An Australian Franchisor Interview
Franchisors name: Jim Penman
Name of franchise: Jim’s Group
Tell us about how you started the business and your motivations behind establishing it. What was the first brand you developed and how did you get to where you are today?
I started out as a mowing contractor and moved into establishing and selling mowing runs, using subcontractors to look after customers in the short-term.
When and why you decided to go down the franchise route?
I franchised in 1989 to meet the challenge from VIP, which had branched into Victoria from its base in South Australia.
What have been the company’s biggest achievements/successes to date so far?
Compared with pre-franchise days, my customer complaint level is down by more than 98%. It has also improved steadily over the years as we implement better systems of control such as automated customer surveys.
Franchisee attrition has also dropped in recent years as we have implemented better systems of training and support. For example, we used to lose 17% of our Franchisees in the first year. Now the figure is close to 10%.
What challenges have you had to overcome?
My biggest challenge is that implementing new and tougher systems of support and service runs into resistance at times from Franchisees and Franchisors. We have learned to spend a lot of time explaining why we do things, carefully listening to objections and doing what we can to accommodate them. It is better to progress more slowly by consensus than to push too hard and too fast.
What marketing/promotional tools do you use to grow your franchise?
These days we put most of our resources into web-based promotions. We now have a fully staffed marketing department to provide support and advice including a sales and marketing expert, an SEO specialist, and (shortly) an expert in Google Adwords and social media.
What makes Jim’s Group stand out from the competition?
I believe our key advantage is better support for Franchisees. We strongly encourage prospective Franchisees to phone our existing guys, who are normally our most effective sales force. If support is good enough, the Franchisor’s job is to grant Franchise rights after careful screening. He or she does not need to ‘sell’ anything.
Our tough standards of customer service mean that we are highly successful at finding work. Most of our people are flat out and we knocked back nearly 100,000 clients last year.
In your opinion, what makes a successful Jim’s franchisee?
A genuine passion for customer service, and a desire to constantly improve what they do.
What changes have you seen in the industries in which you operate over recent year? And how have you adapted to them?
The growth of the web is the biggest change and also out biggest advantage. We currently employ eight staff in our IT department, mostly involved in programming and web sites.
What does the future hold for the Jim’s Group franchise?
Our growth in recent years has been dramatic, and I see no reason that cannot be continued and even accelerated. Current prediction is that 2014 will be our big change year, with full automation of many our systems which will allow far better monitoring of service and support.
What expansion plans have you got nationally and internationally?
We are currently launching around three new Divisions a year plus other ventures including a totally new form of Trade Exchange to generate more work for our Franchisees.
What advice would you give to someone considering franchising their business?
Focus on the welfare of your Franchisees first, foremost and always. Then work out how to make money out of it.
If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?
Avoid errors of judgment when picking people!
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