Renowned entrepreneur and founder of Dyno-Rod, Jim Zockoll, has passed away at the age of 93. Zockoll, who was born on February 14, 1930, in North Braddock, Pennsylvania, was known for his innovative spirit and contributions to the franchising industry.
Zockoll grew up in a working-class family and completed high school before serving in the US Armed Forces during the Korean War. After his service, he pursued his passion for mechanics by enrolling in the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics. In 1955, he joined Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) as a flight engineer on the DC6 and DC7 aircraft.
When Pan Am introduced the Boeing 707 jets in the late 1950s, Zockoll’s position as an engineer was no longer needed on every flight. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Zockoll bought several houses on Long Island, where he lived with other crew members and rented out the remaining properties. He also started a small drain-cleaning business as a backup plan in case he was made redundant.
During a layover in London, Zockoll met his English wife, Ann, and eventually moved to the UK to start a family. It was during this time that Zockoll’s entrepreneurial spirit truly flourished. While staying at a hotel in London, the manager was faced with a costly drain blockage in the ballroom, threatening to cancel the hotel’s Christmas party. Zockoll offered to clear the drains for a fraction of the cost and successfully completed the job in just fifteen minutes using his own electro-mechanical drain-cleaning machine. This experience sparked the idea for Dyno-Rod.
Zockoll recognized the potential for franchising as a way to deliver a national service in the UK quickly and cost-effectively. However, franchising was still a foreign concept in the UK at the time. Zockoll not only had to learn how to franchise but also had to introduce the concept to a country unfamiliar with it. As Dyno-Rod grew, Zockoll introduced more American concepts to the UK, including Pit-Stop car exhaust service, Autrac mobile engine tuning, Piggy-Back trailers, Texon car paint shops, and ZIF parcel delivery. The success of Dyno-Rod led to Zockoll becoming the founding member of the British Franchise Association (BFA) in 1977.
Zockoll’s dedication and hard work paid off, and Dyno-Rod was eventually acquired by Centrica in 2004. Zockoll, however, did not retire and continued to bring innovative brands to the marketplace through franchise consulting and licensing brand concepts. In 2017, Zockoll became a British citizen, and he continued to work every day as the chairman of the Zockoll Group until his passing on January 25, 2024.
Zockoll’s legacy as the “godfather of modern franchising” in the UK will be remembered for generations to come. His determination and perseverance not only made Dyno-Rod a household name but also helped shape the drain-cleaning and plumbing industry into what it is today. Zockoll was a private person but also a philanthropist and larger-than-life character who impacted many lives on both sides of the Atlantic. He is survived by his wife Ann and sons Steven and Jim.