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We are working with Northern Brewer in their search for a VP of IT, Ecommerce based in St. Paul, MN It’s one of the coolest VP IT jobs on the planet.

Northern Brewer is rapidly growing ecommerce and retail supplier of high demand specialty consumer products with the leading position in the homebrewing and winemaking industry. Reporting to the President, the VP of IT, Ecommerce will manage and oversee all of the company’s information and technology to support business growth.

The VP of IT will instill best-in-class ecommerce practices and build the company’s IT infrastructure (company-wide) while serving as a member of the senior executive team. Additionally, s/he will develop and execute the IT roadmap within budget while supporting the marketing and fulfillment functions with information and tools in order to help the company manage growth and maximize profits.

The VP of IT’s project management and leadership capabilities, as well as his or her hands-on approach, are key drivers of the company’s success. And it won’t hurt if s/he enjoys brewing beer with friends …

HARRY’S COMMENTS: Every time we work with this client, it’s a blast. We learn a lot, and we have a great time. Northern Brewer is the Home Depot of the homebrewing space. Don’t laugh. It’s a fantastic industry that is growing like a weed.

Legalized for the first time in 1978, homebrewing is now legal in all 50 states – although there are statutes in some states that prevent home brewers from removing their beer from their homes. Such statues limit home brewers from building their communities through club meetings, festivals, and competition, which is a drag because home brewers are an incredibly social (and loud!) subculture.

Despite these isolated restrictions, homebrewing has seen 20% annual growth in recent years. The American Homebrewer’s Association has 38,000 members, and the AHA estimates that more than one million Americans brew beer or make wine at home at least once a year.

To give you an idea of the lifetime value of a typical homebrewer, here’s a look at some of the costs involved in this hobby:

  • Basic beginner equipment kits start around $80.
  • Ingredients cost $25 to $45 per 5 gallon batch, depending on the style being brewed (5 gallons makes about 2 cases of 12-ounce bottles, with 24 bottles per case).

Home brew is usually made from malt, malt extract, yeast, hops, and water – and you can count on it taking approximately four weeks before your beer is drinkable. Brewing is two hours; fermentation takes two weeks; and the carbonation of the beer takes two weeks, give or take.

But boy, is it worth it! If you’ve ever had homebrewed beer, you’ll understand the attraction. When brewed right, homebrew is awesome, and the market is everything a self-respecting capitalist would dream about:

  1. Passionate
  2. Addressable
  3. Affordably reachable
  4. Well funded
  5. Self-referencing (meaning they talk to each other), plus …
  6. The business has “backend” continuity potential.

Factors supporting the market’s growth include a demographic shift to younger brewers, from a previous average age of ~40 to folks in their 20’s and early 30’s. in short, Northern Brewer is the kind of company I’d invest my own money in.

About the Role

Since our last search, the client has merged with Midwest Supplies, its largest competitor. Individually, the two companies were the 1st and 2nd largest in the industry. Today, Northern Brewer / Midwest Supplies is the dominant player in the homebrewing space. Additionally, the firm continues to enjoy success in the winemaking and other edible craft categories. The company is currently in the $50 to $75 million range and is growing at very healthy double digits. This ain’t no mom and pop shop.

According to President, David Kidd (who’s a CPA, an Eagle Scout, and an Arjay Miller Scholar from Stanford B-school …), the company just completed a major integration of the two businesses, which has generally gone well. The firm’s outgoing CIO was terrific, and he did an excellent job of partnering with multiple functions, including marketing, finance, merchandising, procurement, and more. Additionally, the former CIO was technically savvy and worked hard to make sure that all of the company’s systems were “live” and operated effectively. His shoes are big, but fillable.

Northern Brewer has two websites: and Combined, these are the two most heavily trafficked websites in the industry.

Meaning: Uptime and scalability are essential to the sites’ experience.

To hear David Kidd tell it, “Northern Brewer’s new VP of IT, Ecommerce must be an incredibly business-oriented IT person with great project management skills, who comes from an ecommerce business and who knows already what it takes to host a scalable website, keep it going, get it through the development cycle, work with partners, develop modules and functions, QA those and deploy them in a resource friendly way.”

Kidd continues, “The VP of IT must understand how to maximize our sites’ reliability on days like Cyber Monday, in addition to knowing how to work with UPS and FedEx to integrate tracking codes, as well as aligning the site with the company’s distribution system. We need someone who has “been there and done that” in a direct to consumer e-commerce business or multichannel retail environment. It’s essential that the new VP of IT, Ecommerce know-how to work with Fulfillment and Marketing.”

Currently, the IT department includes 6 people, and the firm is looking to hire an additional 2 people this year. Overall, there are plenty of resources for the new VP, and the firm tends to flex and use a lot of external partners to get things done when necessary. We are looking for someone to manage it all.

How can you hit the ground running in this role?

Northern Brewer has a modest holiday planning project that needs to be accomplished. At a high-level, the project involves improving the firm’s fulfillment capabilities by improving inventory management. Currently, Northern Brewer is working with a NetSuite / WMS consultant on that initiative. Additionally, Northern Brewer seeks to improve its project management capabilities, with more projects happening on time and on budget. Second, the new VP of IT should do an assessment of the firm’s web hosting relationships to ensure that the firm can scale through holiday 2013.

In terms of the outcomes of this position, it’s really all about developing a roadmap, and executing projects in a resource friendly time sensitive manner. Northern Brewer needs an IT leader who knows how to roadmap the business, generate buy-in for those initiatives, and execute around the plan. It’s really that simple. The firm needs strong website reliability, site speed, and uptime. Additionally, the firm seeks an IT leader who can rapidly deploy any changes to the site using agile methodologies while maintaining high levels of employee engagement.

If all this sounds fairly straightforward, it is.

Northern Brewer intends to embark on a number of really cool projects next year that involve technology and the social oriented nature of homebrewing. The company’s ecommerce platform is Magento, and its sites are hosted at Rackspace. The firm is still integrating some of its backend film and systems that were built on NetSuite, and its order management system is homegrown.

Northern Brewer is in a great industry, and the firm is growing fast. This is a leadership position where you will be one of the top 4 people in the firm. If that’s of interest to you (or an A-player you know), then we’d love to hear from you.

Key Outcomes:

  1. Improve website reliability – maximize uptime and performance
  2. Rapidly develop, test, and implement site enhancements
  3. Deliver projects within budget and on time
  4. Maintain high levels of employee engagement

Job Responsibilities:

Directing IT:

  • Help instill best-in-class ecommerce practices with strong multi-channel marketing capabilities
  • Execute IT roadmap, prioritizing major IT projects for the calendar year and beyond
  • Develop project plans specifying goals, strategy, staffing, scheduling, identification of risks, contingency plans, and allocation of available resources
  • Develop and follow a budget, monitoring and reporting on any variances

Project Execution:

  • Create and execute project work plans and revise as appropriate to meet changing requirements
  • Manage internal and external resources within budget and project schedule
  • Delegate work to IT staff and third party vendors / developers


  • Share vision and project requirements with management, colleagues, vendors, and employees
  • Coordinate activities with marketing, merchandising, fulfillment, and customer service to ensure goals and requirements are met
  • Deliver informative, well-organized proposals and recommendations

Architecture Monitoring:

  • Provide secure and reliable network infrastructure
  • Possess significant knowledge of client server and internet systems architectures
  • Understand browser specific compatibility issues


  • Ensure all IT systems are safe and secure
  • Comply with PCI requirements and follow security and performance standards typical with ecommerce companies and required by law or regulation
  • Create a secure way of storing all company information and documents
  • Enforce hardware and software security policies, including password management
  • Monitor information backup procedures and instill strong disaster recovery practices

General Leadership:

  • Generate enthusiasm among team members
  • Manage the process of innovative change
  • Contribute to our team oriented and positive culture
  • Be a leader and a doer

Key Qualifications:

  • IT leadership in a B2C ecommerce environment (or multichannel marketing with strong web preference) for a product company
  • Related fulfillment systems experience for ecommerce or mailorder businesses: ERP, WMS, CRM, etc.
  • Proven success in IT project management in a growing enterprise


  • Bachelor degree in CS and / or MIS preferred; advance degree a plus.
  • 10+ years of IT experience, with 5 recent years in a B2C ecommerce or multichannel marketing company, with a track record of success and increasing responsibility.
  • Successful project management roles at similar sized business / division ($50M to $100M revenue) with strong growth characteristics (20%+ YoY).
  • Experience in AGILE / Scrum methodologies.
  • Experience in managing multiple web properties.
  • Strong IT vendor evaluation and management abilities and a buy versus build orientation.
  • Knowledge of Magento and Netsuite preferred; experience implementing ERP and WMS systems a plus.
  • Experience managing employees and programmers while working within a budget and delivering results on time.
  • Excellent knowledge of documentation policies, procedures, and systems of internal control.
  • Business orientation and partnership approach for internal clients (marketing & fulfillment).

Applications for this position are being coordinated by Allan Seibert. To apply, CLICK HERECandidates, please be sure to email Allan for a packet of market research and company / competitive intel that will differentiate you in your candidacy. Due to the intensely competitive nature of this search, thorough preparation for these interviews with this proprietary material is strongly recommended.

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