Sumo: Discover a hidden business treasure

The detection of underground utility systems is crucial for any construction project and radar-based Subsurface Utilities Mark Out (SUMO) has become instrumental in aiding the UK's booming construction sector. Adam Browning reports

Having already proven its business concept by developing a highly successful nationwide network, SUMO is actively seeking to recruit more franchisees to cope with rising customer demand.

The growing proliferation of non-metallic material in the ground has created a new and growing market demand for a service that can detect these objects without costly excavation.

Exploratory digging before construction commences can damage electric cables, fibre optic cables, gas mains and water mains. Contractors are often exposed to litigation and higher insurance costs arising from personal injury, damage to equipment, contract delays, traffic delays, road damage and accidents.

Using the latest non-invasive detection technology that includes electro-magnetics, signal induced threading and Ground Probing Radar (GPR), SUMO provides an indispensable and cost-effective service that has helped many leading contractors to save a fortune. The benefits of the technology include a reduction in downtime, elimination of damage caused by 'hit and miss' drilling and a detection accuracy rate of 95 per cent.

As a result, it is no wonder that SUMO has quickly grown into the leading nationwide provider for the detection of underground utilities and all franchisees have either met or exceeded their targets and in some cases have doubled their original predictions.

'SUMO is the only network operator in a market already estimated at £15-18 million per year,' says Michael Bushell, Managing Director. 'With the construction industry employing some 17 per cent of the UK's workforce, the demand for SUMO's radar assisted underground surveying system can only increase, especially as we are servicing the country's ageing infrastructure and the demand for new housing. The fact that very few companies can afford to provide a national coverage in-house makes it both logically and economically sensible for them to outsource to SUMO.'

With the corporate customer base growing by more than 200 customers per quarter and group turnover having doubled every year since the business was launched, Michael reveals: 'We have secured a repeat business rate of over 80 per cent. Our concept enjoys a high referral rate and strong business building capacity.'

The SUMO franchise structure is based upon leaving the franchisee free to market their business locally and to provide the SUMO service to their clients. To facilitate this, SUMO provides a central sales and marketing service that helps generate business for the franchisee, a comprehensive business administration service and a full technical support programme (including ongoing training and in-field support).

SUMO is now seeking a further 12 franchisees throughout the UK to continue and sustain its success. SUMO is looking for ambitious, entrepreneurial individuals who 'ideally will be confident enough to perform local sales presentations, have some experience of the hard hat sector and an affinity with technology,' reflects Michael. 'However, our thoroughly comprehensive training programme and dedicated support system ensure all our franchisees, whatever their background, can excel in their territory and grow their business to its maximum potential.'

Within the next year SUMO is also about to start test marketing its service to the domestic market. This is expected to become a significant new source of business and means that 2006 will be another exciting, successful and prosperous year for SUMO and its franchisees.

SUMO franchisee MarK Pearce is based in REIgate, Surrey and is halfway through his second year of trading.

'I realised I had a chance to work for myself when I was offered a redundancy package. Looking into franchising, I saw the opportunity SUMO was offering and thought that the concept was spot on! From working in the transport industry and experiencing traffic delays caused by excavation problems I could see the services that SUMO provides would become more and more essential - there is a great deal of potential.

Although I'm practically minded, I had absolutely no experience in this line of work, and it can be quite technical. However, the training was superb - an intensive three weeks using all of the equipment and continuous in-field support. If you have a problem all you have to do is give SUMO a call. The franchise network is also fantastic - everyone is happy to help.

One of the best aspects of the franchise package is the centralised sales and support from SUMO head office. I'm kept very busy with the actual work itself, so with SUMO looking after the administrative aspects of the business, I can concentrate my efforts on providing a good service. When I first started I was surprised to find out how much business was out there - and the work has just kept on coming in.

I'm now so busy that I'm currently advertising for a surveyor to work with me, giving me more time to generate business and meet my customers. The franchise has loads of potential and I'm looking forward to developing my business - the future is looking very good indeed.'