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Jim’s Group Reaches 3100
The rapid growth in Jim’s Group continues in 2010, with Franchise numbers rising from 3,000 in January to 3,100 in early May. The Mowing Division reached 1864 in May 2010, an increase of 130 over the previous year. Western Australia did best with a rise of 17% over the past twelve months, followed by Queensland with 12.4%.
Demand for services also increased, with more than 150,000 leads in the past twelve months. Just under 10% went unserviced, because of a lack of Franchisees in certain areas. This problem was less than in previous years, partly because of the growth of larger Franchisees employing several teams of workers.
Around 87% of Mowing Franchisees starting in the financial year 2008-9 were still in business a year later, an improvement on the past and strikingly better than for independent businesses, more than 50% of which have been found to fail in their first year. Reasons include a high volume of work and a new and more intensive five-day training course run by national training manager Mike Davenport.
Most of those who left sold at a good price, and for many it was for personal or family reasons rather than lack of income. Founder Jim Penman was pleased with the result, but expressed the view that ‘even a single failure is one too many’.
Have iPad, will mow
“MOWING, GARDENING, LANDSCAPING, house cleaning – everyone knows we do that,” says founder Jim Penman in a lively, almost holographic-style video appearance on the Jim’s Group website.
“But what about antennas, fencing, test and tag [for workplace appliances], building maintenance, computers, book-keeping, carpet cleaning, window cleaning, car cleaning, dog cleaning?... You want something done, chances are we do it,” he says.
The Jim’s Australian site in fact lists over two dozen services provided by the company, which from start-up in 1982 has now grown into Australia’s largest franchise, with overseas operations in the UK, Canada and New Zealand. Here, the group’s activities embrace only six areas so far but watch this space, says Greg Puzzolo, Divisional Manager for Mowing for Jim’s Group, because as in other markets the demand for services, and the corresponding growth in new franchisees, continue to be strong.
“I can’t say we’ve noticed much of a recessionary effect at all,” he says. “The residential market is going well, as is the commercial, which makes up about 20% of franchisees’ income, and like other franchise groups we continue to see unserviced demand.”
Greg reports that in the last year Jim’s Mowing New Zealand has taken on some 13,000 new clients nationwide and enquiries from new franchisees remain steady and are growing. Like most mowing franchises, the Jim’s Group expanded some years ago well past the core business of lawn mowing into offering a total garden care package that includes lawn weed control, fertiliser application, pruning, hedge and edge trimming and landscaping, as well as complete garden clean-ups.
“We did a thousand clean-ups alone last year,” says Greg, who has an impressive amount of computerised information at his fingertips, “and 5,000 of our new garden jobs also involved rubbish removal. People are time-poor these days.”
Keeping track of several hundred Jim’s Mowing franchisees is a busy job which is handled by a national operations and administration system and a national job booking system that keeps franchisees in swift and responsive touch with their customers. One of the next planned developments by Jim’s Group is an on-the-road iPad app for franchisees that will help boost their service and earnings even more.
“Service is the big, all-important thing in our business,” Greg says. “Our in-house rule is that a customer must receive a call-back within two hours of their enquiry.”
The company also undertakes annual customer surveys to ensure that good service practices keep happening and the results find their way directly into the training programme that all franchisees undergo before they take up their job, and at regular intervals thereafter. The effort obviously works, since Jim’s Group now holds market-leading positions in both the Christchurch and Auckland markets.
Greg says national success has bred further success in that suppliers regularly express interest in Jim’s Group as a potential preferred agent. The company is now the preferred Australasian installer for the iconic clothes line manufacturer Hill’s Hoists, which was attracted by the comprehensive market coverage that Jim’s Group has in both countries.
“Looking ahead, we can only see the market as getting better,” Greg says. “A franchise business is a good bet for franchisees in a recession if you want to look at things that way, but actually, the market is very buoyant.”