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…
… could kill your business.
10. Failing to document everything
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.
- Who cleared lots and walkways
- Date and weather conditions
9. Failing to document pre-season and follow-up visits
When you or your 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.
8. Not following through with the signed contract
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.
7. Failing to teach and instill the importance of documenting to your crews
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.
6. Missing important language in your contract that will lead to future problems with your customers
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:
- The dates that the contract is valid. For example, your contract is valid from November 15, 2018 to April 15, 2019.
- Don’t use language that puts unrealistic expectations on you or your crews. For instance, you can’t guarantee that there will be bare pavements if the snowstorm is still going strong at 8 a.m.
- Make sure you include “Acts of God” or “Force Majeure” events in your contracts. There are issues that you can’t control because Mother Nature has a mind of her own. Limit how much responsibility you take on.
- And if you’re signing a contract that the customer drew up, make sure you read the language before you sign on the dotted line. If you don’t understand something in the contract, make sure you ask for clarification. It’s better to know upfront of what you’re liable for and still have a chance of not signing a contract compared to signing a contract and being held responsible for something that wasn’t your fault.
5. Not training your crews on how to use the snow equipment or taking them to site visits
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.
4. Newbie alert: Not having the right equipment to efficiently clean the parking lots
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.
3. Buying used equipment
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.
2. Not paying attention to weather alerts
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.
1. Forgetting to communicate with your clients
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.
Solutions that Protect Your Business from Failure
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.