GOALKEEPER April 29, 2015

Who would you rather have in your goal, an inexperienced, nervous young lad with tiny hands or a slightly older guy with huge hands and a string of successful cup finals under his belt? I’m using the goalkeeper metaphor as an example of someone protecting your interests, someone dedicated to stopping the problems.

You need experience, you need skills and you need a professional team to support the keeper…

Here at Japanese Knotweed Solutions we consider experience to be vital in our campaign to rid the UK of its most aggressive of invaders.

We don’t send children out to do a ‘mans’ job.

If we have a particularly complex site with a variety of issues we send ‘Team 1’, also known as the ‘A’ team, they’ve been everywhere, done everything and nothing will ‘faze’ them…

We always pair a new lad with someone who will teach and encourage the best from the ‘newby’, they do this not by bullying but instead by explaining and going through the processes so that the new guy understands the process and isn’t just acting like an automaton.

It’s this ‘understanding’ that enables our lads to react in the correct way when something doesn’t go quite as planned.

For example Japanese Knotweed rhizome is often described as going 2 to three metres deep and 7 metres in all directions form the surface growth.

What happens if it doesn’t? What happens when a building is within that 7 metre zone of spread?

Duuuuh – do you stand and scratch your head? Do you get a tape measure and put a peg in the building at exactly 7 metres form the surface growth and dig for victory (I’ve seen this done!).

Our teams are encouraged to realise that Japanese Knotweed is, at the end of the day – a plant. Yes it does some weird stuff, but when all’s said and done it has many of the same characteristics as many of the other trees and shrubs that grow in the UK. It needs moisture, it needs sunlight and its primary function is to spread and reproduce.

It will also take the easiest option when spreading and will grow quickest in the environment that is easiest for it to spread into…what it will not do then… is grow through concrete for fun.

It will NOT see your semi-detached property on the horizon and think – …WHOOPIE I’M GOING TO TRASH THAT HOUSE…

Now don’t get me wrong here, if you have built your semi-detached property on top of actively growing rhizome – then you are going to have some major problems – but if your house was there first and the Knotweed has arrived after the house has been there for 30 years then you will not have too much to worry about as any new growth will find easier ways to spread than through your front room.

Our teams understand these growth habits and will look at your knotweed problems with an open eye to where the plant is most likely to spread. They will ensure that when they excavate to remove the plant – AND – they will not be digging up huge swathes of clean soil

To carry on the earlier metaphor we want you to have a goalkeeper with the hugest of hands and the safest of grips…

So to ensure that your ‘goalkeeper’ is the most competent you can employ we ensure that all our ‘players’ are trained and qualified to the highest of standards – premiership ‘players’ are required to be members of INNSA…

So don’t employ a non-league team, employ a professional team at the highest level and make sure that not only do you win all your matches …but no own goals are scored.


Every week, I do an analysis on our Google Adwords account, to see what people searched for to lead them to our website.

It may sound a little boring, and I bet most of you are thinking “well, all anyone is going to look up is just ‘Japanese Knotweed’ plain and simple!” right?


I get the odd ‘gem’ of a word or phrase that pops up in my list of matched searched queries, that either make me giggle or confuse the heck out of me.

One such example – of which someone actually got our sponsored link and we were charged for – was ‘bear den’.

It turns out Google decided we should show up in the listings, as Mike once wrote a blog which contained the words ‘bear den’ – however, our ad that came up had nothing else to do with bears, so I am not sure what compelled the person to actually click our sponsored link…. but there you go.

Google would probably say we should thank them for getting people onto our site, but I think it’s daft that having only one recurrence of those words got us on Google.

…It’s a lesson to keep your website strictly to the matter at hand, and not go on about other things. Unless your website is about bears, then you can go on about them as much as you like.

As well as the random, we always get the usual “can (insert substance here) kill JK?” such as; Caustic soda, salt, Clinic ace, or even Diesel (I would hate to think what happened when someone use the latter on their garden).

Some other funny phrases include “wot kills not weed”, “will goats eat Japanese Knotweed”, “Japanese Knotweed b*ll*cks” (not sure what they were getting at there), and even the scientific likes of “what type of cell division does the japanese knotweed plant use for reproduction”.

If I knew the answer to the last question, I would not be here talking about funny words!

I wonder if anyone else suffers from random website visitors…


THE EXORCIST April 29, 2015

The Exorcist, The Possessed, Poltergeist, The Evil Dead….pick whichever horror story you want, they all have a common story line. Something bad happens and everyone is horrified and doesn’t know what to do about the problem.

Everyone scratches their heads then someone wanders down into the cellar and is killed in the most horrific way the ‘special effects’ team can produce.

Then someone calls in an ‘expert’ who gets rid of the problem…everything settles back to normality….

…then aaaaarrrrggghhh out of the blue….

….the ‘thing’ comes back and kills everyone…

Cue – The Exorcist 2, The Possessed 2 etc

Hmmmm does this remind you of anything?

A Japanese Knotweed infestation can be as horrific as even the most ‘18’ rated movie. Your house suddenly can’t be sold, neighbours are walking past your property and pointing and whispering. Friends avoid coming round…and the postman won’t walk up the path to deliver your post.

You just don’t know what to do so you hit the internet and start to look for a local ‘expert’, you haven’t really got a clue what you’re looking for so you just pick the one with the cheapest price? The guy turns up in his white chemical suit and sprays some dodgy ‘XXX Brand’ chemical onto your Japanese Knotweed and it quickly turns brown and curls up.

He takes the cash with his grubby fingers, shoves it in his back pocket and jumps in his white van with a nod and a wink….then drives off at great speed leaving you with nothing other than a slight suspicion that you’ve just been ‘had’.

You are reasonably happy though – pretty convinced you’ve done the right thing.


The problems are over and you can sleep easily at night, the neighbours start talking to you again and the postman happily whistles as he delivers your post through your letter box…

….but….what’s that red stem appearing through the debris of the surface growth…


Its back!

What I’m saying here is don’t get taken in by the first film, jump straight to the sequel or even the final chapter in the Trilogy….get someone in who knows what they are doing at the first visit.

Films and horror stories are fine, but with movies the second chapter is never as good and by the time you’ve hit Poltergeist 4 – the plot has gone completely bonkers.

With Japanese Knotweed eradication the first attempt to kill the plant is often the weakest and most ineffective – done by someone who just isn’t qualified to deal with the issues. It then takes the second or third attempt to put things right.

This can be avoided by coming straight to the experts as soon as you realise that you are dealing with a ‘monster’ of a plant – call Japanese Knotweed Solutions as soon as you suspect you have a ‘Possession’ by this most ‘horrific’ of plants.

WEED SOLUTIONS ‘R’ US April 29, 2015

Another new weed control company and another new name on Google, and unfortunately another company copying my photographs and putting them on their website (…you would think I would get tired of suing people….but I don’t).

But….dear reader….how can you….the Google punter – decide which are the best companies to call once you have done a quick search of the generic term Japanese Knotweed?

All of these companies state that they are ‘experts’ they are all ‘the number 1 service provider’ they are all ‘the first company to recognise the problems’…..aaarrrrggghhh…..who’s telling the truth….who should you believe?

Do you go for the ‘Number 1’ on the PPC (Pay Per Click) adverts on the top of the page or do look within the ‘organic links which have been optimised by the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation teams)…

Or do you think… ‘hmmmm the person on top of the PPC page is just paying for that position and may not actually be the best company to deal with….?’

Or….do you phone a few different websites and see what takes your fancy? Maybe you ring a couple of numbers and see who you like the sound of …..maybe….?

Or…..you could take the guesswork out of the equation and look for a trade body that actually checks the qualifications and skills of its members?

You need to be looking at the Invasive Non –Native Specialists Association website – www.innsa.org – all of their members are vetted and checked, they must all be members of BASIS and be able to meet the Amenity Assured standard, they must have ISO 9000 and ISO 14001 and all of their teams must be qualified to the highest of standards.

You will be able to see on the INNSA website all of the company qualifications and skills – and see examples of their works on the section marked case studies. Any domestic works will be covered under the INNSA insurance backed guarantee and any commercial works will be covered under specific insurance policies specific to the company that you select.

Take away the guesswork , use a trade body you can trust – www.innsa.org

More Horror Stories April 29, 2015

As our team of surveyors travel around the country they often come up against our competitors. Obviously clients want to know that they are getting value for money so it’s only right that they get quotes from other companies that deal with Japanese Knotweed. However…we don’t half get to hear some interesting stories;

On a large (Olympian scale) project where a screening process was used, the arising material was sold as ‘clean’ topsoil – aaaarrrgghh this is both illegal and incorrect. The arising material from screening must be kept on site and dealt with as contaminated as it is highly likely to contain active rhizome. Ideally it should be buried on site and monitored over the coming seasons, as an option it can be stockpiled and monitored in a waste management area.

On a large housing project rhizome material was being buried on site in a terram liner which split during the burial process – when asked by the client what they were going to do about this the contractor replied – ‘if you won’t tell anyone then I won’t either’ …again aaaaarrrggghhh. JKSL (and other INNSA members) use landfill grade liners (which aren’t cheap) which don’t split and tear under stress – these liners are heat sealed and glued together to give the most secure of barriers available in the market today.

JKSL have been looking at a project in Middlesbrough where a client had a small Japanese Knotweed problem – they had called us in because they were a little doubtful of the advice given by the French speaking contractor they had contacted. They had been told that ‘every house’ on ze estate ‘had to have how you say …an insurance backed warranty …’ even though only one of the properties had been impacted by an adjacent infestation of knotweed. They had quoted £60,000.00 yes SIXTY THOUSAND POUNDS – plus VAT …our quotation was £3885.00 plus VAT …again …aaaaarrrggghhh
It is no wonder that the industry has been accused of malpractice when idiots like these are wandering around. My problem is that people keep employing these morons – and I can’t quite understand why?

Luckily the company that was involved with the first two incidences has ceased to trade – unluckily they have started to trade again under pretty much the same name but just adding Research and Development to their previous abbreviated name…be warned…!

My theory with some of the other nonsense that goes on is that people just don’t understand knotweed removal. They go into a panic with some of the stories that are circulated and then they believe what the scaremonger contractors tell them…

Well please let me give you all a piece of good advice – please DO NOT just pick any old contractor to give you advice – use the INNSA website www.innsa.org.

The Invasive Non-Native Specialists Association will not give you any bullshit, they won’t tell you horror stories and they won’t over charge you. You will get clear impartial advice and you will get prices that are comparable – if one of our members is cheaper or more expensive there will be a valid reason for the cost difference (probably geographic) …and…you will not find one INNSA member quoting £500.00 and the next one £128,000 as has happened on a recent tender bid on which we submitted prices (…not an INNSA approved tender list I should add!).

Japanese Knotweed eradication is not a mystical science, it’s not smoke and mirrors and there are NO ‘secret techniques’ – there are clear rules and regulations that must be followed, as set out in the Environment Agency Code of Practice. The techniques employed have clearly defined parameters with clear costs associated with them – do NOT employ anybody that tells you they have a secret chemical mix …and do not employ anyone that has an acronym in their method statement.

Acronyms are used to just try and make something simple… sound complicated…

So PLEASE for my peace of mind and to stop me banging my head against a brick wall – please, please use an INNSA contractor and don’t employ anybody that’s French.

Let’s turn the horror stories into fairy tales with happy endings…

Mike C


Do you wash your hands after going to the toilet? …no brainer, ‘yes’ obviously…

Did you clean your boots after the last site visit you made?

Er, duuuh, probably that would be a NO…

What about all the seeds that you have been walking through?

Himalayan balsam produces thousands upon thousands of seeds all of which are looking to find a new home to spread the parent plant population. Fishermen casually wading through marginal areas of wetland will disturb the seed heads of these plants and then cross contaminate the next area that they fish unless strict cleaning procedures are carried out each time they visit a new location. Nets and boots as well as waders must all be cleaned and de-contaminated – easily done but how many of these anglers are actually doing this?

Crassula helmsii (Australian swamp stone crop) is gradually making its way Northward through the country, but how is it doing this? Birds have been blamed for picking up fragments of the plant and then dropping them in the next watercourse – unlikely – it is far more probable that a fisherman has used a contaminated net or boots and unwittingly caused the problem to spread.

Japanese knotweed doesn’t actually spread by seed, it spreads by what are called ‘propagules’ this basically means any part of the plant that you break off has the ability to re-grow. So if a piece breaks off and is casually picked up on your boot as you leave site, you will cause the plant to spread.

Good hygiene and bio-security arrangements are essential to the successful operation of any business within the land based sector.

Current high profile news stories about mortgages being refused due to the presence of Japanese knotweed will only raise the number of legal cases and litigation and is bound to result in fingers being pointed and blame being allocated wherever a mistake has been made. Anybody carrying out site works in contaminated areas must ensure that they cannot be held liable for casual cross contamination.

The exact arrangements for maintaining hygiene and bio-security will depend upon the environment in which you work and the activities carried out.

Maintaining bio-security is the responsibility of everyone who enters the site, and you will be expected to encourage others, particularly visitors, contractors or customers – to follow established procedures.

You must encourage your teams to carry out work in a way which will consider any impact on the natural environment and bio –security should become as second nature as washing your hands after going to the loo!

DON’T CRY – SHE’S NOT WORTH IT April 29, 2015

I have been shocked twice this week and both of these incidents involved Japanese knotweed. The first was a couple who came to one of presentations who ended up in tears and the second related to a couple whose knotweed problem ended up with someone being killed!

I really thought that I had seen everything with JK….but apparently not.

What is sad about both of these shocking incidents is that they were all born from the misconception that a Japanese knotweed infestation is the end of the world. I admit it’s not a laughing matter but it’s also not something worth killing somebody over.

The first of these incidents involved a couple that came along to my presentation – they had been duped when they bought their house and were now struggling to sell their property because of a knotweed infestation. The seller didn’t confess to having knotweed in their sale documents and the surveyor didn’t pick up on the tell-tale signs of Japanese knotweed in it’s over winter state. So the sale went through and it was only in the following Spring that the new owner noticed bright red shoots rapidly growing in the bottom of the garden and began to wonder what this plant could be. A bit of Google research and a nifty look over the fence led to the conclusion that they had a major problem in their garden and an even bigger issue on the adjoining river bank. Japanese knotweed was everywhere and in such an advanced state of growth that even the thought of trying to start an eradication strategy was mind boggling.

The second incident was in the paper this morning with an article describing a husbands defence in the murder of his wife being that the ….’stress of a nearby Japanese knotweed infestation’ which had driven him to the terrible act in the heat of the distress caused. This – from what we are told- related to Japanese knotweed on adjacent land – with the land owner refusing to take action to eradicate the plant, again resulting in an un-saleable property.

Whilst I don’t profess to having all the answers to Japanese knotweed legal problems – both of these incidents are covered under legal precedent. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act it is illegal to allow Japanese knotweed to grow from your land into an adjacent property – this is covered under ‘common law’ as a ‘nuisance’ and can result in fines and compensation.

With the first incident where the house sale went through and the Japanese knotweed wasn’t spotted by the surveyor – I’m sorry – but his Professional Indemnity Insurance would be my first port of call. It is fairly straightforward to tell how long Japanese knotweed has been in a certain location. Growth patterns and size of growth will give a clear indication of whether the plant has been there for one year two years or ten years. So any signs of growth (and there are always signs) the surveyor should have picked up on them – whatever the time of year. I would be asking for compensation from the surveyor and would happily get a solicitor to pursue them for the costs of employing a reputable contractor to resolve the issues – and to provide a twenty five year insurance backed warranty for the new purchaser of the property.

With the second incident we are given to understand that the infestation was on local authority land – and again they are in breach of the law for allowing the infestation to spread onto adjacent properties. This is pretty straightforward stuff – first a letter advising them of the problem and giving them a timescale to resolve the issues. Second a letter from your solicitor telling them that you want the issue resolving and compensation for your stress and the upset caused.

So in both of these cases it isn’t worth tears and it certainly isn’t worth killing somebody over. Japanese knotweed isn’t pleasant but it is treatable and it shouldn’t be seen as the end of the world.

Payola… April 24, 2015

I always remember when I first came across the word ‘payola’ it was a quote on the back of an Elton John album which described him as … ‘a short fat musician who had got to where he was without the aid of payola’ – I looked up what it meant. ‘Payola’ a bribe given to secure a special treatment especially to a disc jockey to promote a commercial product.

So what this means is that the records that we hear on the radio aren’t necessarily the most ‘popular’ or most ‘requested’  – they are simply benefitting from a bribe paid to have them on the radio. Hence all the Simon Cowell protégés get an immediate boost to their chances of success…

Google works in very much the same way.

I had always assumed that when you put search engine criteria into the box – you would be getting the ‘best’ or ‘most successful’ or at least the ‘industry number one’….nope…not true…all you are getting is…. the person who has paid to be number one on Google.

This is pretty arbitrary way of selecting something …and of course we are being manipulated to choose a certain product…to the benefit…of Google*.

(*Don’t be fooled here…Google isn’t trying to help any of us in any way at all – they are only interested in PROFIT…)

Maybe with certain products this could be a good way of selecting something…? Having said that I can’t think what product would benefit from this approach…other than one that couldn’t stand on its own merits??

As a gesture of confidence in our own abilities we have drastically reduced our spending on Google – just to see what happens? Will we lose business, will we fall by the wayside…well currently the big news is…nothing has changed. Same number of quality phone calls, same number of quality enquiries, same number of conversions, same turnover and….no time wasters.

We keep track (we are incredibly anal) of every phone call, e-mail, direct website follow up…and nothing has changed…. other than our ranking on Google (…which has fallen considerably)…and we have saved about £5K…a month.

This leads me to the conclusion that much of the Google phenomenon is based on ones ‘EGO’. If one has a massive EGO and you want to sit at number 1 on the sponsored links page….then by all means pay thousands of pounds to Google to do so.

If however you happen to be the best at what you do – then people will tend to find this out by word of mouth and reputation. Ok we don’t get 20 calls a day from Mrs Smith at 23 Acacia Avenue with a dodgy looking plant (…and by the way have I told you my dogs diabetic)…but what we have done is save thousands of pounds on a marketing strategy that doesn’t work…and in the process have…. ‘stuck it to the man’….

Personally I’d rather have a smaller ego and a fatter wallet.
Mike C

GrottyHotels.com April 24, 2015

When I first set up in business I used to travel all over the country presenting my portfolio of works and trying to get business from wherever I could. I stayed in some fairly grotty places – the one I remember most was a Hotel in Scotland where my bedroom pillow was immediately next to the toilet bowl…stains included…..uuurgh nasty.

Whilst staying in what I considered to be one of my ‘better’ choices I noticed a catalogue advertising the ‘best hotels’ ….and I thought …BINGO…here is the answer to my dilemma – a list of all the best hotels in one book…BRILLIANT…. I bought a copy. I then drove home happy with my new purchase and thinking that all the guess work of picking where to stay was no longer an issue…

On arriving back at home in Glossop I proudly showed my wife the book – Mrs Clough was impressed and then said – …. ‘let’s have a look at what there is near us…?’ – she flicked through the book and stopped at a wonderful looking Hotel advertised with some fantastic looking pictures….

…..BUT HANG ON A MINUTE….that’s the grotty Hotel that’s just around the corner from our house, just by the council yard…????

…but it looks nothing like the pictures in the sales catalogue – the details say … ‘great restaurant’ and ‘luxurious rooms’ which we know to be complete bollocks. It doesn’t have a restaurant and the rooms are pokey and hot …how can my ‘Best Hotels’ book be so wrong….????? The photographs must have been taken by someone laying on the ground pointing the camera away from the Council yard and then ‘photo-shopping’ some trees on to hide the septic tank and the dead horse.

Getting to the bottom of this strange contradiction was one of the greatest lessons in my life…

I had naively assumed that the ‘Best Hotels’ in the ‘Best Hotels Guide’… were ranked on some system that graded out the crap and left in only the ‘best of the best’ so that when you chose a hotel from this guide – you knew that you were getting quality.

Well I was wrong.

What you get with this hotel guide is ….hotels that have paid to be in the guide.

What you get from restaurant guides is ….restaurants that have paid to be in the guide.

What you get from magazines about cars/books/clothes/food anything you care to mention is ….cars/books/clothes/food anything you care to mention….that have paid to be in the magazine

It’s as simple as… you pays your money… you are a ‘Best Hotel/Restaurant/car/clothes/food’…and ….given that the wages of the people that write the books/magazines are paid by the payment of these subscriptions…do you really think they will be kicked out for being crap…highly unlikely.

Soooooooo dear reader…what point am I making here…

Well, very much the point that just because you are in a book or organisation it doesn’t mean that you are any good at what you do. If an organisation/magazine/guide is looking to make money and is looking actively for new members then their selection system is already flawed – they NEED new members to feed the salaries and the admin and the offices and phones and website ….therefore they aren’t going to turn people away just because they are a bit below parr.

I have recently lost work to the ‘other’ trade body within the Invasive Non Native Species market. The home owner had been told that he must use the ‘other’ trade body – he had no idea why, he just had to use somebody who was in the ‘other’ trade body.

Surely to god – somebody should ask the question – what am I actually getting when I use this ‘other’ trade body….?

Would you rather use a Trade Body that went into the market to find another income stream for its damp proof members who were struggling during the economic downturn…

…or would you rather use a Trade Body that vets its members and has no requirement to make a profit.

If an INNSA member breaches our Code of Practice they are removed from the website and have their membership revoked.

So Japanese Knotweed Solutions Ltd, Trading for 13 years, some 10,000 plus projects successfully completed, 2890 maintenance sites still under our care….have lost out to Bollocking Damp Proof services of Bradford who haven’t got a clue what Japanese Knotweed is…they just happen to be a paid up member of the bollocking ‘other’ trade body that happens to have a mate in the mortgage providing body…


I’m working on it.


Mike C

Guarantee or Warranty… April 24, 2015

Don’t you just love word’s? ….a subtle change of change of one word in a contract and you can change the whole meaning of what’s being offered…my wife changed ‘love honour and obey’ to ‘abuse and do what I want’…

So what’s the difference between a guarantee (formal assurance that a product or service will meet certain standards) and a warranty ( a promise that certain actions will take place)? Same thing? Or is it something more subtle that’s going on here?

If a Japanese Knotweed contractor says… ‘we offer an insurance backed guarantee’ …what is it they are actually guaranteeing? Is the inference that they are ‘guaranteeing’ that you will never get any knotweed re-growth? Are they suggesting that you will get a big pay out from an insurance company if you get any signs of new plants? …I would suggest that that’s the thought that they are trying to ‘implant*’ in your head.

If someone is trying to say they ‘guarantee’ you won’t get any re-growth…that’s a pretty big statement to make…given that the bulk of the plant is beneath the ground and you can’t see what it is you are dealing with.

Some of the more experienced Japanese knotweed contractors (or the ‘10+ crew’ as I like to call them – indicating ten years or more dealing with this troublesome plant) – can look at a stand of Knotweed and pretty much know how long it’s been there and how much rhizome and root system lies beneath the ground. It’s not an exact science but years of experience will give you a pretty accurate idea of what’s likely to be happening beneath the soil surface.

Some of the less experience contractors (or ‘Proper C*** A***’ members as I like to call them) haven’t got a clue that Japanese Knotweed has a root and rhizome system and probably couldn’t tell you the difference between a ‘root’ and a ‘rhizome’ if you beat them round the head with one…

So ‘guaranteeing’ that you have removed ALL of the plant material or chemically treated ALL of the plant growth is a pretty big statement to make – or… a ‘lie’.

What you can do, is provide a ‘warranty’, this means is that you will go back and check… you will go back and check for 5 years/10 years/20 years or whatever your little heart (or mortgage provider) wishes.

What the provision of a warranty suggests is a continued relationship with the site in that somebody will be re-visiting and checking for signs of new growth.

We at JKSL ‘guarantee’ that we will come back and monitor your site under our ‘warranty’ conditions. Maybe a subtle play on words you might suggest – but all of the team are advised never to guarantee that Japanese Knotweed won’t ever re-appear. We can be pretty damn sure we have done everything possible to mitigate against re-growth… but we can’t 100% guarantee that some tiny piece has slipped through the ‘net’.

We are the ONLY company currently operating in the UK  to have two FULL TIME teams doing NOTHING BUT re-visits… we have over 2980 sites being managed under warranty – these vary from Mr and Mrs Smith* at 14 Acacia avenue (made up name due to data protection)to a stretch of a river in Ireland that is 28 miles long…

So when we say that we can ‘guarantee your site being visited under warranty’ we mean what we say…

Mike C

PS if your chosen contractor is offering a ‘5 million pound insurance backed guarantee that covers damage to hard surfaces’ – they ARE lying. They refer to Professional Indemnity (PI) Insurance which will NOT cover you for any accidental re-growth on site. PI covers professional advice – not ground works – and would only pay out if ‘advice given were proven to be negligent’. No definition of re-growth could be deemed negligent advice – thus you won’t be getting your 5 million quid … sorry … it’s a con.

*Implant  – subtle play on words

As I get older…I may get wiser, but decisions get harder April 24, 2015

When I was a young man everything seemed very black and white, decisions were easier to make and the world seemed full of opportunity for a quick thinking entrepreneur like me.

I used to look around at the old farts who had power and think….paah if I were in that position I would rule the world… I was critical, arrogant and a bit of an arsehole. I never had any friends (didn’t see the point) and spent all my time working out how to make my next million.

Fast forward 35 years or so and I’m just beginning to see the error of my ways…

Life is not black and white; it’s actually multiple shades of grey (perhaps not 50 though?) and looking back on some of the decisions I made I do cringe at the reasoning behind them.

It should be noted that I never thought I would live past 40…. so most of my financial planning was based on exiting this world in a blaze of glory at age 39 probably doing 100mph… sideways… on one of my favourite roads in a modified performance car that my wife would have hated. So now I find myself at age 53 driving that little bit slower, going into corners carefully hitting the apex at the right point …and accelerating out with the car fully balanced.

I am also beginning to see that I haven’t prioritised the right things in life? Maybe family and friends should have been a bigger part of my life?…maybe having the next car that goes 0.5 of a second faster than the last one shouldn’t have been such a priority?…

I have always tried to do things just that little but differently but now I’m trying not just to be different but to maybe… make a difference?

Up until recently I would never have entertained the thought that any of my competitors would have anything worthwhile to offer to the world – I simply thought Japanese Knotweed Solutions were the best company out there and that everyone should never use anybody else. I have this year however realised that there ARE other companies out there who have valid strategies and there ARE people who do have valid arguments and valid points to make about invasive non-native species….

An example of my past behaviour would be when I first learned of the bio-control strategies being suggested to tackle Japanese Knotweed by Dick Shaw at CABI. My immediate reaction was that this would be the next biological disaster along the lines of cane toads in New Zealand or rabbits in Australia….how could anyone be so stupid! I was vocal and wrote a blog about the potential problems before carrying out any research or follow up (because …I…was the ‘expert’ in Japanese Knotweed)…

However…once I had listened to Dick Shaw and bothered to understand what was being suggested I realised how dumb I had been …and how the Aphalara psyllid could actually help with our current management techniques and how we could all benefit from a successful introduction of this bio-control strategy.

This episode led to a bit of an awakening within me which in turn led to the setting up of the Invasive Non-Native Specialists Association (www.innsa.org) where ‘like-minded’ companies can offer their services to clients. Clients don’t want to use just one company all the time, they want to use a variety of companies and ensure that they are getting the best advice at competitive rates. The idea behind INNSA was to be able to offer a Trade Body that had the highest of standards and the best quality of service with comparable strategies with no ‘smoke and mirrors’.

Invasive Non-Native Species management is a new industry with new standards and new techniques. Over the last few years the levels of service provided have risen as the more experienced companies have refined their strategies and new methods have been tried and proven. This has very much been a learning curve and has seen a plethora of companies come into the field and try to steal work with false promises and dodgy practice.

I have very much seen this as my opportunity to change the market and bring something to the table that will outlive my personal ambitions and provide a reference point for techniques and a somewhere for clients and interested parties to get clear advice with regards invasive species management. These problem species will always be with us – and it is how we manage these invasions that will dictate what sort of environment our children will live in.

It’s not about gaining a new income stream for some dodgy damp proofing company – it’s about our environment, it’s about retaining our native species and it’s about getting the management of invasive non-native species carried out correctly by competent experienced operatives

People often ask why I spend time advertising and speaking about my competitors when I get no financial return from INNSA  – my answer would be that perhaps I’m trying to see beyond my insignificant life and to see something bigger over the horizon….and maybe a horizon not filled with invasive species?

So…I’m older, I’m wiser…and I’m trying to be a better person.

What next…maybe a Prius?

Wealth warning… April 24, 2015

Every once in a while we get to see other contractors prices – and I cannot lie – it’s interesting. Nobody ever teaches a course in…. ‘How to price a Knotweed removal job’…so seeing how somebody else builds up a quote is always going to be interesting. How do they set out the programme of works, are they doing anything we aren’t…and of course…what are their prices!

Really there shouldn’t be that much difference between any two quotes for comparable works – the main difference should be geographic (how near they are to the site) and then it’s down to how much profit each individual company needs to make. The smaller the company the lower their overheads and the cheaper their price – but then there is also a greater risk that the smaller company will not survive – and in the world of invasive species management it is the re-visits that are critical

As many of you who read this blog will know – I have a bit of a ‘bee in my bonnet’ about clients just giving our quotations to our competitors and asking them to beat our price….so if you are a fellow INNSA contractor you know that if I’m given one of your quotes – the first person I will call is you.

If however you are a member of another trade body then you won’t get that level of courtesy.

Wealth warning 1

We were recently contacted by a Scottish developer who had received a quotation from local company (…local…yet had taken over six weeks to get back to him). The site had been visited by a surveyor who was able to give a quote for chemical treatment – but.. ‘wasn’t qualified’ to discuss any other alternate options.

When asked to provide a price for removal of material from site the client was told that ‘another’ person would have to visit site to provide this service. Six weeks later another surveyor from the same company arrived and quoted removal costs of £500,000.00 – not £510K or 498K ….but exactly £500,000.000

JKSL quoted £24,546.23

Each and every one of our surveyors are fully versant with all options for dealing with your invasive weed problems. They are also fully up to speed with legislation and ‘other’ invasive species.

Wealth warning 2

We have been treating an area of Japanese Knotweed on a new development in Glasgow – certain areas were excavated and removed – other areas were being treated with a glyphosate programme with repeat visits.

The plot of land adjacent to the land we are treating has been developed for housing with over 100 new houses having been built.

One of the first houses to be sold were ‘advised’ that they ‘were required’ to have an insurance backed warranty to cover any works needed to remediate problems associated with the nearby Japanese Knotweed.

They were pointed towards a local company who quoted them £4800.00 plus VAT for an insurance backed warranty – when asked what they would be doing for this figure they were told … ‘we don’t need to do anything – Japanese Knotweed Solutions provide the best service in the market’…they didn’t even visit the site before giving the quote and had no history of the project other than the fact that JKSL were dealing with the problem.

Wtf is going on here?

Somebody somewhere is in bed with somebody who is making a pretty penny for doing absolutely nothing….and getting paid on the back of the quality of our service.

Wealth warning 3

We were asked to look at a project in Leeds recently where an elderly couple had been quoted £38,000.00 to remove Japanese Knotweed

It wasn’t Japanese Knotweed – it was sycamore.

Wealth warning 4

A new housing development of over 400 houses had a minor infestation of Japanese knotweed on one small area in the corner of the development. Excavation and removal of this small area was going to cost just over £6800.00 plus VAT.

They were told that EVERY house on the development would ‘HAVE’ to ‘have an insurance backed warranty’ at a cost of £3500.00 per property

Do the maths £1.400,000.00

Totally unnecessary and totally scare mongering for business…


What I must admit I end up wondering….is….am I missing a ‘trick’ here??????….maybe the Scottish company that quotes.. ‘£half a million’ – occasionally actually get people saying yes – and it wouldn’t take many… ‘£half a mill’…. jobs to allow you to retire…? Maybe the company trying to sell insurance backed warranties for every house in the world is actually having some success and is now selling policies from a hut on a beach in the Maldives?

I’m also thinking – if these sites are ones that I’ve come across…what about the ones that I haven’t come across????

It stands to reason that not every knotweed project in the UK is going to land on my desk – so it also stands to reason that somewhere somebody is being completely ripped off by an unscrupulous contractor….

One way of avoiding the cowboys is to pick an INNSA registered company, another way is just to ask me!

Please though, look after your wealth and don’t be fleeced by an un-‘Wise’ choice of contractor.


Mike C