When Mark Hawthorne was offered the job as Australia and New Zealand’s chief executive of taqueria chain Guzman y Gomez, his first instinct was to say ”no”. Not because of the company or the product (both of which he quickly discovered he liked), but because he’d already worked for 27 years in fast food. To be more specific, Hawthorne had spent 27 years working with the world leaders of fast food: McDonald’s.
Other than a two-year break to work as a chartered accountant at Ernst & Young, Hawthorne has spent his career to date at the fast-food chain, having started in its Coffs Harbour (New South Wales) store aged just 15. After working his way up over the years, he ended up managing the Golden Arches’ UK business, a multibillion-dollar operation. Leaving that came after he weighed up some personal decisions. “I’d been overseas for nine years and I have a son over here from a previous marriage who is turning 12. I missed him,” he says.
When he realised that Guzman y Gomez had a number of highly regarded investors, he was convinced to take a second look. Just over a year later, Hawthorne is happily ensconced at the helm of a company which employs 2000 people and does $150 million in revenue. While Guzman y Gomez’s growth is far from small change (the company opens about 20 stores a year), Hawthorne says he’s been presented with quite different challenges than at McDonald’s. Many involve running a food company where microwaves and freezers aren’t front and centre of operations.” Managing an entire fresh food pantry is arguably my biggest challenge … but that’s a strong part of our fresh food proposition,” he says.
“Around Christmas we saw the cost of avocados skyrocket. In my old career at McDonald’s everything was overly processed and frozen. [So if a product price changed] you could smooth the cost of goods curve out quite effectively. The goods on a fresh pantry is very volatile, and you can’t move prices too much on your customers. Managing that has been an interesting challenge,” he says.
Name: Mark Hawthorne
Current position: CEO of Guzman y Gomez (Australia and New Zealand)
Responsibilities: Responsible for the growth of Guzman y Gomez in Australia and New Zealand and all associated metrics; also provides functional support where necessary to enable international growth.
Education: Bachelor of financial administration (accounting) from University of New England; professional year with Institute of Chartered Accountants of Australia (now Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand).
Additional training/courses: Global Leadership Development Program (McDonald’s).
Honourable mentions: Peter Ritchie Award for highest performing officer (McDonald’s 2008); two grants for outstanding performance (three to five given annually throughout the Asia Pacific).
Strength: I see myself as being quite calm and strong. I think leaders nowadays need head, heart and guts.
Weakness: Collaboration is a double-edged sword: It’s a strength for me but it can sometimes lead to a lesser quality solution that takes longer to get to.
Management style and tips: I like to get very involved in the top – setting the strategy out, but also be very present at the tail – which is the frontline of the business.
Work motto: Positive dissatisfaction. We have to be very positive about the brand and what we’re achieving. But also dissatisfied: we’re currently doing 10 per cent year-on-year sales growth … but I think we should be doing more.
This article originally was posted to Sydney Morning Herald, and written by Sue White