Thursday 28 February 2013

British Standard 8213-1:2004 For The Cleaning Of Windows

BSI is the business standards company that helps organizations make excellence a habit – all over the world.
Are building regulations the enemy of architecture? What do the national anthem and a 'small, elderly woman' have in common with statutory building rules? A new exhibition seeks to untangle the red tape of these complicated restrictions …

Lifetime Homes, the Code for Sustainable Homes, Secured by Design, Housing Quality Indicators, British Standards, Building Bulletins, Planning Policy Guidance Notes and the 14 parts of the Building Regulations are just some of the statutory standards and guidelines that architects face when building in the UK.

It is a dense minefield of rules and regulations that governs everything from the size of windows to the pitch of rooftops, the depth of stair treads to the gradient of slopes – even where to put light switches. From overlooking distances to rights to light, every aspect of a new building has been quantified and calibrated before the designer even sets pen to paper.

But does all this red tape hinder architects, or are these the kind of constraints under which creativity can thrive? It is a question posed by architects Liam Ross and Tolulope Onabolu in their contribution to a new exhibition at London's RIBA gallery – Venice Takeaway: Ideas to Change British Architecture. The show brings work to London that was first exhibited in the British Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale last year, curated by the British Council, where 10 teams of "explorers" scoured the globe to source ideas that could influence the profession in the UK – from collective housing in Buenos Aires to standardised school building in Rio.

Learning from Lagos … not the chaotic frenzy of ad hoc urbanism it appears to be.
Ross and Onabolu travelled to the Nigerian capital of Lagos, to see how a less regulated building culture fares. Although the city is a seemingly chaotic frenzy of ad hoc urbanism, their research unearthed the obscure LSPD Regulation 15, which defines the city-wide setback rule – the distance every development must step back from its legal boundary. A regulated no man's land between buildings and the street ranging from three to nine metres, this buffer zone in fact turned out to be the most lively and dynamic part of the city's fabric. It is an intermediate zone filled with the ancillary structures of security posts, guards' houses, generators, storage and utility buildings on one side of the fence, while the street-side space is filled with temporary users – food vendors, garden centres, mechanics and religious spaces.

"It allows Lagosians to take personal responsibility for themselves," write the architects. "Nothing is legally sanctioned within this zone, yet – somewhat counterintuitively – anything can happen. The setback is a legally defined zone of extra-legal tolerance."

Diagram showing a person's reach in relation to window size: 'Windows must be tailored to the size and shape of a small elderly woman'.
Their work contrasts this situation with the impacts of the over-regulated UK setup, focusing on the specific example of windows – namely British Standard 8213-1:2004 for the cleaning of windows. This innocuous sounding piece of guidance specifies that all windows must be cleanable from within, by women aged 64–75, without the use of ladders or cleaning devices and without stretching. Through photographic surveys and measured diagrams, they chart the profound impact this rule has had on contemporary housing, leading to a proliferation of low, poky windows with protective Juliet balconies.

"We're not just interested in the physical outcomes of these rules," says Ross, "but what economic side-effects they have, and how they tend to formalise existing patterns of inequality."

They point out that the regulation can be avoided by the client using a "factoring agreement" to transfer the risk of window cleaning to a professional contractor – meaning that it is the low-value housing developments that suffer.

"Suddenly the people that live in the cheaper blocks are deemed unable to be making their own judgments about leaning out of a window," says Ross. "These regulations are fortifying existing class definitions."

Since the Venice Biennale, the pair have continued to develop the work with students at the University of Edinburgh. Examples shown in a pinup space as part of the RIBA exhibition include fascinating insights into the origins of fire regulations, which are bizarrely related to the time it takes to play the national anthem.

Learning from Lagos … not the chaotic frenzy of ad hoc urbanism it appears to be.
Statutory escape distances still date back to the British Fire Prevention Committee's report on a fire at Edinburgh's Empire Palace Theatre in 1911, which was taken to be a model of best practice, due to the safe evacuation of the audience – who left the building in the time it took the band to play the national anthem, ie 2.5 minutes. This time is then translated into a linear escape distance by a formula that relates to a number of variables, from room area to the size of exits – as well as the presumed shoulder-width of the escapees. "Scotland has more conservative travel distance requirements than England," they note, "because Scots are presumed to have broader shoulders than their southerly neighbours."

It is these quirks and inconsistencies of regulations that intrigue the pair. "We are fascinated by how these rules have been generated," says Ross. "While the project is sceptical about the empirical data that defines the specific parameters of regulations, it's also interested in what the productive outcomes are – the kind of 'accidental architectures' that emerge."

BS 8213-1:2004 - Windows doors and rooflights. Design for safety in use and during cleaning of windows, including door-height windows and roof windows. Code of practice: This British Standard, a part of the BS 8213 series, gives recommendations on the design, construction, operation and maintenance of windows, including door height windows, for safety in use and during cleaning, including safe opening characteristics and the arrangement of window controls, to safeguard occupants and passers-by. The recommendations for safety for windows also apply to roof windows, where relevant. Guidance on safety for rooflights is excluded from this document.

The guidance given in this standard is in addition to legislative requirements, which take precedence, and is suitable for new buildings and for upgrading and refurbishment works. It is aimed at all those involved in the specification, design, selection and use of windows, including public authorities, house-builders, architects, surveyors, window designers, window installers, glazing contractors and building owners. It may also be useful to building occupiers.

The guidance is primarily intended for use in residential accommodation, but many of the recommendations are applicable to other building types, to which  health and safety legislation applies.

Reach capabilities, recommendations on safety restrictors, basic guidance on design for safe cleaning and maintenance of external and internal glazing at height, and recommendations for safe working practices in the use of portable ladders where necessary, after assessment of the use of the other methods of safe temporary access given in this standard’s annexes.

This code of practice is not intended to offer comprehensive guidance for maintenance and redecoration of windows, where more specific safety measures are required.

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Wagtail Giant Gets Two Interviews

The Wagtail giant pictured here slinging a squeegee on the side of the old Wagtail warehouse in Sydney, with Willie Wagtail on the right.
This interview was taken from Window Cleaning Business Owner Magazine Issue # 3 (December 2012). Remember, you can re-read older issues of window cleaning business owner online here for free.

 When I was asked to interview Willie Wagtail, owner of Wagtail Pivotal Tools, it was like asking a soccer fan if he’d like to interview Pele or a baseball fan if he’d like to meet Babe Ruth! I’ve owned every one of Willies squeegee’s since they’ve arrived on the scene & I’m besotted with them! It’s now my squeegee of choice – I always carry an 14” & 18” Wagtail on every job when I’m not using a WFP.  The time saving that window cleaners gain are tremendous & without the loss of quality to boot.  The French/Colonial windows I used to hate cleaning have now become enjoyable to clean using just one of his tools, the 6” “Flipper” & I’m finding a whole range more of possibilities when I normally reach for the WFP. Yes – they are that rapid! Being relatively easy to master, they are the must-have tool for any window cleaner worth his salt. The range of Wagtails are usually mastered within an hour even for the slowest window cleaner.

When Willie mentioned on one of the forums that he had signed up a booth for the ISSA show in Amsterdam earlier in 2010, it was my excuse to go over & meet him. You couldn’t meet a nicer guy, his excitement for the products & people he meets shows through. It was a hard task to get to talk to him because his booth at the trade show usually had around twenty people queuing up waiting to try out his Wagtails. He had some pretty impressive prototypes on display as well – some of which you can read about below. Many window cleaners don’t know that his tools are also famous for cleaning floors as well as cleaning windows. If you haven’t tried one yet, you can find Wagtail tools just waiting to be bought in the WCR shop. Don’t delay, these tools will UP your speed & give you increased earning power over the competition & embarrassingly so, as well.

When did you start window cleaning & when did you leave to become an inventor of squeegees?
I started window cleaning in 1979 after I returned from a two year working holiday in Europe.

Do you still keep your hand in & go out window cleaning in Sydney with your brother Peter now & again?
Once a year I go out window cleaning with my brother’s crew and once a year with my friend Eugene from “No Streaks Window Cleaning.” The sole purpose is to keep up with techniques and try out new inventions.

So the Wagtail squeegee was named after a famous Australian bird? Does it have a deeper meaning?
It definitely has a deeper meaning; the Wagtail bird constantly wags its tail similar to the action of my squeegees. Secondly, my nick-name since birth was Willie and the bird is properly named the Willy Wagtail.

What was your thought process behind designing the Wagtail squeegee?
Since I was primarily a shop window cleaner, the use of poles was essential. To get a perfect result, continual horizontal strokes were needed i.e. the S - stroke on a pole and also by hand. From this, the Wagtail Pivot was invented!

The switch to make Wagtails to a lighter plastic more than traditionally used metals was a touch of genius. Was that a Eureka moment?
I started window cleaning in my 20’s and by the time I was 30 I started getting arm and wrist strain due to the heavy tools, so I started buying really cheap lightweight squeegees and converting them to be strong and durable. My Eureka moment came when I was using one of these squeegees and my new invention “the multi lockable pivot“broke and resulted in this loose constant pivot.

How did you come up with the idea for a pivot handle?
I saw the advantages of a swivel handle but I was unimpressed with these as a hand held. They were either too loose or too tight, so I obsessed with the idea of a controllable pivot.

Was ergonomics a major process in your thinking when you designed the squeegee or was it solely for speed?
I had five guys working for me and we were all about 40 when we all developed different forms of arm strain. My carpal tunnel was so bad that I sold my business to these guys and opened up a retail store with Indonesian furniture and artefacts. This store was unsuccessful so I needed to return to window cleaning. I was 40 years old, broke, injured and aging so I needed an edge to regain my window cleaning business.
Within a week I developed the Wagtail Pivot; I gathered my brother Peter and a team of professionals and entered a business plan competition at a local university. We won the five thousand dollar first prize and my invention was selected to be exhibited at the new technology museum in Sydney (Powerhouse Museum).

I see the Wagtail is banned from speed window cleaning events – are you annoyed?
The Wagtail squeegee is undoubtedly faster than any other squeegee so yes, we are extremely upset. I was even prevented from entering a T.V. Show; “Guinness World Records” after the producer was informed by the Guinness Book that only fixed squeegees can be used. In one way it is proof that we are the unfair advantage by providing a pivot.

Thousands of window cleaners now have relief from wrist, shoulder & arm pain – is this something you would like to be remembered for?
My father was a doctor and so to develop a tool that prevented injuries was the pinnacle for me being “the black sheep of the family.” Unfortunately he died just before we won the business plan and International awards.
Where do you keep all your international trophies & awards for the Wagtail? Above the fireplace?
I keep my gold medal in an Antiquarian Leather Book Case but all the other awards are in a box ready for when we own a factory with a beautiful foyer.

Would you say a Wagtail is all a traditional window cleaner needs in his arsenal to clean windows?
Absolutely, they are more versatile, lighter and faster. Sometimes when there is pole work on narrow windows above thirty feet you need to tighten the pivot for the straight pull. For this reason we developed the adjustable tension in the pivot mechanism.

High-rise window cleaners cottoned on to the Wagtail long before the rest of us – why?
My brother Peter owns a large high-rise window cleaning company and he became very successful due to the fact that all his employees outperformed competition due to using the Wagtail. Peter will state that reach is all important when you are abseiling and the Wagtail has more reach than any other squeegee. 

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai (tallest building in the world) started using your squeegees – that was a coup! Did you send them Wagtails?
In Australia most high rise window cleaners use Wagtails and it was an Australian company that was commissioned to clean this building first. Luckily, they used their Wagtails for the television reporting of the cleaning of the building’s windows.

How many variations of the Wagtail squeegee do you have now?
Orbital, Blue Ribbon, Flipper, One Pass, Whirlwind, and Swoop makes six.

I thought the “Blue Ribbon” squeegee was a major improvement over the previous. Why the change in design?
Although the first Wagtail was lighter than other squeegees, it was still a little heavy for older window cleaners like my self. Also the channel was wider and did not fit into the BOAB so I set out to design a strong ultra light squeegee that was capable of using other brands of channels.
The Wagtail “Whirlwind” came with a change of pad. Was that a design change to provide more scrubbing power?
The jury is out for this one, the Whirlwind is really good at scrubbing and water retention however it is slightly heavier than the Flipper. I think the Whirlwind is the ideal tool for the really dirty windows encountered on high-rise and residential windows.

What brand of squeegee did you use before the Wagtail & why? Ettore squeegee were the only professional squeegees available in Australia when I started. They were robust good squeegees for that time, but heavy! 
You have a new “one pass” squeegee (the Swoop) about to be released, how does this differ from previous Wagtails? Apart from weight I think that glide is very important to prevent what I call cigars (little water lines at the end of a swirl). The new Swoop, provides more glide and hence more washing power in a single action. I believe this to be the Holy Grail of the Squeegee. Additionally there is always a need to pre-wash the very top edges and corners of a window and for this we provide the pad to flip in front of the squeegee blade similar to the Flipper. This new tool will wash and wipe simultaneously due to the one inch wide base extension. 
How long has the “one pass” Swoop Wagtail been tested for? How much quicker is it than the previous Wagtail design? Is this a “game changer” for window cleaners? Years of research have gone into this tool but we have only field tested this since the release of a very successful launch at ISSA Amsterdam of just the prototype!! It is faster and more versatile than all previous models. I think it is the pinnacle of all the tools designed by Wagtail. 
How long does a product you invent take to get from drawing board to release normally? The “Pivotool” (a dual purpose domestic window/floor tool) took three years of constant design (in house university trained designer) and prototype work. Prototypes were more than ten thousand dollars and tooling were tens of thousands of dollars. This tool failed in the television infomercial world and all that money was lost. Now it is my job to make prototypes and we only go to a designer when we are absolutely sure of its potential. It takes now about a year to get into production since our “Pivotool” misadventure. 
Who is your tester for Wagtail products? Does he work with your brother Peter in Sydney? New inventions are tested comprehensively by a professional window cleaner in Sydney for domestic homes and storefronts and the “Window Cleaning Company” of Sydney for high-rise. However most of my friends are window cleaners with very interesting backgrounds. One was invited to and rejected Mensa, another quit university after receiving distinctions and my brother Peter studied Engineering in Switzerland. When I give these guys my latest inventions I get amazing feedback. 
I’m a big fan of some of your other products, namely the “Angle Arm” & the “Bucket Clip.” Why do window cleaners not hear about these so much? The “Angle Arm” is a huge success for us, but we are not noted for our marketing and when a product is not received well by our distributors - like the “Bucket Clip,” we are unable to get it into the hands of a window cleaner.  The “Bucket Clip” is my most underestimated invention as it serves two huge problems; one keeping the bucket handles higher, thereby not having to bend down to far to pick up the bucket and the built in extractor holds the squeegee or applicator upright and extracts water when needed. 
I’ve actually tried the Wagtail “Whirlwind” on floors myself – it became huge in Australia – why not the rest of the World? Standards of floor cleaning around the world are appalling if you think about it compared to window cleaning. I believe hospital diseases such as MRSA are due to poor floor and bench cleaning hygiene. We have some really large organizations and hospitals interested but they take forever to change their habits, one day the world will clean floors with a squeegee. 
The Wagtail “Pivoting Wet Scraper” is another time saver, what sizes are they supplied in? The “Pivoting Wet Scraper” is being trialled and if successful we will introduce the final version and in different sizes. 
When I saw your new “bucket-on-a-belt” prototype at the ISSA show in Amsterdam you were thinking of calling it the “close to me bag,” because of its snug fitting. We laughed because it could get known as the Colostomy bag. Have you got a new name for it yet? Funny, we did not have the courage to call it the “Close to Me bag” but all the guys using them call it this! The official name is “Hip Dipper” and it will be released later this year with new stronger plastic. 
This will be the lightest “bucket-on-a-belt” ever seen – did you plan it this way? Weight is always important but the squeezing of solution to the middle of the mop is the best quality of this invention. Comfort of a flexible bag also was important. 
Who do you admire in the window cleaning world? Other manufactures are not my idols, they just copy, but guys like Karl Robinson, Lambrinides brothers and Mark Henderson are taking the profession of window cleaning to new levels. 
What’s the one window cleaning invention you wished you had thought of? I really struggle with this one but I suppose the whole water fed pole industry is moving at great new levels each year. I wish we were more involved. 
Are there any other tools that you are working on for the immediate future? I would really like to divulge this one but there are too many creative window cleaners out there. Being obsessive I am working night and day on something really simple but to engineer it is a nightmare. I have made working prototypes but manufacturing this concept is the sticking point. 
If you weren’t a window cleaner/inventor what do you think you would have ended up doing? Stockbroking or a real estate agent was my goals. 
Where do you see window cleaning in ten years time? The future of window cleaning is what I work on day and night so I can only see the Wagtail pivoting tools being the major window cleaning equipment for the professional. 
What do you find time for outside window cleaning? We live right on the Sydney harbour so most of my spare time is either on our kayaks, walking the dogs or I take my daughter Hannah to Equestrian competitions. I also own and deal in antiquarian books specializing in leather bound English authors. 
Do you clean your own windows? Or do your daughters get put to use? Believe it or not I do clean our windows at least twice a week but not for the view, just to test new concepts.

Willie Erken relaxing at home on the waterfront in Sydney, Australia.
Willie Erken of Wagtail speaks to Window Cleaning Magazine: Wagtail Cleaning Tools became established in 1998 by inventor and window cleaner Willie Erken, Australia. Since then, Wagtail has took the world by storm with the innovative idea of a patented ‘wag’ motion together with light materials that offers the user an ergonomic dream. Wagtail squeegees are regarded as the fastest window cleaning tools in the world! The Wagtail range continues to expand with the latest squeegee released, the Wagtail PC. We catch up with Willie to ask him about the PC, but first we dive a little into the history and thoughts of this great inventor. Lee Burbidge from Window Cleaning Magazine UK asks the questions..

WCM: Hi Willie, thanks for taking time out to speak with us. Wow, what a journey you have had. Did you think your tools would have the high worldwide recognition as they do today? Are you surprised at the success of the Wagtail range?
WE: The Wagtail Squeegee has taken a long time to be recognized but in the last year it has become almost impossible to keep up with supply. The action of a Wagtail Squeegee is very different to all other squeegees and so it takes the cleaner a while to get used to the faster motion and free moving pivot until they have mastered it.

WCM: The Wagtail is an excellent tool, however, it comes into its own fixed to the end of a pole for storefronts. This is no accident since you window cleaned storefronts for many years, right?
WE: I cleaned storefronts for twenty years before I had the courage to take on abseiling work. I guess most of my experience and what I relate to is the larger panes of glass. That said, it was a huge surprise to me that my pivoting squeegee designed for a pole was equally as good as a hand held tool.

WCM: The reaches of these tools are amazing.
WE: This is one of the most under rated benefits and it is difficult to demonstrate how much extra reach you get. Especially for tall window cleaners because when they bend down it is fatiguing but for us shorties it is nice to reach further.

WCM: There must have been a time when you made your first ‘crude’ test squeegee to use on your storefronts or did you go straight into properly manufacturing test samples for refining?
WE: I made literally hundreds of prototypes (still do) and once I was happy, I engaged a product designer. When I first started this it was really expensive because prototyping and designers were a rare commodity.

WCM: Briefly, give us the benefits of your tools.
WE: The benefits of Wagtail squeegees are several; They take the effort out of the “S” Stroke by
assisting the turn with a well-positioned pivot. Pole work becomes precise and easy. Overwhelmingly they are a faster action squeegee. The weight of a squeegee is very important if you think that a window cleaner cleans at least two hundred panes of glass each day so we keep our squeegees as light as possible.

WCM: Where did the pivot idea come from?
WE: When I started window cleaning I came up with a very crude universal joint for a washer and others quickly copied this. Then 3M produced the Doodle Bug and that was my lesson learnt. I fixated about different types of universal fixtures and realised that changing the angles created huge benefits. However my first squeegee invention was actually an angled pivot with a series of locks, these broke within ten minutes and I was left to clean with this broken squeegee until I realised it was
actually better “this was my pivotal moment”.

WCM: “Pivotal moment”, we love that. What did you think when you got the idea to work? I mean, it is hard to improve things sometimes. Thinking out of the box must come with some satisfaction?
WE: Unbelievable satisfaction and being a dreamer I thought I would be a billionaire (wish now I stuck to my day job) Seriously, I knew it was a great idea so I entered a post graduate business plan course with a team of five and we won the state prize worth five thousand dollars. From there we made some huge business mistakes but the squeegee was still the best squeegee around and so I just stubbornly stuck to my guns and kept producing window cleaning equipment.

WCM: Tell us why Dr Austin S Adams of The University of New South Wales carried out an independent ergonomic report of Wagtail tools?
WE: We applied for a government grant to produce professional window cleaning equipment and part of that criteria in order to be accepted was to convince the judges of the ergonomic benefits. Dr Austin Adams, Senior Ergonomics Lecturer was engaged to write a report just so that we could get a grant. The really exciting thing that happened here is that this academic actually saw the benefits and requested to take this report to a world ergonomic symposium. He said that if he could take this report there would be no charge, eureka!

WCM: The great thing about the Wagtail range and the design is, not only does it assist in preventing injury but it is also designed to make you more money used in your window cleaning business. Tell me about that - was that an accident?
WE: Window cleaning, when I started, was all about money per hour (productivity) and when the average wage earner was getting eight dollars per hour we were getting thirty. It then became sixty with the faster equipment. From the very first day I started window cleaning my only obsession was to improve tools and their functions.

WCM: The report is very interesting and very detailed, may we put this in our document resource file for WCM readers to access and read from our WCM website?
WE: Dr Austin Adams has become a great friend and I am sure that he would be honoured to see his work become recognized in a non-academic arena. He is now retired with a huge amount of prestigious work behind him. It would be our honour if this report he did for us would become world

WCM: What was the process that you undertook with getting your first Wagtail to market and how well received was it initially? Window cleaners sometimes have a resistance to change or new ideas…. If it ‘aint broke why fix it, attitude?
WE: Actually, we had an amazing start. We took the tools to Amsterdam (Interclean 1998) where ALL the big guns of window cleaning wanted to buy the rights. Henry Unger, Michael Schmalik (Ettore), Julio Guizo (Pulex) and several others came to our stand. I am a stubborn bloke who thought he could do it all with the help of brother Peter and others. Unfortunately soon after our launch we needed too much capital to access the huge European and American markets. I spent the next ten years trying to regain that momentum.

WCM: How did the design and materials change over time? What were the stages?
WE: We changed the designs over the years to use lighter weight materials. The original nuts and bolts we used were made of brass and were too difficult to assemble and so I changed these to stainless steel. The extra benefit was that window cleaners could tighten (or loosen) the pivot on the job. Lighter weight slimline squeegees were introduced for extra ergonomic gain. Materials for washers changed as the micro fibres improved and we concentrated on weight reduction.

WCM: Had you ever sustained injury from fixed squeegee use?
WE: I certainly did, it almost ruined my career. I think that is what will affect most of your readers eventually. Using inferior muscles to do fine motor skills will always damage muscles and fixed squeegees all use these muscle groups.

WCM: So what is in the current range of tools?
WE: We now have an extensive range of tools, all relating to the pivot. Bucket clips, extractors, Pole Tips, Clips, Hip Dippers etc all assist the pivot action and ergonomic advantages.

WCM: Why so many variations of the tool?
WE: Every tool we make starts from a real need. My biggest aim is to deliver glide and ease. The squeegees are either Slimline for lightweight appeal and Orbital for rugged and floor work. Both squeegees have attachments to assist in glide and simultaneous wiping.

WCM: When it came to the rubber for the tools, what did you come up with and was there any unique challenges you had to over come?
WE: Rubber is so important because this is what a company is judged on and we set out to deliver a long lasting and gliding rubber. We had to overcome the marketing of all other brands that promised softer rubber when we in fact delivered harder rubber that lasted longer and had more glide. It stands to reason that the harder the rubber the better the glide but the message out there was the reverse. The final formula for our rubber is a closely held secret.

WCM: How do you test your products and how long do you test them for? I bet you have the cleanest windows at your home in Australia, don’t you? (Laughs)
WE: We live on the harbour and so our windows at home constantly get dirty but unfortunately we have an old federation house with the crappiest windows. I do clean them but our neighbour benefits most because I always clean their windows for our videos. I usually get a friend and obsessive window cleaner (with a very delicate touch) to test products before we make a decision. Peter Erken
my brother is the final hurdle; seriously, if he accepts an invention then it is celebration time.

WCM: What does it take to come up with an invention?
WE: Asking the question is the biggest inspiration. If there is a problem then I obsess and I mean obsess until I have a solution. I used to play chess with my sisters partner and we played for a whole day one match and this sort of direction is needed for invention or at least it is for me. Helen Erken sitting next to me now mentions also waking most nights with a new concept.

WCM: Your tools are used for floor cleaning as well. Can you tell us about that and what that range consists of?
WE: The Wagtail Orbital Squeegee is just the best floor squeegee ever and if you combine this with a mop then you have a tool that is as good on a floor as on a window. I invented the Pivotool that went on TV in England and America but because it was made in China it really did not have the industrial quality to interest industry and this is where you get credibility. We tried other manufacturing but we do not have the resources to compete with the multi-nationals.

WCM: Does Joe public by your tools or is it all professionals?
WE: Joe public were our main focus after a poor business decision to allow Australia’s largest cleaning supplier to be exclusive distributors. We went to all the Home shows in Australia but eventually I realized that it was the professional who will demand a tool that delivers. We quickly changed our components to the best we could find and now we are truly focused on professionals.

WCM: How many staff do you have as part of your team and where is your office based?
WE: Difficult to answer because we use outsourcing for most components. Assembly is in house until we make the necessary jigs to deliver a perfect outcome with Supported Employment factories. Plastic moulders are all over Sydney and we have a huge investment in tooling at various moulders. Aluminium is extruded and cut in Sydney. Our factory has a secret location due to the amount of intellectual property we are always working on. We have a very small and select team but the need to employ at least five more specialist are urgently required.

WCM: Tell us about the structure of the company. Is it still very much a family business?
WE: Wagtail is a proprietary limited company that is registered but really it is very much a family business.

WCM: You were trialling a pivotal wet scraper last time Karl Robinson interviewed you for WCBO (US), how did that go?
WE: Great, but we only sell these to the Japanese in large quantities. I think I have nailed the perfect scraper but we need one more month to re-launch this tool.

WCM: Tell us about other window cleaning products you guys sell.
  • The Hip Dipper is a squeezable BOAB Bucket clip and extractor is essential if you
  • have a rectangular bucket.
  • Pole Cap is the only one that is fast to release and secure in work.
  • Erkenomic Pole Tip probably the biggest breakthrough but in combination with the Curved Pivot Scrubber.
The working combination of these tools creates the world’s first 3D cleaning system.

WCM: Would you ever consider getting into the water fed pole business?
WE: Short answer? Yes.

WCM: Cool, we smell another exclusive for WCM on that. What other stuff are you working on?
WE: The most exciting thing ever - a 3 dimensional cleaning system and the most effective ever floor management tool.

WCM: Wagtail is a winner of many awards. It has won six International Product and Design Awards. What other awards have you guys won?
WE: Years ago, I was told by a business guru to get awards. So we did. They were easy because we had the courage to invent. International awards, Government Awards and business awards that were supported by ethical standards. That said, we just entered into a National Cleaning Association Award for Australia (with the PC) and we were overwhelming favourites with votes of five times our nearest rival until we were told that voting had no bearing at all in the judges decision. We withdrew our entry and we will never enter for awards again.

WCM: Speaking of the PC. We have been waiting to get to this point. You have just released a new tool called the Wagtail PC Pivot Tool. Can you talk us through this product?
WE: The PC is the most advanced squeegee ever; it delivers a better performance with an overhead nylon pivot and a selection of pivot ranges. The pivot range locator is also about to be included into the existing Wagtail Squeegees.

WCM: This squeegee has ‘gears’, why?
WE: The brass squeegee is still (unbelievably) the biggest selling squeegee in the world and we want to educate these users by introducing training wheels. The first locators are to give just a small advantage and by opening up the pivot range increases your speed. Limiting the pivot range can be a benefit for the user in many applications such as cleaning windows higher than six meters or cleaning the opposite side of a glass fence from above.

WCM: Tell us about the new Erkenomic poles?
WE: These poles have a compound angle (in fact three angles) to assist in turning, ledges, working lower than usual and giving a cranking advantage to the user.

WCM: We cannot wait to see the PC and Erkenomic pole up close for our readers. Again, many thanks for this interview and we look forward to speaking with you again.

Thanks to Lee Burbidge & Window Cleaning Magazine for supplying the interview.

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Bird Turd Jesus

Bird Turd Jesus: Ohio Man Jim Lawry Says Dropping On His Windshield Is Image Of Christ - It isn't the Shroud of Turin. It's the Turd of Brooklyn. Jim Lawry of Brooklyn, Ohio, tells NewsNet5 that he's "amazed" by the image of Jesus Christ that he, family and friends see in a bird poop plopped on his windshield. He told the station he thinks it's a sign. In a YouTube video posted Monday, Lawry marveled at how it looked like a regular old dropping from the outside of the car -- but from the inside it looked, well, divine. The video has since been deleted. "It's like a perfect portrait," he says in the video. "It's like Jesus staring right at me."

MSN writes that it looks more like a "dog wearing a wig" than the Son of God, and is perhaps more a sign that the car needs washing. But sometimes one bird's excrement can mean one human's excitement. In August, Brandon Tudor of Illinois spotted a turd on his windshield that he thought was a dead ringer for Michael Jackson. But Tudor's plan to auction it on eBay washed away in the rain.

Window Cleaner Finds Miracle In Malaysia. Click picture to go to story.
Check out some reasons for miracles here.

Check out more sacred sightings..

Chuck Rickman photographed this window at the Hard Rock Hotel in San Diego after seeing what he thought might be the image of Jesus. He's not religious so he thinks it could also be Led Zeppelin.
Jim Stevens stands next to his truck that has an image on the window resembling Jesus Christ. Stevens, of Jonesborough, Tenn., said Nov. 2 that the image keeps reappearing, but he doesn't know how or why.
Virgin Mary in Window -- Sept. 30, 2008
Hundreds of believers and curious spectators ventured to Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., on Sept. 30, 2008, for a glimpse of what some said looked like an image of the Virgin Mary in a window.
Visitors believed they saw a white apparition of Mary in a third floor window at a hospital in Milton, Mass., in 2003.

Monday 25 February 2013

Window Cleaning News

Washing windows on skyscrapers is not for the faint of heart: Highrise window cleaners are a peculiar bunch. They strike that unique balance between summertime ubiquity and occasionally scaring you half to death as you’re dancing in your birthday suit in front of your window. Steve Warner is a gregarious 25-year veteran of the biz and the owner of Sky Pro, a full-service building maintenance company. He is also the man who will suspend me like a marionette while I pray to maintain control of my bowels. “Listen, I’m just happy I didn’t go with a company named SkyFall,” I explain.
Highrise window cleaners are a peculiar bunch. They strike that unique balance between summertime ubiquity and occasionally scaring you half to death as you’re dancing in your birthday suit in front of your window. Steve Warner is a gregarious 25-year veteran of the biz and the owner of Sky Pro, a full-service building maintenance company. He is also the man who will suspend me like a marionette while I pray to maintain control of my bowels. “Listen, I’m just happy I didn’t go with a company named SkyFall,” I explain.
Warner employs a staff of men and women - and possibly hybrid squeegee-kids - who seek physical exertion and peacefulness in a career. His former employee roster even includes the fellows in Darkest Days, who toured with Nickleback. (Isn’t everyone’s darkest days listening to Nickleback?) Washing one unit’s windows can take minutes - a bonus for residents but a nightmare for exhibitionists who might have a propensity to repeat “you missed a spot.” Warner shares industry yarns involving nudity, and one story about a window cleaner who once hopped onto a balcony to steal a marijuana plant before descending down the building. Good luck reporting that one to the cops.
I will learn to master a highrise descent and inspect the brick, but not before watching a video on “fall arrest” training, a method for preventing hazards and accidents on the work site. I’m confused by the name, mainly because if I do plummet, I would imagine the police officer would have a tough time cuffing all 10 pieces of my body together. So on a foggy Tuesday, I harness up, secure my “rope grab” to a safety line, and saunter towards the edge of the building. “Any last wishes?” says Steve’s co-worker Len jokingly. “Huggies pull-ups!” I plead.
The first 60 seconds proves to be the most unnerving, as I sit back into the chair and push off the wall. My left hand operates the "life line” while my right grasps a line that controls my descent. When my arm is strained, I tie-off to a hook and dangle. The fog matches my pallor. Len travels down beside me, swinging without a care in the world. I pause and hook off at least four times while Steve photographs my panic. Looking for distraction, I scan empty bedrooms but can’t see anything remotely scandalous. My feet finally hit the pavement and the second drop, my testicles, also completed the fall. Steve was never worried all along. With a $5 million economical policy, we had enough liability coverage for me and half of Jennifer Lopez’s ass. Today’s lesson learned is people who live in glass houses… should put some pants on.

Morgantown - Mike King, who just celebrated his 51st birthday, has fond memories of playing in the early 1980s on the West Virginia men's basketball teams. He was a 6-foot-5, 215-pound forward from Fairchance, Pa., where he starred in high school. King revealed that since graduating from WVU, he was diagnosed with cancer and spent several months in a cancer center in Houston being treated. He has since been declared cancer-free. While he has worked at various jobs, King and his three sons are putting together a family business. It is a professional window-washing company in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. "We are really excited about doing this," he said. "We will be accepting appointments from small businesses as well as residents. We'll travel together with a working crew." His sons are Jeremy, 26; Justin, 24; and Julian, 22. One of them just graduated from Indiana, Pa. The other two are still college students.

Men in kilts take window cleaning to new level: Seattle, Wash. In a city renowned for its eye-catching views, here's a 'sight' compelling some to do a doubletake. Cody Guthrie loves second looks and his reputation as a window washer is spotless.  The name of the company is "Men in Kilts."  There slogan is "No Peeking."  They do window cleaning, gutter cleaning roof cleaning, pressure washing and siding cleaning and they do it all while climbing around buildings in a kilt. Usually the feedback is positive.

Clever business names, and John likes the gardening service in Torquay called I.C. Weeds. A different John likes the pet shop in Carrum Downs called Pooches `N' Cream and the pet grooming mob is Seaford called Woofer Wares. And Mo likes the window cleaners out Cranbourne way called Invisible Windows.

Home Based Business: Window Cleaner - A window cleaner has to do one thing well: clean a window until it’s crystal clear. The two things you need to remember to be always an ideal window cleaner are clear from left to right …  Everyone hates cleaning windows, but everybody also knows it requires to be performed. Did you understand that it’s incredibly inexpensive to buy the supplies you have to become a professional window cleaner? And with only a few tricks of the business, you can get started on this new income opportunity.
A window cleaner has to do one thing well: clean a window until it’s superior. The two things you need certainly to make sure to be an excellent screen cleaner are clean from left to right starting at the top on the inside, and from top to bottom starting at the left on the outside (if you are a leftie, change the handedness). This allows you to clean the dirtier parts following the parts are done. And because you begin by crossing over the body, you’ve an easier time determining whether you’re getting all of the dirt off. Furthermore, if your window cleaner clears horizontally on the outside and vertically on the inside, it’s super easy to inform by the orientation of a streak which part of the window it is on.
Toxic substances are a risk for a window cleaner. Many studies declare that lung cancer in housewives can be as much as 3 times what it ought to be for their usage of toxic cleaning products. In order to avoid damaging your wellbeing as a cleaner, consider using primarily all-natural resources in place of solvents and chemicals. Vinegar-based window solution works pretty well, particularly if you polish the window afterward. A window cleaner, like every other professional, should start fairly small. Don’t take on jobs for multiple-story buildings until the insurance can be afforded by you to cover any accidents concerning the rigging. You might also desire to apprentice with a cleaner who uses that kind of rigging when you purchase it. You can make far more money as a window cleaner who numerous experiences, but before you start incorporating it into your business plan you should do it correctly.

Free health check can work wonders: A window cleaner from Didcot is encouraging people to take up the offer of a free health check with the NHS. The 30-minute checks have been organised by Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group to help prevent heart disease, strokes, diabetes and kidney disease. Invitations are being sent to patients from their GP practice if they are aged between 40 and 74 and do not have a pre-existing heart-related condition. Paul Barham, 50, from Didcot, was glad he took up the offer. Mr Barham – pictured with practice nurse Irene Clark at Didcot Health Centre – said: “I got an invitation for the health check but I didn’t take it up at first. But then my dad Alfred died two months later after a history of heart problems, so I decided to get a check up six months ago. “My blood pressure was really high and I was invited back a week later so they could monitor my heart. “Going when I did was a good thing – I have now been watching my diet and exercising more and it has changed my life for the better.”

Inside Oscars 2013 goodie bags: Condoms, maple syrup and window cleaner - The contents of this year’s ‘Everyone Wins at the Oscars Nominee Gift Bag’ have been revealed, and while they’re worth an estimated $45,000 (£30,000), some of the presents are surprisingly low-end. Because celebrities really don’t get enough free swag and are particularly hard-up during the award season, PR company Distinctive Assets puts together an opulent selection of gifts for Oscar nominees each year as a thank you for their making the long and arduous trek down the red carpet. Gifts range from the outrageously generous (a trip to Australia) to the appropriately Hollywood (a $5,000 face-lift gift certificate), but curiously also include the sort of thing you might pick up at a 24-hour Tesco. A bottle of Windex window cleaner (RRP $3.99) caps off this year’s gift bag, while a six-pack of condoms are thrown in for good measure, ensuring the stars stay protected while spring-cleaning their apartments.

Choose the right window cleaner: Some window cleaners perform better than others. The Good Housekeeping Research Institute recently tested 17 cleaners and reported that the JAWS Glass & Hard Surface Cleaner ( was the only one to leave the surface completely streak-free. “In fact, unlike other higher-priced window cleaners, you can use this non-toxic, non-ammonia cleaner in direct sunlight and still avoid streaks,” said JAWS International CEO Bruce Yacko.

While not many homeowners are willing to make major improvements to their home prior to listing it for sale, there are a few small things that can make a big difference. Another small ticket improvement would be washing your windows. Cleaning your home is a no-brainer but many sellers forget that buyers cherish natural light and one of the first things they'll be looking at are your windows. Make sure that each and every window leaves a sparkling impression.

Schools scandal: We expose the £37m budget cuts - Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Headteachers’ Association of Scotland, said: “Teachers tell me that the money they actually have to spend has been reducing year on year for a long period. “The Education Secretary should already know this is an issue. “We would like to see a situation where schools are properly funded and where fundraising for essential supplies is not necessary.” One head teacher at an Ayrshire school who was willing to speak on condition they remained anonymous, said: “We will do all sorts of things to try to free up a little bit of cash to get it back into the classroom, for example turning the heating down or not bothering with window washing for a year. “The situation is becoming a crisis, there is no doubt about that.”

Is the Micro-merchant a new Threat? (Safeguarding from micro-merchants’ fraud) - Making a payment to a plumber, window-cleaner or nanny – otherwise known as “micro-merchants” – couldn’t be easier or more convenient, thanks to innovative companies such as Square, Spindle and iZettle which have pioneered the dongle-based payment for mobile Retail Payments. Their card readers attach to smartphones and enable on the spot payments when traditional card terminals are not available. In Finextra alone, the news about such latest deployments across the US, Europe and so on, come in daily.
Unfortunately, with any payment method come new fraud vectors. Cards in the wrong hands pose a real danger, so there are processes in place to mitigate the risk. What processes have we got in place for micro-merchants? Will existing merchant authentication offerings work with the mobile world? The biggest problem I foresee is weak enrolment and activation. For micro-merchants, enrolment and activation are two critical elements in detecting repeat fraudsters. What if the micro merchant is not even that, but just a collector of stolen cards. No need to process through a merchant any more, he/she is the merchant! Take the money and run is now swipe the cards and disappear.
Fraud prevention has become a matter of survivability for many merchants. However, with the emergence of the micro-merchant, where a smart-phone and card-reader dongle are all that’s required to set up shop and process card payments, protection from merchant fraud, driven by the relative ease of being able to process cards, is becoming an imperative in the protection of acquirers. While prevention of breaches is important, the industry is concerned about the friction factor, so it is imperative that institutions employ a layered approach of strong authentication combining visible and invisible security checks, to protect against rogue merchants in the growing area of micro-merchants. This ensures that a complex security model can be implemented, with low/no friction resulting in high ease-of-use for the genuine merchant, and engendering confidence and trust.

Hiring pros for spring cleaning tasks? What to look for and what it should cost: Cleaning your home’s windows can have a dramatic impact on both the interior and exterior of the house, but it is a major project. If your home is large, you have a lot of windows and little time, hiring a professional may be the best way to get your windows cleaned. Look for companies with an established reputation. A typical window cleaning should include the inside and outside of all windows in the home, removal and cleaning of screens, and cleaning of all sills and tracks (which means they must open every window to fully clean it). Most companies charge per pane and your total cost will vary based on many factors, including the number of windows in your home, how many are on upper floors and even your region of the country. Typically, however, you should expect to pay between $2 to $7 per pane, according to CostHelper.

Claremont - Three candidates answered citizen questions Saturday to convince a crowd of about 25 that they deserved one of two available seats on the City Council. Incumbents Corey Calaycay and Larry Schroeder mostly defended and explained what they've done on the council, while professional window cleaner Michael Keenan said the city needed to focus on environmental issues. All three emphasized that they wanted citizen-driven policies, though. Keenan said movement toward more sustainable policies such as pushing solar energy were necessary to prevent harmful climate change and that those policies would also help the city. "Solar makes money," Keenan said. "We should've been doing solar two years ago when I recommended it." Keenan has made three previous attempts to run for the council. Schroeder was first elected four years ago. Calaycay was elected in 2005. The forum was hosted by Active Claremont and the League of Women Voters of the Claremont area at the Alexander Hughes Community Center. The election for the two council seats is March 5.

North Beach restaurant owner concerned about impacts of Central Subway work: In a city known for its top-notch cuisine, outdoor restaurant seating can be precious real estate. Piazza Pellegrini on Columbus Avenue has the rare luxury of a spacious outdoor patio — a perk that is all the more coveted in the ultra-dense North Beach neighborhood — but owner Dario Hadjian isn’t exactly counting his blessings right now. That’s because for the next two years, Piazza Pellegrini will abut a major public transit project on Columbus Avenue, an endeavor Hadjian fears will drive away the lunchtime customers who flock to his restaurant.
“There’s going to be dust, there’s going to be loud noises, there’s going to be construction equipment parked outside my restaurant,” said Hadjian, who has 60 outdoor seats at the site. “This will drive my restaurant out of business.” Hadjian said he estimates that losing the lunch crowd — construction is scheduled for mostly daytime hours — will cost his business $500,000 a year. He said The City should offer him compensation. “The profit margins of a restaurant are very small,” Hadjian said. “If I lost just 5 to 10 percent of my business, I could lose the restaurant.”
Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, whose district includes North Beach, said he also plans to find ways to help Hadjian. “We completely understand Dario’s concerns, but we believe that we can work with Muni to minimize disruptions to his business,” True said. Muni spokesman Paul Rose echoed that sentiment, saying the transit agency will help connect Piazza Pellegrini with city services that could help soften construction impacts — such as “marketing services and window and sidewalk cleaning.” “While we understand their concerns ... San Francisco does not pay businesses for construction work adjacent to the site,” Rose said.

Coming clean about housework - Some feminists take a strong line about housework, creating the Wages for Housework movement and arguing that men shouldn't be let off chores, and there are those who think hiring another woman to do your cleaning is a betrayal. Some of us, though, don't see why it's OK to outsource the jobs that can be done by men: cars go to the garage, plumbers arrive, window cleaners put up ladders to the upstairs windows with no one saying we're oppressing the lad who climbs them. Yet we're supposed to be doing down another woman if we make her do the washing. (Actually my mother-in-law used to clean her own windows – or the insides of them; she said God did the outside, although He wasn't very reliable.) You aren't considered to be oppressing anyone if you take stuff to the cleaners.

Cumbrian man caught with £30,000 of cocaine in his trousers: Mark Skelton, 32, from Workington was arrested after a police officer stopped the Ford Mondeo car in which he was travelling on the A66 at Penrith on October 11 last year. In 2008 Skelton was jailed for just over three years for supplying drugs which caused the death of a soldier friend. Kingsman Terry Thompson, 20, of Workington, died from a drug-induced heart attack after taking the ecstasy while home on leave from Iraq to attend his grandmother’s funeral. Skelton was jailed again yesterday after a judge at Carlisle Crown Court was told a police officer asked Mondeo driver Martin McClure where they had been. He said they had been to an auction but when asked the same question Skelton said he was a self-employed cleaner out on an emergency call. The two different answers were enough to make the officer suspicious.
The pair were taken to Penrith police station, where they were searched. Nothing was found on Mr McClure, prosecutor Dick Binstead said, but a knotted plastic bag containing a white powder, later found to be cocaine, was discovered on Skelton. Skelton, of Yeowartville, Workington, pleaded guilty to possessing cocaine, a class A drug, with intent to supply it. Mr Binstead told the court the 27 grams of the drug found on Skelton would have been worth more than £29,000 when sold at street level. But the cocaine was of such an unusually high purity a dealer would have been able to “dilute” it by cutting it down with an agent, making it go at least four times as far. Skelton, who ran his own window cleaning and contract cleaning business, was jailed for three years and two months and ordered to pay a £120 victim surcharge.

Friday 22 February 2013

Start-Ups: Gutters, Windows & Power Washing

Business partners, left, Danny Sayer and Sam Cordner from EACM, specialists in gutter vacuuming and external maintenance including window cleaning.
Suffolk plan for Start-up: The founder of a Norfolk start-up business is hoping to clean up by expanding into Suffolk. Sam Cordner set up East Anglia Cleaning and Maintenance about 18 months ago investing nearly £2,000 in specialist gutter cleaning equipment. The 27-year-old took on his friend Danny Sayer, and the pair set up cleaning gutters and homes around North Norfolk. Since then, the business has secured work in Norwich and Great Yarmouth, and now Mr Cordner, from Marsham, near Aylsham, is hoping to win work across the border.

With a limited budget to spend on advertising and marketing, he said he had relied largely on word of mouth to win new work. However, he had recently promoted the company through the Tickles website, which is owned by EDP publishers Archant, and he was also working on developing a website. “It’s a big market because people want it done, but a lot of people haven’t physically got the ladders,” Mr Cordner said. “I already had the van, it was just a case of buying the equipment,” he said. “It’s basically a very large vacuum cleaner, which we can run from the mains or from an adapter.

“We have got telescopic poles and can go up to four storeys comfortably and there’s a camera at the top of the pole. “We did go down the window cleaning side and we do outside maintenance but we want to emphasise this part of the business.”

Mr Cordner, whose father, Stephen, used to run Corton’s Electrical in Aylsham before selling the business, admitted that the recent cold weather had seen work dry up but with spring just around the corner he was confident that the business would resume its growth. “I like the self-employed lifestyle,” he said. “This year we want to branch out into Suffolk and get a bigger van. “We get a lot of jobs by turning up at somebody’s house, and the neighbour comes out and asks us to do their gutters too. The best result we had was doing four houses in a row, when three had asked us if we could do theirs.”

Rich Wallace, owner of Window Genie of North Raleigh works on installing low reflective window film at Catch the Fire Raleigh Thursday, February 14, 2013. Working with him is lead technician Desmond Ellis (not in frame).
Franchising means entrepreneurs don't have to go it alone: (Raleigh) — Rich Wallace wanted to start his own business, but wasn’t sure where to start. At first, Wallace, 34, wanted to open a coffee shop, but his experience was in administration and information technology. So, he decided to explore franchising. “I know how to manage an existing business, but I didn’t know how to get started,” Wallace said. “A franchise system was going to give me the coaching I needed and the freedom I also wanted to run my own business.”

Franchises offer prospective owners the opportunity to go into business for themselves but not by themselves, said Alisa Harrison, senior vice president of communications and marketing for the International Franchise Association. However, it doesn’t guarantee a business’ success, Harrison and others said. Prospective owners need to do research, have enough capital to get the business off the ground, and put time and effort into the endeavor, Harrison and others said. “Make sure you fully understand what it is going to take to be successful, especially in the beginning,” Harrison said.

Franchises accounted for 10.5 percent of businesses with paid employees in the 295 industries from which data were collected in 2007, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent statistics. Franchises accounted for nearly $1.3 trillion of the $7.7 trillion in total sales for those industries. U.S. franchise establishments increased by 1.5 percent to 757,055 in 2012, and are expected to grow by 1.4 percent in 2013, according to a report prepared for the IFA. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, survival among independent businesses and franchises is similar; about half of new small businesses survive five years or more and one third survive 10 years or more.

Ted Zoller, a UNC-Chapel Hill Kenan-Flagler Business School professor and the director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, said franchise advantages include a template business with a predefined pricing and marketing strategy, and access to market research. The biggest advantage, Zoller said, is the relevance and visibility of the brand. “People know the brand based on its experience with it elsewhere,” Zoller said. “So you can immediately get traction.”

‘Can’t do enough research’ - Franchising includes everything from restaurants and car washes to postal companies and hair salons. With more than 300 different lines of businesses, and in some cases hundreds of companies within those categories, the opportunities abound. Initial investments run between $5,000 and $5 million, Harrison said. Product distribution franchises, including Coca-Cola and Goodyear Tires, are businesses in which the franchisor owns the right to the trademark and sells that right to distribute their product to the franchisee, according to the IFA. 

Business format franchises, such as Wendy’s and Jenny Craig Weight Loss, provide franchisees with a way to operate using the brand name, and often include ongoing assistance with services such as training, product supplies or marketing. Product franchises represent the largest percentage of total retail sales, but business format franchises are the most popular, according to the IFA. Once an entrepreneur decides to move forward, they need to “research, research, and research,” Harrison said. “You just can’t do enough research.” “If you are someone who is very independent and who likes to create and do things your own way, then franchising might not be the best way because the whole point of franchising is to follow a system,” Harrison said.

Most prospective franchisees have a company in mind before they start, but others, such as Wallace, turn to consultants for help. However, some consultants only represent certain brands, Harrison said. “Be aware of that and ask those questions up front and make sure that you are taking advantage of all the companies and brands that are out there,” Harrison said. Also, newcomers should seek the help of an attorney, business broker, or consultant before signing a franchise agreement. “It is a big commitment and it’s very, very important that you understand what you are signing,” Harrison said. Also, potential franchisees should be aware of pitfalls such as taking on the additional risk of buying a location instead of leasing, not having enough cash flow and assuming that the franchise brand is going to carry the business, Zoller said.

Opening the franchise - Wallace sought help from SCORE, which offers free counseling to small businesses, in the summer of 2011. Representatives there directed Wallace to Daniel Prendergast with The Entrepreneur’s Source, a franchisor that offers business coaching and helps connect prospective owners with franchising and business opportunities. Prendergast presented Wallace with three companies, and Wallace decided on Window Genie. “It was pretty clear to me early on that I wanted to be with Window Genie, but I made sure that I fully investigated the other two options,” Wallace said.

Wallace paid about $32,000 to open his North Raleigh store in March. The company’s franchise fees start at $20,000, but Wallace paid more to claim a protected territory of 60,000 homes. No one else can open a Window Genie in those zip codes or advertise in that area, Wallace said. Window Genie supplies Wallace with training and marketing materials. However, he had to pay for equipment, he said. He spent about $7,000 on a Window Genie package of supplies, including a pressure washer and ladders. He also spent about $19,000 on a vehicle and additional marketing materials. Plus, Wallace pays Window Genie a bimonthly royalty fee, which is about 7 percent of his gross profit.

Window Genie gives guidance to ensure that branding and company standards are met, Wallace said. Wallace can run ads, but Window Genie has to approve the artwork. Also, Window Genie requires services to meet its standard, but Wallace handles customer scheduling and management. Wallace hires his employees, but they have to pass a background check and be insured. Wallace has access to the franchise’s experts and technicians, and is part of weekly meetings to discuss best business practices. “They guide. I decide. They approve,” Wallace said.

The team at ClearVue Professional Window Cleaning.

NMSU grad sees clear path to own business (Las Cruces) — Peter Cruz, owner of Clear Vue professional window cleaning company, used to wear a tie to work. The Mayfield High School and New Mexico State University alum studied business and had worked as a CFO and an accountant. Then one day in 2006, someone came up with a unique suggestion. "I was getting tired of being in an office with a tie," Cruz said. "One I day was talking to a friend of mine I went to school with and he was telling me 'You ought to start a window-washing business.' "He was not sure the idea was a good. "I was incredulous," he said. "'Window washing, how can I make a living doing that?'" Even his wife was not sold on the idea.

But Cruz thought more about the suggestion. He knew he had the background to start his own company. "I looked into it and saw the potential," he said. "A lot of people start up a little service business like this and they don't have (background) to do the payroll or the marketing. The business side of it was easy for me." While he had the business acumen, Cruz had to learn the nuts and bolts of window washing. He said he touched base with other people he knew who were in the profession "I had to learn how to window wash, I had some training," he said. "I got videos, DVDs."

Cruz started out as a one-man show. "My very first job was the White Sands Federal Credit Union building (on North Main Street) and they're still our customer," he said. "I was scared. It seemed like a big building." more than six years later he has an eight-person staff. "Now I'm more like 90 percent in the office and 10 percent in the field," Cruz said. "When we have big jobs, I like to be there or at first-time jobs."

Recently Clear Vue cleaned the windows at the new performing arts center at NMSU and will clean the windows at the 10-story Las Cruces Tower (formerly the Wells Fargo Tower). The company will use a lift if necessary or ladders. "The buildings here in Las Cruces are pretty much 99 percent accessible (to us)," Cruz said. The company has clients in Hatch, Truth or Consequences and Silver City as well. It washes the windows on campus at Western New Mexico University in Silver City.

He said his clients are "a good combination" between businesses and houses. "We used to be mostly residential, but now its about 60 percent residential and 40 percent commercial," he said. Cruz said that his company has also expanded its services. "We do air vent cleaning, dryer vent cleaning, window and blind cleaning, things people would ask us about all the time we said 'Let's just add that on,'" he said. "We do window screen repair."

Derek Campbell went door-to-door in Arlington this week telling potential customers about the painting business he plans to start this summer.
Painting service gives collegians chance to run show: Derek Campbell holds nothing in his hands, not even a pen, as he walks door to door to pitch sales for his fledgling painting business. Campbell, 22, of Arlington relies on the power of persuasion and youthful charm. He introduces himself, explains that he is a student at Bentley University in Waltham, and tells potential customers about the business he plans to start this summer. Campbell is one of nearly 100 New England branch managers at Braintree-based Collegiate Entrepreneurs Inc., which describes itself as “the most widely used college painting service” in the Northeast. The company operates almost entirely with college students as managers of small painting ventures. They offer powerwashing including surface preparation, scraping, sanding, priming, caulking, glazing & staining.

Like other students, Campbell was looking for real-world business experience when he signed on with Collegiate Entrepreneurs. He is working with the company, through a training program and his own wintertime sales calls, to start learning the ropes of entrepreneurship. “Bentley teaches you in the classroom but it’s hard to actually translate that in to the real world,” said Campbell. “This gives you the hands-on experience and realization of, ‘Oh! So this is how you run a business.’ ”Collegiate Entrepreneurs, founded in 2000, provides managers with $1 million in liability insurance, workers’ compensation coverage, and a host of marketing materials to help them get started. In return, the company receives a 34 percent cut of revenue.

The typical student-manager’s business grosses about $50,000 a year by painting about 25 houses, according to Collegiate Entrepreneurs. Those student-managers keep about 26 percent of their business revenues, the company said. Collegiate is similar to the better-known College Pro Painters, a larger company with a national presence founded in 1971 that specializes in window cleaning as well as painting. College Pro said its student franchisees paint about 7,000 homes a year, while Collegiate said it paints about 2,150 homes a year. Collegiate has branches throughout the Northeast and California and is opening an office in Maryland this year. The company has received nearly 300 manager applications for about 40 remaining positions, according to Eric Crews, the president and founder of Collegiate.

“The real shift right now is that a lot of different types of students are taking the initiative to learn to run their own business,” Crews said. “We’re seeing students in every major saying, ‘We want to run a business, and want the get the skills that go along with that.’ ”Collegiate reaches out to students by sending e-mails, passing out fliers, working with college career centers, and speaking in classrooms. Campbell heard about the company from an e-mail sent to Bentley students by executive manager Robert LaBrie, who also went to the school and is a veteran of Collegiate’s program.

The company draws student-managers from more than 30 colleges in New England, but LaBrie said Bentley and the University of New Hampshire are two of their best sources for potential managers. “We look for students who are hard-working and motivated, especially those people with a really no-quit attitude,” said LaBrie. “Painting may not be sexy, but these kids are learning what it takes to run a company.”

After an application process that included three interviews, LaBrie decided Campbell, who has worked as an event planner and disc jockey since his sophomore year of high school, fit the bill. Now Campbell is responsible for marketing his business, getting customers, finding and hiring a four-member crew, setting estimates, and landing jobs before the painting season begins. Come summer, he will also be in charge of buying supplies, paying his staff, and maintaining the budgets of his plan.

For now, Campbell is contacting prospects in a door-to-door marketing effort. “When people would ring our doorbell, I know my dad would always yell from the other room, ‘We don’t want any!’ ” he said. “But what I’ve found now is there is nothing more effective than actually going to potential clients directly and making that personal connection.” Campbell has also sent letters to his old friends and neighbors — “anyone I could think of with a house” — posted ads on Craigslist, and passed out countless fliers. He hasn’t nailed down any jobs, but he’s not discouraged. “I’m following up on some pretty solid leads, making sure we turn those into estimates to get some sales,” he said. “Painting might not be my passion, but starting a business is, so this is where I’m starting.”

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