Jim’s lawn porn

Words by Kleo Cruse
Art by Rebekah Rose

Who the fuck is Jim and what does he want with my lawn?

If you grew up in Australia, you’d know him as the big, bright decal of a benign and bearded face plastered to vehicles, roaming through the suburban streets. Jim of Jim’s Mowing is as ubiquitous in the Australian experience as the toothache-y sweetness of fairy bread and seasonal fear of magpies.

But who is Jim? Well firstly, he is now bereft of the symbolic beard and bucket hat. Images on the Jim’s Group official website show a much more refined, adult Jim, complete with button-down shirt and clean-shaven face.

His name is Jim Penman, and his mowing business was started as a part-time gig to fund his university studies. What’s most phenomenal about this big, yellow sticker on the side of a ute, is that according to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald in 2010, Jim’s Group turns over more than $300 million annually, through its 4000 franchises.

I remember when it was just the green trailers full of garden equipment with Jim’s face in yellow, touting the phone number in simple, yellow font.

 

Jim isn’t just about mowing any more, that’s for sure. According to the official Jim’s Group website, there are fifty-four divisions that the company now operates. The list is dizzying, and frankly fascinating in its range. Regaling them all is a waste of word-space but here are a few of the most divergent from gardening one can imagine: mobile cafe, photography and drones, bookkeeping, and computer services.

 

My theory is that everyone in Australia knows someone who’s worked for a Jim’s franchise. My own uncle had a Jim’s Finance business, and our house had about fifty complimentary Jim’s Finance pens in circulation for four or so years.

If Jim’s savvy business skills weren’t interesting and varied enough, there’s also the fact that he has a PhD in history completed at La Trobe University, and has written a book called Biohistory: Decline and Fall of the West, published in 2015. It is available for free online, so of course I was compelled to download it. I didn’t manage to penetrate the entire 297-page text, but at cursory observation the book is written in clear, eloquent academic prose. What I mean by that is, “better-than-anything-I-could-ever-write”.

Further to this, according to another Sydney Morning Herald article from 2015, Jim Penman is also actively involved in funding a research project with RMIT and The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health. The project deals with anxiety and depression, which has personally affected Jim through the death of a best friend’s brother.

Reaching out to Jim Penman directly so that he could answer some of my questions proved very difficult (read: impossible). The only contact details available were those of a switchboard. The operator who answered warily took down my email address and told me in no uncertain terms that the odds of being contacted were slim to none. Despite my urgent tone, my emotional appeal that it was for a university project and my pleading to be put in touch with an EA or PA for Jim, she resisted and the phone call ended as quickly as it began. When I say the call “began quickly”, this is because according to a video on the official website wherein Jim outlines the ethos of his company, he says, “We have a KPI that says 80% of calls should be answered within the first 20 seconds.” He is also anti-machines, and insists that customers should be answered by “real people”. I’ve gotta say Jim, I agree entirely.

Upon beginning my research for this piece, I thought Jim’s story would be the classic salt-of-the-earth story of Australian industriousness, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. He is, as far as I’m concerned, an anomaly. Never in a million years would I have thought that smiling bucket-hatted face was not just that of a keen, entrepreneurial gardener, but an academic with a vested interest in mental health research and a published work about the decline of Western civilisation.

 

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