PoolWerx founder in Hall of Fame: 30 years in franchising

By Sarah Stowe | 29 Oct 2015 View comments

PoolWerx CEO John O’Brien has enjoyed an action packed ride in his 30 year franchising journey. This service to the industry was recognised recently with his induction to the Franchise Council of Australia’s Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame recognises outstanding performers who have endured the trials of business and contributed to the foundation of the sector's success. O’Brien has grown the business from $7 million to approaching $70 million in the last decade alone. The business has 200 active territories operating over 300 service vans and 70 retail hubs.

In that time he has also ensured the continued development of the industry by sharing his knowledge and drive for franchising through his participation in sector roles such as chairman of the FCA and co-chair of the World Franchise Council.

O’Brien said he was proud to be joining the ranks of some of Australia’s most famous franchises.

“It is an honour to be named in the Hall of Fame and recognised by your peers personally, not just for what you've achieved but for the way you've done it.”

O'Brien told Franchising "In some ways it's a personal recognition of the journey, and a vindication of the trust your family has put in you and the sacrifices they made for you. Perhaps in also that you have conducted your business in an ethical way."

He believes part of his success has been helping people to harness entrepreneurial spirit that is at the core of franchising.

“Franchising, along with dedication and hard work, has provided my family and I with a life I could only have ever dreamed of and I was intent on sharing that once I realised its potential,” he said.

“I have tried to achieve this not only in my own PoolWerx business but by promoting the sector in general. Franchising is a key contributor to the economy and a sector that deserves more recognition.

“Part of my continued commitment to the sector and joining the Hall of Fame Committee as an inductee, is ensuring the government and the wider community realise its value and role.”

John O'Brien and franchising

Franchising magazine is celebrating 25 years of publishing this year and asked John O'Brien for his reflections on how the sector has changed…

"In 1982 I was working for Cadbury Schweppes and my boss came back from the US inspired by franchising.

"We started franchising vending operations and home delivery of soft drinks and I was promoted to national franchise manager. I had no idea what it was… I had a business card and had to explain my role, there was virtually no network, no consultants, only a few lawyers, and no association.

"It was hard to sell, hard to explain that it was profiting the franchisee. Today potential franchisees understand about branding, marketing and buying power, that there’s a system to follow, PoS, and a supply network. They understand they have to probably pay fees to get in.

"Franchising took off incredibly quickly in the late 1980s because of the fast food sector. People felt comfortable investing in larger global US brands but the growth of Australian services about 1990s kicked in with Jim’s and VIP Home Services.

"These guys did a good job of Australianisation from 1990 to 95, enthusiasm for domestic services blossomed. At the same time it was savvy entrepreneurs looking at the phenomenon and how big chains like McDonald’s were growing, and saying, ‘how can I harness people’s energy and money in a far more affordable way to set up?’

"It was certainly very, very different. Franchisees back then followed the system, came to you looking for complete guidance and followed it to a T."