When you’re starting out in any business, you’re going to make mistakes.
Especially in a business as unpredictable as snow removal.
However, you need to avoid these 10 errors because they’ll cost you a lot of money...
... and could kill your snow removal business.
Running a snow and ice management company is risky business—especially when it comes to slip and fall lawsuits.
If you want to keep your liability down, you need to document every time you drive onto your customer’s property.
When you or your snow crews come back to reapply salt or plow the snow, you need to make a note of the time, date and what you did as well as who was with you.
The same goes for pre-season visits (which are incredibly important).
By the way, if you promised in your contract that you’ll do follow-up visits, you better make sure that you do them... or you could be held liable for a slip and fall claim.
What did you say you would do?
What is in writing?
If you promised that parking lots will be cleared by 6 a.m. when the first shift arrives for work, then those lots must be clean.
Don’t overschedule your crews to clear more lots than they can reasonably finish.
Otherwise, you’re taking a chance of being held liable for injuries or just an angry property manager whose parking lot wasn’t cleared by the time workers needed to start their shift.
The Accredited Snow Contractors Association (ASCA) has templates to help you develop a contract that reduces your liability risks and still have a successful snow business.
If you’re the business owner, you need to make sure your crew leaders and/or your teams know how to record when they arrived, what they did, and how long it took at each site that is contracted with you.
This should be part of your training process, and documented in your business.
Starting to see a pattern yet? Documentation may be the most important survival tool your snow business has.
Make sure you have the appropriate signatures between all parties (you and the property manager, for instance).
Here are other important points that need to be included in your contract:
If you want to avoid any liability issues as well as broken snow equipment, make sure you train your crews on how to use different plows, skid loaders and other equipment.
Also, if you have commercial snow accounts, make sure you take a crew leader or one of your team to each site, so they know where to put the snow, who the property manager is, and how the parking lot is laid out.
Make sure you have the right size equipment for your contracted jobs.
Using smaller trucks that aren’t designed to handle a heavy plow or pushing heavy snow will only make your job harder.
Plus, your trucks and plows won’t last as long if they need to work harder than they’re meant to.
When you’re starting out, you don’t have a lot of money to spend on snow equipment.
However, be careful when you buy used plows and blowers.
Generally speaking, buying a used plow is a bad idea because the moldboard could have problems you don’t notice until you’re using it at 3 a.m.
As you know, snow removal companies use their equipment hard, so many times it’s not in good condition. If you do buy used, make sure it’s from a trustworthy dealership.
Don't let the weather sneak up on you.
Make sure you’re paying attention to your local weather to know when a storm is heading your way.
Otherwise, you will have annoyed customers who are wondering why you aren’t clearing their lots.
This is a big one.
Keep your clients in the loop.
Invest in snow scheduling software that allows you to send up-to-the-minute messages to your customers, so they know when you’re coming to clear their lots or when you’ll be doing a follow-through visit.
Plus, when you use a snow software like Service Autopilot, you can set up automatic messaging to your clients.
Manage your clients and employees all in one system
When done right, Snow is worth it.
But you must do it right, or you could risk losing your whole business. Don't get snowed under by a poorly written contract - or caught out by a surprise snowstorm.
This list covers pretty much everything you need to make sure your snow season runs smooth and profitable.
The bottom line? Be proactive, so your snow removal company doesn’t get snowed under by a poorly written contract or failing to keep an eye on an incoming snowstorm.
Originally published Nov 13, 2018 6:46 PM, updated Oct 6, 2020 11:38 AM
Jonathan, Cody, and Bear chat about dealing with problem clients.
It's a great reminder that service business owners are professional problem-solvers - but they have to keep that inside the scope of their business.
"Summon the Rawk" by Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)