Thank you to the 1646 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 questions! I hope reading 7 Questions with
helps you in your leadership.
Name: Jim Penman
Organisation: Jim's Group
Starting as a lawnmowing contractor in 1982, we franchised in 1989 and now have over 5,000 Franchisees in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Jim's Group now has 45 divisions covering areas as diverse as cleaning, test and tag, dog wash, pool care, building inspections, and more.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
Finding good people as the company grows, especially to perform the roles where I lack expertise, such as IT and finance.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
Started a one-man company and grew it.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
A lot of emails and quite a few phone calls. I give every one of my 5,000 Franchisees my phone number and email address, and encourage them to use it, responding to each enquiry within hours if not minutes. I also take a direct role in responding to customer service issues, where they are not properly handled or are too complex for other people. My email is generally available to the public, which makes it very easy for people to approach me about new divisions, commercial opportunities, and other key matters. I regularly walk around my business premises and see most staff most days, with a lot of informal discussions but few formal meetings. I teach two courses in our induction training program, and try to meet personally every new Franchisee.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
If a staff member will not be in the office most days, go overseas. This not only saves costs but avoids Australia's horrific labour laws. The only exception is our call centre, which requires local knowledge and local accents.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
The bible. Our vision of servant leadership is driven by the story of Jesus washing his disciples' feet. More than any franchise system in the world, that I know of, we put service to Franchisees at the core of our contracts and culture. I am also inspired by the Parable of the Talents, which makes me responsible for using my abilities properly, but without the need to feel diminished by people more capable than me. Also, 'it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to go to through the eye of a needle. Wealth can be corrupting, and should not be used for personal indulgence.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Every day, ask yourself the question: how can I do better? Success is thousands of tiny improvements, not a few great ideas.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
Before the franchise I had a business focused on building up and selling lawnmowing rounds. I was terrible at it, and failing badly. During this time, I went to see a contact from my church who owned an advertising agency. He spent a half hour giving me advice on advertising, before telling me that I didn't need an agency at that time. On leaving, I realized that he had completely sold me on his agency, and I would definitely use him when I did have need (which I did, some years later). The reason? He had shown no interest other than the success of my business.
I started to apply the same lesson to people showing an interest in lawnmowing runs, even to the extent of advising them to elsewhere, if that seemed a better option for them. Immediately, I became far more successful at sales. The same strategy worked when launching the franchise some years later.
Focus on the success of the people you're dealing with: customers, employees, staff, suppliers. If they succeed, then so will you