I met Jim Penman in September 2017 at a business event held at Foothills Conference Centre, which he owns. A friend had called to offer me a free ticket to the event, adding, ‘Jim Penman will be one of the keynote speakers; it'll be a great day'.

‘Jim who?' I replied.

‘Penman — you know Jim's Mowing? The guy who started it.'

‘Oh Jim!' Of course I knew of Jim's. Who didn't?

At the event Jim shared the story of his franchise, especially his obsession with great customer service. It was inspiring. He also made a brief mention of his research into the rise and fall of civilisations, which I found fascinating: what can we learn from our past mistakes and successes as a civilisation?

After the talk a small group of us chased Jim down, catching him just before he left for his next appointment. He was happy to chat for five minutes, and gave us all a free copy of his book Biohistory: The decline and fall of the West — and, amazingly, his email address.

I love talking with individuals who have achieved a lot, learning valuable insights and hearing their incredible stories, so this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. I emailed him that night thanking him for the book and suggesting we catch up. He agreed, as he wanted to discuss with me how he could get more exposure for his research, and suggested I read the book first.

I read it over the next month, emailed him, and arranged to meet at Jim's national office. Upon arrival I had two distinct impressions. The first was how ...

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