Friday, 6 March 2009

Cumbrian Business is in the Gutter

New Cumbrian business is in the gutter: A Cumbrian entrepreneur has thrown his future into the gutter with a business venture he thinks will beat even the credit crunch. Former window cleaner Geoff Harney (pictured) has launched Cumbria’s first earth-bound guttering cleaning service. The 32-year-old has discovered a system which allows him to remotely view a gutter, then thoroughly clear it, without leaving the ground. He uses an ‘Omnipole’, which features a camera that relays images to a hand-held monitor so he can see what’s lurking before he starts the cleaning process. The pole then becomes a giant vacuum cleaner, sucking up the detritus and delivering it to a unit on the ground.

The system negates the need for a costly cherry picker vehicle, which is where Mr Harney thinks the real business advantage lies. “You have to pay £300 just to hire a cherry picker before you even start,” he said. “My set-up fee is £65 plus VAT for the camera survey and then I will give a quote for the rest of the work, depending on what needs doing.” Mr Harney, of Harraby, Carlisle, left his successful window cleaning business to launch the company last November, after he had taken time off work due to a family illness.
“When I went back to the window cleaning, I had just lost the feeling for it. I knew I needed to do something else,” he said. “Then I got approached for a quote on clearing some gutters at two holdings where I’d been cleaning windows. “So I looked on the internet for a system that would let me do it and I came across Omnipole. I thought: ‘This is fantastic, there could be a business in it.” So he handed in his Chamois leather, let one of his employees take on the window cleaning firm and launched G&D (Cumbria) gutter cleaning. He must now convince a sceptical world of the value of having guttering cleared regularly. “A lot of people never get it done,” he said.
“Most businesses are aware of how important it is to keep gutters clear, though. “For instance, if a gutter bursts and you haven’t been maintaining it, the insurance company won’t pay out for any damage caused to your house. “But because of the difficulty of getting up there to do the job, it is something that often doesn’t get done.” The challenge with the business, compared to window cleaning, he admits, is that it’s a once-a-year job, rather than a regular service. “In window cleaning you need about 600 customers on your books. In this business, if you get a yearly contract, you could get by on 100 commercial customers. “The credit crunch was starting to affect the window cleaning business a little, I lost a couple of customers through it, but like everything else, if you get your prices right, you hang on to customers.

“I think this business will be less affected because there’s an obvious cost benefit compared to traditional methods.” Mr Harney has already completed work at Aglionby Grange, Aglionby, near Carlisle. The makers of the Omnipole GutterVac system recommend a gutter is cleared twice a year. First, a survey is carried out with an ‘omni-cam’, up to a height of 20m. A recording can be made and even copied to DVD so the householder can see how much has been carried out. The pole is then used as a vacuum to suck up debris. There are attachments to make it a pressure washer and others to pick up footballs or tennis balls. A spike can be also be used.
For more information, call Mr Harney on 0797 943 4434.

Omnipole Systems Ltd, 3 Hermitage Lane, London SE25 5HH
Email: - Tel: 020 8405 6781/2
Fax: - 020 8405 6780 See Omnipole at the cleaning show!

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