How You Know You're Not Ready to Own a Snow Removal Business

By David Crary  

snow removal businessEvery year we push ourselves, and our companies to do more.  I think it’s a business owner’s curse.  You always try to do more than you can handle, attempt to schedule a few extra jobs each week, or try to expand your business with a new service. 

And I bet you will even get encouragement to do these things.  If it brings in more money, it must be a good thing right?  Even our blog is guilty of this encouragement.  We promote adding new services to help grow your business.  But there is one important thing to realize before taking on a new service or extra jobs, and that is that you might not be ready. 

Jumping head first into something your business is not ready to handle can be catastrophic to a company.  Failure mixed with stress can put a huge strain on a company and should be avoided at all costs.  So how do you know if you’re ready or not to tackle a snow removal business?

You’re not ready if…

…You have no experience or knowledge.  This is a given, but still needs to be stated.  You cannot simply put a plow on your truck and expect to be a snow removal business.  There are a lot of details that go into being in the snow industry and they must be known and understood to even have a chance at succeeding.

To manage snow removal, you need to do your research.  Join groups like SIMA to become certified and to network with peers.  Have a list of customers and review their property ahead of time so when the snow falls you aren’t driving blindly.

…You are estimating and counting on making a certain amount of revenue.  The biggest obstacle for snow removal businesses to be successful is the weather.  It is unpredictable and yet it controls the revenue coming in for that season.  If you think this will be an instant and automatic money maker, you are not ready. Snow removal can be a high reward business, but it’s also a high risk proposition.

As a business owner, you will need to accept that there may not be a “norm” within this industry.  You could have a great year your first year, and a brown Christmas the next.

…You have an incapable crew.  A snow removal business has much different hours than a lawn care company.  You will want a strong and willing crew 24/7 when the snow hits.  The biggest storms are rarely arriving at “convenient hours” for a small business.  Instead, you may need to be awake from 10 pm until 4 am watching the radar and dispatching trucks.  Is your crew willing and able to perform at all hours of the night?  Do they know how to operate all of the equipment needed to do an efficient job?

It takes a strong group of employees to tough out the long, cold winters.  You may even need subcontractors to help you out.  Training and a few test runs are a good way to see how your team will handle its first snow fall.

…You have no back up plans.  Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.  A truck will break down, a guy will slip on the ice injuring himself, or your plow will take out a street light.  Have a backup plan for every possible bad news scenario you can think of.  In fact, have four back up plans.

…You are lacking licenses and insurance against lawsuits and liabilities.  Not only are licenses and certification required to plow for almost every situation, it will help you to grow your customer base by being credible.  On top of that, we are in an age that is “sue happy.”  If someone slips on the property you just salted, or a customer says you did not service them, thus not fulfilling the contract, are you able to handle the repercussions?

You need every base covered and should have any and all contracts reviewed by a legal representative before you give them to any potential customers.

…You have no system to manage contracts.  With the lack of sleep, harsh weather, and struggles of starting up any business, do you have any type of system in place to manage contracts?

Contracts will be the largest part of your snow removal business.  They bind you and a customer so that their property it cleared and safe when they need it, and so you can ensure payment.  A field service software solution is one of the best ways to manage contracts because it can all be done electronically and scheduling based off the contract is a breeze.

There are plenty of good reasons to own a snow removal business.  It’s an extra source on revenue.  In fact, some of our customers make most of their annual profit from their snow business even though it may only be 4-5 months long.  It also keeps your employees employed year round.  This helps to build a strong company structure and keep your guys happy.  However, not every person could and should start a snow removal business.  Before you take the next step, take a serious look at where your company stands to determine if you can handle, and survive, a snow season as a business.


2018 Snow Industry Benchmark Report

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