Culture trumps strategy: Gymbaroo CEO

By Sarah Stowe | 24 Jul 2019 View comments

Beth Pocklington is that rare creature in Australian franchising, a female CEO brought in from outside the family firm.

In this podcast the Gymbaroo chief talks about leadership, about why she believes culture is more crucial than strategy and her thoughts on the gender split in senior roles in franchising.

Pocklington was earlier this year cited by Inside Franchise Business Executive as one of the Top 30 Franchise Executives for 2019.

Foundation pillars

Pocklington tells us about the three pillars which form the foundation of her personal and professional philosophy: choose attitude; over lead, under manage; get it done.

“Choose your attitude is a very personal and significant statement, and I apply it to myself every day. In life we have good, bad, other stuff happen to us. We also have the capacity to choose how we respond,” she says.

“It’s very powerful, particularly in difficult situations.,” she adds.

“Over lead and under manage is about how I choose to interact with other people, and it’s about leadership and not management. I want to be able to empower people, I want them to have authority and accountability.”

Pocklington is also very much hands-on and that relates to her mantra of getting it done.

“I’m a tactical leader and always will be, and want to be, in the trenches with my team. Work hard and put in the effort, and reap the rewards.”

Why culture trumps

“Humans are inherently tribal…people want to feel part of something significant. They want to experience unity in every community that they are involved in and especially in the workplace where we spend so much of our time.

“Culture is such a big buzz word, but I don’t think that many people are achieving it authentically. It’s what sits over everything, it’s your DNA,” says Pocklington.

Gymbaroo CEO: leading from the outside

When she joined this family-led firm Pocklington was taken aback by how iconic the Gymbaroo brand is. “It was a big thing for an outsider, someone with a more corporate skill set to step into the business.”

The last 18 months has been like re-stumping a house, she says. All the foundations were there and had served solidly for almost 40 years but needed a check up.

“We’ve moved quite significantly into 21st century technology, which was the biggest opportunity and also the biggest challenge to implement.”

Invigorating franchising

The franchise sector needs a shift, she believes. “We quite urgently need to understand what all of our stakeholders need, and then determine ways to represent them fairly and advocate for them all.”

Two things that could help improve standards in franchising are better education and franchisor accreditation, she suggests.

One area where there is an imbalance is the lack of women in top franchising roles.

“It doesn’t reflect well, it doesn’t demonstrate there are pathways.”

There are three reasons why it might be that there are so few women in the sector’s senior roles, she points out:

  • Family responsibilities
  • Levels of remuneration
  • A little bit of fear in small business, it’s quite costly to employ women of child-bearing age.

But there’s no excuse with the technology we have, she says. “There’s no reason why we can’t participate in senior roles and manage a family.”

Passionate about franchising

Pocklington is very passionate about franchising. And she is proud of the female representation in the Gymbaroo chain: “Out of 72 franchisees in Australia we have 70 women who have been able to go into business and forge for themselves and their families an opportunity. I know when I was brought on board one of the hoped-for outcomes of the recruitment process was that they would be able to find a younger woman to step into this particular business.

“I’ve also heard franchisors are finding they are not getting as many women applying for roles. We’re hearing a lot about generational change but I’m not absolutely sure that they are coming through.”

Flexible working and virtual office make a difference she says so it’s time to reshape the thinking over bricks and mortar offices.

“The culture that I create for my team is journeying together, as a family, friends, colleagues, building each other up, and achieving, business, personal and professional success.”

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