13/07/2004 - 22:00

Haselhurst takes Gryphon global

13/07/2004 - 22:00

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Haselhurst takes Gryphon global

Former Olympic hockey player Peter Haselhurst has turned a part-time pursuit into a successful business over the past two decades, building Gryphon Traders into one of the world’s leading hockey brands.

Mr Haselhurst started making his own hockey sticks in the late 1970s because he despaired at the poor quality of manufactured sticks at the time.

He sold hand-made sticks out of the boot of his car to make a bit of money while at university, and struck a responsive chord with other players.

His activity might have gone no further if not for the intervention of Ric Charlesworth, who was a playing partner at the time and went on to captain the Australian men’s team and coach the gold medal winning Australian women’s team.

“Ric provided the idea of going to Pakistan and showing them how to make the sticks,” Mr Haselhurst said.

That was in 1981. By 1984 most of the Australian men’s team were using Gryphon sticks.

But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing since then.

Mr Haselhurst, who invented the composite sticks that now dominate the global market, has learned that having the best product at a competitive price does not guarantee business success.

He has had to deal with issues such as quality control, retailer loyalty, brand power and the threat of big international competitors.

The business seems to have been on a more even keel over the past few years since Mr Haselhurst – a theoretical physicist who never reads business publications – recruited Arthur Andersen accountant Jonathon Petterson as a partner.

“We’ve trebled in size in the past seven years,” Mr Haselhurst said.

The company has a diverse product range manufactured in 50 different factories around the globe.

It makes sticks in Pakistan and China, shoes in South Korea and China, balls in Argentina, helmets in Finland, protective equipment in the UK and inline skating boots in the Czech Republic, to name just a few sources.

Mr Haselhurst said his main job is sourcing manufacturers that can be competitive and meet Gryphon’s quality standards. He also has to deal with the fact that his orders are relatively small in a global scale.

This is a function of the global hockey market having only about one million players and about 100 manufacturers.

Mr Haselhurst has made a concerted effort to address this issue, however.

“We weren’t going to survive if we stayed small,” he said.

“We had to diversify the product range and get our volume up so that we could buy better.

“Even now when I walk into a factory in China, if your sales aren’t half a million US dollars they won’t talk to you.”

In the Australian market, Mr Haselhurst estimates Gryphon has 20 to 25 per cent market share, making it the market leader by a substantial margin.

The current success contrasts with its problems in the early 1990s.

Disaster struck in 1992 when a Pakistani manufacturer switched hickory for a cheaper wood, and the resulting sticks had a 100 per cent breakage rate.

That was followed by a deep recession, which led to many sports stores going broke and a sharp rise in Gryphon’s bad debts.

The ups and downs experienced by Gryphon are reminiscent of Mr Haselhurst’s international playing career.

He was a member of the 1980 team that boycotted the Moscow Olympics.

Mr Haselhust went to the Los Angeles games, where the Australian men’s team came a disappointing fourth.

He was also a member of the 1988 team but didn’t go to Seoul because of a pre-Olympics injury and a faulty medical diagnosis.

The high point was the 1986 world cup in London, when the Australian men won their only gold medal.

PETER HASELHURST

  • Member of the 1980, 1984 and 1988 olympic hockey teams.
  • Started making his own hockey sticks in the 1970s.
  • Started manufacture of sticks in Pakistan in 1980s.
  • Invented the composite sticks that now dominate the global market.
  • His company, Gryphon, has an estimated 20 to 25 per cent share of the Australian market, making it the market leader by a substantial margin.
  • Gryphon now makes hockey sticks in Pakistan and China, shoes in South Korea and China, balls in Argentina, helmets in Finland, protective equipment in the UK and inline skating boots in the Czech Republic.
  • Gryphon’s diverse product range is manufactured in 50 factories around the world.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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