The Shelby Report and The Grocery Group have introduced a new series entitled People to Watch that focuses on current and future leadership in the grocery industry. In this third installment, The Grocery Group Founder and CEO Cindy Sorensen interviews Samantha Indgjer, operations supervisor for Edina, Minnesota-based Lunds & Byerlys.
Cindy Sorensen: Tell me a little bit about you and what you like to do with your time away from the office.
Samantha Indgjer: As a workaholic 23-year-old living in Minnesota, my time outside of the building is usually spent maintaining the balance between home and work life. I am often either visiting my partner of five years—who lives in Illinois, despite my attempts to persuade him over here—or caring for my mini zoo: a collective of plants, two larger-sized fish tanks, a busy gerbil and an attention-seeking huge rabbit. When I have free time, I am often found working on my art and my writing as I have a bachelor’s degree in art and a minor in creative writing. One day I hope to publish at least one book as well as gather enough artwork to submit to some art shows and/or festivals/fairs.
Provide a brief description of Lunds & Byerlys.
Indgjer: Lunds & Byerlys is a family-owned company that has been serving the Twin Cities and the surrounding area for nearly 80 years. Today there are 27 stores and each focuses on providing each and every customer with extraordinary food, exceptional service and passionate expertise.
Sorensen: What is your role at Lunds & Byerlys? Responsibilities?
Indgjer: My position has been in a constant state of change since I officially graduated from college and decided to stay in the grocery industry. Currently, I would say my role mainly consists of ensuring that the store runs as smoothly as possible, with an emphasis on the front end. I handle questions, complaints, order supplies, assist my cashiers and courtesy clerks with whatever they may need, and maneuver our customers through the store so that they are able to find things and receive help if need be. Additionally, I deal with bookkeeping, daily operations, assisting with our self-checkouts, working our customer service counter, which mainly consists of postal and lottery, and ensuring that our online shopping department is operating smoothly. I also have written several training manuals specific to our store, one of which was turned into a companywide training manual for online shopping.
Sorensen: What was your career path to this position?
Indgjer: I applied for a cashier position at Lunds & Byerlys on a whim in 2015. I found I enjoyed it and, when I graduated in 2017, I decided to stick around indefinitely. My superiors almost immediately started to train me in new aspects of the store—a fact that has motivated me immensely. That summer, I was trained at our customer service counter as well as our self-checkouts. By the time August came around, they promoted me to store supervisor—a part-time position within our company. Deciding that I was able to learn quickly, they also started to train me in our online shopping department, giving me the opportunity to lead and grow that facet of our store. They also gave me a brief stint in produce before finally deciding the front end needed me far more. Around September of 2018, I was offered a full-time position as operations supervisor.
Sorensen: What do you see as the greatest opportunities for workforce and leadership development within the grocery industry?
Indgjer: I think the greatest opportunity for development—any kind of development—is making sure that a variety of voices are being heard. It is imperative that new and upcoming voices are included as a part of that mix. The consumer market is an ever-changing world. I believe that fresh blood in the water helps any industry to adapt to its surroundings. I’m proud of my company for the work it does in promoting youths into positions of power and/or potential positions of power to help make these new voices heard.
Sorensen: In previous discussions we’ve had, I’ve heard you reference Lunds & Byerlys’ emphasis on developing future leadership; tell me a little more about that.
Indgjer: I feel that I’ve been incredibly fortunate, as I mentioned, to see key positions given to younger staff members that are joining our company. I have watched so many incredible people get the chance to move on to bigger and better things within our company and seen so many success stories that it is inspiring to be a part of it all. Lunds & Byerlys, as a whole, works hard to see the potential in people rather than assessing them at their current face value, which I think is important, as some people are just lacking resources and tools to become the very best they can be. There are many internal programs and external resources provided to mold these often-young individuals into exemplary managers and leaders within the grocery industry. This emphasis on development is focused on opportunity and presenting as much of it as possible. This company is plentiful in its chances at advancement and chock-full of mentors willing to push and coach individuals to fulfill that potential we all see in them.
Sorensen: Do you personally play a role in helping to develop/coach/mentor future leadership in the industry either internally or externally?
Indgjer: To me, being a supervisor ultimately means that I am expected to mentor people. I work directly with a majority of 14- to 18-year-olds, people who are just starting a career, or just looking for a summer job, much like I was. Teaching these kids, having them look to me for help and learning about each one so I can better help them be as successful at their job as they want to be is what makes me come to work. I love working with them and giving them many of the same opportunities that were presented to me. I am very thankful for the number of people I’ve gotten the chance to train, teach and encourage forward in my short time as a supervisor. Even if none of these kids decides to stick around once they figure out where they want to be, I am happy to show them that there is the possibility of a career in the grocery industry, that it can be a fun and rewarding place to exist.
Sorensen: Did you utilize or participate in any mentoring/coaching experiences as you developed your career?
Indgjer: Yes, without a doubt. I am only 23, so of course, I’ve made mistakes, and sometimes I wasn’t all there. Sometimes other factors in my life made it difficult for me to understand and comprehend everything I was supposed to. The people at my store, as a whole, have all rallied around me to become a larger family—one that has supported me and taught me many things. My most important mentor is a woman named Keri Bergstrom. She has presented me with an abundance of opportunity and knowledge. Without that backbone, I honestly don’t believe I would still be in the grocery industry, as navigating the intricacies of people can prove to be, sometimes, very challenging. However, I am still here and in a place where I am delighted to be. I take great pride in the mentors that helped me develop within the world of grocery and, ultimately, customer service.
Sorensen: What advice do you have for college students and young professionals looking at the grocery industry as one where they can build a career?
Indgjer: Every day is different, and it’s really fun! There’s truly a niche for everyone in this industry. Sometimes it takes some searching; other times it just falls into your lap. There’s so much knowledge in grocery, so many different facets to master and discover. It’s not just bagging, stocking and counting money. My favorite thing is that everywhere you go, even with people from a different company, you find that the grocery industry feels like a large extended family. We all went through the same struggles, and we just “get it.” For those questioning if it is a rewarding and fulfilling career, I will tell you right now that you can definitely make a living and have a worthwhile career within grocery. On the plus side, job security is great as everyone has to eat!
Sorensen: What pieces of advice have you found to be most helpful as you build your career?
- “You can’t make everyone happy.” A regular customer once told me that early on in my career, after witnessing a particularly brutal interaction. “You can try, and you will make a million more leave with a smile, but don’t let that one decide that you are a failure; keep that smile strong.”
- The industry isn’t always as fair as it should be, but if you never give up showing your worth, an even better opportunity is always presented.
- Your job is only what you put into it.
Sorensen: What else would you like the readers of The Shelby Report to know about you, Lunds & Byerlys and/or other relevant industry information and insights?
Indgjer: I don’t know if my insights are as valuable as others, as I’m still learning exactly where my place is in the industry. However, I’m ever grateful to you and The Shelby Report for allowing me this opportunity to speak nonetheless. I hope to learn more and become a bigger asset to the industry in the near future.