FORMER Group GM – Strategy & Growth Cronulla Sharks
Interview by Tim Carroll
Jonathan Prosser is the Head of Strategy & Growth at the Cronulla Sharks Group. His remit is to build a financially sound organisation whilst strengthening the club's position as the beating heart of the community, working on the Sharks Have Heart Foundation (the social-impact arm of the Group), the Football Club, the Licensed Club, and other entities relating to residential and retail developments, R&D and innovation.
The Sharks have a strong and growing reputation for true innovation. As has been seen from recent media coverage outside of the sports pages, the Sharks are doing things differently.
Jonathan is known for his creativity and for always bringing a unique perspective. He is the founder of the boutique sports agency Racing Green, is a mentor for the Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship, and in his consulting days led two award winning programs.
He describes his time in Accenture’s business strategy practice in London as an on-the-job MBA as he worked cross-industry and across many functions to build a very broad skill set. His time at Accenture was capped with a secondment to the company’s think-tank, the Institute for High Performance, a global team of c.22 economists, academics and strategists in a company of 370,000 which focuses on developing thought-leadership, leading papers and media articles.
Cronulla Sharks 2016 NRL Premier
What factors do you credit to the Cronulla Sharks winning the Premiership for the first time in fifty years?
The work done to recruit the right squad is of course critical, particularly in the backs to bring the flair to match the firepower of the forwards. James Maloney and Chad Townsend have been outstanding, Ben Barba was voted the Member’s player of the year, and the backs quickly gelled to play a very exciting style of play.
The second piece is putting the right leadership in place, with Lyall Gorman our Group CEO at the helm. Having the right values and vision at the top permeates through all parts of the club and the Group. This has enabled all involved to think bigger, to aim for more, and to be inspired to give their all to not only stretch and fulfil their own potential, but to help their colleagues, and every single day make a difference in the organisation and the wider community.
Are there any exciting initiatives at The Cronulla Sharks that we should be looking out for in the next 12 months ?
Projects broadly fall into one of two areas: developing the existing business, and growth through new and innovative ways. We have invested in senior and highly experienced people to help us uplift the traditional components such as commercial partnerships, membership and our stadium. In parallel to this we are working to add new revenue lines that will contribute to building a financially sound organisation with the focus on the next 50 years of the club.
On the 28th October we announced a new partnership with Japan’s largest tea producer, Ito En. They are seeking growth in Australia, and are working with us exclusively. The interesting thing is that this is not a sponsorship deal. There is no branding, nor player or coach involvement. They are our first professional services client, looked after by our in-house business growth agency. We hosted a tea ceremony to announce the partnership, and it was a real honour to have Treasurer Scott Morrison attend and share his thoughts on this type of innovation in business. Channel 10 news had an exclusive and more on this can be found here:
Career Related Questions
What is the best thing about your job?
I really love sport, so it’s not hard to bounce out of bed every day and give my all to shaping and improving a major sports organisation. Also, my experience and interests cover three main areas: foreign affairs and diplomacy, business big and small, and sport on and off the field.
For the first time I have a role where I can bring together these three areas in my daily work, and do so in a unique role as an in-house entrepreneur focusing on non traditional growth. I have a lot of fun.
What is the most challenging project/problem you have worked on either as an external consultant or an internal strategist?
“How can we help more people in the UK’s most deprived communities gain employment and independence?”
I led a pro bono program with the charity School of Hard Knocks. They inspire and enable individuals to gain and retain employment, and they work in the most deprived communities of the UK with the socially excluded. They are the charity behind the hit Sky TV show, but faced the challenge of growing their organisation to match the size and impact of their brand.
What started with their incredibly inspiring CEO and me working side-by-side, grew to 20 consultants working across 15 strategy projects, all under that same headline question.
What followed was very special: an invitation to fly from Sydney to London to attend the Management Consulting Association industry awards, where as a joint charity-consultancy team we won the Social Value category.
A unique business and social challenge to tackle, and all who worked on the project quickly understood what a privilege it was to contribute to a nation-changing initiative.
What advice would you give someone transitioning from a consulting firm to a role in industry?
For me it’s all about the people. Do certain people gravitate to certain industries? Perhaps.
What I have found is that the spark which drives people to give their best needs to be aligned to a sector that truly fascinates them. Often this means that people you enjoy working with move towards a certain sector, and there is a lot more fun to be found if you can align your skills and passion with an industry.
If you can’t, then it’s the entrepreneur’s choice: accept second best or create something new. Those seeking true fulfilment only see one option there.
Who has influenced your career the most and why?
My Dad. He provides the ultimate example of what vision, hard work, and care can do not only for one’s self and family, but for those who are positively moved by coming into contact with that work. Both my parents continue to challenge, prompt, listen, and inspire.
What is the favourite piece of advice you have received and from whom?
Always maintain your integrity. My parents never instructed this, they simply demonstrated it every single day.
As a child what did you want to be when you were older?
A Formula 1 driver. Nothing to do with the champagne and propensity to mix with the beautiful people I suspect when I announced this at age four, just what seemed to be the next logical step from racing around in my peddle gokart!
What are your three favourite books and what are you currently reading?
I currently have a few books on the go which are picked up depending on mood: Consigliere –Leading from the shadows, by Richard Hytner; Leading by Sir Alex Ferguson; and Role of Honour, a 1984 James Bond novel by John Gardner.
I love reading to soak up and shape ideas, but fiction is very important for unwinding. A favourite book is incredibly hard to pick, so I’ll name both The Last Don by Mario Puzo, and The Prince by Machiavelli. I am not saying I’m inspired by mafia bosses and a brutal realist! They are both however very thought provoking.
Who is your personal or business hero/heroine and what quality do you most admire in them?
JayneAnne Gadhia – handpicked by Sir Richard Branson to run his bank Virgin Money in the UK because she is utterly different to her peers. A freethinker who stood out hugely from the other executives at RBS, and who I suspect will really leave her mark on the industry and beyond.
Who would you like sitting next to you at a dinner party and why?
Count Negroni – he felt that the very refreshing Americano cocktail simply didn’t have enough bite to it, so subbed out the soda water and despatched gin into the fold. That’s the sort of guest you need for dinner.
What is your favourite quote or motto?
“The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who is doing it.” (Chinese proverb)
“Do not lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.” (Aesop)