Life On The Job

Handyperson: Dr. Jim Penman, CEO Jim's Group including Jim's Mowing [1952 - ]

Jim Penman


Jim was born in Adelaide. He moved to Melbourne as a 14-year-old. Jim’s father was a successful professional engineer who became a university lecturer and consultant. His mother was a school teacher but spent most of her time bringing up four children.

Jim admits he’s the odd one out: “I’m a typical second child – very rebellious and creative. There’s an old saying that the oldest child tends to be the more conventional high achiever; the second child’s the rebel; and the youngest is the gregarious social type. It certainly applies in my family.

“I’m a maverick; I do things differently. My academic thinking was extremely unorthodox – that’s why I couldn’t get a job – and my business thinking is very strange; it’s very unusual.”
(Source: Business Franchise)

His Business:

"Jim's Group started as a part-time gardening business while Jim Penman completed his PhD in history. It went full time in 1982 and was franchised in 1989. Currently, there are over 2900 Franchisees in four countries, and growing at the rate of around 200 per year.

There are no company owned businesses and all work is done by Franchisees. Franchisor rights are also privately held and all Divisions, except Mowing, are partnerships with individuals experienced in those industries.

Jim is the owner and full-time CEO of Jim's Group. He is happily married with ten children, loves his work and has no plans to retire - ever!" (Source: Jim's Group)

Founded in 1982 by Jim Penman, Jim's Mowing has expanded to become Jim's Group, the largest franchise in Australia with 3000 franchises, as well as becoming the world's largest home franchise business.

Franchises now include Jim's Antennas, Jim's Window Tinting, Jim's Bookkeeping, Jim's Building Maintenance, Jim's Computer Services, Jim's Dog Wash, Jim's Painting and Jim's Roofing, and Jim's Group has recently expanded into Great Britain, New Zealand & Canada. (Source: Wikipedia)

"With just $24 in his pocket Jim Penman started a part-time mowing business while earning his PhD in history [from La Trobe University].

La Trobe University logo

What is a PhD?

Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as PhD, Ph.D., D.Phil., or DPhil in English-speaking countries and originally as Dr.Philos. or Dr.Phil. (for the Latin philosophiae doctor or doctor philosophiae), is in many countries a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities.

The academic level known as a doctorate of philosophy varies considerably according to the country, institution, and time period, from entry-level research degrees to higher doctorates.

A person who attains a doctorate of philosophy is automatically awarded the academic title of doctor.
(Source: Wikipedia)

He launched "Balwyn Gardening", later renamed Jim’s Mowing, as a full-time business in 1982. He originally aimed only at taking on subcontractors, but his business grew and he gradually began to specialise in the building up and selling of lawn mowing rounds - more than 100 over several years.

By 1989 Jim Penman franchised his business and since then the growth of Jim’s Mowing has been rapid.

The shift to full franchising came from a desire to offer better customer service, and with the threat of competition from the arrival of the Adelaide based VIP Home Services group.

The Franchise proved surprisingly successful, with sixty Franchisees operating by the end of the first year and a presence in all Australian states within three years.

From being small and relatively unknown, it has become the largest and best known lawn mowing business in the world.

Jim’s Cleaning was launched in 1994 and was soon followed by dog wash, handyman, fencing and about 15 other divisions which now operated in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom.

In recent years, Jim’s has launched a number of new divisions, the most successful of which are cleaning, dog wash, antennas, fencing, paving, and women’s fitness centres (Beach House). All these are run as joint ventures, with experienced people providing their technical expertise and Jim’s working on the franchising and administration side. This has been a highly successful move. Franchisees in the new divisions are growing at an annual rate of 150%. The Jim’s Group currently has over 2200 Franchisees worldwide (Australia, New Zealand, UK and Canada) turning over in excess of $300 million. (Source: Platinum Speakers)

"Exceptional service is the key to success, to growth, and to profits"
(Source: Jim Penman, Selling by Not Selling, p8)


YouTube: Interview with the founder of Jim's Group:


"You cannot fail if you refuse
to give up!"
(Source: Jim Penman, Selling by Not Selling, p16)

YouTube: JIm's Ethos: Part 1

 YouTube: Jim Penman reflects on 25 years of Jim's Group






Jim's Group: Meet Jim


Jim Penman



Small Business Big Marketing

Business Franchise

Business Franchise


What is your dream? What things do you like now that could be your future job?

PrimaryPrimary, MiddleMiddle, High SchoolSecondary

Personal and social capabilityAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy



1. Jim Penman starting mowing lawns at the age of 8. (Source: Jim Penman, Selling by Not Selling) This job has become the one that Jim went back to over and over after trying other jobs. He has turned this handyperson's job into one of the most successful businesses in Australia.  

2. What have you discovered about yourself that you like doing or care about? Write down your thoughts in a reflective journal.

3. What is Reflective Writing? 

Reflective Writing

"Reflective writing is evidence of reflective thinking. In an academic context, reflective thinking usually involves:

  • Looking back at something (often an event, i.e. something that happened, but it could also be an idea or object).
  • Analysing the event or idea (thinking in depth and from different perspectives, and trying to explain, often with reference to a model or theory from your subject).
  • Thinking carefully about what the event or idea means for you and your ongoing progress as a learner

Reflective thinking – especially if done in discussion with others – can be very ‘free’ and unstructured and still be very useful. Even reflective writing can be unstructured, for example when it is done in a personal diary.

In assignments that require reflective writing, however, tutors normally expect to see carefully-structured writing.

Basic reflective writing can be broken down into three parts: description, interpretation and outcome.

a. Description (keep this bit short!)
What happened?
What is being examined?

b. Interpretation
What is most important / interesting/ useful / relevant about the object, event or idea?
How can it be explained?
How is it similar to and different from others?

c. Outcome
What have I learned from this?
What does this mean for my future? (Source: Reflective Writing)




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Lesley & Roger Gillespie

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