Have your say: Being Agile in a fast-paced world
Agility may be a buzz word in business, but it’s the key to staying competitive and relevant in a fast-paced, rapidly changing world. Since taking on the role of CEO at GymbaROO 18 months ago, Beth Pocklington had to be as agile as the thousands of children who climb, jump and swing on GymbaROO’s equipment every day. She had to listen to franchisees and customers, challenge the status quo and take risks to help the business evolve.
Research shows GymbaROO founder Margaret Sasse was well ahead of her time in recognising the link between exercise and cognitive development but in many ways, the franchise had become old school. We spoke with Beth to find out how she transformed the business from old school to the business it is today.
It is important to understand the effects technology will have on your business operations; technology can affect business culture, efficiency, staff relationships, and your profit. Ensure everybody in your business is using the same platforms and technology – you want everyone on the same page. Communicating via platforms like Zoom video conferencing allows you to have face-to-face interaction with staff members you might not be able to get out and see. Make sure emails are purposeful and to the point. Many franchisees are working on their business at night, after an exhausting day running their business, emails need to deliver important information at a glance.
Many businesses still don’t have enough of a presence online or aren’t using their websites to their full potential. When I started at GymbaROO the magazine that documented all the scientific research that backed-up our programs was still printed and not readily available online for our customers and franchisees. A well-maintained website can help you gain a competitive advantage and improve your brand. Your website is often your first impression you give potential customers.
Goals are powerful and are hugely important for every business owner. Be sure that your goals tie back to your mission, ensure they are realistic and consider the actions needed to achieve these goals. One of our first goals was to remind the community that we had more to offer than our competitors, that our programs are evidence-based and give parents the chance to actively contribute to their child’s mental, physical and social development and readiness for school.
We started working on our goal by updating our branding. We launched our new website in July 2018 and within the first nine weeks, we had 1000 unique enquires about classes. The content doesn’t need to change, sometimes just the design of the website can make a huge difference.
Rebuilding a brand includes creating an agile mindset and culture within the organisation, especially in terms of technology and marketing.
Recognise your challenges
GymbaROO was originally devised as a mobile franchise, and about half of our franchisees still have pop-up centres for parents and children rather than a fixed location. Mobile franchises are very popular and while they offer flexibility, they also present unique challenges. The church halls and community centres are often run down and desperately need a lick of paint. Assembling and disassembling all the equipment is hard work and usually, it's one person doing it.
When choosing a mobile or fixed site it's important to understand that many of the sites do not have the infrastructure to run an online system. This often means there will be an upfront investment in computers and internet access and presents logistical challenges for mobile franchises that share their space with other businesses. How do you protect your assets when you are not there?
Be an open leader
Naively, I expected that the franchisees would be thrilled to have new leadership. But many had been in the business for a long time and they weren’t going to trust a new leader right away. It is important for a leader to demonstrate respect for their franchisee’s knowledge and experience, and earn trust, which is an ongoing process. Passion should come before profit.
Being agile means accepting that not all changes will immediately work. This was the case with our social media strategy. We updated all of our term program social media posts and uploaded them to our intranet portal but less than a handful of franchisees used them. Ensure you don’t just provide the tools; franchisees need to have instructions on how to apply the tools. So, go back to basics and run webinars on how to use Facebook and Instagram. For those franchisees who don’t want to run their social media, take full control of their pages and post centrally for them.
We’ve also harnessed the expertise that exists within the franchise. I implemented a Franchise Advisory Council and the representatives are senior franchisees who have significant standing in our network. Don't underestimate the power and knowledge within your team.
To reap the rewards of being agile, you have to take risks. I had no certainty that the changes I was making would work. I often had to act outside of my comfort zone. My default is to be careful and considered, but that is not how I have been operating since becoming CEO. I’ve been lucky to have mentors to assist me along the way and I’ve found the franchise community willing to share and help me grow.
The attractiveness of franchising is that the product or service can change, but as long as the franchise has a solid foundation, it’s never too late to go back and build up the business again. A family-run franchise needs to recognise when it’s time to commercialise and get external help, especially if they’ve been around for a long time and need help adapting to the digital age.
GymbaROO is an iconic brand that has provided amazing neuro-developmental programs for children for more than 35 years. Everything we do at GymbaROO is about ensuring that each child has the opportunity to lay the crucial foundations for later learning and fostering the normal sequence of development appropriate to each child’s stage of development. www.gymbaroo.com.au Beth Pocklington is the Chief Executive Officer at GymbaROO. Beth is an experienced franchise operations professional with a career of more than 10 years in the industry across health and fitness, food retail and allied health systems