Lesson for Franchising from the Hawthorn Tri-Pete

By Peter Buckingham CFE.

I am a very keen Hawthorn fan, and now have the personal record of attending 7 Grand Finals in which they have played – and seen 7 Premiership wins.
So what does Hawthorn do differently from the other 17 teams in the AFL? They work to Their Rules – and do it the best way possible. Whilst I cannot say I am an expert, these are my views – and I think they have a real business connotation:


Hawthorn has been amazing at identifying young talent, and then developing it over a few years. Some of this talent comes in quickly, but they are not scared to wait and let the bigger boys develop, even if they play in the Box Hill Hawks for a couple of seasons. One of the stories of the GF was Ryan Schoenmakers, who was picked up in the 2008 draft, had a serious knee issue in 2013, and was overlooked for the team in 2014. Persistence both physically and mentally earned Shoey his first premiership medal, and he made a great contribution to the win!

I believe the same needs to happen with Franchisees, and it can be hard to re assess a Franchisee you are at odds with. Greg Nathan in profitable Partnerships relates to the lifecycle of a Franchisee, and how you often need to go down into some dispute to arise, and see the value each side offers the other for the long term.

Professionalism as an organisation

The Hawks are all about being professional. From the Chairman, thru the Board, Coaches and players, it is all about setting up the structures to achieve the ultimate goal – Premierships. Players are about not being individuals, but part of the team. If they do not want to be that way, then the door is left ajar for a soft exit, either to another club or towards retirement. If Hawthorn do not feel a player has a long term contribution to make, then they are released as pleasantly as a parting can be.

Similar needs to apply to a Franchise System. If the Franchisee is not there for the long haul, makes noises about leaving, or just is not up to the required standards, then the good Franchise Systems arrange a soft exit (where ever possible), and look to replace with an improved version. As a former Caltex Manager, once a service station Franchisee started talking about moving on, the sooner he was gone, the better I always found it for the Caltex System – long partings end in more tears!

The Coach

Alastair Clarkson is being hailed a hero, yet around 2007, he was being questioned on his long term future. The Hawks stuck with him, and the rest is history. It is interesting how former great Hawthorn coaches such as John Kennedy and Alan Jeans spawned a series of VFL / AFL coaches that were the backbones of other clubs for many years. It seems Alastair Clarkson is doing very similar, as one of the best current pre requisites to an AFL senior coaching role seems to have been an Assistant Coach at Hawthorn. My observation is Alastair is a great delegator and expert at setting up the chess pieces, and then letting the Assistant Coaches run their area with minimum interference and distraction.

From a Franchising view, many systems would be greatly improved if the Coach (be that CEO, GM or Field Staff) looked at the bigger picture, and let the people in direct contact with the Franchisee do their job, rather than over managing from above. Clarkson’s legacy is to train or direct the Assistants to the best possible standard, and then let them make the calls on the play.

I hope this makes sense to the readers, and Go the Hawks, as they do their Premiership lap of honour.

Peter Buckingham is the Managing Director of Spectrum Analysis Australia Pty Ltd, a Melbourne based Geodemographic and statistical consultancy. Spectrum specializes in assisting clients with decisions relating to store and site location using various scientific and statistical techniques. To contact Peter email peterb@spectrumanalysis.com.au or visit www.spectrumanalysis.com.au or call on 03 98300077

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