Let me introduce you to Matt Saxon. Matt is a window cleaner by day and a Fireman by night. He has always been a window cleaner before he became a Fireman and so it is interesting to see how the two jobs twine together.
WCM: Matt, you are a window cleaner and a fireman? How are your two jobs shared through the day?
Matt: Yes I am a fireman. I window clean in the day, usually Monday to Friday and then I am on call from 5 in the evenings and all weekend. If I’m in the local area cleaning, I will book myself available for the fire service and it’s no big deal if I need to drop the windows and respond to a call. It works great especially on rainy days as I am at home anyway, so if we get a call I will catch it.
WCM: Did you start window cleaning because you were a fire fighter first and window cleaning fitted in with that job?
Matt: No, I have been a window cleaner since I was in school. I followed on from my dad, and also my granddad! I tried working in Halfords for a while but it was long hours for very little money. I worked as a window cleaner part time until I felt comfortable with enough customers to support me full time.
WCM: Your window cleaning business is called Ladderless Window Cleaner. You obviously use ladders in your job sometimes, right? You must get some comments?
Matt: Yes I am the “Ladderless Window Cleaner” it’s all over my van and everyone says “why have you got ladders on your roof mate?” It was a little annoying to start but I see it as a positive now. Everyone knows who I am, the Ladderless Window Cleaner with ladders on the roof! I walked into a pub last year and someone who I don’t know shouted it out with his mates and they were all laughing. It’s all good fun.
WCM: Tell us about the ladder training you had in the fire brigade?
Matt: In the Fire Brigade you may of seen the large ladders we use. These are 13.5 metre ladders and weight 120kgs! It takes 4 of us to put them up and they have stabilising props on them. We all do an initial training course when we start in the Fire Service. The training involves putting the ladder up and down most days. It is all very structured and we have certain commands and prompts. Where you are sat on the fire engine depends on where you are on the ladder. Seems a lot at first to learn but it becomes second nature after a while. We drill once a week so we also train on them too.
WCM: Have you had to use any skills learned in window cleaning that has helped you in fire fighting or visa versa?
Matt: Firefighting has opened my eyes to lots The Service is very Health and Safety orientated and so I have found myself being a lot more careful on the windows and aware of risks. So whereas years ago I would run up a ladder, now I prefer someone to foot me or I use a ladder safety device and I also make sure it’s setup properly.
When I think back years ago I would actually be half way up them before the top had touched the wall. It really makes you think.
WCM: So, this question might seem a silly one. Why did you choose to use water fed pole within your window cleaning business?
Matt: I’d seen a few people move over to WFP. At the start, I was a bit of a non-believer, it also also seemed like it was a waste of money. However, I had 2 falls off the ladder! The first one was pretty nasty. I badly sprained my ankle and I couldn’t work for 3 weeks, which we all know, equals no money. Then I did it again, which wasn’t so bad but made me think that it was just not worth it. The next day I began to look around so that I could get a WFP system of some sort. It’s so easy to rush on the ladders, over stretch here or there in order to reach that corner or an extra window and then ‘bang’, your off! I would never go back to them now.
WCM: What system and poles do you use and why?
Matt: I am all DIY, however, I started off with a trolley system that someone had made and they were selling it with 8 x 25L barrels. This worked well for a year or so but it didn’t do my back too much good and so I looked into getting a van mount which was a lot easier than I thought, I took my trolley apart and put a hose reel on it and this fed from the barrels. I then went on to getting a 400L upright tank in the van. This worked well and I ended up investing in a Shurflo pump and digital Varistream.
All my other systems have built myself. I currently have a 350L tank in the back of my combo van with a Shurflo pump and controller. Also, it has an immersion heater fitted for those colder days.
I always used to use the X-Tel poles but they didn’t seem to last longer than 3 – 4 months without some kind of break or wear. Eventually I went over to a Harris pole, which is basically a decorator’s pole conversation. I know most people think these are cheap and nasty but I don’t agree. Cheap, yes. But, not nasty. They reach all my work and are very hard wearing. I use a Gardener’s dual trim sill brush on the end of it and I have also modified it so I can add sections. Yeah, – it is no carbon fibre pole but for £15 and they last 6 months (sometimes more) or so, who cares!
For my larger work I have a Super-Lite (SL2) pole. It is 60ft and a fantastic pole. It has served me well.
WCM: Residential or commercial?
Matt: I would say that my business is currently 70% residential and 30% commercial. I find commercial good work but I think residential is where good customers lie and they tend to stay loyal if you look after them.
WCM: If you could improve the image of the window cleaning industry, what would you suggest?
Matt: All I can say on this is work hard and look after your customers. Yes you run your own business but they are the ones paying you so look after them!
WCM: What was the biggest learning curve you had using water fed pole?
Matt: I just found converting people over to the pole a bit of a learning curve. Lots of people don’t want to accept it for one reason or another, even now after years of poleing customers they ask if I’m going to dry the windows after.
WCM: What is the highest TDS reading you have cleaned windows with? And why do you think that is?
Matt: I have worked with 050 once not knowing. I don’t know what happened that day and only reason I checked was because one customer rang up and said that their windows weren’t brilliant. Quick resin change sorted it.
WCM: Have you ever been on call for the Fire Brigade whilst out window cleaning?
Matt: Yes I do it often when I’m working in the local area. We need to be within 5 minutes of the station. Quick run back to the van, wind the reel in and I’m off! Firefighting and Window Cleaning go hand in hand for me. I have been window cleaning for years and I was getting a little bit bored, but now firefighting breaks it up and makes you realise what a laid back job window cleaning really is.
It’s a great feeling being a firefighter, I love every minute of it, and it takes up a lot of your time, it’s hard work but amazing. I can’t describe the feeling of helping people in need. It also gives you a good name in the community, most of my customers know I do it and they are always asking about my job and a lot say how impressed they are.
WCM: It goes without saying that WCM and its readers really appreciate anyone that gives up their time to help save lives. My hat goes off to you Mr. Saxon. Thank you for allowing us to interview you and get an insight on your life as a window cleaning fireman.