Convenience, as a retail concept, once meant providing a product or experience within a reasonable walk or drive, perhaps on the way home from work or in a town nearby. Or, perhaps the positioning of the products on shelves - like snacks on the shelves next to the checkout.
Now, however, convenience is governed by a new set of rules. Driven by technology, our on-demand culture and likely reinforced by the pandemic which has turned us away from busy high-streets, convenience technology in unlocking revenue potential for retailers.
At the tip of the convenience, technology spear is Northfork, a recipe shopping technology company that integrates with online retailers to provide recipes in the shopping experience, and for browsing consumers, seamless experience to add the recipe items to their basket.
With the acquisition of client such as Walmart, Northfork’s growth has been rapid. At the heart of their growth lies a hiring strategy that has enabled the continued development of their product at scale. We sat down with Erik Wallin, CMO and Co-Founder at Northfork, to discuss the nuances in their hiring strategy.
Working in the grocery industry up until his time at University, Erik fell naturally into his role as a key account manager at Arla Foods. Here Erik nurtured his fascination in sales, processes and the psychology of buying.
After moving to a few different sales manager roles, Erik’s heritage caught up with him.
“My Father and my Grandfather were both business owners. I wanted to grow that way and build an organisation that can drive change.”
Discovering a hitch in the growing second-hand online sales market, Erik founded his first startup which would provide an environmentally friendly logistics service.
“That company started with a Facebook Group. That got some traction that I could raise capital on and after attracting other investors, I committed to resigning from that company.”
Bitten by the start-up bug, Erik was determined to return to his groceries roots with the lessons he had learned from his previous companies. Erik, together with Co-Founder Robin, founded Northfork as a spin-off of Robins’ grocery shopping platform Gastrofy. Quickly after, Erik moved into operations with the goal of commercialising Northfork and has seen success after success.
“We have the biggest retailers in Sweden using our arm technology. And last year, we launched with the world's biggest retailer, Walmart. It’s very exciting stuff to do from our little office in Stockholm.”
Now, Erik’s attention turns to scaling the teams within Northfork to meet growing demand.
Scaling Teams Effectively Through The Use of Onboarding Projects
Hiring for your startup is no small feat. Not only do you have to consider the often delicate balance of your teams, but you also have to consider the rapidly scaling demand of investors and clients.
One of the pieces of hiring advice we give to the start-ups we work with is to give a new hire a chance to make an immediate impact. Erik and Northfork have taken this to the next level.
“It's pretty difficult to achieve change during the first six months, maybe. So we have a new system where people should prove themselves and add significant value in two months.”
After making hires into the technology team at Northfork that interviewed and tested well, but failed to deliver after 12 months, the team developed an onboarding project that helps new hires make an immediate impact while also giving a clear pass and fail outcome for new hires.
“If it’s customer support or VP of Tech, the person will get a very clearly defined project that they should run themselves, which will also force them to work with all parts, all departments of the company. We can easily measure performance, get feedback from the other colleagues and finish with a tangible artefact we can judge performance on.”
Onboarding programmes often come under fire for feeling a bit like a box-ticking exercise that provides no value for employee or employer. Northfork’s move towards project-based onboarding cuts that out immediately.
“If we put a business problem into the hands of people, they can achieve something immediately feel that they are contributing to the business. And it's much easier for us to evaluate if it's a good match with a company.”
This task, as well as facilitating an immediate impact for the employee, will also contribute towards a company objective - something that helps with the engagement of the new hire.
“If you ask someone to do a task, they’ll figure out pretty quickly if it’s irrelevant or not. This can have a knock-on effect on their engagement with the employer. It’s a trust thing. Give your new employee something important to do and you’ll earn their trust.”
Making Exec Hires
Hiring for startups is always tough, hiring at the executive level can be downright terrifying. Depending on the stage of your company, you’ll likely want different things from an Exec hire. For Erik, and Northfork, who are currently scaling rapidly, it’s about finding someone who can take the lead on projects and has the grit to drive them forwards.
“Firstly, do they understand our vision? Secondly, can they translate that into a project and, most importantly, can they roll their sleeves up in this project and drive it forwards?”
The Future and Northfork
Continuing to disrupt the online grocery market, Northfork is setting their sights on further expansion with a robust hiring strategy that not only protects the company from mismatches but also provides a platform for the right candidate to make an immediate impact.