Over the past year, appliance company executives have faced a once-in-a-lifetime convergence of unique and pressing leadership challenges. From COVID-19 to significant economic and political uncertainty, the trends of 2020 have touched every aspect of appliance manufacturing. 
  
This special HomeWork series features interviews with top executives from AHAM member companies to share what they have learned from the unprecedented events of the past year, as well as their insights on important leadership issues like mentorship, diversity and inclusion, and recent consumer trends. 
  
The second installment of AHAM’s HomeWork Executive Leadership Series features Mark Bissell, Chairman and CEO, BISSELL Inc.

1. What lessons about leadership will you take away from 2020?
This has been a challenging time for our associates, communities and the world at large. From a leadership perspective, the need to communicate has never been greater. This comes in many forms and has included emails, video recordings, collaborative apps such as Microsoft Teams, and of course, the ever-present Zoom meeting. In an environment where things are being done differently than ever before, the need to be agile is critical. Leading by example is also important. I limit my visits to the office because I do not want others to have the expectation that they need to be there as well. Another is the continuation of our summer hours with a shortened day on Friday, which gives our associates some downtime for themselves or to spend with their families. Lastly, the planning horizon has shifted and the need to respond to changes, some daily, has never been greater. Freeing the organization of some processes has been critical to empowerment, speed and decision making. I talk a lot about our core values and the impact they have on our culture. It has been gratifying to see how well this is working within our virtual workplace today. 
  
2. What is the most significant consumer trend that you have seen accelerated by COVID?
Unquestionably the acceleration of e-commerce. All online businesses are thriving in this environment. 
  
3. How important is it for leaders to foster a culture of mentorship in their organizations? What makes an effective mentor?
With the inability to come to the office, mentoring, particularly with new associates, has never been more important. An effective mentor is genuinely interested in the mentee, has a high degree of empathy and works to an agreed set of deliverables. 
  
4. Many companies have large numbers of staff working remotely. Has this presented any challenges or opportunities for your company?
Like many companies, we have been pleasantly surprised by how well remote work has gone. From technology to associate accountability, it has been a success. It has allowed us to expand our candidate pool and opened positions to a more diverse and geographically dispersed work force. 
The downsides are also well known and include a blurred line between work and home life, personal isolation and general burnout. 
  
5. What is the best advice about leadership you have ever received?
Walk the talk.
  
6. What does your company gain from its involvement in AHAM, and how do you encourage your employees to stay involved?
AHAM has leveraged our staff across several critical dimensions including government advocacy, product safety and standards, as well as providing important industry updates and various forums for deeper learning and networking. 
  
7. How has a diverse and inclusive workforce helped your company to meet its objectives?
Undoubtedly, this is central to every company today. The short answer is we want our workforce to mirror that of our customer. There is proven research on the value of diversity in decision-making. This is also a topic that is deeply important to our associates and they want to know what management is doing to promulgate D&I. 
  
8. If you could go back in time 20 years, what would you tell your younger self?
Don’t wait, do it now from personal to business actions. Dream bigger, it won’t happen if you can’t visualize it. 
  
9. What would be your dream job outside of your current industry?
Food and wine critic living in Italy.
HomeWork headshot
Mark Bissell
Chairman and CEO
BISSELL Inc.

Looking for past issues of HomeWork?

June 2024
Diane Hoffmann
Brand Director
Cascade Partnerships and Technicians
Procter & Gamble
April 2024
TJ Stoffer
Senior Marketing Manager
North America
Electrolux Group
January 2024
Winston Lindsay
CEO
Lindsay Manufacturing
December 2023
Lara Peterson
Senior Vice President
Marketing – Beauty and Wellness
Helen of Troy
November 2023
Chloe Zeng
Senior Marketing Manager
Marketing & Strategy Dept.
Tuya Smart
October 2023
Nathan Mouw
Senior Director
Global Product Safety & Regulatory Affairs
Whirlpool Corporation
September 2023
Brian McWaters
Vice President
Food Preparation
Electrolux North America
August 2023
Ed Vlacich
Chief Executive Officer
Lasko Products
2022
Mark Zielinski
Director, Merchandising
Demand Planning & Product Line
Electrolux Major Appliances Canada
2022
Pamela Klyn
Sr. Vice President
Corporate Relations & Sustainability
Whirlpool Corporation
2022
Vikram Shrivastava
Senior Director
AISonic Edge Processors
Knowles Corporation
2022
Julie Rippy
Director
Product Safety and Regulatory Compliance
Vornado Air
2022
Stephen Gatz
Lead Engineer
Codes and Safety
Whirlpool Corporation
2021
Evan Hoffman
Director
State and Local Government Relations
Philips
2021
Lucian Strong
Commercial Vice President
Sales
CoorsTek
2021
Joe Liotine
Executive Vice President
North America Region
Whirlpool Corporation
2021
Nolan Pike
President and CEO
Electrolux North America
2020
Darryl McCartney
IoT Technical Sales Director for the Americas
Microsoft
2020
Mark Bissell
Chairman and CEO
BISSELL Inc.
2020
Dr. Markus Miele
Executive Director and Co-proprietor
Miele
2020
Viren Shah
Vice President and Chief Digital Officer
GE Appliances, a Haier company
2020
Elena Breda
Senior Vice President
Global Product Category Food Preservation
Electrolux
2020
Nate Cho
Director
Internet of Things
Electrolux
2019
Carl Eckersley
Director
iRobot
Product Compliance
2019
Julie Wood
Senior Director
Public Relations
GE Appliances, a Haier company
2019
Tim Ferry
Group President
Tools & Home Products
Emerson
2019
Debbie Mudway
Senior Vice President
Global Marketing
Helen of Troy - Health & Home
2019
Jim Sanduski
President
Sharp Home Electronics Company of America
2019
Manfred Staebler
Vice President
Government Affairs
BSH Home Appliances Corporation, North America
2019
Steve Ver Strat
Regulatory Policy Director
Amway Corporation
2019
Dochul Choi
Senior Vice President
Global Business and Technology Strategy
Samsung Electronics America
2019
Tom Siwek
Vice President
Safety, Compliance and CORE Quality
SharkNinja Operating LLC
2018
Patricia Bassett
Vice President
Research and Development, Appliances and Cookware
Newell Brands
2018
Dan Query
Vice President and General Manager
Product Line Management
Electrolux Home Products NA
2018
Steve Nackers
Corporate Manager
Electronic Controls
Sub-Zero Group
2018
Paulo da Silva
Senior Director
Laundry Merchandising
Whirlpool Corporation
2018
John Taylor
Senior Vice President
Public Affairs and Communications
LG Electronics USA, Inc.
2018
Andy Chinmulgund
Founder and CEO
Bruviti
2018
Lenore Kaplan
Head of Competitor Intelligence for the Americas
Dyson
2018
Melanie Cook
Chief Operating Officer
GE Appliances, a Haier company