There’s no business like snow business.
The snow industry is way different than any other service industry out there.
Which is great for you because you have less competition. But with that said, your knowledge and resources are also just as limited as theirs.
This makes it hard when you’re inexperienced trying to start your snow removal business.
As a result, if you’re looking to start a snow business, you’ll have to know more than they do.
So suit up.
Because it’s 3rd and inches, you’re on the goal line, and you’re about to hurdle over your competition.
Here’s how you’re going to start your own snow business.
Step 1: What services will you offer?
Before you do anything else, you need to know what types of snow removal services you’re going to offer.
Think about your area and how much snowfall and ice you get every year. Do you get more snow or ice? Knowing this will help you decide if you want to do snow or ice… or snow AND ice.
Then, decide if you’re going to do residential or commercial accounts.
As you’re first starting out, you don’t want to do both. You should consider picking one or the other. Then, later on down the road you can expand into other types of accounts.
Residential and commercial snow accounts could require different types of equipment. In other words, if you start out by doing both, then you may have to buy twice as much equipment.
If you own a lawn care business too, you should probably pick the type of accounts you work with in lawn care (residential or commercial). Often times, those same clients can become your snow clients.
Step 2: What makes YOU so special?… Your branding.
In a world full of other snow businesses, the one thing that’s going to set yours apart is branding.
Branding is your promise to your clients.
Essentially, it tells your clients what sets your products and services apart from your competitors.
Your branding is:
- Who you are.
- Who you want to be.
- And who others perceive you to be.
The key to any effective branding strategy is consistency.
You’ll need to choose how, what, when, where, and to whom you’ll communicate and deliver your messages. Once you decide on this, be consistent and don’t change it.
Now, you need to define what actually is your branding. To do this, you need to establish your:
- Mission (and then, mission statement)
- Key benefits and features of your products and services
- Image (in the eyes of your leads and clients)
- Redeeming qualities (the ones you want others to associate with you)
Really get to know your target market, and find out their needs, habits, and desires. This will help you develop your branding around it.
Now, you need to start marketing your brand:
- Create a logo and share it
- Ensure your team knows your key messages
- Integrate your branding (i.e. how phones are answered, your email signature, etc… )
- Create a voice for your brand (i.e. formal, friendly, etc… )
- Generate a tagline that embodies who your business is
- Create uniform templates (i.e. email templates, estimate templates, etc… )
- Deliver on your brand’s promises
Above all else, be consistent in everything you do. Consistency is the essential key to building trust with your leads and clients.
Step 3: “What’s in a name?” Everything.
Every business has to have a name… And your name is a HUGE decision for your snow business. It needs to be done right, the first time.
As you brainstorm name ideas, consider these things:
- Your audience
- Simplicity and memorability
- SEO and brand signals
- Unique qualities
- Buyers’ appeal
- Permanence of the name
- Clear representation (Does your name clearly show your services?)
Every time your clients or leads think of snow removal, they should think of your business. So whatever name you choose, it needs to catch their interest.
Then, make sure the name you’ve chosen isn’t trademarked.
If you’re registering in the United States, you can use the US Patent and Trademark Office to search the names. If you’re registering in Canada, you can use the Intellectual Property Office to search.
If it’s not trademarked, you can decide how you want to register your snow business’ name:
- Entity Name: state level protection
- Trade Name: federal level protection
- DBA: no legal protection, but might be legally required
- Domain Name: protects your business’ website address
After you’ve registered your business name, you’re ready for the next step!
Step 4: License and registration, please!
Is your business registered? Are you licensed for snow removal?
These are just two of the many things you need to consider before starting a snow business.
Before you register your business, you’ll need to know what you want to register your business as. These are your options:
- Sole Proprietorship: You’re the only operator of your business and are personally liable for all assets and liabilities.
- LLC (or Limited Liability Company): Provides limited liability to the business owner with a few tax benefits and exemptions.
- Corporation: Typically, this is for larger businesses with taxable employees.
Don’t forget, you can change your registered business type at any time.
More commonly, new business owners can start out as an LLC and then switch to a Corporation once they’ve grown a few years down the road.
And just so you know, your registered business type is primarily for tax purposes.
Now that you know your business type, you should register your business.
You can check with your local government to find out where to go (by the way, if you click the link and scroll down a little, you can look up your local site for registration). Plus, they should have information on licenses and permits as well. And don’t forget to get your tax ID number too!
Then, you should sign up for bonding and insurance.
If anything is stolen, bonding protects your business. Also, in order to sign up for insurance, you’ll have to be bonded first.
And even if you’re a solo or duo crew, insurance
Step 5: Open a checking account for your snow business.
Congratulations! Your snow business is now registered and official. Now, you need to create a business checking account, so you can start getting paid right away.
There are several reasons why you should get a business checking account (instead of a personal checking account for your business):
- Protection: Banks offer businesses LLC protection (keeping your personal and business funds separate).
- Professionalism: Clients can make payments via credit card and check directly to your business (instead of directly to you). Plus, you can authorize employees to access your account for you.
- Preparedness: Usually, banks provide business accounts with a line of credit for emergency expenses.
- Purchasing Power: By having credit card accounts, you can help to establish a credit history for your business. This may allow you to make large purchases.
Before you start selling your services and accepting payments, you should get your business checking account up and running ASAP.
Step 6: C. Y. A.
In today’s world, you really can’t afford to leave yourself an open target.
Which is why you need to CYA… pronto.
Before you can start marketing to anyone, you should draw up a contract.
Contracts create a sense of transparency between you and your clients. It ensures everyone is aware of the expectations set between you and your client.
In addition to that, contracts force your clients to uphold their end of the contract, and it’ll likely protect you from any misunderstandings.
In other words, clients can’t come back and say you did/didn’t say something about their services.
You should also include a section in your contract about payments.
Decide on a set billing cycle for all of your clients. Then, state if said payment isn’t made by said date, you can immediately terminate their services.
Additionally, you should also consider stating in the contract that you reserve the right to terminate their services at any time for any reason. That way, if for unforeseen circumstances you have to drop a client, it’ll protect you later on down the road.
Also, if there’s a misunderstanding between you and your clients, a contract can help you avoid potential legal repercussions.
For your further security, it’ll actually track the date, time, and IP address of your clients. In other words, you have further proof they digitally signed their contract.
Step 7: What type of clients do you want?
It’s time to determine who your target market is going to be.
Now that you have a brand, what does your ideal client look like?
If you’re going to effectively market to your audience, you need to know who that audience actually is.
In order to identify your ideal client, answer these questions for yourself:
- As you were branding your business, did you have a particular person in mind? Who was it?
- What type of clients do you want?
- Who would you like to market to?
- Do they have long or circular driveways? Are they a homeowner, renter, or commercial business? The more detailed you get, the easier the audience is to market to.
These are just a few of the many questions you can ask yourself to determine your ideal client.
Now that you know your audience, you should ALWAYS keep them in mind every single time you market to them.
Step 8: Get equipped.
Getting reliable equipment for your snow business is just as important as building it. After all, there’s no point owning a snow business without the proper equipment.
The equipment you purchase depends solely on what services you want to provide (snow and/or ice).
For snow removal work, you’ll need:
- Truck + Plow (i.e. straight plow, v-plow, skid steer, etc… )
- Ergonomic shovels
- Snow blower(s)
- Rock salt (or other alternative) + Salt spreader (or other salting equipment)
- And etc…
For ice removal work, you’ll need the same equipment as with snow. Plus, you’ll also need salt and equipment for salting.
Step 9: Get your snow business software set up.
Setting up software for your snow removal business is one of the most important (quite possibly the most important) steps in your startup process.
Snow software ensures everything is running smoothly…
- Clients pay on time (every time) – they’re automatically charged
- Routes are more condensed
- Estimates and invoices are automatically sent to clients
- Job notes are readily available on your clients’ accounts
- Payroll reports are easily accessible within your account
- And so much more!
And the best part?
Your new software has been specifically designed for snow:
- Schedule jobs based on priority
- Easily schedule recurring jobs
- Get more efficient routes with one click
- View and update your calendar anywhere
- Automatically sync your accounts with QuickBooks
- Automatically send out estimates and invoices
- Auto-charge clients with a partnered credit card processor
With Service Autopilot, you’ll save time and money on the tasks that used to take you hours to complete.
Step 10: “How much are you charging for that?”
Before anything else, usually the first question that your clients ask is about price.
… Which is why you need to have your prices in order before you start quoting clients.
In the snow industry, there are a lot of factors involved in pricing your services.
You’ll have to find out things like:
- How long it will take to complete the job
- Your overheads (i.e. wages, drive time, fuel, insurance, software expenses, etc… )
- Product cost (for example, salt)
All of these factors determine your pricing and allow you to set a base price for your services.
And by the way, Service Autopilot allows you to easily input, track, and charge your prices accordingly.
In addition, you’ll also have to decide on your pricing model:
- Per push,
- Per event,
- Per inch,
- Seasonal contracts,
- Multi-season contracts,
- Or hourly.
Once you decide on a model, you’re ready to start finding clients.
A word of caution: If you’re entirely new to the snow industry, you should be cautious with signing commercial contracts. There are a lot of factors involved with commercial jobs than there are with residential contracts.
Step 11: #Goals
Ahhhh… this is the thought-provoking step many business owners want to skip, but it’s also a very important one.
By setting your goals before accepting new clients, you’re setting the pace of success for your business.
The concept is quite simple for this step: Decide how much profit you WANT to make in snow for the year.
Then, add up your prices and costs. Once you’ve got that number, you’ll know how many jobs you need to complete to meet your overall profit goal.
After that, you can see if you will realistically be able to acquire the minimum amount of jobs you need to meet this goal.
Don’t worry. It just means you’re probably not pricing high enough.
Pro tip! You need to know the average yearly snowfall in your area to determine if your prices are realistic enough to meet your goals.
Service Autopilot can track your goals by calculating your profits for you. This allows you to see the progress you’re making as you go.
Step 12: Be a WINNER and build your client list.
If you’re a lawn care owner transitioning into the snow business during the off-season, this step is pretty quick and easy to complete.
Your first action should be to reach out to your lawn care clients and let them know you offer snow and/or ice removal services too.
Since they’re already your client, they’re way more likely to purchase more services from you.
By the way, if you’re in lawn care, this step is especially easy in Service Autopilot since your client list is already within your account database.
And if you don’t have a big enough client base, you should consider putting out Google Ads.
Once you know the basics, they’re rather quick and easy to complete.
The best part is that you can set your daily budget, and Google will stop running the ads for the day once it’s met.
And by the way, they charge PPC (pay-per-click), so you’ll only pay for the ad if someone clicks on it.
In addition to Google Ads, you can also try Facebook Ads as well.
They’re a little more cost-effective, however the results might not be as effective as Google Ads. This is because people are actively searching for a snow removal solution in the Google search engine… but they’re not necessarily looking for that solution on Facebook.
You can try both and see which one yields better results for your business.
Extra Credit, Anyone? Let’s talk shop.
This step is extra, because it’s not necessarily essential. However, it’s highly useful.
Consider building relationships with lawyers, bookkeepers, accountants, HR professionals, and all alike.
In the unfortunate event you run into problems, these types of connections can assist you.
Eventually, you’ll inevitably have questions about finances or legal solutions. Rather than venturing these types of circumstances on your own through trial and error, it’s best to consult with a professional for advice.
By befriending these guys, you’ll likely save yourself loads of heartache (… and time… and money).
If you’re just starting out in the snow industry, this article can guide you through the steps to building a successful snow removal business.
From registering your business to licensing and even pricing, you’ll get most of your important questions answered.
Starting your own snow business can seem a little intimidating, however if you follow the tips in this article, you’ll have the resources you need to start building your successful snow business today.