Grassland Agro announced as exhibitor at the Agri Careers Fair
Mary Phelan meets Stan Lalor, group head of speciality business with Grassland Agro, and learns that a job with the company could lead to a career with a multinational employing 8,000 people globally.

Grassland Agro – which sources, produces and wholesales fertilisers – has been announced as an exhibitor at the Agri Careers Fair. The company, which also supplies soil conditioning products, animal mineral blocks and biostimulants, employs approximately 100 people and recruitment is ongoing, primarily for sales roles.

Stan Lalor, group head of speciality business with Grassland Agro, says the biggest employment opportunity with them is on the sales side of the business, particularly for on-farm sales people.

Grassland Agro looks for candidates with good communications skills who present themselves well and are professional. “Are they a good ambassador for the brand?” asks Stan simply. “After that, we look for good technical ability, and good attention to detail around administration. That’s pretty much it.”

Stan says sales can be a “lonely job”, but it can also be very rewarding. “It suits a certain type of individual.”

He says Grassland Agro’s focus on recruitment is two-sided. “We try and make sure the candidate is right for the job.” But the company also tries to ensure the job is right for the candidate. “If we take an individual who is 80% to 90% suitable for the job, we would factor in where their perceived vulnerability or weakness in the role might be. We take special care to help and develop them in this area – that’s the ideal, anyway.”

Stan says there is no set profile in terms of the type of person they hire for sales roles. “Generally speaking, our more successful people are those with more experience. They don’t have to have a degree.” He adds that “exposure to the agri industry is just as important as their exposure to the agri lecture theatre”.

Approximately one in five of the sales people working with Grassland Agro currently have degrees in ag science or a similar area. The qualifications held by the remainder vary from ag college training to national diplomas in agriculture, for example.

The fertiliser company is looking for candidates with transferable skills “which suggest they have the technical ability to handle the range of products”, says Stan. Although he does concede: “They don’t need to know all about it before they join us. They need to demonstrate that they can learn it.”

Grassland Agro is interested in candidates with a knowledge of the wider agricultural context. Stan encapsulates this trait with this question: “If I was to hand them eight or 10 headlines out of the Irish Farmers Journal last week, would they be able to give me a couple of sentences on some background to any one of them?”

Stan also stresses the need to add value to the customer. When a Grassland Agro employee leaves a farm, Grassland Agro wants the farmer to feel his or her farm is better off because that person was there – “because the information, the product, the advice they leave behind leaves that farmer better off”, says Stan.

Getting an interview

Grassland Agro looks for two things in a CV: some experience of selling and an indication that the candidate knows something about agriculture. “If both of those are missing, the CV will struggle to have an impact,” says Stan.

The ideal candidate could be a farmer, a farmer’s son or daughter, someone already working in sales or in the general agri-sector, for example.

Stan’s HR strategy is not to rush to take on people who aren’t 100% suitable, but to focus on the good people already in the company. “I put the activity around the recruitment of staff into four boxes,” says Stan. “You’re either finding people, making people, keeping people or losing people. Sometimes the emphasis is too much around finding and losing.”

Stan focuses rather on giving current employees “the training they need when they start, and then the ongoing support to keep them and help them be successful. If you can operate in those boxes then you don’t lose people. It’s a simplistic little model, but it makes sense.”

Career Progression

Grassland Agro has the opportunity to feed high-performing candidates into the multinational company Groupe Roullier. This is because Grassland Agro is a 50/50 joint venture between the Irish-owned Freshgrass Group and the major French agro-supplies company Groupe Roullier, which employs 8,000 people across 116 countries.

Groupe Roullier has over 300 staff specifically dedicated to research and development in Brittany in France, where products and technologies are developed for all climates and soils across the world. This product stream comes into Ireland from France, and Grassland Agro then siphons out the products with the potential to work in Ireland, and then markets them here.

“When working for Grassland Agro you are actually working for a subsidiary of an international company, so there’s no reason why you can’t apply for and be chosen for any role there,” says Stan.

If you are interested in working with Grassland Agro, come and meet them at the Agri Careers Fair.

Jobs fair

Agri Careers 2017 will take place on Thursday 30 March 2017 in the RDS Main Hall, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, brought to you by the Irish Farmers Journal and open eir.