SUMO making its mark

Providing a fast, reliable and cost- effective service which affords enormous cost, time and safety benefits to clients in the construction industry, SUMO is reporting a record number of new customers utilising its service every month and a repeat business rate of over 80 per cent

The construction industry is constantly exposed to the risk of causing accidental damage to underground utilities such as electric cables, fibre optic cables, gas mains, water mains and other underground hazards. For the contractor, striking one of these services accidentally can at worst result in a fatal accident and in almost all cases will incur very high repair costs.

Personal injury and compensation claims can also lead to higher insurance premiums and potentially, the total loss of insurance cover, whilst damage to plant and machinery can delay the contract and incur additional penalties. Add to this charges for traffic delays and road damage and you can see why contractors are under significant pressure to minimise excavation risks.

Why do these problems occur? Quite simply, because existing records are not sufficiently accurate and many services have been undetectable - until now. With the development of its bespoke Ground Penetrating Radar system, SUMO can not only identify the type of underground utility but also its depth - effectively bringing an end to such problems.

The structure of the SUMO franchise is based upon the principle that wherever possible all 'back office functions' will be provided by the franchisor centrally, leaving the franchisee free to market their business locally and to provide the SUMO service to their clients.

The franchisor provides:

  • a central sales and marketing service
  • an 0845 centralised client survey booking facility;
  • a comprehensive business administration service;
  • a full technical support programme

As a result:

  • SUMO group turnover has virtually doubled every year since the business was launched;
  • the SUMO corporate customer base is growing by more than 200 major customers per quarter;
  • More than 80 per cent of all SUMO customers become repeat customers;
  • In excess of 50 per cent of all quotes are converted to business and the SUMO quote book stands in excess of £500,000 at any one time.

The demand for hard-copy topographical drawings to support SUMO's underground surveying and produce a comprehensive site drawing is also increasing month-on-month and is currently outsourced. However, SUMO has already made the necessary investment to bring this highly profitable service in-house, thereby further enhancing its service offering.

Furthermore, SUMO will also be test marketing its service to the domestic market during 2006 and will be targeting private householders, small builders, conservatory companies, etc. This is expected to become a significant additional source of business.

The growth profile to date of the SUMO group is expected to continue throughout 2006 with annualised forecast sales in excess of £2 million making it the largest player in its market sector by far.

To date:

  • all SUMO franchisees have achieved or beaten their initial sales targets;
  • all SUMO franchisees have incurred lower than initial projected overheads;
  • all SUMO franchisees have achieved or beaten their initial profit targets;
  • no SUMO franchisee has failed or ceased trading.

A graduate in civil engineering, ash patel launched his sumo franchise in september 2004

'My wife and I had always considered starting our own business, and had been visiting small business exhibitions for a while without locating a concept we were enthusiastic about. After SUMO caught my eye we made enquiries, went to a SUMO Discovery Day and within three months had made our minds up.

'SUMO provides comprehensive training in using the equipment. It's quite intensive, but they don't throw you in at the deep end. For example, another franchisee came out with me on my first jobs to ensure I was confident in carrying out the service properly. The other franchisees are very supportive.' SUMO also provides support in the marketing of its franchisees' businesses, with a central department organising advertising, promotions, mailings, presentations and demonstrations. 'In the first month I had a few jobs, then in month two I was flat out,' remarks Ash. 'I've carried out some local mailing campaigns to bring in more business, and put a lot of effort into achieving customer satisfaction. This is important because repeat business represents a significant percentage of my overall business.

'I'm probably working harder than I ever have done. However, while I worked hard in my last job, it was always in the back of my mind that I was working for somebody else's reward. I'm a hands-on person so I enjoy doing the work outside, but as the business develops I may have to take a step back to optimise my input.'

Having exceeded his first year forecasts, Ash sees no reason why he won't overachieve again and has a few ideas in the pipeline to attain this: 'We are planning to expand and look to take on staff in the near future