“I’m never content”: Gutter-Vac founder reveals his driving force

By Sarah Stowe | 24 Feb 2021 View comments

For Gutter-Vac founders Warren and Anne Ballantyne continuous improvement has been fundamental to business success – within reason.

In fact one of Anne’s roles as management consultant for the firm is to hold Warren back from overloading the franchise with too many new ideas.

The managing director admits he’s not big on relaxation.

“My biggest nemesis is contentment, I envy people that can be content. If you’ve got  contentment you can drop the anchor and have a bit of a spell and take the top off a nice wine. But I’m never content.

“That’s not a sales pitch, that’s just my nature. If I’m home for the weekend, I’m bored by lunchtime Sunday,” he says.

Warren Ballantyne’s moment of inspiration 26 years ago has led to an established home services business that today numbers 51 franchisees operating across 90 territories around Australia.

Gutter-Vac has reported year-on-year growth, with a 30 per cent lift from 2019 to 2020 and through last year a 17 per cent rise despite the pandemic.

As an indication of the high level of performance achieved by this Queensland-based franchise it was last year awarded a 5-star franchise rating from FRANdata, on the Australian Franchise Rating Scale.

So how did it all start? When Warren and his wife Anne stepped up to help out his brother, he applied his plumbing expertise to create a brand new system for gutter clearing.

Back in 1995 commercial gutter-cleaning wasn’t an industry.

Warren explains “They just got the kid next door to get up and clean it. So, when we started charging $80 to clean their gutters, people used to laugh at me and say, ‘people will never pay that’. Well guess what – they do!  And today that same size house would be $400,” he reveals.

“We had a need in our plumbing business to clean gutters, and it became more and more a part of what we did. So we decided the solution was vacuuming to make it more efficient, and safer. We searched and we found vacuuming equipment, and literally started the business a month after we thought about it.”

The proprietary Gutter-Vac system, which now comes in a closed trailer, van or truck, was the key and remains a crucial USP for the business.

With safety concerns always an issue, the machinery was fine-tuned, and then Warren and his brother, Trevor started up Ballantyne Safety. This new business provided working from heights equipment and an RTO nationally accredited training course.

Gutter-Vac began franchising in 2001, and the training course was introduced to franchisees.

As the business grew, Warren and Anne relocated from Bundaberg to Brisbane.

They’ve been married for 46 years, have worked alongside each other for about 36 years, and built a network of franchisees who share common goals and are happy to learn from each other.

“Our franchisees love to go to conference where they can sit down and share stories about gutter cleaning and how they can improve,” Anne reveals.  

“Or if one of our franchisees gets sick, the other surrounding franchisees will put their hand up and do the work for them so they can survive – that’s the best thing about our franchisees, they want to help each other.”  

Helping people has been one of the business drivers for the pair, she adds.

“We’ve been able to give so many people a lifestyle, to help them out, take just an ordinary man from the street and turn him into a businessman with a profitable business, to be able to buy a house and go on overseas holidays.”

There is of course no sign of the couple slowing down.