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Preseason prep: Avoid the cracks

By:
  • SIMA
- Posted: September 1, 2015

A change is brewing…leaves  will soon turn and fall will chill the air. Winter is coming, and early forecasts predict another nasty season. For those who offer other services, that transition from “green to white” can be stressful, and crucial details sometimes are forgotten. Snow-only companies work year-round with a sole focus on winter, but that doesn’t mean they are exempt from these stresses. These reminders, compiled by members of the Snow Business Editorial Advisory Committee are by no means an exhaustive list but may help keep key tasks from falling through the cracks:

Sales & customer service

  • Finalize any renewals that are still outstanding. Don’t assume customers are renewing with you and chase new business only to find out you lost some long-standing relationships because of neglect.  
  • Review your current portfolio to assess whether there are any bad apples that need to be removed or if there are opportunities to replace them with better, higher-margin work.
  • Determine whether you have existing capacity to add more business. Look beyond equipment capacity to include management and staffing to ensure your current book of business doesn’t suffer.
  • Connect with customers to let them know about your preparations and reassure them that you’re ready to serve them.
  • Finalize site visits.

Staff & subcontractors

  • Review the performance of your staff and subcontractors. Proactively address any challenges or shortcomings to ensure better performance this winter.
  • Recruit subcontractors and hand laborers. Even if you think you’re set now, you may find yourself scrambling in the event of 3 a.m. no-shows.
  • Make sure your subcontractor contracts and certificates of insurance are accounted for and compliant.

Contracts

  • Review your contract language and make any necessary changes or additions (fuel surcharges, price increases, salt language, etc.)
  • Make sure all of your contracts are signed by both parties.

Equipment

  • Take a final look at your equipment and order as necessary, including spare parts to proactively prepare for breakdowns. Don’t forget to order shovels and flags for staking lots as needed.
  • Ensure safety equipment (including reflective vests) and first-aid kits are stocked and ready for each truck. Do an equipment safety check to ensure all warning lights and defrosters are working, mirrors are intact, etc.
  • Check fluid levels and inspect for any contamination.
  • Check plows for stress cracks, metal fatigue, etc.
  • Make sure a flashlight and tow strap are tucked away for easy access, and a lug wrench and wheel jack are in usable condition.
  • Review your weather sources and technology to ensure you receive accurate weather information to make the best decisions when the snow starts flying.
  • Hopefully you’ve already preordered your rock salt and other chemicals. Make sure your backup suppliers are ready in the event of a salt supply shortage.
  • Review salt depot locations if you use them. Based on your finalized routes, do they need to be adjusted?

Insurance

  • Confirm your insurance coverage is up to date, appropriate for your type of work and meets the requirements/language dictated by your customers’ contracts.
  • If you use subcontractors, obtain certificates of insurance and endorsement pages. Take it a step further and review them for accuracy and legality. Do not accept them from the subcontractor; they must come from the insurance company.

Training

  • Plan a winter season kickoff meeting to bring your team together. Not only does it ensure everyone is on the same page as far as expectations, but it also helps build camaraderie and excitement for what’s to come.
  • Set your training schedule and topics. It’s never too early to train and educate your team (newbies and veterans) on safety, operations, expectations, etc. Train through the season, even with a quick toolbox talk before an event.

Additional Resources

For additional information on preseason readiness, check out our September 2014 issue. Safety and training was covered extensively in our September 2013 issue. Both are online at www.snowbusiness-digital.com.

SIMA’s Resource Center has a wealth of training resources, contract templates, etc., available at www.sima.org/resources.

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