Economy

Wiggles step aside for new members – three key business challenges the group will face

Patrick Stafford /

It’s the end of an era. Iconic children’s entertainment group the Wiggles have announced three of the original four founding members will step aside to make room for new employees, who will now become the “face” of the group.

While original founding member Greg Page was brought back into the group earlier this year, he, along with Jeff Fatt and Murray Cook, will be departing to make way for three new members including the first female group member.

“We’ve been entertaining children around the world for 21 years and it’s important that we plan for the future so that the Wiggles can keep wiggling in the years to come,” Cook told The Australian.

“The touring and performing over the past 21 years has meant that we’ve spent a long time away from our own families and friends.”

The switch comes after Greg Page rejoined the group earlier this year and replacement Sam Moran was shown the door – a controversial move.

But this isn’t just any normal switch over. The Wiggles are both a cultural phenomenon and financial powerhouse. According to BRW, they were also among the wealthiest entertainers in the country earning $28 million in 2010-11.

The group is just as much a business as it is anything else – so here are three distinct business challenges the group will face as it introduces these new faces to the group.

1. Ensuring a smooth transition

Children may not notice a slight change to the Wiggles line-up, but it’s hard not to notice that one of them is now a woman. There will also definitely be children who have their favourite character.

A smooth transition process is critical in any succession plan. If employees – or in this case, viewers – aren’t told what’s happening and are expected to just come on board, they won’t respond well and there could be a backlash.

It’s the same in any office. If managers leave and then staff aren’t told who the replacement will be, there will be chaos and confusion. The Wiggles need to reduce that as much as possible, especially in the early days of the transition.

A smooth transition is still necessary and if there isn’t one, the key audience might react badly.

2. Hands on, hands off

With three of the founding members stepping aside from the group, this will be a challenging time for them. Moving aside from responsibility is never easy.

Succession experts often say business owners have a hard time taking a back seat once they hand over the top job to someone else. The Wiggles’ founders need to set standards on how much influence they will have in the new venture, and whether that involves being involved in day-to-day decisions.

Setting expectations for new members of the group and then following through on those is critical to maintaining a good working business relationship.

3. Keeping the brand on target

The Wiggles brand is probably more important than any single group member. The merchandise itself brings in millions and the name draws in huge crowds for concert tours and other appearances.

Managing the consistency of that brand is paramount even when new members come on board, because it’s an opportunity to show that the Wiggles “name” is able to withstand the arrival and departure of different entertainers.

Business owners consistently tell SmartCompany a mark of success is that a business thrives even after the founder leaves. This is a good opportunity for the Wiggles brand to show its legs.

But that requires direction. The Wiggles shareholders will need to keep the brand on track and make sure it doesn’t change wildly with the new members. Parents and children are used to the Wiggles they’ve known for years – a sharp turn in direction could spell a downfall.

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Patrick Stafford

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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