The snow removal business is unique compared to others in the green industry. When inclement weather hits, business tends to be better. You need snow to remove it, you need ice to manage. Because of often unpredictable snow events, snow removal business owners cope with odd hours and sometimes working more than a full day without taking a break from pushing. But it can definitely pay off! Just ask the folks who were in the North East last year. The guy who was shipping snow across the country wasn’t the only one making good money off of the weather.
We survey snow removal business owners every year and compile a snow industry benchmark report. One trend that we see each year is that a majority of business owners use subcontractors, but they also have a tough time managing their subs. Here are five ways to stay in control of your business when you're using subcontractors:
Set clear standards and processes
Just as you’d do with any of your other employees, you need to make your processes clear before hiring subcontractors. Use clearly drawn out contracts. Even though the subs are not the same as your regular employees, they are still the face of your company when they are out on jobs.
Quality control is a responsibility that ultimately falls on the business owner’s shoulders. If there is an issue with one of your subs, the issue is a reflection of how you run your business. Communicate how you want jobs completed and what your full expectations are before the snow falls.
Collect field data
Having a process to collect information while your subs are out in the field is important. 40% of the respondents of our Snow Industry Benchmark Report said that the time that it takes to receive subcontractor data slows down their billing. If you aren’t billing, you’re not getting paid. Pretty simple.
You need to have a way to collect information on your subcontractors work. The best way to do this is to have a field service software in place that can track exactly that. For instance, our software allows owners to keep track of their subs by setting up an online portal that the subcontractors can log into while out on the job. They can see their route sheets for a snow event, can log important information about their work and, most importantly, your office is able to collect that information in real-time.
Plan well in advance
Alright, I know I said that the snow removal industry was unique because of how unpredictable it is, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan for a majority of what could happen. If you read a lot of what the veterans on PlowSite.com have to say on the forums, you’ll see how important it is to be prepeared. There are snow pushers on the forums that swear by Murphy’s Law: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
Communicate your schedule and plan to everyone on your team and the people you’re subcontracting. If a snow event does occur, know who is going where, what levels of snow might trigger certain jobs and how you are going to collect data. You need to know your subs are going to be ready when snow hits.
Again, a system should be in place in which each subcontractor knows exactly where, when and how they should be completing a job.
Pay your subs quicker
One of our key findings of the Snow Industry Benchmark Report was that if you pay your subs quicker, many of the issues that owners have with subs disappear. The contractors that took more than a month to pay their subcontractors, and that was about 44% of people we surveyed, were much more likely to cite issues.
This might be a snowballed result of issues in your overall business infrastructure, but think of how frustrating it is for you to not be paid by customers. The same goes for the people working for you.
One very simple thing that you can do to promote accountability is to validate your sub’s work through a timestamped picture. It is proof your subs were out at a location during a snow event. Have your subs snap a quick pic on their smartphone after they have finished pushing and have them either send it to you or upload it to your snow management software.