When it comes to the business of sport, WRS Group is at the forefront. Home to such sports apparel brands as BLK and KooGa, the Queensland-based business manufacturers innovative and cutting-edge performance apparel for professional athletes and enthusiasts alike. With its dedication to integrity, WRS Group is quickly growing to meet the needs of a worldwide audience.
Growing into New Regions
With offices to serve consumers in Australia, Japan, the UK and the US, there is no doubt that WRS Group is growing rapidly. Along with that growth there come a host of new challenges like finding ways to break into a new market. As a leading manufacturer of rugby apparel, WRS Group has chosen the sport as its point of contact with newer markets like the United States.
“It’s about bringing that authenticity,” says WRS Group CFO Michael Robinson. “The reason that we’ve chosen rugby as the vehicle into a number of new countries is that it’s a good entry sport with global recognition, and we’ve got to make sure we’re bringing authenticity in certain areas. There’s no point in us coming into the US market and sponsoring a basketball or baseball or NFL team, because we don’t have credibility as a manufacturer there. But when it comes to contact sports as in rugby or Australian Rules or soccer, we do have a strong history. It’s important that we choose the right vehicle to get into those areas – but without saying we’re a rugby brand because we are a multi-sport brand.”
WRS Group is also utilizing strategic partnerships to grow the business, sponsoring the official USA rugby team and seeking out colleges for similar relationships. “The college sports culture in America is a giant and it’s only getting bigger,” says Robinson. “If we can partner up with universities in the States, it will be advantageous to the brand for sure.”
Scaling Up Manufacturing
“It’s actually about scalability,” says Robinson. “Our ability to generate revenue quickly for teams and capitalize on opportunities needs to come from an in-house manufacturing source, but what happened is that in Australia we really struggled to find the staff to be able to scale up. But Fiji has a long history of garment manufacturing, so their ability to scale up was impressive. We’ve got just over 200 staff in Fiji, within the first six months, and that will go to 400.”
Cultivating a Strong Company Culture
At WRS Group, building a spirited company starts with building a spirited team. According to Robinson, cultivating a strong corporate culture within WRS Group has been paramount.
“We know that we’re amongst sharks, so we want to make sure that people buy into the culture before they buy into the business,” says Robinson, explaining that making sure prospective employees understand the corporate culture is a vital part of the recruitment process. “We’d rather get the right person culturally than the right person from an educational point of view, because they have to buy into the vision. They have to buy into where we’re going as a brand. We’re very clear on what our path is and what our next five and ten years will look like, and the ability for people to grow with us is very important.”
It is important that WRS Group employees are ready to invest in their company, because WRS Group as a company is dedicated to investing in its employees. “We want to make sure that when people come to us, whether they stay for a year or the rest of their lives, that they actually have a better resume from working for us,” says Robinson. This means constant education, whether it’s training at Gold Coast Institute or cultural courses abroad at Oxford and or even the Disney institute. “We work across a multitude of different institutes,” Robinson adds. “Investing in our team is a big part of what we do here.”
Working Within Core Values
Another critical part of the company culture at WRS Group is the development of its eight core corporate values, around which the business and its employees are expected to base their daily choices and actions. With these core values, WRS Group establishes itself as a business dedicated to:
WRS Group holds to these values on an internal level, checking frequently to ensure that its teams never lose sight of what sets the company apart. “We judge all of our team on those core values,” says Robinson. “If one trips up and we need to have a chat from an HR perspective, we actually start off the conversation around what core values were broken.”
These core values also inform everything from the company’s positive outlook toward finding innovation and inspiration, to the way that it maintains relationships with suppliers. “A core value of our business concerns how you treat people,” says Robinson. “What happens with the old model of apparel manufacturing, where it’s about finding the cheapest possible labor and treating people like a commodity, never worked for our business – I think that when you treat people with respect and make sure that, when you go into any sort of negotiations, you’re going in to negotiate a draw and not a win, it gives you trust with your supplier, with your staff, with your distributors. It’s about building relationships.”