Tuesday, November 15, 2016
The story begins at the Abercrombie family hydraulics-services company in southern Australia. After John's father sold the business, John and Alison continued to work there while looking to control their own destiny. John was attracted to Pirtek, a mobile franchise based in Australia that fixes hydraulic hoses on equipment. It turned out that the brand was already well-established throughout Ozzieland. The company is eager to expand into the U.S., and John wanted to help, so away the family went. Last January he launched a Pirtek unit in Houston.
Is Pirtek that good of an opportunity that John would move halfway around the world?
We knew we desired to own a franchise business. That was clear. We wondered "What we can we do in Australia?" It came down to running a food franchise or something like that. From my former career, I was most comfortable with Pirtek and I saw the potential it has in the U.S. Having an adventure and resetting our life had appeal. We compared it to wiping the slate clean and designing things all anew. Is it difficult to get a visa to move to the United States?
It is terrifying. From start to finish it was 5 or 6 months. It all depended on walking up to the U.S. consulate and praying that our application was accepted.
We had no plan B; we had quit our jobs and sold our house. It was extremely stressful.
Why Houston? How's it going?
We looked at other places. Our family felt most comfortable in Houston. It's a massive opportunity. There are an astounding number of hydraulic hose users. We feel we are fitting in well. From a city of 300,000, we came to Houston which has 7 million. It was shocking to see the freeways and get accustomed to traffic. What's been the biggest difference?
It's the small things. Paper checks. In Australia I hadn't used a check in years.
Here they are standard. People still use fax machines. The biggest difference is employee skills. Australia has a very strong technical training system. Technicians would have done 3 to 4 years of college and had an apprenticeship. Not here. We have to watch to find people who are competent technically, versus people just saying they want to get a job.
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