Thursday, 29 May 2008

Show Jumping Drain Pipes? (Grey Handyman)

My jobs are advised to me by text and this one said 'change light bulbs and paint drainpipes'. The job was for a regular customer - Caroline - who lives with her family in a large town house in Kensington.

When I arrived the customer wasn't there but I was let in by the gardener; also in the house was a housekeeper and a cleaning woman. I started on changing the light bulbs and after a while Caroline arrived home. After letting her know that there were not enough of a special light bulb that she needed, I asked about which drainpipes needed painting (having earlier looked around the outside of the house to see if any looked in in need of painting and not found any). Caroline showed me some large black drainpipes poking out from under steps leading down to the under street level storage area at the front of the house. She said she wanted them painted, two in red and white stripes in a specific pattern, and two in brown - she explained that they were to be pony jump poles.

When I said that I would go down to bring the poles up to take to the garage for the painting Caroline said 'I'll need to help you as they are very heavy'. We went down the steps to the pipes and I then realised that the three metre long pipes, some 5 inches in diameter, were indeed very heavy as they were made of steel! Caroline then explained that she had lazy pony which she wanted to train to jump. With normal jump poles, the pony simply hit them and knocked them off rather than actually jumping a bit higher to clear them. The steel poles, being very much heavier, would 'encourage' the pony to make the extra effort! I was assured that the pony's legs would be suitably padded to ensure that it wasn't hurt during the training.

Two hours later for new jumping poles were painted and, when dry, ready to take to the stable (in Windsor) for the training to begin. I'm looking forward to an update of the training progress on my next visit.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Hanging flat screen TV's

Hanging flat screen TV's is a job we do all the time, most times one handyman can manage on his own with a little help from the customer to offer the TV up to the bracket once it has been fitted to the wall. For someone with a good knowledge of the types of walls and the different fixings used for each wall hanging a plasma screen should be a simple DIY job but for most of our customers a lack of time and practical experience means they are far more comfortable getting one of our handymen to hang their screen professionally and neatly.

We normally estimate between 1 and 1.5 hours to hang a plasma screen (depending on the size of the screen, type of bracket and type of wall) although very large screens can sometimes take up 2 hours so you should generally be looking at between £60 and £80 + vat. We offer a fixed price for those of our customers who prefer to have peace of mind that they will not be charge anymore than a certain amount.

Our fixed price for LCD screens up 42" is £85+vat and for LCD larger than 42" we charge £100+vat.

If you have spent a fair amount on your new flat screen TV why not give us a call and get one of our handymen to hang it professionally and neatly.

Friday, 23 May 2008

The Oddest of Odd Jobs

We had one of the strangest jobs we have had so far on Wednesday of this week. A customer wanted to hire a handyman to remove their bath panel because his pet Burmese Python had escaped from its cage and slithered under the bath. His hope was that our handyman would be able to remove the bath panel so that he could retrieve his snake.

Luckily, one of our handymen, Don, has had experience with snakes. His son used to have one as a pet! So he didn't mind offering his assistance in returning the serpent to its enclosure.

Unfortunately, when Don removed the bath panel the python was nowhere to be seen! It appeared as if it had crawled even further along the waste pipe than first thought and was probably behind the tiled-over mdf boxing that had been installed to hide the bathroom plumbing.

The customer then confessed that the snake had actually been AWOL for about a month and must by now be quiet hungry. Plan B was then to try entice the snake out from behind the boxing by dangling a fresh mouse in the proximity of the entrance to the boxing in the hope that he would show himself for long enough to be captured. Our handyman did not stick around for this part of the plan. He also didn't have the heart to tell the customer that one of the jobs we do quiet a lot of in London, is mouse proofing, and that in our experience there is no shortage of rodents behind the pipe boxing in London flats. So he shouldn't be surprised if his 5ft pet snake isn't in fact starving but does actually emerge from his den as a 10ft well fed snake when he himself is good and ready!

I'm not sure what sort of licences a person needs to have a pet python in London or any other reptile for that matter. But both myself and the London mouse population would certainly be interested to know how many escape and are never seen again.

I leave you with this conundrum; if you were a tenant in a flat and your pet python escaped and you never saw him again. Would you warn the landlord and the new tenants about their co-inhabitor when you finally moved out or would you just say nothing and hope the snake has moved out as well.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Humor in the world of a London Handyman

Every so often we come across some amusing job requests and I love the fact that our customers are so confident in our service and so at ease with our handymen that they request us to do things like helping them when they have managed get their big toe stuck in the spout of their of bath tap or to open the sugar jar that has been closed too tightly. It is very rewarding to know that our customers rely on us for even the smallest/slightly embarrassing jobs.

Handymen are not without amusing moments themselves. I had a call from a customer who asked if I wouldn’t mind calling the handyman that was currently at her property to ask if he was ok and not injured in anyway. When I enquired if something had happened that he might injure himself the customer went on to explain that the handyman, who was there to fit a sash restrictor to a sash window, had been shown upstairs to the first floor where the sash window was located and then left to get on with the job. The customer went down stairs to find the handyman who she had just left upstairs letting himself in through the ground floor back door. As it turns out the handyman who had to stand on the window ledge to fit the restrictor had slipped, fallen out the window, rolled down the angled roof and landed in the flower bed in the back garden.

Thankfully it was not very high and the tightly packed flower bed provided a nice soft landing. In the end both I and the customer were in stitches when I called back to say that the handyman was perfectly fine aside from a bruised ego.

Putting Things Right

One of our handymen was asked to assemble an ikea shelving unit last week. This is normally a very straight forward job, assembling flatpack furniture is something our handyman service does all the time.

There was an added difficulty on this job however, the shelving unit was almost 2m wide and 2m high and needed to be assembled on its side and then lifted in to position. Unfortunately there was not a 2mX2m clear space anywhere in the flat we were working in. The handyman decided to attempt to assemble the wardrobe with it in an upright position. This was going well, he managed to get the outer frame together, but as soon as he tried to move the bookcase in to a position where he could add the individual shelving units the frame colapsed, damaging the laminated chipboard wood it was made from beyond repair.

Knowing the difficult conditions we were working on, the customer was understanding, but did expect us to replace the bookcase and have it assembled by the next day. We tried to explain that the most logical way to deal with this situation was for him to order a new bookcase from Ikea, have it delivered and we would put it together for him and reimburse him the cost of the replacement bookcase. But he would not accept this solution and insisted that the bookcase be replaced and assembled the following day.

So two of us set off to Croydon Ikea at 19:30 that evening, we bought a replacement shelving unit, had a couple of hot dogs and drove across London to N16 to deliver the replacement unit.

The next day our handymen returned and assembled the shelving unit, this time disassembling the bed in the room to allow enough space for the unit to be assembled on its side.

With a four hour round trip to replace the bookcase, the £110 cost of the wardrobe and the extra 1.5 hours of labour we completed the job and charged the customer a grand total of £72+VAT. I don't need the Dragon's Den panel to tell me that this equation does not equal profit, but it did equal a satisfied customer. Which at this stage of our business is just as important!

Monday, 19 May 2008

London Handymen and Their Tools

One of the universal truths about men is they all love power tools! One thing you learn pretty quickly when you use power tools on a regular basis is that price and quality do count.

Given the size of jobs our handymen take on, most lasting between half an hour and half a day, the only power tool they are guaranteed to us on a daily basis is their cordless drills.

After many years of using the XRP Dewalt Cordless 14.4v , we experienced a string of product malfunctions when Dewalt redesigned it in 2007. So we moved to the Makita Lithium Ion 14.4V Combi-Drill, these are fantastic pieces of kit but at £320, these seemed a bit on the expensive side.

We are now moving towards the Makita BHR162RFE 14.4V Lithium-Ion SDS Drill , these aren't sold by screwfix but can be picked up online for around £230. So far we think they are great. Thanks to the Lithium Ion battery they only weigh 2kg and give consistent power throughout the day. Because of its an SDS drill it gets through even the hardest of walls. It is a bit heavy to use for driving in screws, so our handymen also carry a lightweight 9.6v cordless screwdriver.

So the next time your £25 drill you were over excited to get from Argos lets you down, you know what drill to upgrade to. But if you don't want to spend the best part of £250 on a top or the line drill, just give us a call and we'll drill the hole for you.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Not your average London Handyman Service

Many people who use our London handyman service for the first time are pleasantly surprised when a well spoken, polite and neatly turned out person turns up to tackle their 'to do' list.

All of our handymen come from professional backgrounds:

Don is an Oxford graduate, was a pilot in the Royal Air Force, a government liaison in China, Chairman of a Charity and also has a honours degree in french studies. He picked up most of his handyman knowledge and skills while renovating his own and friends properties. Don has been working as a professional handyman for six years now and is attracted to this job because no two days are the same.

Nick graduated from Brunel University with an engineering degree, he worked for KPMG for twenty years as a management consultant, is an avid yachtsman and skippers commercially owned yachts in his spare time. Nick describes himself as semi-retired even though he works a full five day week. The aspect of this job he likes the best is meeting new and interesting people everyday.

Robin has been in the building trade working as a Quantity Surveyor for over twenty years, he is an advanced motorcyclists and often takes groups of motorcyclists on guided trips to Europe. His depth of building and technical knowledge is massive and he pursues carpentry projects as a hobby.

It should be obvious from the profiles above that we are no ordinary handyman service, when you book a Silver Saints handyman, you are getting someone who can communicate well, is used to working in high pressure environments, has excellent problem solving skills and have chosen to do this job because they understand the importance of customer service and love DIY.

All our handymen have had successful professional careers but have left the confinement of the office behind to pursue a flexible, fun and rewarding career as a mobile professional London handyman.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Boris Johnson's Cycle to Work

When Boris Johnson was elected as the new London Mayor last week everyone knew that it would not be long before he did something silly and got plastered all over the newspapers; who love to portray him as a buffoon. But who would have thought that the press criticising him for not wearing a helmet while cycling would cause more debate than him going through red traffic lights.

Almost all the comments on the BBC website about this story were of how not wearing a helmet was not against the law and the press should back off.

As a non-helmet wearing cyclist, I did a bit of research and found a number of articles which pointed out that when Canada and Australia introduced legislation making all cyclists wear helmets the number of cyclist significantly dropped. I guess anyone aged between 15-20 would rather walk then look like a geek!

I also found a report which argued that wearing a helmet actually made cyclists feel over confident and hence take risks they would not normally take and therefore made cycling with a helmet more dangerous. Here is a small extract from the article:

Wearing a helmet only marginally reduces the extent of head injury following collision with a motor vehicle. Thus, cyclists who wear a helmet do so with an inflated idea of its protective properties. Indeed, this illusion is encouraged by road safety campaigners and helmet manufacturers who set out to persuade cyclists that they will be safer with a helmet, using all the techniques of modern advertising. Cyclists are not warned of the limited benefit provided by a helmet in an accident with a motor vehicle.

An appropriate solution to the problem of serious accidents to cyclists requires an understanding of the circumstances in which accidents occur. Cyclists rarely ride into motor vehicles. It is motor vehicles driven without sufficient care which are the source of most of the danger and which pose the threat to the life and limb of cyclists. Calling on cyclists to increase their safety by wearing a helmet shifts responsibility away from the drivers, the agents of accidents, on to cyclists who are nearly always the victims. Were cycle helmets to be made compulsory, it would reinforce public perceptions of the bicycle as a dangerous form of transport and encourage the view that cyclists are responsible for their own injury.

My view is this; if you don’t want to wear a helmet, don’t, if you fall off your bike and land on your head it will hurt more than if you were wearing a helmet, but that’s your choice. But if you do choose to wear a helmet, don’t expect it to make a big difference to your injuries if you get hit by a car!

We definitely don’t need any laws telling us we all have to wear a helmet to ride a bicycle and I can guarantee the journalist who wrote the story about Boris not wearing a helmet doesn’t cycle to work.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Handyman Services, The Credit Crunch & Falling Property Prices

It seems that you can’t watch the news or open a paper these days without hearing about the ‘credit crunch’ and the related fall in property prices. But are households feeling the pinch just yet or is it only mortgage lenders and estate agents who are struggling,

There is no doubt that when property prices are on the rise, homeowners, landlords and developers are all too happy to pour money into their properties. Most companies that are in the property or property services industry have benefitted from a decade of rising property prices and a long period of economic growth. But now that the boom appears to be turning to gloom will London homeowners begin to tighten their belts? Will they still be willing to fork out the best part of £100 an hour for a London plumber or electrician?

Well the answer is that they don’t have to and haven’t had to for about the last seven years. What a lot of people are starting to realise is that they don’t need a specialist plumber to fix a dripping tap or replace a toilet flush, it doesn’t take a qualified electrician to replace a light switch or ceiling rose, why get a carpenter to plane a door? All these small jobs, the kind a good DIY-er would tackle themselves, can be done by a specialist handyman. There are a number of London handyman services, most charge about half the hourly rate of a specialist tradesman.

The only worry about getting a handyman to do the work that is typically associated with specialist trades is over quality of workmanship. There are a lot of handyman services out there, but very few can offer consistently good handymen. Silver Saints only employ handymen with a professional background with a minimum of three years experience within the handyman industry. This means that they can guarantee you will get a handyman that is polite, communicates well and has a wide range of experience and knowledge every time you book.

So as the upside of owning a property becomes less of a sure thing, I think a lot of people are going to start realising the value of handyman services over specialist tradesmen to get all those small plumbing, electrical and carpentry jobs done.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Silver Saints first week.

Silver Saints, London’s newest handyman service, first week is coming to an end and all things considered I think we have got off to a great start. We have managed to sort out most of the teething problems we experienced over our first few days and aside from a few small changes required on our website we are pretty much where we want to be. Most important of all is all of the customers we have carried out jobs for this week are impressed with our service.

Every morning this week I have attended the job of a different Silver Saints handyman to take some pics of them doing what they do best for our website and each time I have been reminded of how experienced, knowledgeable, trustworthy and reliable our handymen are and I’m always impressed with how the guys handle our customers with such professionalism.

I dropped another 400 leaflets in the Kensington and Chelsea area this morning and although most people will think this a fairly primitive form of advertising I think it is a good way to help get our name out there. You rarely see an immediate return from leafleting and if you do it is usually very small though my hope is that people will see the leaflet and if they don’t have any handyman jobs they want doing right away they will think of it as a useful contact and keep it for when they do need handyman jobs done. Luckily our sophisticated booking and scheduling software allows us to track where each and every job comes from so hopefully we will start seeing some sort of return over the next few weeks.

They say you can on average expect a return of between 1 and 3% on leafleting and, after this mornings drop, we have dropped 2500 leaflets since Monday so fingers crossed we can expect at least 25 extra bookings on top off all of the bookings we would have already taken from our fantastic website . Only time will tell!

Need a job doing?

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Silver Saints Day Three

London's newest handyman service has just begun its third day of trading. We have three jobs booked in for today having taken a total of five bookings yesterday.

We have had a few teething problems, mostly to do with our website and our Google AdWords campaign. I spent almost two weeks designing our Google campaign and it worked perfectly for about two hours on Day 1, but then Google stopped showing our ads. I spent the rest of Day 1 trying to contact Google via email to find out what was going on. At the beginning of Day 2 our ads were showing again for the morning but not in the afternoon. JT managed to find a contact telephone number for Google and I spoke to one of their representatives. She explained that because our ad was new and was appearing at the top of the sponsored links so often it was flagged by their computers and our campaign paused until they reviewed it.

Luckily for us they approved our campaign and our ads are now showing again. I thus have high hopes for day 3 in terms of the number of bookings.

The second problem we've faced, is our website, . The website is vital to any professional handyman service, especially in London. Ours just was not ready in time, I forced the website designer to put a half complete website up on Day 1 so we had something to point our Google campaign to. But there is no doubt, given the amount of people that have viewed the Silver Saints website versus the number of booking we have taken. That the uncompleted website is turning customers away. A new version will be uploaded this morning and the final completed version should be up by Monday next week.

In order to try to drum up a few more jobs, JT has been dropping 500 leaflets a day around South West London. The weather in London this week has been ideal for this type of activity!

Keep reading for updates on exactly how things are progressing with our handyman service.