Rising To The Challenge Of COVID-19: How Wahl Clipper Stepped In To Care For Frontline Healthcare Workers

In News by Aaron Flick

From Forbes.com 

As the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic became known earlier this year, CEO Dave Schreiner, of KSB Hospital in Dixon, Illinois, was struck with one grim reality: getting the personal protective equipment (PPE) his staff needed was going to be challenging.

“Our healthcare providers are thinking every hour of the day about how to keep themselves safe, so they can care for patients without taking the virus home to their families,” Schreiner says. “That’s what they’re most afraid of.”

KSB Hospital is a rural healthcare system about 90-minutes outside of Chicago, serving a population of 45,000. Though the region is not a hotspot for the virus, healthcare providers must behave as if a patient might be COVID-19 positive. This requires frequent changes of masks, shields, and other protective gear. With shortages of these resources, healthcare workers are more at risk, as are their patients and families.

But when Schreiner’s staff checked on their equipment orders, the results were discouraging. “All we saw was ‘delivery date unknown.’”

Then the phone rang.

On the other end of the line was Wahl Clipper Corporation, a fourth-generation family-owned business that makes hair clippers, trimmers, and shavers for professional and personal use. Based in the same community as KSB Hospital, the company wanted to know how they could help–and they had an idea.

“What sets us apart from our competitors is we hand make our clippers in Sterling, Illinois,” says Lisa Finucane, the national director of education for Wahl Clipper. “Our manufacturing approach allows us to change the stream very simply.”

The injection molding equipment in their factories could be reengineered to make face shields, plastic barriers that fit over a face mask, covering a healthcare worker’s face from forehead to below the chin. These protective shields reduce the likelihood of spreading the infection and help extend the life of N95 and other masks.

Moving quickly, Wahl made over 100,000 face shields by mid-April. Over 1,000 of the shields ended up in Schreiner’s hospital.

“It means more than anything that the community cares. They are doing everything they can to help their local hospitals,” says Schreiner. “I think about the family values that Wahl Clipper has; they step up so often. Especially knowing they are going through one of the most challenging times in their organizational history.”

Bonus benefits: Raising employee morale

Wahl Clipper is not the only global firm who has helped local or national healthcare systems have access to the PPE they need. Apparel manufactures like New Balance and L.L. Bean, along with smaller brands, are making face masks. Distilleries and cosmetic firms are making hand sanitizer. A little over a week ago, car manufacturer General Motors began mass production of ventilators.

What can these companies expect to receive in exchange for their efforts? One possible outcome: improved morale.

Since learning of Wahl’s support of KSB Hospital and other health networks, Finucane, the company’s national director of education, says “it makes me want to work that much harder, and I’ve been on 24/7 days since this started.”

“When I see what’s going on in other industries, with people furloughed or eliminated, I’m proud of my company and how they’ve responded. In my entire career, I’ve never worked for another company that so lived values-driven leadership.”

Exploring values-driven leadership in response to the coronavirus pandemic

The Wahl Clipper story is an example of values-driven leaderships in response to the SARS-CoV-2, or coronavirus, pandemic. In this unparalleled time of disruption, we are inspired by the business leaders who have found creative ways to strengthen their communities, care for their people, and sustain their businesses.

Starting this week, the Center for Values-Driven Leadership is compiling short stories of business leaders who are taking big and small actions to rise to the challenge of COVID-19 with generosity, resilience, and hope. We believe these stories will be an encouragement for you. Find more at this link.

To start with, you might enjoy this article that features more efforts at KSB Hospital to support essential healthcare workers.

To learn more about Wahl Clipper’s shields, visit this link.