24 MARCH 2016

David Jordan, GM Baskin-Robbins Australia, was a guest speaker at The Faculty’s Brisbane Roundtable in early March. While the members were hoping that he would bring along some ice-cream to sample, they did come away with plenty of bite-sized pieces of wisdom about creating a successful turnaround business strategy in a tough retail industry climate.

Two years on from becoming General Manager of Baskin-Robbins Australia, Jordan is spearheading a phenomenally successful brand transformation based around his cultural change piece entitled “Change the Lens”.

The Baskin-Robbins story

It’s easy to forget that even established brands like Baskin-Robbins were once start-ups. The franchise was first founded in the USA in 1945 by two entrepreneurs and grew rapidly into the current international chain of 7700 stores. Its presence in Australia started with a single store on the Gold Coast. Now there are over 87 stores across the country.  

In 2010 the Master Franchisor, Allied Brands, went into receivership. Franchise partner engagement was at an all-time low, out-of-stocks were rife, and the customer experience suffered as a result. Stores were closing at an unsustainable rate and the organisation lacked a stable management structure whereby in 2013 low satisfaction level scores were submitted by franchise partners in various surveys.

This is the situation David Jordan found himself in when he accepted the positon of General Manager Australia. He immediately embarked on a process of creating alignment between the support centre, guests (customers), franchise partners and the joint venture stakeholders (Dunkin’ Brands and Galadari Brothers Inc.) through a strategy known as “Change the Lens”.  Change the Lens focuses on listening to key stakeholders and actively seeking their feedback. By the end of the final workshop, over thirty-five pages of suggestions were collected from the franchise partners, which later became the core initiatives in the turnaround strategy. According to Jordan, franchise partner trust had to be rebuilt through:

  • consistency of messaging
  • transparency
  • openness and honesty
  • owning shortcomings, and
  • building upon small incremental wins.

As of March 2016, franchise partner satisfaction sits at over 80%, with Jordan’s target of 100% within reach. He points out, however, that any organisation that is truly willing to listen to feedback should also appreciate its dissatisfied stakeholders, as this is where some of the most valuable insights will emerge. Jordan tells the Brisbane Roundtable that it’s about listening with empathy: “Too often as managers we listen with a response already predetermined. Instead I urge you to truly listen and learn more by asking questions, not giving answers.  It’s about asking those pertinent questions, those that create collaboration. We’re building a culture based on listening and asking, rather than telling and doing.” 

Empathetic leadership

Jordan went on to share the following challenge to all business leaders: “Do your teams know who you are as leaders, what you stand for as an individual, why you do what you do and what your passion is? If you delineate private from work, then you’re not sharing your ‘why’ with your team. I’ve worked very hard on trying to understand my team’s ‘why’, what their strengths and interests are, what motivates and drives them. Doing so starts to build empathy and engagement levels are enhanced.”

Listening to Jordan speak, you can tell that using the right language is very important to the culture he has rebuilt at Baskin-Robbins. Franchisees are “partners”, customers are “guests”, staff are “team members” and the head office is the “support centre”. “We’ve ramped up communication across the organisation,” Jordan says. “We deliver weekly messages and updates, monthly newsletters, franchise partner case studies and share learnings about who’s doing what and their successes. It’s all about sharing in our franchise partners’ successes too, not just ours.” 

Jordan’s eight brand rebuilding fundamentals

  1. Develop vision and strategy
  2. Align stakeholders
  3. Under-promise and over-deliver
  4. Bottom-up leadership engagement and ownership
  5. Be accountable and authentic
  6. Be consistent
  7. Listen with empathy.

Standing out in a competitive environment

Baskin-Robbins has some challenges ahead with a business that is impacted by seasonality and a retail environment that is increasingly competitive. Over the past two years an increase in high-end gelato ice creameries opening across the country has proliferated the guest market. Within the FMCG sector, supermarket chains have increased their freezer space to accommodate the growth in the take-home ice cream category, an encouraging outlook for ice cream popularity.  

In order to differentiate Baskin-Robbins’ brand and continue on the growth trajectory, Jordan has had to think outside the box, refocus on the business fundamentals and create strategies that are unique and focus on the guest experience: “Brands need to challenge their purpose and value proposition. The days of simply making goods and delivering services are long gone, as consumers search for new and more emotionally enriching relationships and experiences. Brands need to create a total experience that adds value and substance to their guests’ lives. The most important marketing metric will change from ‘share of wallet’ or ‘share of voice’ to ‘share of experience’. The fundamental difference between Baskin-Robbins and our competitors has to be the experiences we create in store.”

Jordan’s passion and enthusiasm is reflected in what he calls the “why” statement of the Baskin-Robbins team: “We make people happy by creating unforgettable memories and experiences – we just happen to sell the world’s favourite ice cream”.

The Faculty Roundtable comprises of an influential group of procurement leaders who gather to share their experiences and insights, to achieve greater commercial success for their organisations. Through The Roundtable, members have access to leading-edge thought leadership and commentators, a ready supply of valuable expertise through exclusive market intelligence, as well as networking and professional development opportunities for themselves and their team members.

The Asia-Pacific CPO Forum is the region’s premier procurement event dedicated to accelerating commercial leadership at the highest level. It is a once-a-year opportunity for leading Chief Procurement Officers to engage with peers and like-minded business leaders in an intimate and interactive setting. The Forum is designed for delegates to facilitate the sharing of best practice strategies, develop innovative and responsive procurement approaches, and hear from a compelling speaker line-up of influential thinkers, eminent business leaders and commercially creative minds.

In 2016, The 9th Annual Asia-Pacific CPO Forum will held on 18th and 19th May in Melbourne, Australia. For more information contact Program Manager, Belinda Toohey, on +61 3 9654 4900 or via email.​