It was a banner year for snow in much of the United States, with multiple significant snow storms. Though most Minnesotans were ready for the snow to end, snow removal businesses loved the late snowfall; it enabled them to squeeze more revenue out of their seasonal business.
All the snow got me thinking – what makes a great snow removal contractor? What should a commercial or residential buyer evaluate when choosing a snow removal contractor?
Here are 4 traits that make a great snow removal contractor:
Many snow removal contractors also perform green industry services like lawn maintenance, irrigation service and installation, arbor care or fertilizing in the warmer months. And they’ll tell you that the main difference between plowing snow and summer services is the urgency with which snow must be cleared. If you fail to remove snow from your local grocery store’s parking lot by their 7 a.m. open, you could very likely lose that contract the following year. One mistake can kill a long-term relationship. Forgetting to mow a lawn likely won’t kill a business as fast as failing to meet your snow removal contract terms.
Which is why it’s so important for snow removal contractors to focus on communicating with their customers. I talked to a contractor who said the worst mistake a snow removal contractor can make isn’t forgetting to plow a property. The worst mistake a contractor can make is forgetting to plow a property and then compounding the error by not knowing why when the customer calls to complain.
We’re in the process of gathering data for our 2016 Snow Industry Benchmark Survey, but what we’re seeing already is that very few contractors are leveraging the power of email to notify customers before, during and after a snow event. A simple email alert notifying your customer when you arrived and/or departed their property – with notes indicating how much snow you encountered, how much de-icer was applied, etc. – can go a long way toward keeping your customers informed.
And don’t forget the power of a good old-fashioned phone call. Keeping your customers informed is vital to managing a snow event.
As the old saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Snow plowing is the same, especially on a large commercial property. There are so many tools you can use – from a simple shovel to a skid steer.
Many people make the mistake of looking at price instead of productivity. It could take a guy with a small UTV 5 hours to plow the same area that a larger, more efficient piece of equipment could plow in 1 hour. So if a contractor is charging $100 an hour for the UTV and another charges $400 an hour for a large plow, the large plow is actually the better choice because it’s more efficient. And it may be more profitable for the contractor as well, because his margin on that UTV is much less than his margin on that large plow.
Want to be more competitive and efficient? Consider installing snow removal software. HindSite’s snow removal software solution makes it easier to communicate with your trucks in the field, easier to manage the different triggers and billing rules in your contracts, and improves your cash flow because it syncs to QuickBooks, enabling you to bill in minutes, not hours.
Since most snow falls in the evening and is cleared in the wee hours of the morning, timeliness is important. Businesses rely on snow removal contractors to have their lots clear of snow and ice in time for their business to open. Residential customers expect to be able to get out of their driveway in the morning for work.
So it’s vital that you minimize the time spent on each property and work quickly to do the job. If you don’t, you run the risk of missing a deadline and incurring the wrath of a customer.
Attention to detail is vital to satisfying your customers. You need to constantly think about logistics – where’s the best place to push the snow? How can we minimize disruption and keep key driving lanes clear? How can we ensure we don’t damage a homeowner’s property? How can we keep ice from building up on a property?
Though snow events are, for the most part, unplanned events, a huge amount of planning and preparation goes into pushing snow. If you don’t have a well-considered (and well-communicated) plan for every property you plow, you may find yourself losing business.
Running a snow removal business isn’t easy. There’s a lot of risk – the weather, liability, competition – that can lead to considerable ups and downs. But there’s also a lot of money to be made by snow plowing businesses that focus on communicating with their customers, optimizing their business, doing great work on time and being meticulous in their planning and execution.