Mike Clough's Japanese Knotweed blog
Welcome to my blog. Here I'll be posting about the most important issues in the Japanese Knotweed industry and how it affects companies. Please do drop me an email with any thoughts or comments.
May 22nd, 2013 by Mike Clough
Every week I see a new company offering invasive weed eradication, I spotted one this morning – mole removal, vermin control and …Japanese Knotweed eradication. Is this something generated by the recession I wonder? …are people panicking and trying to gain a share of ‘other’ markets…?
One of the keys about a ‘niche’ business is sticking to that ‘niche’…don’t try and wander into a field in which you are not an expert – keep your focus and specialise in doing what you do, …and do it really, really well.
This is what we do at Japanese Knotweed Solutions.
We often get asked – do you deal with asbestos? Can you clear the site of needles? Can you relocate badgers? …and it is tempting to say yes and get some additional money whilst you are on site, but at the end of the day, we are not experts in any of these fields and would be likely to make a mistake, so we get an expert in.
So why, oh why, do other companies feel that they can come into our market and carry out works without any skills, experience or knowledge?
If Japanese Knotweed were easy to deal with, then there would not be an Environment Agency code of Practice outlining how to deal with it. If one spray of a wonder chemical were all it took to kill Japanese Knotweed - do you really think books would have been written about the subject?
Japanese Knotweed requires skill and experience to recognise the problems associated with a particular infestation.
Which type of Japanese Knotweed is it?
Has the plant been there for several years?
Has the plant only recently been fly-tipped on site?
Is the site near water?
Are there any existing trees and vegetation to be retained?
Are there any protected species on site?
These and many other questions can be answered by a recognised INNSA approved contractor.
You will not find the correct information from ‘Rats ‘R’ us’…
May 15th, 2013 by Mike Clough
Apparently if you take an old Code of Practice and re-write it…inserting your company name ..PEA*…, in every other sentence …PEA …THEN MAGICALLY…it becomes an all singing, all dancing ‘New Code Of Practice’…well at least that’s what some people would have you believe.
Maybe I should write a JKSL code of practice which states that only JKSL surveyors can be used and only JKSL teams can carry out the works, and they can only work to JKSL rules supplied only by JKSL and updated regularly …but only within JKSL…
Are you getting the impression that I’m pissed off – well you would be correct.
I cannot for the life of me ever imagine having the gall to go into an industry that I knew nothing about and then write anything valid about that industry, let alone…produce a Code of Practice.
The people responsible for the writing of a document that is just a copy of a previous document but with a new company name on it should not only be embarrassed, they should shun all human contact for the next 100 years or so and be made to sit in a corner with a dunces hat on.
You may think I’m making this up (*ok I made the name up but only for legal purposes), how could anyone be so stupid, but it’s all true.
I’m wondering if I’m missing a trick with my business model…?….MAYBE I SHOULD START LYING?
I guess my problem is that I like being able to live with myself, I like being able to look people in the eye and know that I’m being honest. …and for the life of me I cannot ever bring myself to copy anything that someone else has already done.
Anybody that knows me will tell you I have an aversion to being seen as ordinary. The way I present my business and even my business card – everything has to be unique, a one off.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, …sometimes I even manage to offend people…it has been said, you will either love Mike Clough… or hate him…
…but through it all –…I DID IT MY WAY…
Hence when somebody copies something and presents it as their own…I get really offended.
So if you wish to view the REAL Code of Practice for the Management and Eradication of Japanese Knotweed – please go to the original and best version written by Trevor Renals of the Environment Agency.
Accept no cheap substitute.
NB* Made up name
May 8th, 2013 by Mike Clough
I have been trying to find something positive to write in my blog as I’m getting fed up with moaning. It’s very easy to become a grumpy old man given the level of depressing stuff going on in the world.
I was actually thinking at the weekend that I should write a newspaper and call it ‘the Good News’ – there must be a demand given that the daily papers that I read are relentlessly doom and gloom.
So here we are then:
- Japanese Knotweed Solutions (JKSL) are busier than ever.
- JKSL exceeded their targets (again) for 2012 and have had a great start to 2013.
- We currently have knotweed eradication projects on site from the South coast of England to the North of Scotland - and major projects on the horizon in Ireland (both Southern and Northern).
- We have a huge ‘in tray’ of projects to look at and a back catalogue of ‘maybe’ sites totalling over £10 million – these sites can sit dormant and unmanaged for years and then suddenly come to life when clients raise funding
- Our patented technique ‘MeshTech’ is at least beginning to get the attention it deserves and we have major site installations coming up in Wales.
- We have begun to make in-roads into ‘other’ invasive species from a commercial point of view and are successfully treating 10 hectares of rhododendron for a major private client.
- We have 17 new sites for Buddleja eradication and a watching brief to cover another 20 sites in adjacent areas where seed may have established
- We now have over 2500 annual maintenance sites where we are paid to visit and monitor/treat any re-growth of Japanese Knotweed – this is done as part of our ten year aftercare plan that has proved popular with private and commercial clients.
- We have major clients now adopting our pro-active approach to vegetation management carrying out visual inspections of their land on an annual basis checking for newly established species that could prove problematic in the future should they become established.
- We have been working closely with our competitors within the industry to establish a new Trade Body – Invasive Non Native Specialists Association (INNSA) – launch date May 22nd. This will help all of our clients understand the skillset of a particular contractor that they are employing and bring quality control to the industry.
- The site teams are settled and we have new members of the team who are proving an excellent find. The site lads are the life blood of JKSL without their huge level of experience the promises that I make would be hard to fulfil.
So there we are then – a whole series of positive points ready to fight of the forces of evil that pervade every time I switch on the news or read the paper!
Let’s all be a bit more positive and grateful for what we have.
May 1st, 2013 by Mike Clough
Or so one of our competitors would have you believe.
The company who shall remain nameless visited a site on which we have been carrying out a herbicidal spray programme and told our client that ‘the Knotweed is not dead, it hasn’t been sprayed properly’ they then went on to rubbish our prices, dispute our strategy and state that they could kill the plant with one ‘secret’ mix of chemicals that nobody else knows about….
So the chemical companies spend millions of pounds (I’m not exaggerating – it’s millions) producing a product and specifying how it should be used….then a bunch of half assed Yorkshire builders believe that they know something that Monsanto doesn’t and mix it in a way that makes it ‘magically’ more effective…
Dream, dream, dream.
The site in question had Japanese Knotweed within existing trees and shrubs – this limits what chemicals you can use – (unless you want wholesale eradication of everything living). So works are limited to a glyphosate application.
The first treatment was in the latter part of the year at which point the plant had already begun to go into senescence – we had already advised the client that repeat applications of herbicide would be required and that new growth could be expected in the following Spring.
So everything was in hand and the client was quite happy – UNTIL - a friend of a friend told them that somebody knew, about someone who could kill Japanese Knotweed with one spray….
It’s an easy marketing strategy isn’t it.
Japanese knotweed is a problem – people DO NOT WANT TO HEAR that you cannot kill it with one application of herbicide. They want to hear that someone can do something magical….so your strategy is….tell them what they want to hear and get work off the guys that are telling the truth…
The long term business plan for the company that I am discussing by the way is….‘ by the time they know they’ve been had….we will have moved into another business’.
Our teams at JKSL are trained to be honest and open about what can and cannot be achieved in the treatment of Japanese knotweed. They are told not to use any scare monger tactics (‘oooh your house will fall down if you don’t treat it’) they are told not to lie about the legalities (some companies state that it is ‘illegal’ to have JK on your land….it isn’t)
We may lose work to some other unscrupulous companies but at least we sleep at night.
April 24th, 2013 by Mike Clough
Is it just me or are standards dropping everywhere? Shops, offices, garages, and hotels….everywhere I’m getting poor service and minimal levels of customer care.
I first noticed the trend some years ago when bank managers were being regularly replaced to ensure that they didn’t build relationships with customers and lend them money because they were ‘friends’.
The most recent ones I have noticed are garages and car show rooms. Where you used to walk into a service area at a garage and see Craig who has worked there for twenty years, you now walk in and find some spotty kid who doesn’t know his arse from his armpit.
What used to happen was you walked in and said ‘I’ve got a bit of a rattle from my big end’, then Craig would say… ‘ ah well mate all Austin Allegros do that, give me five minutes and I will tighten it up’…job done. Now it’s all different, the spotty kid has a ‘script’…he actually isn’t allowed to think on his feet, let alone outside the box - he has to fit within an agreed response strategy…and if he doesn’t – he gets fired.
All this is being done, in case you hadn’t realised, to enable these garages to charge you more money. No more simple fix in the service area for five minutes, no mate…you need to have the full service, the new tyres, the screen-wash etc. etc. etc.
So the hotels you stay in, the garage that you use…all end up with young characterless dummies working to fixed targets using scripted techniques to get into your pocket…and squeeze every penny they can out of you.
Well let me assure you that is not the case here at Japanese Knotweed Solutions.
When we start a new surveyor they go through a strict training programme that gives them a clear message that the client must always get:
· Honest, straight forward advice
· No scare monger tactics should be employed
· Never sell a product that is wrong – just to hit a target
· Look at each project as an individual scheme, give it some thought and where possible come up with ideas that help the customer – and keep the costs down
· If you are ever unsure or feel out of your depth, tell the customer you will find the correct information and get back to them – NO BULLSH*T!
· You will give sound commercial advice and offer the most viable solution on every project
· Do not bamboozle the client with technical mumbo jumbo – be able to give clear concise descriptions of every element of our works
We do not have scripts here at JKSL, we do want to build relationships and YES - we do want you to know our first names (it’s Mike by the way).
Check out the ‘team’ page on the website, get to know who you are talking to, before you speak to them…and if you ever get less than 100% service and the highest of standards…let me know!
April 17th, 2013 by Mike Clough
Quote : “Please note that under no circumstances should the above company be used for any works/surveys/quoting etc. This includes dealing with any other companies associated with P**** D****
If you need an expert or guidance on Japanese Knotweed please contact email@example.com”
I didn’t write the above, one of our clients did – then copied us in on the circulated e-mail!
How bad does a company’s service need to be to generate this type of comment..?
There are some crooks in the world but the guy that is referred to within this paragraph is well known within the Japanese Knotweed industry as a liar and a con-man to be avoided at all costs – (…and yet we still occasionally lose work to him).
Unfortunately most of us are hard wired to believe what people tell us. We are brought up to be honest and to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. So when somebody lies to us we don’t immediately go… ‘you lying bastard’ …we believe what they are saying and go along with their advice.
One or two individuals have cottoned on to this and are happy to lie and cheat their way through life, basically not giving a flying f**k about the damage they cause and the problems they leave behind.
There is a word for this – ‘sociopath’ – ‘a person with a glibness and superficial charm, with a psychopathic personality whose behaviour is antisocial and often criminal and who lacks a sense of moral or social responsibility.’
They will tell you that black is white, they could sell ice to Eskimos…and they are quite likely to tell you that Sycamore roots are Knotweed rhizomes, or that it is ‘illegal’ to have Japanese Knotweed on your land…
The problem is that they are difficult to spot.
I have come across them occasionally and been totally taken in…I’ve lunched with them, had dinner with them, worked for them, worked with them …and even driven to Scotland to meet one of them.
All exhibit the ‘glib superficial charm’ …then they f**k you over without a second thought…
However, there is good news ahead.
With the formation of the new trade body INNSA – the Invasive Non Native Specialist Association – we will at least have some guidance for our clients.
There will in the near future be two ‘trade bodies’ covering the treatment of invasive species. One will have members from the damp proofing industry and one will have members qualified and experienced in dealing with invasive plants.
We will leave it to your intelligence and perception as to which is the correct trade body to use…and which are a bunch of sociopaths…
April 10th, 2013 by Mike Clough
My sister in law is a real penny pincher, I can safely say this in the confident knowledge that she will never read this - otherwise I would be in trouble. She recently bought a carpet from a named company familiar to us all from endless TV adverts. This piece of carpet was an end of roll section advertised in the ‘sale’ section of the already cheap and nasty section of the shop…
The carpet was fitted, and initially appeared to be… ok.
However, after a very short period of time (a matter of weeks), the carpet appeared worn and was showing signs of wear and tear. My sister in law immediately rang the carpet supplier and said how unhappy she was and could the company come and replace the carpet with a new one…
The carpet company immediately pointed out that the item was in ‘sale’ and as such was not covered under any type of warranty, so basically: tough sh*t.
The sister in law immediately went ballistic; ‘you cannot tell me you aren’t going to do anything about this, I’m covered under the sales of goods act, call your selves a carpet company?! I’m going to sue you for every penny you’ve got… blah blah blah’.
She then contacted her solicitor who explained that she hadn’t got a leg to stand on.
She continues to moan and witter on, and came round to our house venting her spleen over tea and biscuits, so I added my six-penneth.
Does it not occur to you dear sister in law that when you are paying pennies for a product they cannot possible allow any type of warrant or any type of claim? They have no margin for including any ‘extra’ type of service. Where do you think the service levels are covered when you’ve only paid £30? Do you really think they are making enough money within that sale to cover for any unforeseen problems? Use some common sense!
She contra-argues that: ’well they shouldn’t have sold it to me then.’
Well unfortunately, with people who are so bloody tight that they see only the cheapest possible product as being the best then they are never going to understand…
I am always upset when I hear people say: ’oooh great a closing down sale – lots of bargains!’ – Whenever I hear closing down sale, I don’t think ‘bargains’, I think ‘there goes another business down the pan because people want everything so bloody cheap that it’s unsustainable’.
Whenever I hear that stupid supermarket saying ‘driving down costs every day’ I think ‘…and where the f**k does that end you dummies?’, if you drive the costs down every day, somebody somewhere must be struggling. Whether it’s the dairy farmer whose milk makes him less money than twenty years ago, or the sub-contractors working for supermarkets who pay on 120 day terms – SOMEBODY IS BEING SQUEEZED!
So why don’t we all stop looking for the cheapest prices and start looking for service quality and aftercare. Why don’t we stop looking to save money on everything that we do and look for value for money?
And why doesn’t my sister in law get a life.
And why don’t my clients realise that JKSL offer the best service and aftercare package in the market. Pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
April 3rd, 2013 by Mike Clough
We are being contacted more and more by home owners wanting the ‘cheapest possible’ price for works to remove Japanese Knotweed on their property. They tell us that they have contacted several of our competitors and unless we are lowest in price… they will use somebody else.
Well I’ve got to be honest, if you are one of these people and you are thinking of ringing us… please don’t bother.
There are lots of ‘one man and a van’ operations out there just dying for this type of work. They are dying for it because it’s all they can get, and it’s all they can get because they are useless at what they do. They aren’t qualified, they aren’t experienced and they haven’t got a clue about what they are doing. They will also probably NOT kill the Japanese Knotweed on your property but will kill everything else including your dog, your fish and your grandma (if she is asthmatic)…
To get our teams qualified costs us money. To put our teams through Health and Safety courses costs us money. To store and keep track of the chemicals that we use, costs us money. To give warranties and carry out revisits costs us money… all of which means that we cannot work for nothing and will generally not be the cheapest company to deal with your invasive plant problem.
What we can guarantee is that we will do the job properly. We will keep records and re-visit your property without you having to chase us to do the work. We will have somebody in the office who can answer your questions and help out when you want to sell your house.
We will be aware of the environmental issues associated with our works and we will ensure that we kill nothing but the specific plant group that we targeted.
We will also do all this with a smile on our faces – or your money back!
March 27th, 2013 by Mike Clough
I’m sure this will get a few peoples backs up, but I’m sorry; it has to be said…
We recently placed an advert for two new surveyor roles that have been created, due to high demand for our services. We placed the advert in prominent positions and also Tweeted and Facebooked the role. The position had a clear job description and clear statement about what the role entailed – degree level/invasive plant identification/CAD experience/travelling/overnight stays etc. etc.
We had a great response with over 2400 people viewing the page on the job site. We had over 250 CV’s submitted from which we narrowed it down to 20 interviews. We had applicants from all over the world (yes seriously… as far away as Indonesia).
So, to the point of the blog;
If you are going for an interview with a company, PLEASE - do some research, find out what they do, at least be able to talk coherently with some knowledge of the subject.
- Make an effort; put some clean clothes on, perhaps a suit? Maybe a shirt and tie - at least try and look like you can smarten up.
- Perhaps try and make a good first impression, it’s the only chance you will get.
- At interview DON’T ask about what car/holiday/bonus you will get – it creates the wrong impression
- Be positive not negative, don’t point out your dislike of driving when the jobs basic requirement is driving throughout the UK
- Don’t say how you like to play in a band and thus need to finish early on a Friday and are never available at weekends.
- Don’t turn up stinking of alcohol…
We did have some great applicants and we have offered the junior role to what appears to be a really nice young man – a recent university graduate.
There were several oddball applicants with great CV’s but no understanding of the basic elements in presenting yourself to a possible employer. I ended the interview process feeling that some of the people that I met were highly qualified, but totally unemployable.
Am I alone in thinking that many ‘young’ people today don’t understand what ‘work’ is all about? They want a nice car, phone, i-pad, holidays, bonus etc. etc……but they don’t have the foggiest idea of what you need to do to be able to get these things…?
Are our universities missing something from their curriculum? Or maybe is it that the lecturers and administrators at these higher learning centres haven’t got a clue themselves because they have never had a real job?
March 20th, 2013 by Mike Clough
I find myself asking this question on a fairly regular basis. The only people that seem fully committed to coming in and actually working are all over the age of thirty*. Anybody under that age seem either lazy or just plain don’t understand how business works.
The reason that I employ people is to make the company money. If you don’t make the company any money then you are worthless and should not be employed.
I’m sorry if that sounds a bit harsh… but perhaps if more young people understood this basic principle they would be a little less surprised when they get their P45 sent to them in the post.
Most people below the age of thirty seem to think they have a right to a nice car, a right to an i-phone and an i-pad….and that they should have a decent foreign holiday twice a year…
Now I’m not saying that this is not achievable, what I am saying is that maybe they should put all this into perspective.
If your car/phone/tablet/holiday costs you ‘x’ then you need to be earning ‘xx’….to be earning ’xx’ you need to be making your employer ‘xxxx’.
Pretty simple really…If you are only bringing in ‘x’ and you are earning ‘xx’ then your employer will quickly say ‘xxxx off’.
So to all the people out there confused by their jobs and feeling unloved or unappreciated by their boss….maybe they are a little stressed (poor baby)….
Get out there, get some work done, make some f**king sales, make some bloody money for the company and maybe your sh*tty little world will improve.
The power is in your hands.
Set that alarm clock a little earlier.
Don’t tell your partner you will be at home for 5.30 – tell them you will be home when you’ve smashed your target.
What you put in, you will get out.
(*nb. there are exceptions to this rule)