Five Minutes With… Lesley Hawks

Five Minutes With… Lesley Hawks
How did a degree in psychology from a UK university lead to a career in franchise development?

Curiously enough, people skills, franchising and human behaviour never entered my mind when I enrolled at The University of Hull. Political science was full, but psychology (at the next table) was not. There was some technical mathematics included in the curriculum that terrified me, but human behaviour couldn’t have been more fascinating. From the UK, I left for the US in search of sun and tennis coaching. Eventually, one of my students saw a place for me in the business world and I traded tennis tournaments for franchise shows.

What posts have you held between university and Sky Zone?

My franchise development career has ranged from start-up brands such as Ebay drop off stores and women’s gyms, to major name expansions, such as ReMax, UPS Stores, and T-Mobile.

What did you find attractive about Sky Zone?

When I finally decided to focus on international development a few years ago, I looked for something new, something different, a rising star, a brand that involved health, fitness and fun. Coincidentally, Sky Zone was looking to expand its global presence and we managed to find one another. The trampoline park concept adapts easily into nearly every culture. In the end, people are people, children are children, and everyone needs to relax, have fun, be together and strive towards a healthy lifestyle. Sky Zone invented the concept ten years ago and remains best in its class.

How have you developed the brand?

The benefit of being the founder, and having almost 200 locations, enables Sky Zone to stay in front of the pack. We have developed new technologies including, this year, a revolutionary trampoline surface. As we know from experience, the leader in any category enjoys major market share and on an international stage we are hoping for as many as 500 locations around the world.

What are the secrets of successful franchise development?

Step one: identifying the right kind of partners; step two: finding them! The process has become somewhat easier in the internet age, but competition is intense to reach sophisticated companies around the world that are looking to take on a successful U.S. brands. Providing responsive, friendly, and pertinent information over the long haul is key. So often, the message gets lost along the way; don’t let it happen! In addition, you must connect the relationship dots with global associates. From brokers, investment counsellors, trade shows, real estate agents to publications, attorneys and public relations people, you have to constantly connect and reconnect.

What are the pitfalls to avoid?

One major one is don’t assume that what worked in domestic development will work internationally. There are so many more variables to consider in the international arena that it almost never does.

What do you most enjoy about your work?

Travel and people. It’s a huge, fascinating and diverse world. I get to see a bit of it and meet some of the most wonderful, successful and high-spirited people. Also, Sky Zone has an amazing youthful culture and philosophy. It’s great to work with the talented and creative next generation in franchising.

What are your plans for the future?

Sky Zone continues to occupy my thoughts and time. There are nearly 200 hundred countries in the world today and most of them need trampoline parks! On the personal side, though, I hope to continue playing more tennis as I travel around.

Global Franchise Meets.

An inspirational new web video series where we meet the business leaders and influencers in International Franchising.

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