When Hans Kristian Furuseth (MBA 2019) arrived at Harvard Business School in 2017, his goals were clear. He wanted to build the skills necessary to be a leader who makes a difference in the world. Now as CEO of Farmasiet.no, Norway’s largest online pharmacy, Furuseth is making his mark by delivering the solutions people need to stay healthy and safe during a global health pandemic. During these unprecedented times, Furuseth’s story of translating his experience to a new industry, utilizing his skills, and putting people first is an inspiration for others looking to make a difference in their unique way.

The Building Blocks for a Beautiful Career

Prior to joining HBS, Furuseth began his career in consulting at Bain working across Europe and India. He then went on to found his first company, Vaniday, an online booking platform for beauty and wellness businesses, which he grew rapidly from 0-120 employees across nine countries in only six months. This experience in the beauty sector translated well to the needs of Zalando, an e-commerce beauty and fashion company, that later brought Furuseth on as Head of UK and Head of Nordics.

It was at Zalando that Furuseth got a taste of managing through crisis while operating an ecommerce organization during Brexit. With business in the UK and across the EU, Furuseth and his team had to adjust to foreign exchange rates and find ways to quickly cut costs. The experience of rapid growth at Vaniday and managing during periods of uncertainty at Zalando would both come into play in a major way for Furuseth later in this career.

The HBS Advantage

As Furuseth made plans to continue building his career, HBS was the right choice for many reasons including his desire to focus on general management. “I see myself as an operator and I wanted to learn more about leadership, managing human capital, and strategy to complement my analytical background,” Furuseth notes. “While at HBS I took as many courses as I could on leadership and organizational behavior.”

Another key factor in his decision was the HBS community. The campus quickly became home for Furuseth and his wife, Lene, as they built lasting relationships both personally and professionally. While their young son, William, wasn’t working on building his network quite yet, he also made good friends at the daycare at HBS and even learned to ride a bike on Harvard Way.

“At HBS we made friends that are now all over the world doing amazing things. Being a leader can be a bit lonely if you don’t have people to ask questions of, but I now have partners all over the world who each view things a bit differently and can offer their support and advice,” Furuseth says.

Networking within the HBS community also led Furuseth to his current role at Farmasiet.no. A conversation with Bjarne Lie (MBA 1999), led to discussions with Lie’s investment firm, Verdane, about an ecommerce company they were researching. Furuseth became a key part of the due diligence process and provided feedback on the business based on his ecommerce expertise. After Verdane invested in Farmasiet.no, Furuseth was brought on as CEO.

Leading Change and Managing Through Crisis

Since taking the helm at Farmasiet.no in 2019, Furuseth and team have brought about major changes. The company rebranded, hired a new management team, launched a new website, and tripled their marketing efforts. Then in February 2020, Farmasiet.no launched same day delivery for prescription medications, a few weeks before that service would become lifesaving.

“We know that many customers who are using the same day delivery service are those most at risk. They have weakened immune systems and respiratory illnesses that make leaving home dangerous. For a lot of people this is a life or death situation,” Furuseth adds. “Being able to offer a new service in the market that solves an important problem is very rewarding.”

To manage through the pandemic, Furuseth tapped into lessons learned at HBS and led his team in setting up war rooms before Norway went into lockdown. It was these strategic conversations that allowed the Farmasiet.no team to communicate effectively across departments and with customers, manage logistics challenges, and double the number of pharmacists on staff within a week in order to meet demand.

Moving into the next stage of the business, Furuseth and his colleagues are excited about continued expansion. A new warehouse will be opened this summer and same day delivery will be made available in more cities across the country. An increased portfolio of medicines will also be available for customers.

For Furuseth, “this role connected all the dots.” His family was able to return to Norway, adding baby Sophia to the family this January, and this specific opportunity to bring major change to Farmasiet.no played perfectly to Furuseth’s strengths and interests. As a leader growing an entrepreneurial ecommerce healthcare business, he is making a lasting impact on the lives of both his employees and customers, and making a much needed difference in the world.