And so this is Christmas ……and what have we learnt. December 16, 2015

Well for a start we have learned that as my mother once told me, as you get older time just flies by.

I can seriously remember thinking earlier this year that Japanese knotweed was just beginning to start growing… and now the season is over in a flash…

2015 has seen people leave, people join, jobs get won, jobs get lost….in a real roller coaster ride of ups and downs….yet through it all…no matter what…as I face the final curtain …my friend I’ll say it clear …….I’ve done it… my way.

Seriously though it never ceases to amaze me how somebody leaving – generally improves the company’s position. I always go through a phase of …’oh my god how will we cope without ……(insert name)…’

…but you know what …the problems are always short lived and the new member of the team always helps move the business in a positive direction. I guess the ‘company’ is a stronger unit than I give it credit for.

Enquiries have been handled more efficiently and professionally by the wonderful Suzanne and her team. Suzanne is an absolute legend at JKSL and continues to develop and grow within her role – if she ever finds out how good she really is …she’d be gone in an instant ….so don’t tell her.

We also have constantly had high praise of our receptionist Jamie and the chatty and wonderful Ruth – well done to you both.

Turnover is up on previous years …and so are our margins which I think is credit mainly due to one Alex Dayes whose understanding of costs and suppliers are second to none.

Alex you are also a legend in your own lifetime …

Cash flow has significantly improved – this is down to getting payment terms right (Mr Dayes and his team) and then getting the money in as has been promised ….credit due to Ms Ann Taylor and her team in accounts.

Jonathan has been a huge asset at JKSL –  (though since my mother said he looks like a young Kirk Douglass I can’t get the image out of my head) – as have Natalie and Stuart ….I expect great things from you all in 2016.

The boys on site have been massively under pressure this year but have risen to the challenge – hitting their targets with merciless accuracy …and apart from the odd power cable and the occasional knock in the vans ….they’ve had a cracking year.

The teams don’t organise themselves though and it’s the office team we have to thank for this efficiency – Chris Oliver has been tireless in his efforts to get to every site requiring are visit and new guy Rob is already showing promise in his supporting role.

Phil Whelan, Contracts Manager and my brother by another mother – has also been there …wherever and whenever required putting company before all else in his mission to keep JKSL at the top of the industry. thanks Phil – I love you.

I can’t really review 2015 without mentioning my wife.

She puts up with me being away from home most weeks, she puts up with me ringing her from all over the country complaining about traffic, she puts up with me being a grumpy old bastard who swears too much ….and she does all this with a smile on her face (most of the time)…so thank you Mrs Clough for still being there each time I return home. Thank you also for not hitting me in 2015 …it has been noted and appreciated.

So as the wine gets mulled and the turkey gets plucked – here’s wishing all our customers a Happy Christmas and a knotweed free New Year.

And finally in summary …I’ve learnt that humility and shyness have been undersold and that this is the way forward for Mike Clough.

Mike C

Black Friday … December 9, 2015

Last week I unfortunately found myself in London…on… ‘Black Friday’ – this is probably the last place on earth that any sensible person would want to be on this fateful day. The roads were absolutely chaotic and the shops just had to be seen to be believed. At various times I thought I had accidentally wandered into a protest march of some sort due to the volume of people… several rows deep just …shop, shop, shopping till they dropped…

At one stage I walked all the way down Bond Street even though I wanted to cross over the road but couldn’t get out of the stream of pedestrians…..

So what caused this shopping frenzy?

Apparently it’s some American tradition prompted by thanksgiving?? Getting bargains from the store prior to the holidays…?? Anyway whatever the reason, prices had been slashed and London was an orgy of normally rational people going all out for a major % reduction and a bargain…trampling the elderly was considered reasonable behaviour….and queue jumping the norm.

I may be considered unusual – but – I’m not a big fan of ‘bargains’. If i buy a shirt and it is £60 then the following week its £30…my reaction isn’t … ‘what a bargain’ …it’s more… ‘bloody hell I’ve been ripped off’….why didn’t they tell me last week that the shirt would be in the sales??

Hence what is considered by the shop to be a winning tactic fails miserably and I decide never to shop there ever again.

To me – a price should be based on a series of factors:

Marketing and sales
Cost of materials
Cost of manufacture/construction
Profit margin

Obviously within these prices there are variables – and one can reduce profit margin for short periods. But at the end of the day… low, low prices every day are not sustainable. Look at the Supermarket chains battering our dairy farmers for lower and lower prices till they reach a point where each pint of milk is actually costing our farmers money…

We at JKSL are not immune…. having recently lost a project in Bolton (our doorstep) to a company based on the South Coast …who are travelling to Bolton carrying out a day’s spraying then returning to the South Coast all for… £220.00 a day.

We have companies based in Scotland coming down to Manchester carrying out spray works that Manchester based companies are deemed too expensive to carry out?! …duuuh

This cannot possibly be sustainable? I just don’t get what’s going on in their heads?….


…wouldn’t it actually be better to take a day off, have breakfast with the wife and kids then take them to school, nip back home and make love to your dear spouse….THAN DO A DAYS WORK FOR NOTHING.

I’m sorry but just occasionally I think …might as well just give up…and go cheap.


Naaah …couldn’t do it.


Mike C

Lying December 2, 2015

I’m thinking of adopting a new business strategy …lying.

I was in a meeting last week with a pretty high powered client and he said…’*********’’ a competitor of yours state that they can kill Japanese knotweed in a single application of herbicide’ …..then went on to say…. ‘why would they say that if it wasn’t true..?’

Well Mr High powered client if …every decent honest company tells customers that Japanese knotweed will typically take 3 to 5 years of repeat herbicide application …and some bunch of lying no good rip off merchants say they can do the job with one visit…who do you think will get the work?

Now there is a faint crack in this strategy …if ….as any decent contractor would expect – there is re growth after the ‘all powerful’ single spray with a ‘ secret mix’ then how does Mr ******** get round this??

Well …for a start I would suggest looking closely at any paperwork provided by ‘********’ – what you will probably find will be some very small print that states ‘…if there is any re growth we will come back…(neatly sidestepping the ‘kill it with one spray …’ ….lie). As regards the cost of these works they will then sell you an insurance backed ‘guarantee’ (maybe even from Lloyds of London) …and bingo they’re covered.

So …would I ever adopt this strategy – well no….I couldn’t.

One of the main differences between JKSL and some of the ‘other’ companies out there is that my team are actually from a horticultural background – they aren’t ex car salesmen or double glazing experts or even experts in franchising…they know about plants, and they know about invasive species.

This is why they don’t trot out any bullshit because they know invasive plants have a way of surviving that defies most standard techniques.

Do you really think Japanese knotweed would be so problematic if a single herbicide spray would kill it …really? Really?


Mike C

Last Night the NEBOSH Saved My Life December 2, 2015

Well, the title’s a bit of an exaggeration – but pre-use checks may have prevented a potentially embarrassing accident / fire / death. I know – it’s not quite got the same ring to it…

Those of you who know me will probably be aware that I recently passed my NEBOSH General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety and I am eagerly awaiting approval as a Technical Member of IOSH. It’s actually a lot more interesting and much more common-sense than people tend to think.

Anyway, a few weeks back, a neighbour saw me cutting our front hedge with my trusty old hedge clippers – good old fashioned tools with no engine but my 24-inch pythons (OK, more like 14, but what’s 10 inches between friends, eh?).

With a very modern lack of comprehension as to why someone might enjoy a bit of manual work, the neighbour offered me a cobweb-covered old electric hedge trimmer from her garage. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I accepted, of course.

So yesterday, while working on the garden, we decided to use the new trimmers to do the hedges.

What’s the first thing to do before starting work? That’s right: have a brew.

That done, I got to work and carried out an inspection of the equipment.

Now, when I said I’m “not one to look a gift horse in the mouth”; that was a complete lie. I got out my ACME equine dentist kit and proceeded to give the old nag a thorough once-over.

The plug looked fine – no external damage and the cord grip was secure
The housing of the equipment was intact; no damage.
There was a bit of electrical tape around the flex… Hmmm… Further inspection needed, methinks.

It seems that someone had run into a little trouble and cut through the power cord (probably with the trimmer itself). Whether that person is still alive or not, I have no idea. Anyway, rather than do anything sensible (like have it repaired by a professional or chuck it in the bin), the next user simply twisted the two wires together and taped the whole thing up – leaving the two cores to short-circuit. Oh dear.

Onwards with the inspection (next stop: Plug Town). As you would probably expect with such an awful “repair” job, the fuse had blown. No problem for our intrepid garden genius, it would seem, as when I opened up the plug housing, the fuse had been wrapped in silver foil and replaced.

Now, while a fuse is technically not there to protect people, it is there to protect equipment (including mains electrical installations) from things like “exploding” and “catching on fire”; things which tend to be fairly dangerous to people too.

So inspection complete, faults identified, I stuck in a new fuse, removed the length of broken wire and re-connected the rest of the wire to the equipment housing (so there were no breaks in the cable). Then I ran a little test – and everything was in order.

So, my job as Household Health and Safety Manager done, I gave the hedge trimmer to my partner and watched, proud of my good work, as she didn’t get set on fire or die while she trimmed our hedges.

Job’s a good ‘un. Time for another brew, I think.


Chris Oliver, self-appointed Household Health and Safety Manager