Introduction: ‘The Real Jim'

In the late 1980s Jim Penman was in an ‘utter panic'. He had been mowing lawns in Melbourne, employing subcontractors, and selling his excess clients in batches called ‘mowing rounds' to people who wanted to start independent mowing businesses. He knew there was a mowing franchise system called VIP in Adelaide that was very successful, but Jim couldn't see how to make a franchise work in a way that would clearly benefit the franchisee.

Then VIP expanded to Victoria and Jim feared they would swallow his entire business. He talked to VIP's Victorian state manager at the time and offered to sell his entire output of mowing clients to VIP on an ongoing basis, making Jim an appendage of VIP. But VIP was a big business that was growing steadily, and the offer was refused. Still, the success of VIP suggested to Jim that franchising was feasible.

Shortly thereafter Jim attended a meeting at his church. That day the talk was about goal-setting, and, as Jim recalled, ‘On the spot, I decided that franchising the business would be my goal'.

His first move was to attend the 1988 Melbourne Franchise Show, immediately hiding his nametag upon arrival. He walked straight to the VIP stand and enquired. ‘The man gave me a brochure and a long and detailed explanation of the VIP system,' Jim recalled with a grin. After twenty minutes VIP's Victorian state manager arrived, saw Jim, and called out, ‘That's Jim Penman! Don't tell him another thing!' But Jim had already ...

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