#zerotogetheruae gif zero together animated
Image Credit: Seyyed de la Llata/Gulf News

Dubai: In times of crisis, one Filipina chief executive relied on her most important asset — human capital — to navigate her company out of the doldrums and into steady growth and further expansion.

Dr. Mary Jane Alvero-Al Mahdi, 50, Group CEO of Prime Group of Companies, said the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly affected her business but she never doubted she would be able to lead her company through the crisis. Right off the bat, Alvero told Gulf News she never resorted to firing anyone to cut costs during the pandemic. “I fought for my people. No one was asked to go on forced leave; there was no salary cut and no one was given the pink slip. In fact, we have grown by 15 per cent — we now have over 600 employees — after the COVID-19 outbreak,” she underlined.

Alvero, a chemical engineer by profession and holder of Master’s Degree in Business Administration and Doctor of Philosophy in Business Management, said she consulted with her staff in charting a clear path for her company.

People above all

Dubai-based Prime Group of Companies is a quality and compliance solutions provider in the UAE, India and the Philippines. It has over 600 employees in the field of testing, inspection, certification and training. “People, processes, and technology are the three pillars of our business but at its core is the people,” said Alvero, adding: “At the onset of the pandemic, when a lockdown was declared by the authorities to prevent the spread of the virus, I consulted my staff how to deal with situation.”

Alvero narrated: “We did an evaluation of our activities, including soil testing and lab testing for construction, environment, food and air quality. Our services were related to prevention and protection against COVID-19 but some of our key sectors were affected — especially those servicing the hospitality industry and the F&B (food and beverage) sector. The lockdown has affected our clients — which in turn affected our cash flow. But then again I banked on staff — they are chemists, researchers and lab technicians. They have the knowledge, skills and technical expertise to prepare solutions for sanitisers and disinfectants,” Alvero continued.

Mary Jane Alvero-Al Mahdi
Alvero partnered with a local manufacturer and produced Hagienex using environment-friendly and organic materials. Image Credit: Supplied

Alvero then instructed her staff to formulate a range of alcohol-based hand sanitisers. She partnered with a local manufacturer and produced Hagienex using environment-friendly and organic materials. “We can proudly say that Hagienex, a concept that came from my staff, was born during the pandemic. It is completely locally-produced and can compete with the more established brands. But more importantly, my staff were able to come up with a solution that supported our business model,” she pointed out.

COVID-19 lessons and solutions

Before the pandemic, Alvero said her company mainly focused on lab testing and certification in the UAE, India and the Philippines. She added: “We were affected by the pandemic, but we responded strongly, using our existing resources. We did not lay off anyone; instead we went aggressive in hiring because of the increased demand in chemists, engineers and lab technicians.”

Alvero noted it was a collective effort — from the bottom up — that salvaged her company. She managed her people well and they, in turn, became more creative and productive. “In our business, the most critical asset is our people. Yes, people-related costs, including compensation and benefits are the single-largest budget items for most companies, but managing people has now shifted to a more strategic role in fulfilling a company’s strategy and goals,” she underlined.

Alvero said in the next two weeks the company will a new line of household sanitisers, handwashes and kitchen soap, as well as surface disinfectants “We are finishing a filtration machine that can convert tap water into a cleaning agent. We are formulating water-based disinfectants to replace chemical-based cleaning solutions,” Alvero proudly told Gulf News.

She added: “The most important lesson I learnt during this pandemic was to trust your employees — they are very creative and they will surely help you keep the business afloat.”