Jim’s Mowing: from side hustle to Aussie empire

Jim’s Mowing: from side hustle to Aussie empire

Jim Penman’s face is arguably one of the most recognisable in Australia, with it emblazoned on trailers, trucks and signs. But who is Jim, and how did he achieve his monumental success? And more importantly, can Australians learn from his story and replicate it in their own context?

Jim is the founder of Australia’s largest home-service franchise, Jim’s Group, and his tumultuous business journey is revealed in a newly released, warts-and-all biography,  Jim’s Bookby novelist Catherine Moolenschot. The book delves into how Jim chose to ignore conventional thinking to turn a few mowing rounds into a corporate juggernaut.

Jim Penman says, “Alongside my achievements, I’ve had my fair share of crises, moments of poor judgement and shortcomings over the years. My hope is for everyday Australians to walk away and think, ‘If this guy can do it, I can do it too’”.

To help inspire budding entrepreneurs and business owners, Jim shares his top tips to turn a side hustle into a successful empire.

1. Put your customers above everything, always

The best piece of business advice I received was from my first customer at the age of eight, “If you’re going to do it like that, I might as well do it myself”. We roughly service 35,000 customers a day and I truly believe my success is largely due to my unreasonable passion for these customers.

A few simple tips include always making yourself accessible to the customer, keep your standards high, introduce a customer complaint system from the very beginning and continually monitor it, and admit when you’re in the wrong.

A handful of strategies that I still execute to this day include giving my personal number to franchisees and franchisors, personally reading every complaint and poor survey every day, alongside personally dealing with any customer issue when they have phoned the office more than once. Since we have set up our extensive customer complaints system, we now take only one-fifth as many complaints, relative to leads, as we did when we first started measuring them properly.

2. Get your team on the same page, and incentivise the right behaviour

If your staff are motivated to do the best possible job and they’re performing well, they will be rewarded. My incentives are based on tracking every number I possibly can. For example, when I first started tracking conversions, I realised my franchisees weren’t valuing their leads enough. Therefore, I introduced a ‘lead fee’ where franchisees must pay for every lead they take on, regardless of whether they close it or not. Because of this they suddenly cared a lot more about each lead and put in more effort to close them, which grew their businesses and improved their income.

3. Every day, ask yourself ‘how can I do this better?’

The most successful people, I believe, want to do a fantastic job not only for their customers, but for their own pride and self-respect. Take an audit of your business regularly and see which areas are costing you more than they should or where you might be losing customers. It’s also important to note that you need to find the right balance between ambition and reality to sustain profitability. My attitude of ‘do it at all costs’ has sometimes compromised my success.   

4. Weigh up all options before investing

More budget doesn’t necessarily mean better. My business was born from a $24 logo which is now recognised nationally. If you invest wisely and play on familiarity with your infrastructure and assets, you don’t need to have substantial upfront costs.

You must also invest in the right staff, as poor hiring decisions can ultimately cost your business in the early stages. I encourage you to continually invest in trainings for your staff, and regularly asses each member to see if they have the potential to work at a higher level.

5. Take advice from anyone and everyone

By listening, you will learn a huge amount about what you should – or shouldn’t – be doing in order to improve your business. There is always more to learn. Be open to advice! My hope is that my biography shines light on the important fundamentals of business, such as possessing a strong character and principles, which I believe can outweigh smarts or any weakness.

Jim’s Book is published by Wiley and is available in bookstores nationwide. To purchase a copy or to find out more about Jim Penman, visit https://catherinemoolenschot.com.au/books/jims-book/

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