In September 2019, when Daniel Lubetzky stepped down as the CEO of Kind to become executive chairman, he never imagined that within six months, the company would face a historic challenge. In February, concern over the coronavirus pandemic led consumers to hoard food and other essential supplies, sending demand for some Kind products up 200 percent. Meeting that demand was no small feat.
"I don't think we'd have been prepared if we hadn't deepened our leadership over the past couple of years," Lubetzky says, referring to the hiring of CEO Mike Barkley as well as a new chief human resources officer, chief customer officer, and chief operating officer, among others. "We were building five years out. I didn't know it would come in so handy so soon, particularly given the accelerated surge in demand for Kind products and the increased supply chain disruptions caused by Covid-19."
Kind has also ramped up production of its bars to support the Frontline Impact Project, an initiative the Kind Foundation and Project N95 launched on April 14 to support frontline workers by providing resources ranging from masks and other personal protective equipment to food, lodging, and transportation. Within its first month, the project provided resources to nearly 150,000 people, most of whom work in hospitals, nursing homes, and outpatient medical practices. Kind has distributed two million Kind bars as part of the program, and expects to donate three million more in the coming weeks.
The coronavirus crisis also called for Lubetzky to provide critical leadership at a time when no one knew how long the pandemic would last. The key to leading through a crisis, he says, is empathy.
"You have to make sure that you show kindness and are supportive of your team during these trying times," Lubetzky says. "At the same time, you have to balance that with a commitment to not drop the ball."
Another of Lubetzky's tools during the crisis has been humor. In March, when the entire Kind team had just begun working remotely, he shared a meme with his staff that poked fun at how disheveled people look when working from home.
"Of all the coronavirus-related emails I sent, that got the most responses," Lubetzky says. "Many people appreciated it, because humor really works." Lubetzky learned this from his father, a Holocaust survivor who recounted stories of inmates telling jokes even while living in concentration camps.
"Humor was one of the most important things to help them keep going," Lubetzky says, adding that keeping things in perspective can also prevent people from being consumed by fear.
"As horrible as this crisis is," he says, "this too shall pass."
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include the Kind Foundation's efforts supporting the Frontline Impact Project.