We all grew up seeing Jim’s Mowing trailers on the road, but it turns out there is much more to the story of the founder than meets the eye. In March this year a biography of Jim Penman, the founder of the Jim’s Group, hit bookstores. It is aptly called Jim’s Book, was written by Melbournian Catherine Moolenschot, and is a warts-and-all account of Jim Penman’s life and business.
Jim has a PhD in history, eleven children (he is happily married to his fourth wife), lives a modest lifestyle and funds research into helping people who suffer from addiction and mental illness. He thinks having children is the greatest joy, and in an interview with Catherine shared that he sees sperm donation as a public service. Jim has fired his own sister, is ruthless in legal battles and has arguably the fairest franchise system in Australia, if not the world.
Catherine Moolenschot interviewed Jim and over one hundred people in his life to write the book, including his adversaries, friends, foes, current and former staff, franchisees and ex-franchisees, franchisors and ex-franchisors, and family – including his sister, who he fired – to uncover the true story of Jim’s life and character, and how he made his millions.
Ross Fitzgerald wrote a book review in The Australian, saying ‘Jim’s story is often inspiring and surprising. But as Jim’s Book reveals – in a work that is part biography, part philosophy, part history – at times Penman’s tale is also in some respects extremely strange.’
Jim’s Book was published by Wiley and has been featured in The Age, A Current Affair, Sunrise, and many more media outlets – for the first time, the real story behind the face on the trailers is becoming known. And yes, that face on the trailers really is Jim (drawn from a photo taken of him years ago when he still had a beard).
Jim launched his franchise thirty years ago with a sky-high dream of one day having one hundred franchisees. Today, he has almost 4,000 franchisees, which he argues is more than even Australia Post has. There are over fifty Jim’s divisions, here are a few; Jim’s Fencing, Jim’s Dog Wash, Jim’s Mobile Cafe, Jim’s Real Estate, Jim’s Photography and Drones, Jim’s Skip Bins, Jim’s Pool Care… the list goes on and on, and of course, the internet has provided Jim with some suggestions like ‘Jim’s Handjobs’ and ‘Jim’s Exotic Cheeses’.
Jim Penman moved to Melbourne with his family as a teenager, and it has been his home ever since. Jim doesn’t enjoy travelling (or flying) and spends most of his time in Mooroolbark, which is where the Jim’s Group National Office is, and where he lives. It is a great Melbournian story, that reaches internationally as well – the Jim’s franchise is also in New Zealand, Canada, and the UK.