When a medical emergency required Glen Weychardt to rush to hospital and spend days at his fiancée’s bedside, he really appreciated the freedom he has as a franchisee.
“I was able to change my work at the flick of a switch – I scheduled work at 9 am and would juggle my day.”
As a franchisee with gutter cleaning firm Gutter-Vac, Glen was lucky – he could easily manage the daily appointments in the quieter autumn period.
“March is not a busy part of the year. As a new business owner I would have been marketing but I put that on hold. With an emergency unfolding I needed to be there.”
Glen kept the new business going at a bare minimum but his focus was his family; he and his fiancée welcomed their new baby, born early at 29 weeks. But even with the safe arrival of his daughter there were still daily hospital visits for the next two months.
That focus on family has stayed with Glen, and he’s worked his routine around time with his daughter.
“I spend a lot of time at home with her. I try to finish about 2 pm and because
I’ve done the work for so long I’m pretty efficient.”
Glen has been a franchisee for just 18 months, but had already notched up two years with the Gutter-Vac business as an employee when he bought the business. When he discovered the job, he had no idea a successful small business could be built on gutter cleaning.
For two years he was the franchisee’s sole employee and worked up to six days a week, putting it plenty of overtime.
“I used to be always working, always on the tools, sometimes coming home in the dark. I worked lots of Saturdays. I was flogging it.
“After a few years I realised I needed to break away from a lower pay bracket and build for the family.”
Now as a business owner Glen can choose to clock up significant hours over a week, something he regularly does when servicing schools during the holidays. What’s different about doing the hard yards now is that he’s working for himself, and he can balance the intense periods with three-day weeks.
“I can jam a lot of work into a few days. My fiancée works on Friday so I don’t work and I’m home with my daughter. I’m working three days a week in winter – and still making money.”
It is early days yet for the business, the territory is still growing, and Glen is committed to building up a strong client base. While head office provides some customer leads, Glen, like all Gutter-Vac franchisees, is responsible for generating business. He does this in a way that’s natural to him, walking around the community, engaging with other business owners, chatting about the service. He scored a Bunnings account by being in the right place at the right time: the manager had gutter cleaning on his to-do list.
The benefits of business ownership have been balanced by inevitable challenges.
“Initially there was the coin drop moment – you realise you have to do this forever. It’s a continuous chore, having to call people and get out amongst it. That was a bit daunting but I learned to not worry too much about it; business does come and go.”
Working for the man, Glen had also been a gardener and worked in hospitality so he understands about the importance of customer service to his business. There are other elements to being his own boss that were new to him, however. And that’s where it’s been a bonus to be part of a franchise network.
“It’s a little bit different from what I thought it would be like – little challenges, like learning about the accounting side, I had no idea how to do it. I’ve learned a few things, like bookkeeping. I have an accountant but you have to know what’s going on.”
Glen was surprised to find he was engrossed in a five-hour session at the most recent annual Gutter-Vac conference. The topic was knowing the key indicators of your business, delivered by a former pilot who drew parallels with the need for a pilot to know the weight of a plane before it takes off.
“It made a lot of sense. I’ve applied a few ideas,” says Glen.
Looking ahead he’s aiming for weekly bookings to fill out the diary Monday to Friday but right now there’s a steady rhythm to Glen’s routine, with occasional bursts of long hours. And he’s managed to fit in a trip overseas too, attending a wedding last summer in Samoa.
It’s a schedule that’s working for the family, which is his priority.