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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I think this could turn into a intresting thread. Everyone has challanges in snow removal. It would be intresting to see what everyones largest hurdle or challange is regarding snow and ice management. My largest challange is walkways. I am able to find more work than I can handle with trucks, skid steers and loaders. The problem I have is with commercial accounts as I am responsible for walkways and entrances. I can handle many acres of property, but I am unable to find a crew who will do walkways. At this time I can't take on anymore work because I need sidewalk crews. Most sub-contractors do not want the walks. They would rather sit in their heated trucks and plow. I can't blame them one bit.

As this thread evolves, if you have suggestion or comments that might help someone, please give feedback. I am hoping this does not turn into a complaint thread but more of a helping others one.

My previous largest challange was the ability to store salt. I do not run bulk salt at this time. I use only bagged products. I was able to lease a 40 yard enclosed storage container and keep salt and MAG in it. I keep this on my largest account and give the customer a discount for letting me store it on site, as I do not have a storage facility of my own.
 

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It's funny about sidewalks. All we do is commercial lots, industrial complexes, and roadways. No residential. We don't do ANY sidewalks. No one ever asked us, and we never offered. There is one customer, an insurance agency, that we do that has a 20' handicap ramp that we sometimes shovel because the first girl in to work there is susposed to shovel it, and we felt sorry for her.

It must just be different regions expect different things of their plow contractors. All our seasonal pricing customers get plowing AND salting included. I know a lot of guys in different areas have said that they DON'T include salting with their seasonal contracted customers.
 

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How about the steps leading into the buildings, you don't shovel those? Who does them then? You would not believe some of the things people want done in this area. I have two accounts where the front curb line to the building must be 100% clean. The don't want any of their employees stepping over snow? But they pay us so we do it. I would love not to worry about walkways. Like I said this is my biggest challange.
 

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River Hill - Join the club! :D That is our biggest hurdle as well. We dont have to many commercial projects, but I make the drivers snowblow and salt the walkways at these accounts.

We do alot of driveways that all need to be shoveled. We put a shoveler in each truck, and pay them well, to keep them comming back! As far as shoveling/pricing goes, I have learned that it is always under estimated by the consumer. Therefore harder to sell at a profitable price. We will no longer bargin with sidewalk pricing. If it is to much for them to afford, they can do the work themselves. If we lose the account because of sidewalk pricing, so be it!

Chuck B.
 

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Everything will be done for a price, you just have to find out what that price is? I asked a guy I didnt know just the other day at the gas pumps and he said he cant find guys to shovel, so I asked him what he was paying them.

His reply, "11 or 12 an hour cause thats all its worth to me" at which point I told him hes not even close and that he needs to charge more to his clients. Im paying shovelers 18 to 20 bucks an hour to run snowblowers and they are there every storm without fail, some even calling out from their regular jobs to stay on plowing.

I cant get guys to show up on a beautiful spring day everyday at 8 am for 11 or 12 an hour, and your going to pay the same amount to someone to get out of bed at 2 in morning, at 20 degrees with windchills below zero to have snow thrown in their face??? Good luck.

Like snoworks says, shoveling is underappreciated and underpriced but the area most likely to result in a liability claim. If you pay peanuts you get monkeys, and if the client doesnt want to pay move on. Clients will discover the value of dependable, reliable contractors, the first time they snow jockey they hired doesnt do the job right, and they get lawsuit papers in the mail.

Best of luck

CMerrick
 

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River Hill said:
How about the steps leading into the buildings, you don't shovel those? Who does them then?
The building owner/custodian/maintainance department? I don't know.
 

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-I like the fact that the guy who blows the sidewalks at two of our large properties never shows up until we are all finished, and everything is black and wet. Then he blows the snow from the sidewalks onto my nice blacktop. By this time the lots are very busy and there is no way to push it away. This makes me want to start to doing walks, but the guy works cheap, and I don't so thats not gonna happen.


My biggest challenge has definately been getting GL insurance. This is only my second year on my own and what a nightmare it has been. It takes me months of playing phone tag w/ many,many different agents to get it. 1 out of 10 agents gets me a quote and it's insane! I've had quotes of $20,000.00 for a maximum of 1 truck, more equipment would be more $$. So far I've always gotten it, but it's been close. I have a hard time bidding jobs when the insurance cost, or even getting it is up in the air. How can you bid large seasonal accounts when your insurance costs can vary from $3000.00 - $20,000+?

The other challenge I've had is getting the large seasonal accounts. Last year was the first year that I was able to get any of these accounts, and now I'm trying to get more and expand but it has been a slow process. Hopefully my attention to detail on these properties, and the fact that they are always the first to be black & wet will help. I consider this to be a minor challenge in comparison w/ that of insurance.

I really can't complain, as this is only my second year not working as a sub, and this is how I support the wife, 2 kids for 1/2 of the year. Now to turn it into a full year........
 

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Matt, I had the same issue of not knowing the cost for insurance for bidding. I discussed it with my agent. She suggested that next Spring I get the policy renewed in June. This would mean cancelling the old policy since it's from Dec to Dec (like many others) and writing a new one.
 

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As for handling sidewalks, we've always done them. I find walks to be both profitable and necessary. We do retail, banks, office buildings, etc. that require lots and walks to be cleared and de-iced.

Walk crews are often under appreciated. I believe walk crews should be well paid and set up well to make their life as easy as possible. I have guys that show up each storm because they are paid well and I supply them with good equipment.

I think sidewalk workers should be employees as opposed to subs since you'll have more control over them. Although, I would hire subs to do walks without hesitating if I found the right person.

By using the box truck we can load whatever we need for the storm, keep the materials and equipment out of the weather and help to make the guys as productive as possible. The longer they are in the elements or the harder they have to work to do the work, the less motivated they will be.
 

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New this year are the safety jackets and pants I bought the sidewalk guys. I also got jackets for the truck drivers. The jackets are not lined and are gortex. Being waterproof has been well received by the guys. Windproof and waterproof makes them much more comfortable than wearing carhardts. Since most guys won't buy their own winter clothing, they are uncomfortable in what they have at home. Good winter gear is fairly expensive. I spend the money on goggles, face masks, gloves, suits etc. I think this helps the guys to know that I care about them and want them to be comfortable.
 

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My biggest problem is managing each storm. I tend to over manage and over service customer's properties. I have a very difficult time with holding service. A customer's budget may only allow for a 2" or 1" trigger. I work in advance of the trigger. I call it a "proactive trigger depth". For 1" contracts I begin plowing at 1/2". I'll generally plow before I salt just to get the pavement black and wet as soon as possible. 3/4" of snow that is just melted down with salt will be very slushy which I don't like.

I guess I'm just impatient. I want to see pavement and I want to see it NOW! I don't get any complaints from my customers. I don't get calls about slippery lots or walks. The only problem I perceive is that some customers wonder if I'm doing too much work.

I guess I have to allow myself to see snow on the parking lots. I'm just hesitant to withhold service. Often times I think some people think its harder to step up the service a notch. I have a problem stepping it down a notch to match the customer's expectation for service. If needed we'll plow a customer's lot during a continuous snow event, up to four times within the day. It's rare that we do this, but I will if needed.

If anyone has any ideas on how I can be less fanatical about clearing snow... I'm all ears.
 

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**** - I agree 100%. Unfortunately the agents that I have talked too (many) don't agree, and basically think I'm nuts. I try to explain the bidding process etc. and they tell me that they can't even attempt it until at least August, and even then it's like pulling teeth to get them going on it. No matter how early I start shopping for my insurance it always comes right down to the wire. Last year I was three weeks late submitting my insurance certificate to a property owner. I finally got the call (that one of my team of agents had found a company to write the policy) about two hours before I was going to call and tell the property owner that I wouldn't be able to do the job because of insurance issues. This was a $25,000 seasonal contract that I almost lost because I could'nt find insurance until early Nov.
 

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My biggest challenge is cover for my son who just got a really good job out of our area. He had the early route (starts at 3:30 am). All the rest of our stuff starts at 5:00 am. Now I have to do the early route and spread my route between the other guys. My wife has had our driveway truck for the season, and I may have to delay her driveway start to cover the Fire Dept for me.
As for shovelers, I pay mine $25 per hour, and I often try to buy them coffee and rolls at the end of the job. I can't afford jackets for them, but I am looking into fleece vests with our logo. I also pay them early in the pay sequence. Seems to go a long way toward their satisfaction. I like the profit too. :cash
 
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