Grout expectations: Danny Hanlon has big plans for Trend Transformations

Whether it's moving to the other side of the world or giving the franchise a facelift, Danny Hanlon is doing whatever it takes to help Trend Transformations reach its full potential

Grout expectations: Danny Hanlon has big plans for Trend Transformations

Building an innovative global franchise is a process of perpetual reinvention. Whether it’s expanding your product line or refreshing your brand, the best franchises are the ones that can move with the times. Having helped Trend Transformations conquer continents and find a whole new identity, there are few better placed than Danny Hanlon, the franchise’s chief operating officer, to understand why the most successful franchises are those that embrace change.

Having come from a military family, Hanlon is certainly no stranger to life on the move: when he was a child, his father’s position as a captain in the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers saw him moving every two years and changing schools nine times. “It was always a challenge,” he admits. “Just when you’ve made a new group of friends, you move and you’ve got to find a new one.” By the time Hanlon reached his teenage years, his father had left the army so the family settled in Perth in Western Australia. And this gave Hanlon some time to think about his future career. “I always wanted to be a carpenter,” he says. “My grandfather had done it years before and I had a passion for it.”

By the time Hanlon graduated, he had already started to look at apprenticeships that would allow him to work with wood. “I got a position as a cabinet maker with Associated Shopfitters, the largest shopfitting firm in Perth,” he says. During his second year on the apprenticeship he was brought into an office role, something that saw him measuring sites, liaising with architects and working side-by-side with the site foreman. It was while doing this that he began to see there was a big disconnect between those on the floor and management. “It was quite an easy thing to fix: you just had to get people together, get them communicating and build a team,” he says. “But while I tried my best to change things, it just didn’t come together.”

In light of this, Hanlon began to look for opportunities elsewhere and came across a job ad for a fledgling kitchen resurfacing business founded by childhood friends Colin Mackenzie and Bob Smith, which at the time was called Granite Transformations. “They had wanted to start a business together and the home-remodelling industry was really taking off in the Australian market,” Hanlon says. Coming across an agglomerate floor tile, the duo realised that if they could get the material produced in large enough sizes, it would offer them a fast and attractive way to renovate customers’ kitchen surfaces without doing a full refit. “They could apply an engineered stone made up of either granite, quartz or porcelain directly over existing kitchen counters,” Hanlon explains. “Rather than customers having to go through the hassle of a complete tear out, they could come in and renovate the worktop in one day.”

When Hanlon turned up for an interview in a premises that was “less like a showroom and more like a shed”, Mackenzie and Smith explained that they wanted him to handle the installation process but they could only afford to take him on as a subcontractor. Whilst this meant he would have to front A$10,000 to buy the tools and van he needed, the pair’s ambition won him over. “They said: ‘Once we’ve proved the model works here, we’re going to franchise it and take it to America and Europe’,” Hanlon recalls. “‘If you join us right now, you’ll have the opportunity to grow with the business.'”

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<p>There was only one thing that gave Hanlon pause. “Behind them they had the very first operation board, which is where we schedule all of our work, and they only had two jobs on it,” he says. After he expressed his scepticism about how the founders planned to bring in business, they showed him a cabinet they wanted him to resurface with the material, which they planned to use for a before-and-after display at a local shopping mall to drum up customers. Hanlon needn’t have worried. “We were three or four people deep the whole two days and got over 100 enquiries after that first display,” he says. “From that point on, we knew we were onto something very good.”</p>
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<p>Once the leads began rolling in, the next step was getting to work on the first Trend Transformations showroom. “We made a lot of mistakes, as you do when you’re starting out, but we also learnt an awful lot,” Hanlon says. Not only did the 12 months they worked on the pilot store help the founders document their processes and put together a franchise manual but Hanlon feels that running their own store gave the trio valuable insight into the needs and concerns of their franchisees. “It meant we had walked in their shoes and knew what they were going through,” he says. “If you can see things from a franchisee’s perspective, it always makes you a better franchisor.”</p>
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<p>Before long, Trend Transformations was on the hunt for franchisees, something that didn’t take long given the buzz surrounding the brand. “We started to get a lot of interest from people that had a kitchen done and then thought ‘hang on: this is a good business concept’,” Hanlon says. But while harnessing this word of mouth helped Trend Transformations to quickly begin to sign franchisees, it was when it featured on Our House, an Australian home-remodelling TV show, that the franchise really began to take off across the country. “That gave our concept nationwide coverage,” he says. “From that point on, our growth reached another level.”</p>
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<p>Given that much of Australia’s population is concentrated on the east coast, by this stage Smith had made the move to Sydney and Mackenzie soon followed. “As soon as that TV programme aired, they both needed to be there to manage things because the growth was unreal,” Hanlon says. For a time, Hanlon acted as general manager for the Perth store, helping it to grow to A$1.8m in revenue, before joining Trend Transformations’ founders in Sydney as national technical operating manager. “I acted in a training and support capacity, helping the new franchisees that we were starting to recruit and setting all of the new locations up,” he says.</p>
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<p>Eventually the time was right for the franchise to expand overseas, meaning Hanlon spent most of 2001 jetting between Sydney and LA, helping to open new Trend Transformations showrooms Stateside. “That was a fairly frustrating year,” he says. “What would happen is you’d be there for a month, implement the processes, hire the people, it would just start working well andq by the time you next visited things would be off track.” Because of this, Hanlon urged Smith and Mackenzie to adopt a new approach when they entered their next market. “I told them the way to do it would be for one of us to relocate permanently,” he says. “And that’s how I ended up coming to the UK in 2004.”</p>
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Josh Russell
Josh Russell
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