Traveling 8,500 miles to set up a new business isn’t for the faint of heart.
That’s what John and Alison Abercrombie did in 2015 when they left Sydney, Australia, with their teenage sons to start a new life in Houston as PIRTEK franchisees.
“We wanted to have an adventure and come to the United States,” John said. “We looked at some business models and options over here, and the PIRTEK model stood out as just a fantastic business idea.”
The Abercrombies own and operate PIRTEK Gulfgate, a 3,000 square-foot facility at 6205 Brookhill Drive in Houston. They started out in December 2015 with three Mobile Service Vehicles. But business has been solid and they now have six vehicles crisscrossing the state’s largest metroplex.
The only franchise of its kind in the United States, PIRTEK provides hydraulic and industrial hose replacement sales and services. There are 67 PIRTEK franchises and a fleet of Mobile Service Vehicles throughout the United States. Globally, PIRTEK has more than 400 locations and 2,000 Mobile Service Vehicles in 23 countries.
Reducing downtime for Houston industry
PIRTEK cuts downtime by making onsite repairs when a hose failure occurs on a piece of hydraulic or pneumatic equipment. In 2016, PIRTEK rolled out its Tier 2 franchising model, a mobile-only option that allows for PIRTEK ownership at a significantly lower point of entry than the traditional Tier 1 model.
The company’s Mobile Service Vehicles are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. PIRTEK’s technicians can customize hoses and fittings on location to get the equipment up and running again.
The Abercrombies found Houston to be a prime location for just such a business.
“Being a port city, Houston offers a lot of opportunities for us in marine industries, as well as in construction, recycling, waste and equipment rental,” John said. “So many industries use hydraulic hoses. In time, they’ll all need replacement. That’s what we do.”
The long journey to Texas
John is no stranger to hydraulics, having worked many years in a family mining operation near Sydney. In fact, the company was itself a PIRTEK customer.
Despite being the managing director of the successful operation, John longed to become an entrepreneur. He was interested in setting up shop in the United States for a number of practical reasons. First, on average, American homes are vastly more affordable. Second, the Abercrombies wanted more college options for their sons, one of whom wishes to pursue basketball during his scholastic path. Finally, they’re accustomed to both the climate and culture in Texas.
John said that the family is enjoying life in Houston, although there are times when the sheer scope of the metro area can be challenging. “The size and sprawl of Houston is staggering,” he said.
Honesty: the best policy
After the Abercrombies settled into their new American home, they went to work launching the franchise and pursuing customers. John said he has found it most effective simply to be himself and present the business in the most transparent manner possible.
“We have tried to develop a culture of honesty throughout our organization that flows from the owners, through to the employees and on to our customers and suppliers,” he said. “I believe this has helped people to become comfortable in doing business with us.”
Alison added that customer relations is among her husband’s strengths. “John is great at meeting all the customers and making them feel important,” she said.
The approach appears to be working: The business has seen robust growth over the past year.
Working as a team
One strong suit for the Abercrombies has been their approach to business as a spousal team. “We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, so I can relax knowing John has certain things completely under control, and he has the comfort of knowing which things I have under control,” Alison said.
In addition to the division of labor, there’s also the advantage of being able to offer mutual support when it’s needed. “We both enjoy a good laugh, so when things get stressful at work we are able to dissolve the stress quickly with a joke or a hug,” she said.
John has a similar perspective. “We work fantastically well together, we have a lot of time together,” he said. “We’re a great team and we enjoy it a lot.”
And so, as they continue the growth of their business, the Abercrombies are settling into the Lone Star State, enjoying its culture and cuisine. “We’re loving the people in Texas,” Alison said, “and we’re growing from all the food.”