is bad, and it won’t be long before consumers clock onto that.
RB: Were you nervous about putting your name on your skincare brand?
LE: It’s certainly a double-edged sword. A positive is that people know your name and buy into you. But it also means that you have to be even more trustworthy and transparent than if you’re running an unnamed brand.
RB: What advice would you give to people who are building a new brand?
LE:If you’re looking to find ‘purpose’ in your brand, ask yourself this question: what would you want to do if your name was on the brand? What would you want to stand up for and be questioned on? For me personally, I value excellent customer loyalty over gaining awards. After all, customer loyalty is most important, as that’s how we engage with our customers. Happy, loyal customers drive profit and we all want to chase happy customers.
RB: How do you ensure you hire the right people to help your magazine, Liz Earle Wellbeing – grow?
LE: It’s all about attitude over mindset or experience. I’ll give you an example, my son wanted to be a pilot. So, I did my due diligence and went to an airline to ask them what he needed to do so I could make sure he took the right course. They said, ‘we can teach him how to fly a plane, but we need to know how he thinks.’
That conversation really stuck with me. I can train and mentor staff all I want, but I can’t change the way they think – I can’t change their attitude.
I now take this thought into my recruitment process. I have made some bad hires in the past because I thought I could change a person’s attitude. – You can’t.
RB: Just how does gut health impact on business leadership and productivity?
LE: ‘Gut instinct’ is an extraordinary aspect of business leadership. Our gut tells us what to do before our brains have rationally thought it through. As an entrepreneur and business owner, you must listen to gut instincts. If I need to make an important business decision, I always take great care to consider my gut, literally. It will tell you. There is science behind it, read up on it!
RB: How do you keep your own workforce healthy, happy and productive?
LE: At Liz Earle Wellbeing, I encourage my staff to look after their gut health. My first recommendation is to drink kefir! Essentially, it’s a supercharged yoghurt. It does so much for us, and it’s particularly good for our mental health as it helps the production of serotonin. I also provide my team with a fridge full of foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi, which also help to promote good digestive health.
If you’re able to provide your staff with food that produces serotonin and helps sleep patterns, you’ll lower their stress levels, and that’s a great business asset.
The importance of sleep is also crucial, whilst the optimal amount is around 7and a half hours, did you know that we need to get up at the same time pretty much every day? That’s why even at weekends, I get up at the same time as I do for work, I simply go back to bed with a mug of tea and relax!
– Whatever you decide to do to upscale your team’s productivity, remember that happier teams are stronger, more resilient and more successful brands.
Liz Earle spoke at The AXA Growth Leaders Series: Making Health and Wellbeing work, which focused on the importance of businesses investing in health and wellbeing.
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