Every snow subcontractor hoping to grow his/her snow and ice management business should actively seek out a mentor—to learn the ropes as well as avoid the pitfalls of running a white business.
Jim Schill from Schill’s Ground Management has been in the snow management business for the past 25 years. Schill shares some of his advice to younger snow subcontractors hoping to start their own snow and ice management companies in the future.
Jim Schill Talks Best Practices
in the Snow and Ice Removal Industry
This blog will be in Q & A form. Here we go:
Snow Wolf (SW): How long have you been in snow management?
Jim Schill (JS): We’ve been in the snow business for 25 years. We’re starting our 26th year. The biggest changes in the snow industry have been the type of equipment available to do jobs. You used to have only straight blade plows hooked up to a truck. Now, there are so many more tools and so many blade options, such as the wide-angle plows that do a great job.
There are a lot more options to service sites other than using bulk salt. People are now using brine and or Aqua Celina to pre- and post-treat properties based on weather conditions. We service a mix of retail, light industrial/commercial and HOAs.
SW: What are some good practices you developed/learned over the years?
JS: You can’t ever be too proactive. Most people wait too long to start servicing properties during an event. We use liquid to pre-treat our properties, which allows us to get on the sites before a storm hits. It also buys you time. By pre-treating, it eliminates a lot of wasted product and helps protect clients’ assets as well.
Jim explains that being proactive and being willing to adapt to provide services to their clients helps to lower risk. Jim says, “We communicate and use technology—the tech is a huge role in everyone’s life.”
Read more business advice: How to Keep Your Cool While Plowing Snow
SW: How do you deal with the salt shortage?
JS: This has been an issue for everyone during the current season. Your clients don’t want to hear that you don’t have salt. We have spent countless hours procuring salt for the season to make sure we can provide the services to our clients and keep their properties safe.
You also need to make sure that your suppliers will be able to deliver it when you need it. We have taken the route of getting our own salt and making sure that we are set for the season upfront.
“If we have a mild winter, it’s an extra burden if we don’t use the salt that we have because we need to find a place to store it.”
Schill advises to track how much salt you use per winter season; track your area’s climate; and keep historical data on how much snowfall you had the year before.
If you can’t store salt at your company, then you need to understand the cost if you can’t self-store versus buying it from a wholesale. When bidding out your properties make sure you understand your cost vs what you are selling it for.
Also, make sure you’re protected if the cost of the material rises throughout the season and that you are able to change your rates based on industry pricing.
At Schill’s Ground Management, we don’t make our own brine, but we do partner up with local suppliers that fill up our on-site tanks for our crews. We have a great working relationship with the company and it is only a phone call away to get re-loaded when our guys’ tanks get low.
SW: What types of contracts do you recommend?
JS: You should get a good blend of contracts, not just all-inclusive (ones). If you have a bad winter, and you have only all-inclusive contracts, you won’t make any money.
It’s better to have a mix of seasonal, per event, per application, per ton — a blended approach to pay for materials, labor, storage, etc.
Partnering with others is a win-win for us and other businesses. We partner with companies in the construction trades including roofing companies, painting, and concrete companies.
It keeps people and equipment working, and you’re not laying them off for the winter. It’s important to keep your good employees, so you keep them working all winter long.
SnowWolf Is Here for You
At SnowWolf, we design snow pushers, snowplows, and AutoWing snowplows. Our products are easy to install and use. Even your newest crew members can clean up a parking lot faster with our equipment.
You can find your local Snow Wolf dealer on our website, or you can call us at 1-800-905-2265 or fill out our contact form.