When Jim Paxton was about nine years old, his uncle hired him and his cousin for the summer. Their jobs were to do everything they could with shovels, rakes, and brooms to clean up around their uncle’s store. This uncle was an astute businessman and entrepreneur, who owned and managed three businesses on one property: a fast food restaurant, a convenience store, and a mobile home park. Jim remembers watching how his uncle ran things and getting to ask a lot of questions, like “why was he changing the gas station into a convenience store,” which was a novel idea at the time.
Jim’s parents had already trained Jim to make the most of the chance to work. All four of their children, Jim being the youngest, knew that diligence was an important value. They would be expected to earn any money they wanted. They were taught to set goals and treat people well as they went about accomplishing the goals. The parents would give wise counsel, but the children needed to take initiative.
During the summers until high school, Jim and his cousin lived in Buhl (Idaho) off and on, with the aforementioned uncle, who was married to Jim’s father’s sister. Jim thought of the whole live-in-as-hired-labor situation more as a hobby. He enjoyed the constant contact with people, too. He came to love the idea of being self-employed. There were plenty of chances to learn skills, including time management and working with equipment. It was a hands-on business experience that came with excellent explanations.
Cleaning clinkers out of coal furnaces and lawn mowing filled Jim’s school-year-after-school hours until he was 14 years old. Then, he was old enough to be hired by a local farm. The farm, Cummins Farms, was part of Uhlig Ranches, and was located nearly 20 miles from Twin Falls (Idaho), where Jim was born and raised.
High school classes were let out at 2 PM and Jim worked every evening after school. In the fall, he would plow or disc from 4 PM until midnight. The winter evenings were spent in the spud cellar “pressing pipe,” which meant putting pieces together. This was piece work that the boys cooperated together to do assembly line style; then, they divided the pay. Summer days were busy from 5 AM to 9 PM, driving machines and dealing with irrigation. Homework was fit in enough to keep up average grades in the academic world.
When Jim graduated from high school in 1977, he had no desire to go to college. Instead, he worked first for his brother-in-law and sister, Dale and Karla Pippitt, learning about pumps at Floyd Lilly Company. He also worked for Floyd Vance, at Kimberly Nursery, putting in lawn sprinklers. Then he was hired by Larry Fairbanks at PMF to do underground construction work. In those jobs, Jim learned valuable trade skills. Because of these skills, in 1978, a friend’s dad asked Jim and the friend to install a one-piece fiberglass swimming pool. Word got out and soon the duo were receiving regular referrals.
At first, the young men just worked part time out of a garage. However, in 1979, they decided it would be good to have a place of business with regular hours. Jim’s dad had co-signed on a loan for Jim during high school, which helped Jim buy a truck and laid the foundation for Jim’s good credit rating. Thus, when Jim went to the bank to borrow money for the business, the bank was comfortable giving him another loan. Plus, since it was a relatively small town, the banker knew several of Jim’s previous customers! Soon, Jim and his friend had opened a shop where people could get a better look at the products that the business could make available to them. It was not long before the business sold its first hot tub.
In 1982, Jim’s friend wanted to move on to other things, so Jim bought the entire business. Jim has been multiplying his business ventures ever since. He began owning and managing commercial property in Twin Falls in 1985. The Boise Snake River Pool and Spa store was opened in 1989, followed by a store in Idaho Falls in 1993, then another in the Wood River Valley in 1995. Jim was able to sell the third and fourth stores later, when he decided he wasn’t spending enough time at home. Along the way, he also purchased commercial property in Boise, where he owns and operates three stores, including the Boise Snake River Pool and Spa store.
Jim’s mom says Jim always likes to have projects going on and doesn’t let the grass grow under his feet. Jim say this is because he enjoys getting things accomplished. However, he fully recognizes all the mentoring and help he has benefitted from. There have been unexpected opportunities, too, but it appears that he has made excellent use of them.