Aussie businessman and his wife traverse the globe to open PIRTEK franchise in Houston
John Abercrombie makes the switch from satisfied PIRTEK client to energized PIRTEK owner
A journey of 8,000 miles begins with a single step. For John Abercrombie, that step was his decision to pursue ownership of a PIRTEK franchise in Texas – a world away from his lifelong home outside Sydney, Australia.
It’s a step he’s happy to have made.
“The signs are all very positive right now,” said Abercrombie, who opened a PIRTEK Service & Supply Center in Houston back in December 2015. “Things are all going in the right direction. We’re encouraged.”
Abercrombie and his wife, Alison, have teamed up to run the new PIRTEK Gulfgate location in the bustling southern metroplex – the 57th PIRTEK Service & Supply Center in the United States. She coordinates the office and administrative duties, while he functions as general manager and takes on sales responsibilities. “It’s a good division of labor,” said Alison Abercrombie. “Each of us has our own set of strengths we bring to the business. We work together as an effective team.”
A unique business
PIRTEK is the only franchise of its kind operating in the United States. It provides hydraulic and industrial hose replacement sales and services from its Service & Supply Centers. On an international level, PIRTEK boasts more than 400 Service & Supply Centers in 23 countries around the world.
A staff of five operates the new, 3,000 square-foot PIRTEK Gulfgate facility at 6205 Brookhill Dr., Houston, TX 77087. The three 24/7 Mobile Service Vehicles are ready for on-location work wherever a piece of machinery may require a hose replacement.
Inside the vehicles, an on-call PIRTEK technician has all the equipment necessary to custom-fit a hose for whatever application is waiting onsite. No other company can do what PIRTEK does.
Each Mobile Service Vehicle will cover a third of the 100-mile radius that PIRTEK serves. The Abercrombies’ location is the second PIRTEK Service & Supply Center to open in the Houston area. Other PIRTEK locations in Texas include Dallas, Plano, Fort Worth and San Antonio.
A busy time
To say the least, it has been one eventful year for the Abercrombies. First, the couple and their two children moved from Australia, venturing everything to open up the new Texas franchise. John Abercrombie flew to Rockledge, FL, the company’s USA headquarters, where he went through rigorous training to prepare him for this new endeavor. Then the moment came they had been anticipating throughout the entire process: turning the key in the front door of the Service & Supply Center as a PIRTEK owner.
“We have a lot of confidence that it’s going to take off,” John Abercrombie said. “We know what it takes to run a service-based business. This is a solid company and a great location.”
Keeping industry up and running
In a city the size of Houston, there are always opportunities to acquire business. Abercrombie anticipates about 85 percent of his customers coming from construction companies, equipment rental facilities, equipment overhaul businesses, and the recycling and waste sector.
“In a port city like Houston, there’s plenty of opportunity for PIRTEK,” he said. “Where there’s industrial equipment, particularly hydraulics, there are hoses. Over time, the stress takes its toll. When hoses blow or require replacement because of age, that’s when they call us.”
And that call is critical. A ruptured hose on a piece of equipment can have dire consequences for an industrial business. The fluid can make a colossal mess, the equipment shuts down and the crew can’t do its job. PIRTEK steps into these emergency situations to restore order and help get things running again.
No stranger to PIRTEK
Abercrombie’s knowledge of PIRTEK goes way back. He worked a long stint in a family business outside Sydney, a hydraulic mining operation where he was an end user of PIRTEK himself. “I’ve been familiar with PIRTEK for a long time; it’s a household name in Australia,” he said. “When the hoses in our mining operations needed servicing, PIRTEK was always the best option.”
Whenever a hose emergency struck, he found the PIRTEK option more economical and efficient than any do-it-yourself efforts in house. “The environmental impact of the accident, the time spent traveling across town to get a hose that might not work, the idled crew – all of these factors made PIRTEK the best choice,” Abercrombie said. “The economics of it, there’s just no contest.”
The family mining company started up 24 years ago. Abercrombie worked with his dad, who retired 15 years later, leaving him in charge of operations as managing director. It was a $30 million business with 54 employees – but something was missing.
“It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it. But it was just time to do something different,” he said. “I wanted 100-percent ownership of something and wanted to come to the United States.”
When Abercrombie decided to change directions in life and pursue franchise ownership, the choice of PIRTEK was straightforward. “It was a bit of a no-brainer for us,” he said. “The convenience for the end-user is the biggest market point for them.”
Several factors fueled the family’s desire to relocate in the United States. For one, American housing is affordable when compared to the $1 million average price tag on an Australian home. The Abercrombies had also vacationed in the United States and found the culture compatible to their own. In addition, one of the two teenaged sons is an up-and-coming basketball player and the Abercrombies wanted him to have college choices to facilitate that interest.
In their geographic search, the couple narrowed their future home to the Lone Star State. “Texas values align very closely with ours,” John Abercrombie said. With its ports, construction and educational opportunities, Houston was on the top of their list.
The Houston area offered a climate to which he and his family were accustomed. He also appreciates the Texas government for not imposing undue barriers to franchise startup. “Texas definitely encourages business,” he said. “They’re geared around getting you going instead of holding you back.”
PIRTEK people: part of a team
Now that he’s on the PIRTEK side, Abercrombie said he’s experienced a lot of cooperation from the company at large. “They were all excited to help,” he said. “This is a team of people all trying to do the same thing. I can call the home office for help anytime. It’s a real asset.”
Since opening the PIRTEK Gulfgate Service & Supply Center, Abercrombie has found the daily support from the company extremely beneficial. “We’ve had a continual stream of PIRTEK people coming through – sales experts, technical people, accounting professionals – it’s really been a constant supply to help us in every facet of the business,” he said.
Weekly conferences with headquarters and with the other PIRTEK locations have also helped him draw upon the insights of longtime business owners. “They guide us and help us along the way,” he said.
The pursuit of customers
Now that the Abercrombie family is all situated, the pursuit of new business is John Abercrombie’s relentless focus. “Much of it is face to face, door to door, there’s a lot of that in the early days,” he said, adding that having an existing PIRTEK in town gives his Service & Supply Center some important name recognition. “Not only do people in the community recognize the brand, but the Mobile Service Vehicles themselves are important marketing tools – like moveable billboards. PIRTEK gives us a lot of advantages.”
And so after launching this exciting new livelihood in a new land, the Abercrombies are taking charge of their business future as PIRTEK franchise owners. “It’s been an exciting journey for us,” said Alison Abercrombie, “and it’s only the beginning.”