It’s eight years since the release of Iron Man marked the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – a highly successful franchise which has spawned numerous offshoots of varying quality as well as a variety of competitors which never quite manage to match the scope and ambition of the real McCoy.

Since Japanese Knotweed Solutions (JKSL) was founded almost fifteen years ago, other companies have followed in our illustrious footsteps.

We recognise that a number of these companies are established businesses with considerable expertise in invasive species management. Along with JKSL, these companies now form the membership of INNSA – the Invasive Non-Native Specialists Association.

INNSA was set up to protect consumers from traders who don’t understand the problems they claim to solve. Part of this mission is making sure that INNSA Contractors will be able to finish what they started.

You might ask why there is a problem – surely anyone with a suit and some firepower (or herbicide) can get rid of Japanese knotweed – after all, it’s only a plant…

Well (spoiler alert!), to answer that question; let me take you back to Iron Man. In the final action set-piece, our hero, Tony Stark, struggles against a former trusted employee, Obadiah Stane who is trying to do away with Stark after stealing his inventions and trying to take over his business.

Both rocketing skywards in armoured suits, the pair reach the upper atmosphere. All seems lost for Stark, when he asks:

Stark: How did you solve the icing problem?
Obadiah: Icing problem?
[Obadiah’s suit freezes over and deactivates and he plummets towards the earth.]
Stark: Might want to look into it.

In the invasive species industry, “the icing problem” is site revisits. Japanese knotweed treatment, unlike damp-proofing, is not a one-hit affair – the Environment Agency recommends a glyphosate treatment and monitoring program for up to five years, with up to two visits each year.

As you can imagine, a Japanese knotweed company that is growing will build up a bigger and bigger portfolio of sites but they may have to return to each site as many as ten times. For every new initial visit that they carry out at the end of summer, a company will have to do twice as many the following year – and if you want to continue growing, you will have to take on more work on top of this. Things won’t settle down until you have reached the end of a relatively stable five years and the jobs you started back then have been completed – but if you’re still taking on more work, then your workload is still growing…

Japanese Knotweed Solutions is growing – but that growth has to be managed carefully, with an eye on what is going to be happening five years down the line. We have expanded again this year – taking on and training extra staff in 2015 to become our third dedicated revisit team, in time for the growing season in 2016. JKSL’s Revisit Teams are unique in the industry and are dedicated to monitoring and maintaining over 600 of our clients’ sites across the UK.

Pricing projects for Japanese knotweed and other invasive species like giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam is delicate. As you can imagine, many factors can change over five years. Like many other sectors, contractors in the invasive weeds industry struggled as fuel prices spiked by over 30% between 2009 and 2011, remaining high up until the back end of 2014. Companies who had priced their visits sharply were finding that instead of making profit from each job, that they were losing money to meet their obligations to their customers.

Unfortunately, some businesses in the invasive species industry proved unable to cope with the logistical challenges of managing invasive species and they are no longer trading; their customers have been left in the lurch.

Their business model was like a pyramid scheme; growing right up to the point that it collapsed… Every new job gave them enough money for today – but sooner or later, they started missing visits and eventually the pressure of trying to balance new works and existing commitments became too much – or the new projects tailed off, leaving a black hole of obligations that the company no longer had the resources to manage.

But INNSA is here to make sure that its members’ clients don’t have to worry about this. If you want to ensure that you’re covered for the full treatment that you’ve been recommended, make sure you go with an INNSA Contractor Member who will carry out your treatment in line with the INNSA Standards.

What’s more, Insurance-Backed Guarantees (IBGs) are available and all INNSA Contractor Members issue Insurance-Backed Guarantees as standard for all residential clients having works done on their home.

No (icing) problem; that’s the icing on the cake.

Chris Oliver, Operations Manager
Japanese Knotweed Solutions Limited