Thor Wood founded SnapShyft, a Labor Marketplace, which he also runs as CEO. Adapting to the new developments brought on by the gig economy, Snapshyft looks to take advantage of the model to bring the best workers to assist various essential industries so that they can operate at full staff consistently.
At SnapShyft, Thor Wood connects “frontline essential workers with in-demand work opportunities.” The company also builds and refines “cloud-based staffing software and mobile app,” which was developed specifically for use by business operating in the “food manufacturing, food and beverage services, and hospitality operations” sectors. Through the company, Thor fulfills his passion for “generating positive socioeconomic impact” using the gig economy, through “removing friction and bottlenecks,” ensuring increased worker mobility.
As a business founder, Thor Wood shows a marked obsession “with connecting businesses with fully vetted and qualified industry professionals.” Through his work, he has received recognition from various publications and outlets. Among these recognitions are placing in the Top 15 at the 2019 Startup of the Year awards; receiving the 2018 Indiana Innovation Award; being nominated for the 2018 Startup of the Year, 2018 Tech Service of the Year; and winning the 2016 Indy Start Up Challenge. With SnapShyft, Thor looks to “set a new standard for staffing” in the food and beverage industry.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Thor Wood: When I entered my thirties all evidence was pointing towards me finding a way to carve my own path. I had become disenchanted with the state of the recruiting/staffing industry as a whole and I realized I was no longer getting joy from the “job” despite the autonomy I had while running my own recruiting agency in southwest Florida. I became highly motivated to make a change after my partner and I learned we were expecting a baby girl (my first) — truthfully I was terrified but also this wonderful news completely altered my frame of mind almost overnight, and I knew I wanted to redefine what success meant (to me) and build something truly special, and find joy once again. It wasn’t until about a year later I had a clear picture of what I wanted to build — a reliable on-demand labor marketplace that had the immediacy and consistency of Uber or Lyft, yet was hyper focused on a single overlooked industry (hospitality); basically finding a way to cut out ineffective middlemen (temp staffing agencies). So I began the process of fleshing out the general concept by doing deep market research, and interviewing industry experts I could get access to; really my goal was to poke as many holes into the concept as possible to disprove my hypotheses.
All told it took about 9 months of this (while still running my agency) before we committed to relocating to a “burgeoning tech ecosystem” that we could benefit from being a part of. And Indianapolis rose to the top of our list mainly due to the positive reverberations that were coming from the Salesforce acquisition of local tech company ExactTarget ($2.4B), and I had family ties to potentially help offset supporting us and the kids. We relocated to Indy, and within a couple months found ourselves immersed in popular local meetups for entrepreneurs and startups, and even joined a startup bootcamp and pitch competition — which we won armed with only a basic pitch deck! That moved us to get to work building the product.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Thor Wood: There were a number of factors combined to create adverse conditions for me (us) — but I have never fathomed throwing in the towel. I was a first-time founder therefore I was really learning everything about building a tech startup on-the-fly; I wasn’t a “technical founder” (i.e. coding, engineering background, etc) so I had to gain access to the right resources to move from a pitch deck to prototype to working product; fundraising as a technology startup in the midwest presents its own set of challenges, as does technology adoption for the industry we set out to change — so we sure had our work cut out for us.
An example of a rookie mistake was related to some decisions that I made early on with product development which pushed our launch date back by 8 months while burning through the little capital we had available to us. It actually ended up being 13 months after winning the startup competition that we finally launched our product out of beta. Momentum is key and with Indianapolis being our launch market we lost some local energy & momentum because of the delays.
Having gone through it the way we did, by all accounts there is no logical reason to subject oneself to the pain & torture of startup life — sacrificing friendships, straining familial relationships, and forget having hobbies or financial security; basically risking everything for the chance to make a difference, and maybe create a legacy. Because this is a life of sacrifice I had to consciously look for the rewards scattered all along the way — really learning to enjoy the journey and not ruminate on just the end goal. So for me, rather than taking on the world all at once and potentially deteriorating in the face of the challenges we faced, I began to focus on keeping my head down and only taking small bites — working towards getting a little better each day, and taking moments throughout my day to breathe it all in, smile or laugh a bit, and appreciate how fortunate I am to be doing what I’m doing. Because after all, I asked for this.
Pushing forward has been bolstered due to validation received from our backers like 500 Startups, gener8tor, SaaS Growth Ventures, and Alumni Ventures — plus some fantastic angels that had belief in the team early on. What continues to drive us forward is our purpose being about ‘quantifiable user impact’ — The more we peeled back layers of what this industry goes through in normal times (let alone COVID times) the more we became sensitive to the impact we were having and what the outcomes could be long term for both workers and businesses.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Thor Wood: A funny mistake I made was during testing and product review — Our then technical-founder and development team produced all of the initial verbiage throughout the product (for a brief period of time we had an outside dev shop doing work for us on the front end); And as part of my previously mentioned poor decisions on product development — there was a lack of oversight on my part. So for the longest time we kept finding pretty comedic errors with the English syntax on everything from automated messages, app alerts, onboarding screens and forms, receipts, and so forth.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you please share your “Five Things You Need To Know To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results?” Please share a story or an example for each.
- Remove any assumptions — Boil everything down to a hypothesis. The goal is to prove or disprove while working with the “knowns”.
- Deliver clear reasoning (a clear why) — Clearly tie any task or objective to the big picture; most likely the only metric that matters for your company, or perhaps the north star for example. Cause and effect are at play and what one department does can have a positive impact on or sometimes impede another. Encourage open communication & cross pollination to eliminate blockages — i.e. things that are preventing one person/team from hitting the target.
- Ensure clarity of goals & targets — Everyone should have a good grasp of how their work contributes to the broader goals. Of course the ability to deliver on objectives and key results (OKR’s) is fundamental but it can be done most effectively when the individuals and the group as a whole know exactly what the desired end results look like. This will help avoid getting paralyzed, and allow everyone to move more quickly — to evaluate more quickly. It’s beneficial that all goals are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based).
- Assign responsibilities accordingly — Look to identify the people that might elevate the team by introducing new ideas that’ve been cultivated from different fields, as well as work and life experiences. For a given role we look for cognitive diversity i.e. differences in how people process information– in other words how they think. This can become a powerful way to break from the status quo that stems from ‘checking a box’.
- Protect your time — Avoid wasting half of your time by delegating all the low-value and uninteresting work to machines & tools. This will effectively eliminate low-level work obligations off your plate and free up more time for the things that matter like high-leverage tasks, etc.
- BONUS (ties in with #2) — I believe creating a culture of continuous improvement is essential i.e. to always be improving. This should include life outside of work. So we begin our regular meetings with each team member sharing something they improved upon on a personal level or within the confines of their work environment, followed by sharing a specific problem or issue they are facing. This allows for a collective celebration of big and small victories, and also opens the door for collaboration on problems both intra-department and cross-departmentally. By creating time for the team to share together about something they are facing (again personal or work related) without forcing a solution right away can produce different and better outcomes.
Jerome Knyszewski: One of the obstacles to proper delegating is the oft quoted cliche “If you want something done right do it yourself.” Is this saying true? Is it false? Is there a way to reconcile it with the importance of delegating?
Thor Wood: In the early days of launching a company I believe you must do all things yourself, so yes. Then you can isolate what works or what doesn’t and document the process — only then can you effectively delegate. There is much less, if any, delegation in the early stages of a startup and how the founder approaches everything really becomes the bedrock for company culture. Of course delegating comes with the territory as company headcount grows, and, long term, delegating to a cognitively diverse team will produce different modes of thinking, and these types of teams can solve complex problems at a faster clip versus people that approach problems in the same fashion (what we see most often from traditional corporate environs). This is important to consider because the ability to delegate by leveraging diversity in background, experiences, and culture will be the driver of innovation and improve the prospects for success.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!