Klarna are a unicorn.
In startup-speak — that means they’ve reached a billion dollar valuation, but I think there’s something even more magical and rare about Klarna: they’re a large business which has managed keep its small business culture, mindset and pace — yet with the support and weight that comes with being a large business.
At the start of 2018, the 11 year old Swedish fintech redesigned itself around a new operating model, where no team is larger than 7 people, each team has its own mini-CEO, is responsible for defining its own problem space, mission, and how it delivers against solving that problem, including managing their own budget and people they want to hire.
It’s Klarna’s solution for continuing to move at the pace of a start-up, despite being a global business with over 2000 employees, and set to hire another 1000 this year. Small autonomous teams, who share their progress via regular contact with the most senior members of the business, who simply: get. stuff. Done. 250+ teams all moving at pace, not needing to wait for a department somewhere else signing something off. If they need a developer, they hire one. If they need a marketer, they hire one. If they need a chef, they hire one.
However, when you have an ambition to have a strong singular brand in the market — 250 teams who all have end to end responsibility: from creating, selling and marketing their own products, you might end up with 250 different ways of telling the Klarna story.
So, there’s a team in the business: Commercial Offering (perhaps oddly named..) who also have a problem they’re solving. Helping Klarna to talk with a single voice to their business customers.
That’s the team I’ve been supporting for the past six months. My mission was to help bring a clear, consistent and compelling narrative for their product marketing — and enable the entire business to sing with the same voice.
It’s a never ending job — so whilst the first six months were about establishing some ground-rules; understanding the inside of Klarna, and the outside of its customers; creating a strategic framework around product marketing; and starting to build a platform which acts as a ‘marketing strategist in a box’ for every single person in the business who needs to talk about their work — the project has really only just started, and the Commercial Offering team has subsequently grown from 2.5 people to 7 — which means simply we can do more, and things will continue to accelerate.
That growth in the team size offers its own challenges too though — so we used the Manual of Me to introduce each other and explore our own motivations and best states of working, which hopefully will form a strong foundation for the team moving ahead.
My aim in being an independant is to learn, and at the end of each mission, I’ll be aiming to gather constructive feedback from my teams, and curate one or two things I’d want to take forward into the next project.
Klarna taught me so much — but I’ll focus on just three things:
- Strategy is pointless without action. It doesn’t matter how clever your thinking is — if it doesn’t manifest, it isn’t a good strategy. Don’t aim for perfect — get your thinking to a point where it is useful enough to guide people in roughly the right direction, and then learn from acting in that way.
- Openness and Vulnerability is essential. Don’t put on a brave face if you don’t know how to do something. Share your weaknesses but be open to giving things a go with support, and make sure you know how to ask for help.
- The Swedes have magic metabolisms. I don’t know how they eat so much delicious cake and candy without being fat. I guess I still have more to learn from them.
I’m looking forward to continuing working with Klarna in the future — but we’ll be changing our working model, which is also a learning for both me and my client Mikael, clearly defined projects and missions which I can add intense bursts of focus to — rather than open-ended ‘being available as part of a team’.
Develop a clear, consistent and compelling commercial offering for Klarna.
January-August 2018, between London and Stockholm. 4 days a week.
- Team Mission Development
- Domain Mission Development
- Audience Strategy
- Commercial Offering “Narrative”
- B2B Product Marketing content and direction
- Process Development
- Prototyping and Platform Development
- External Agency Relationship
Matthew took me by storm. Marketing Strategists don’t always understand the business they are trying to support or the needs it has on a great brand and communications. Matthew does. His true strength lies in the combination of strategy ideation, prototyping and follow through. I’ve never met a person that has such a sharp strategy mind while also enjoying getting his hands dirty prototyping the ideas. Understanding big directions and strategies and being able to work out what that means for the small parts of a system.
— Mikael Oldebäck, Head of Commercial Offering.
This is an overview of a recent project from Foxlark — an independent strategy and innovation practice. We help teams explore their future, and make it happen sooner. If you’re interested in working with us, please say hello.