After over 30 years in business, Jim Penman – founder of Jim’s Group – has announced the brand will provide more support for the mental health of franchisees by making it a key part of business training and operations. The news comes as Mental Health Awareness month kicks off around the nation.
At seventy years of age, Penman is a household name, known for his Jim’s Group brands which began with a mowing service three decades ago. Now Penman says he is determined to ensure the group maintains focus on the mental health and support of its franchisors and franchisees.
Mental health and wellbeing a focus
“At Jim’s Group, we have a strong focus on the welfare of our franchisees. Though being in business yourself has many benefits for mental health, including a flexible lifestyle that allows time for family, it can be hard at times. Income may be variable, especially in the early days. And though our high standards of customer service help keep franchisees busy, poor service can result in complaints and poor surveys. Dealing with these can be stressful,” Penman said.
Nurturing a supportive community essential
Penman says the most important counter to stress is to build a sense of community amongst franchisors and franchisees.
“Franchisors are required to phone franchisees at least monthly, ideally weekly, and to respond fast to their phone calls. These calls provide business training and advice, but they are also designed to maintain a relationship and look for any signs of trouble.
“All franchisors these days must attend mental health training, so they can react quickly and give the appropriate help.”
Penman says meetings in person are also vital and six weekly catchups are scheduled where franchisors and franchisees can catch up over a meal.
“The aim is not just to provide business training but to develop relationships. New franchisees can learn from experienced ones, and ties built at meetings often lead to lasting friendships.
“Franchisees appointed as trainers have a special role in looking after newcomers. We know from experience that franchisees who attend meetings regularly are far more likely to be happy and satisfied.”
According to Penman another form of support comes from franchisees in each state who have volunteered as mentors to anyone in need.
“We are committed to supporting the mental health of our people across the entire group. As part of this, we also pay for professional counselling from qualified psychologists so that our franchisors and franchisees can access this at no cost whenever they need it. Resilience training is also a key part of our induction program.”
More to do to improve mental health outcomes
Still, Penman believes there is room for improvement and he is keen to offer more support, given the fragility of some franchisees’ mental health
“It is a sad fact that mental illness is the biggest danger our people face. Though they work at heights and with powered machinery, in more than three decades we have had only one fatal accident (with a chainsaw). But several franchisees have committed suicide, and one killed his wife and his three little girls. Though business stress was not an issue in this last case, it was a shocking experience that caused us to redouble our efforts.
“Mental health affects all of us. It is a responsibility for all of us,” Penman concluded.
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