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Jim’s Group unlocks franchise potential of locksmith sector

Thursday, 24 January 2013 | By Michelle Hammond

Jim’s Group is looking for more than 100 franchisees for its newly-launched Jim’s Locksmiths division, with founder Jim Penman saying good business acumen is more important than technical know-how.

 

Penman started Jim’s Group as a part-time gardening business while completing his PhD in history. The business went fulltime in 1982 and was franchised in 1989.

 

There are now more than 2,900 franchisees – spread across four countries – who work in a broad range of divisions including mowing, painting, plumbing, bookkeeping and even dog washing.

 

There are no company-owned businesses within the network – all the work is done by franchisees.

 

With the exception of Jim’s Mowing – the original division with Jim’s Group – all divisions are partnerships with individuals experienced in those industries.

 

The newest division to be added to the list is Jim’s Locksmiths, which will be lead by former South Australian police detective Rob Clark and locksmith Mark Hignett.

 

Over the next two years, their aim is to expand nationally, with Hignett citing Victoria, Perth, Darwin, Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Tasmania and New Zealand as key target markets.

 

The business – which promises to offer “fast, friendly service” around the clock – will service clients in the residential, automotive, commercial and industrial, and government sectors.

 

“We’ve decided locksmithing was a good business for us to be in,” Penman told StartupSmart.

 

“We went out and actually started reaching out to companies active in the field. We were looking for a company that was very good at what it did.

 

“That’s exactly how we launch new franchise businesses these days. We go into the industry and find out who the best operators are. [The Jim’s Locksmiths franchisors] are great people.”

 

Penman says he’s unsure how many Jim’s Locksmiths franchises will be launched, although he “wouldn’t be surprised if we had 1,000”.

 

“It mainly depends on how well the division is led. These are very good people… so I don’t see why we can’t be 1,000. The strongest one is Jim’s Mowing, which is 1,800,” he says.

 

Unlike some of the other divisions, Penman warns there are “fairly stiff requirements” – referring to training in particular – with regard to the locksmith business.

 

“But apart from that, what we’re looking for in a franchisee is business sense. They need to have a strong sense of customer service, be self-disciplined and self-motivated,” he says.

 

“The technical side is actually fairly minor by comparison.

 

“It’s not the most skillful and knowledgeable locksmith that makes the best franchisee. It’s the one that has an adequate technical knowledge and a good business sense.”

 

Hignett says the start-up costs for a franchisee will be “$50,000, but it would probably cost about $100,000 once you take into account things like a vehicle, tools, equipment, stock – things like that”.

 

Meanwhile, another area the company is looking to expand into is heating and cooling.

 

“[The company’s expansion is] an ongoing process. I have two staff dedicated to doing nothing else,” Penman says.

 

In April last year, Penman said he was seeking a pre-IPO backer willing to invest around $10 million into the company.

 

But in July, he said he had given up plans of finding a backer – reverting to his original plan to float the company on the ASX in several years’ time – after no backers came forward.