Each month we’ll feature an interview with one of our great industry’s finest. This month the spotlight shines on arguably the most experienced window cleaner we’ve come across, Len Henderson from Henderson& Co. Window Cleaning. Len’s been in the game for 45 years and still going strong. You can check out Henderson & Co. Window Cleaning’s website here
Hi Len, you’ve been in the window cleaning industry as long as anyone we’ve come across. Tell us a little about how, when and where you made your start.
I started working with my brother when I was 16 (1972), in London, he had a window cleaning business in NW London. Back in those days all we needed to clean the windows were shamies, scrims and buckets of water. Most of the customers we cleaned their windows every month. So you would wash the scrim out, wring it out as dry as you could get it, and that would be your main tool to clean the windows. As you would imagine, lots of houses we did only had a few windows and sometimes we would do 10 houses in one street. There were no poles used, just ladders, pointers, or as we call them here in Australia, a bow ladder, which I still use here most every day. As you cannot buy them, I make my own bow ladder.
Why the move to Australia?
I moved here in 1975, it was something different to do.
When you moved to Australia, what did you notice about the differences in the industries?
I never worked in window cleaning, when I came here. I was a photographic technician and as technology changed, my skills were not needed anymore. I decided to buy a franchise, so naturally I thought of window cleaning, as that was something I had done in the past and I wanted to work outside. I bought a franchise in 1999.My wife, Sandra, joined me in the business in 2005. We built the franchise up between us and by the time we sold it in 2010, we were making more money than any of the other franchisee. We decided to go on our own. Henderson’s Window Cleaning was born.
Any old traditions or techniques seldom used by current window cleaners that you just can’t kick?
The only item that I use daily and have done from the time I started window cleaning in London is my bow ladder. Have supplied a picture(see below). I can clean windows quicker with this ladder than a guy using a pole.
What sort of changes in terms of running a window cleaning business have you seen over the years?
A lot of our clients were people in Glen Waverley.Now with the demographic change in this area our work has diminished, so we have had to expand our working area to a larger area. We have also found that people are not getting their windows cleaned as regularly as once was.
And product developments over this time?
Over the last couple of years, our son has entered the business. He has introduced us to new systems, ‘waterfed’ which we now carry as internal systems in both our vans. This helps to keep my 30 foot ladder firmly on the roof racks of our van. Also carbon fibre poles have been an asset to us.
Your current business is a family affair with your wife Sandra. Tell us about the business.
We are now Henderson and Co., incorporating my wife Sandra and our son Marc. Our normal working practice is Sandra does the inside windows, which reassures a lot of our older clients, that there is a female on the inside, many of our clients new and old love the idea of a female quoting and coming to do the job. Marc and myself do the outside and ladder work if needed.The family affair is a large attraction for clients.
As someone who has been in the industry as long as you have, you must get real enjoyment from it. What are your favourite parts of the job?
One of my favourite parts of my job is working outside and independently. Also listening to my music.
And your least favourite?
My least favourite part of the job is fly screens, which we never had in England.
I hear ya! We have a tool for that – the Skreen Out:
Are you a music in the ears man, or do you just listen to nature – or Sandra! – while working?
Yes, I am a music in the ears man, I listen to dufduf music, the louder the better. And Sandra sometimes, if I have to.
Any advice you could offer to those starting up in the profession?
My advice would be:be reliable, be efficient, if you say you are going to be there, turn up on time or ring. Do not let people down. Treat your customers like you would like to be treated if you were that customer. That is how we keep our regulars.
Love your work, Len. It’s great talking to someone with so much experience. Best of luck to you, Sandra and Marc with the business.