According to a recent report by Automotive site Parkers, as many as one in three van drivers is a victim of theft and, if you're a builder, sparky, or a plumbing engineer, you'd better watch out because there's more chance of you being a victim. Last year saw a whopping 25% increase in van and tool theft with power tools attracting the thieves. So what can we tradies do about it?
Mike’s Personal Experience as a Trade
Van theft is close to home for Mike, a former plumbing and heating engineer by trade. “The reason why VanGuardian was invented was because I suffered all the variations of van crime and copper pipe theft from a pipe carrier and it's the damage to the van and the escalation of it.” Mike explains.
“Over 35 years, I had two vans stolen and my livelihood taken, along with the tools and everything I had accumulated in that time, so I know even at that level how devastating that can be to any business. Whether you’re a small sole trader or a business running multiple vans, you know you’re another month away from getting another van damaged. So yes, I've experienced it firsthand alright.”
The Emotional Toll of Van Theft
It’s a devasting blow when you discover that your van was a target for thieves and the emotional impact should not be underestimated, as Mike goes on to share. “We're even more aware of van crime these days, and if you've never suffered from it, you're aware of somebody else within your circle that has. It's very close to home and you can't believe that it's happened and straight away you're looking at your scheduling how it's affecting your workload and how you going to be able to function.”
When you’re a one-man band and a sole trader, without the support of a larger company to share the impact, things become tough. “I had that as a sole trade; immediately all my jobs had to stop and you're when you’re without tools, you can’t work. You end up with a backlog of work as you have to have time off to sort out the insurance, and you start looking at the financial hits that you're going to be taking with the excess to pay and the tool replacement.”
Why Insurance Alone is Not Enough
It's a good idea to have insurance, Mike believed that van crime would never happen to him, and ultimately, when it did, he ended up taking it on the chin. “I ended up paying the price to reinstate all the tools that I’d had stolen, so I know exactly how it feels. Imagine getting a brand-new van though and having it damaged: that's what's so sickening, it's just a double whammy and that's why we made VanGuardian, to try and alleviate that problem.”
However, insurance alone won’t deter thieves from damaging your van to break into it and steal your tools and Mike thinks this is only one-half of what trades need. “An insurance policy is not the definitive answer because unless you've got some protection on your vehicle then you're leaving yourself vulnerable to an attack, irrespective of insurance and tool cover.”
He goes on to explain, “I do think that smart money is all about protecting your vehicle and safeguarding what's inside side and that's where VanGuardian comes into it. It was born out of seeing the situation and how it affected me directly to come up with a cost-effective solution for a vehicle to be protected to safeguard its contents inside. That's our win-win scenario that you'll get when you buy a VanGuardian and being a flexible solution it's very adaptable and flexible for all types of vehicles, trucks, and campers and motor homes are also coming into our forte as well.”
A Factory-Fitted Alarm Won’t Prevent Theft
A shocking 62% of criminal activity happens outside of the van owner’s home, and a factory-fitted alarm is therefore not enough of a deterrent to thieves as Mike goes on to explain. “If indeed you've got a factory-fitted alarm because 30% of vans that are on the roads don't even have an alarm system, which seems ludicrous, but it's a fact, and we're getting vans that people think are alarmed but only in the cab not in the cargo area, which is where we are seeing the damage.”
With thieves becoming smarter and finding ways to break into vans, having more than your factory-fitted alarm is now essential if you don’t want to be a victim. “Various methods of getting into a van that might be alarmed don't activate the alarm, so door peeling and panel piercing that we're seeing for opening the back door deactivates the factory-fitted alarm.” Mike explains.
“That's why we've made VanGuardian a visible deterrent from the exterior of the vehicle, and by being positioned on the exterior of the vehicle, it creates a powerful unimpeded alarm and as 62% of theft occurs outside your home, that happens because you don't hear it. The VanGuardian answers all those problems with a single solution, so you do hear the powerful 110-decibel alarm if anybody is sniffing and moving around your van.”
Easy Installation but Difficult to Remove
For tradespeople who do invest in a VanGuardian solution versus the potential of replacing their equipment and tools, there are savings to be made, and as well as being cost-effective, the alarm is easy to install.
“We looked at the end user and what puts barriers in the way and of course we've gone with a battery-operated device because we don't want to interfere with the wiring. The batteries will last up to six months on standby, and between three and five months in everyday use, which is more than acceptable. The low battery indicator lets anybody know when the batteries are running low so they can factor in time to replace it at a convenient time.“
As well as being cost-effective and easy to install, it’s also able to withstand various weather conditions. “We used and patented the base solution, using a high bond adhesive tape to attach it to the vehicle, which makes this adhesive tape fully waterproof as long as you follow the correct installation procedure.” As Mike goes on to share, you won’t need any special skills to install the alarm and, more importantly, it’s very difficult to be taken off by a prospective criminal. If anybody did try to remove it, they’d be activating the alarm.
The Peter Jones Test on Dragon’s Den
“If you did see the Dragons Den series, Peter caught me off guard and started to try to remove the VanGuardian off the back of the van, which ironically has been on my demo van for two years. He demonstrated full-heartedly what a thief has to do when they approach a van with VanGuardian on. They might see it as a threat but if they try to remove it, they start that process of drawing attention to themselves.”
Facing the Dragons
Mike clearly isn’t feint-hearted and was happy to share his experience on Dragon’s Den with us. “Well it initially was it was a challenge, obviously you have to try and forget about the cameras and ultimately I boiled it down to a great opportunity to expose VanGuardian on national television. From a marketing perspective, it was fantastic, it has launched the business, put eyes on the product and brand, and people are coming to us in droves. We have some big companies now, and if I can drop a little hint in there, Yesss Electrical are our main national retailer now for this product. What that is going to offer us is a fantastic opportunity of growth and exposure and it's brilliant for the business.”
Dragon’s Den was just the start of it, and VanGuardian is rapidly growing its position in the market. “We're just going from strength to strength and have some really exciting products coming out which we demonstrated on Dragon's Den. Any eagle eyes, if they had seen the table at the side of the van, would have questioned what was on there. Well, we had some innovative ideas that we're bringing out and they were actually on display there, but nobody paid any attention to that.”
Protection for Camper Vans and Motor Homes
The TV opportunity enabled Mike to bring the subject of theft into a wider sphere, confirming that it’s not just something that affects tradespeople. Being on TV you're able to demonstrate to the rest of the population that it's a really serious thing that's going on.
“I was surprised how much the motor home and campervan fraternity picked up on it and they've been very responsive. We've just brought out an innovative idea of a wall switch now that they can position inside the camper and the beauty of having it on camper vans is the fact that you can arm it at night whilst you're occupying your camper van and have blanket protection whilst you're sleeping in there. It won't go off with wind sway buffering or the generalised occupation of a camper van. You can still arm it and yet have that protection that you would do say with a home alarm to stop any Intruders door tampering, removing the bikes off the back, or trying the door handles. Things like that give you peace of mind as it's amazing how much theft happens when you're asleep at home and you're unaware of it until the following morning.”
Exciting New Products Coming Soon
Not one for sitting still for long, Mike and his team are working on some innovations for the domestic market, including a garage door alarm. We will be sure to invite Mike back on the podcast when these products are launched. The final piece of the jigsaw is the colour coding. “We can now colour code the cover plate to match the colour of any van and it's our second bestselling product on the website, so it's been very well received.” So whatever your branding, VanGuardian can be adapted to match.
What Do Trades Think of the VanGuardian Alarm?
So far Mike has had a brilliant response from his customer base regarding the effectiveness of his product. “We've had some great response, we've had some CCTV footage sent in showing how it's deterred the criminal activity, deterred the tool theft, and you see it play out brilliantly on some of the CCTV footage.“
Van theft has the potential to affect every trade out there, so protecting your van, tools, and livelihood isn’t one of those jobs you should leave for a rainy day. Please check out the VanGuardian website to learn more, and share this with your trade friends – or anyone with a camper van or motor home.
Listen to the full podcast here: