Jim Penman launched Jim's Mowing as a one–man business in 1982, $30,000 in debt and with a marketing budget of $24. He soon had more work than he could handle and began taking on subcontractors. Because customer turnover made it difficult to build a major business on this basis, he gradually shifted his focus to building up and selling lawn–mowing rounds. And to sell these more effectively, he began offering forms of support and training, establishing a kind of pseudo franchise but without ongoing fees.
The shift to full franchising came in 1989, from a desire to offer better customer service, and with the threat of competition from the arrival of the Adelaide based VIP Home Services group. The Franchise proved surprisingly successful, with sixty Franchisees operating by the end of the first year and a presence in all Australian states within three years. In more recent times, Jim's has established branches in New Zealand and in Canada, though an attempt to enter the U.S. market in Texas did not succeed.
In recent years, Jim's has launched a number of new divisions, the most successful of which are cleaning, dog wash, antennas, fencing, paving, and women's fitness centres. All these are run as joint ventures, with experienced people providing their technical expertise and Jim's working on the franchising and administration side. This has been a highly successful move. Franchisees in the new divisions are growing at an annual rate of 150%. The Jim's Group currently has 2200 Franchisees worldwide.
Jim has nine children, with one more on the way. He is funding a research project through the Department of Physiology, Monash University. He is an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
A history of the Jim's Group, with an emphasis on principles that have helped make the company successful.
Customer Service: importance, how focus on customers has affected the growth of the business, importance of staying close to customers in driving innovation, systems to support customer service.
Franchisee Service: Franchisees as our primary customers, putting Franchisees before profit, avoiding litigation.
Egalitarianism: mechanisms to give Franchisees power and security and potential for advancement.
Cost control: combining rigorous cost controls with open–handed spending where it matters, importance of technology in improving service while reducing costs.
Openness: why we provide training before we sign people; 'warts and all' presentations.
The importance of values.