Jim Penman would be to lawnmowing what Willy Wonka is to candy – modern, entrepreneurial and prosperous on the back of it.
Like Roald Dahl’s fictitious special-producer, Penman is also identified for a beard and hat, though Penman’s brand – placed over businesses across Australia and overseas – is ocean hat and full beard as opposed to top hat and nice goatee. Both males manage a business that is a household-name inside their local markets.
Jim’s empire began living as a full-time mowing enterprise work by him in 1982. The very first mowing businesses were sold in 1989. Nowadays there are about 250 franchisors controlling more than 3200 franchisees in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and great BRITAIN with Penman’s bearded brand privately of the car or trailer.
With an average yearly revenue of $100,000 per operation, which means an overall total revenue around $320 million.
The business name has exploded since that time to cover 33 departments across a selection of companies, such as for instance dog-washing, antenna installation and carpet-cleaning, even though the largest is still lawnmowing, with 1876 businesses finally count.
Penman remains the owner of this mowing business, which in the 2011 financial year had a net income of $1.7 million, files in BRW’s ownership exhibit.
Jim’s Group, the parent firm that Penman also owns, decreases to verify the numbers. The team itself, these numbers show, produced net income of $3.1 million from franchise fees and sales as well as the supply of services to franchisees such as insurance and call-centres.
A call to Jim’s earth – a vast campus in Mooroolbark, a stone’s throw from Victoria’s Dandenong Ranges National Park – truly feels a bit like entering Willy Wonka’s popular candy factory, where in fact the secrets of his success can be exposed. Certainly, when BRW comes, Penman is lecturing several 55 new franchisees. But unlike the impression most Australians have of him, he is clean-shaven today.
Penman has built from standing with this news certainly one of Australia’s best known operation procedures but breaks in the organisation are now actually featuring.
Critics claim the business is in desperate need of an change. Willy Wonka’s acquaintances never asked his management style but Penman’s do.
“It’s outgrown working it out of his drop, or whatever,” the Sun’s Rays Coast-based divisional franchisor of Jim’s Professional Painting and Decorating, Chris Munday, claims. “You can’t run a business of the size because manner.”
Penman says there is not a problem with the framework.
“If we’d 3200 employees, it’d be difficult,” he claims. “But what they’ve got to acknowledge is that so much of administration is delegated to our lovers. All we manage is the mowing division.”
To comprehend Jim’s empire, picture a chart. Jim’s Group, the pinnacle company, sits towards the top. Right below could be the coating of divisional franchisors, who’re the owners of a section, be it car cleaning, pool care or in Munday’s situation, painting and decorating.
They’re in charge of things such as section advertising, images, on-line price systems and marketing product. Below the divisional franchisors are the franchisors. These franchisors have the closest relationship with, and are in charge of managing and supporting, the franchisees who form underneath layer – the Oompa Loompas, in Willy Wonka-talk.
The framework of any franchise enterprise has to be assessed every 36 months to ensure it is befitting the fiscal conditions, the managing director franchise consultant DC Technique, Rod Young, claims.
“What we usually find is the master franchisee is quite good at marketing businesses however not good at the ongoing maintenance and education and advancement of an individual franchisee,” he claims.
Some of the pressure becomes clear in this framework. Penman’s interest for his franchisees is wellknown. Penman boasts he presents each franchisee his mobile number and is open to their phone whenever you want. While interesting for a franchisee to really have a direct line to the company’s eponymous founder, this grates against the conventional channels through which the business is structured.
“We’re not accorded natural justice,” a Sydney-based mowing franchisor with this news with 280 franchisees under him, Peter Hansen, claims. “In the big event a franchisee has a dilemma, if we don’t fix it and give some cure, then it’s clear they wish to goto the next level. But when they avoid you and you don’t get that opportunity, then you’re informed from the MD – specifically Sean – who claims: ‘I’ve got so and so and he’s got a problem’ without supplying us an opportunity to provide our side of the issue.”
Penman says the relationship a franchisee has is actually with two parties – both the franchisor and Jim’s Group.
“The romance between a franchisee and a franchisor is terribly unequal,” he claims. “Our deal was created, in place, to slow that.”
Penman rejects the idea he favors one constituency – his franchisees – over another – the franchisors. He generally tells franchisees who call that they should go along with their franchisor, he claims. “It’s only a minority where in fact the franchisor is probably doing anything they shouldn’t,” he claims.
The sour romance boiled over into public view in 2009 whenever a group of disaffected franchisors, disappointed using what they said was the way he randomly wanted to transform their deals, sought his removal as head of the group. Penman says the stress arose because the franchisors weren’t serving their franchisees nicely enough and he was on their event to do this.
“I was driving it quite difficult – probably more than I needed seriously to,” he claims.
Munday counters: “That’s selective memory. There’s the entire world according to Jim.”
He boasts franchisors were upset because alterations had been made to the franchisors’ information – “the bible of our activity” – without appropriate discussion.
Penman consented to slow changes he had made to operating procedures. Since that time, things have run more smoothly, Munday says.
There’s something dark-and-white in the manner Penman views the entire world. He results in as being a literal person, with few social graces. He does not do small talk. He does not make an effort to reduce an interview with fun. People around him say Penman has Asperger’s syndrome, a mild version of autism that limits the ability to communicate.
Penman does not deny the declaration but inquiries it. “People like to put a mental name on something or other,” he tells BRW.
“A more accurate way of saying it is: ‘I’m an extreme introvert.’ I hate crowds. I’m negative in just about any combined gathering. I may discuss in front of 1000 people OK but fit me right into a location like a celebration and I freeze-up. I hate it.
“I’m not very socially required. I spend all my time with my children, with chess. I don’t know very well what you call that. Is that Asperger’s?”
None of the detracts from a success report that is unquestionably impressive. “People say, ‘You’re different’,” Penman says. “You frequently discover that highly creative people – which can be what I’m – are very strongly introverted.”
The following move for Jim’s empire is into insurance. From September, a division possessed by head-office may promote insurance products. The brokerage presently exists – since April a year ago Jim’s Group has-been selling all franchisees compulsory public-liability insurance, with optional add-ons.
It hasn’t been a simple process, however. The section has already been into its fourth mind – certainly one of whom was Penman’s son, who’d no past experience in insurance.
“It was bad in the very first year,” Penman says. “I got the wrong people required. I will have got a search agency. I didn’t comprehend the well enough. To a sizable extent the situation was with billing. We didn’t bill appropriately. When we did, we didn’t obtain most of the money.”
In 2013, he says, things are much smoother.
You may still find many other support markets Jim’s may transfer to. While 90 per cent of revenue comes from franchised income currently, that may shift over time to this kind of point where it-no longer even makes up the majority, he claims.
“I’m certainly not locked into businesses,” the 60 year old says.
Insurance will be a business-owned operation. Jim’s Plumbing is also a name qualified to an Adelaide-based firm that gives plumbing providers around the world. Penman is looking to tie-up with other established companies and certificate the Jim’s brand in their mind.
Penman spoke earlier in 2013 of a public record but he says that is no more on the cards. He also considered a sale to franchisors and franchisees in 2003 but that didn’t go anywhere.
“It wasn’t well-subscribed, so we just dropped it,” he claims. “There wasn’t the demand there.”
The man who is currently in his fourth marriage – and has 10 children ranging in age from 27 to several – muses that series might be reasons to consider a preliminary public offering as there is no assurance any one of them would wish to takeover from him.
And this leads to one final point. Penman and Willy Wonka are two entrepreneurs to get built-up excellent empires by themselves terms. There’s an obvious comparison between both heroes – Penman is true and Wonka is fiction. But there is something else, also.
At the conclusion of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mr Wonka names a new Charlie Bucket as his heir. Penman, nevertheless, has no intention of going anywhere.
“I’ll retire when I’m lifeless,” he claims.