Comprehensive Gutter Cleaning

Gutter-Vac

Cleaning out gutters is one of those tasks that most people do not enjoy doing, but it is necessary to prevent damage and destruction of property. Gutter-Vac provides the equipment homeowners and business owners need to keep their gutters clean and prevent damage. We spoke with Managing Director Warren Ballantyne about the company and its plans for the future.

Gutter-Vac uses powerful vacuums with custom-built attachments to remove debris more effectively than other cleaning methods. Each vacuum unit incorporates ‘wet-dry’ technology so sludge and other wet materials pose no problem for the equipment. The company’s equipment is designed to clean not only gutters, but stormwater pumps, ceiling cavities, solar panels, water tanks, insulation removal, chimneys, flooded basements, industrial sites, cattle dips and manholes.

“When we started, we were one of the only companies doing vacuum cleaning,” Mr Ballantyne explains. “Over the years, other companies have tried to duplicate what we were doing.” Gutter-Vac started in 1995, servicing schools and commercial buildings. The system Gutter-Vac developed had not previously been seen in the country. “We were one of the first to do what we’re doing, so our name is established in Australia.”

The company partners with commercial property owners, facility managers, groundskeepers and government and education contractors to develop customised gutter cleaning and maintenance plans for them, creating solutions for a variety of properties and budgets. For these commercial properties, the company provides contract management services such as a customised maintenance program, access to local, regional and national services capabilities and a central work distribution point for multiple properties across regions, as well as central billing and payment processing.

Mr Ballantyne says that the company will be successful into the future because of the growth of the home services industry and the increasing population who can benefit from its services. “There are a lot of baby boomers who will be retiring soon, and Gutter-Vac is perfectly situated and suited to that market. Families are incredibly busy and may not have time to clean gutters out the way they should. The long-term projection for the industry is exceptionally strong, at least for the next two decades.”

Franchisees of Gutter-Vac can benefit from the company’s expertise and breadth of knowledge. The company has over 50 locations throughout Australia and is still expanding. Franchisees are provided with business tools to help them succeed; they are given an exclusive territory, products to clean for their clients, and comprehensive training.

Further franchise support is given through teaching of operational procedures and business practices in areas such as back office support, scheduling, dispatching, marketing, efficiency-tracking, billing and invoicing, and customer contact systems. Franchisees also receive support in areas such as operations, systems, human resources, sales, safety, office setup and opening a location. These tools help franchisees grow a profitable and scalable business.

The company is a proud member of the Franchise Council of Australia and has held a position on the Queensland Committee for over three years. Indeed, Gutter-Vac’s franchise program is recognised throughout Australia and is rated in the top ten franchisors for support and trainingref (10,000 feet National Survey). “Every franchisee is on the same page because of our company-established policies,” shares Mr Ballantyne. “That makes a difference because our clients have a certain expectation of service.”

Gutter-Vac has also developed innovative products to help optimise gutter cleaning. The Gutter-Flow gutter guard was developed by Mr Ballantyne from his vast experience in the plumbing, roofing and guttering industries and is sold directly through the company’s franchises or online at www.gutterflow.com.au. This guard serves as a cost-effective protection system that will not only keep water flowing through gutters but is designed to be easily removable and reusable. It also costs less than other systems in the market. “The product has been extremely successful for our franchisees,” says Mr Ballantyne.

The guard works because the bristles in Gutter-Flow prevent leaves and debris from building up and collecting in the gutters, but still allow water to flow freely into the rain gutter through the bristles and down the downpipes, keeping gutters flowing in between regular cleans. Specialists from the company are dispatched to install the guards and will also clean the gutters of debris before installation to increase water flow.

Regular gutter cleaning keeps rainwater from damaging property. Gutters are designed so that the gutter is higher at the front than the back; when rainwater can’t drain from gutters as intended, it will flow over the back of the gutters instead of the front. Blocked gutters can cause rainwater to overflow into ceiling cavities and into the property, damaging walls, décor, carpets and electrical items. Overflow water can also flow to the foundations of the property, which can be damaging to the integrity of the structure.

Fire departments recommend property owners regularly clean their gutters to reduce the risk of spreading fire. During a fire, embers from burning bushland become airborne and are carried away by the hot wind, landing miles away. When your gutters are full of leaves in this area, they are a genuine fire hazard. In a wildfire, it is the embers that typically cause more home fires than the flames from the initial blaze. Gutter cleaning can reduce these risks.

Indeed, keeping gutters clean is important not only for water flow and keeping a ceiling from caving in and damaging a property, but also for the health of the surrounding environment and water supply. Anything that flows down stormwater drains may end up untreated in rivers, lakes and the ocean. The rotting debris that can fill gutters is high in nutrients that may be great for gardens but can pollute bodies of water, negatively impacting aquatic life and reducing the water quality for humans. Consistently cleaning gutters can reduce the volume of contaminants entering waterways or even a homeowner’s water tank.

Other benefits of gutter cleaning include preventing rust. Debris left in gutters breaks down and forms a sludge that holds moisture, causing rust, degrading gutters and creating the need for costly gutter replacement.

Of course, safety is an important factor for the company and its franchisees are trained in safety procedures particular to working on roofs. Gutter cleaning is a hazardous task and all Gutter-Vac operators are trained in safety and comply with all state and national safety requirements to reduce the risk of falls and reduce the danger that can come with cleaning gutters. Courses include workplace health and safety issues that arise when working at schools, commercial sites and other public areas, and franchisees carry a minimum of $10,000,000 in public and product liability insurance.

Mr Ballantyne explains that the company doesn’t have a centralised marketing department; rather, franchisees market directly in their sales territories. As a low-cost way to market themselves, franchisees can also market on their own social networking sites. Each franchisee gets his or her own Google Plus account and is trained by the company in how to best expand their network.

Mr Ballantyne himself also has another company, Ballantyne Safety Systems, which addresses the training needs of his franchisees and anyone else who needs to learn about roofing safety. Over the years, Ballantyne Safety Systems has developed products such as the roof profile removable T-Bar and other inventions dedicated to height safety. The company also offers training courses on how to use roof safety equipment.

Gutter-Vac and its franchisees also help their local communities by sponsoring local sports teams, donating gift vouchers to fundraising events and participating in the National Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) Pro Bono program, established by the company in 2009. In this latter program, Gutter-Vac operators provide RSPCA shelters across Australia with free services to help maintain their shelters and reduce mosquito breeding grounds and the spread of heartworms in dogs. RSPCA animal shelters are often located in rural or suburban locations – surrounded by trees – which can lead to blocked gutters which are breeding grounds for heartworm carrying mosquitoes. For this program, each franchisee is responsible for cleaning an RSPCA shelter in their territory each year for free. The wet and dry vacuum technology can quickly remove sludge from gutters that contain heartworm carriers.

Gutter-Vac has recently expanded, winning national corporate contracts, and the company has plans to expand overseas, starting in the United States. “Expansion into Atlanta [Georgia] will give us international representation,” says Mr Ballantyne.

For the past nineteen years, a dedication to safety, entrepreneurship and supplying cost-effective products has meant success for Gutter-Vac, and will surely continue to do so for years to come. As Warren Ballantyne says, “Safety and restoring property to pristine condition are our priorities.”

Making Sense of Management

Management is the art, or science, of getting things done through people. Sounds fairly straightforward – except for the fact that people are not robots waiting to do our bidding. People have their own minds, motivations, and goals. So how do managers keep operations – and the people behind them – running as planned?

June 19, 2018, 8:22 PM AEST