As the best snow & ice companies do everything they can to prepare for the upcoming winter during the late summer preseason, there’s one common challenge each will face. Some may argue that the most difficult piece of planning is equipment selection, hiring employees, routing, or even securing deicing materials. While all are important to any snow operation, the most important piece of information predicates all of these decisions. Knowing which client sites will be serviced over the course of the winter is paramount to every snow business.
Until a snow business knows exactly what its service obligations will be, it’s impossible to determine the staffing, equipment, materials and planning needed to meet clients’ service expectations. Undoubtedly, the clients who sign up late receive the worst service and the highest pricing due to the lack of preseason planning that can take place. So, how can snow contractors take advantage of preseason planning and help their clients enjoy a more successful winter season?
Time for change
The snow & ice industry has advanced tremendously in every facet of management and operations. While new plows, deicing materials and technology help contractors work more efficiently, many clients view snow contractors the same way they always have. It is the job of contractors to educate property managers and building owners on the importance of beginning (and completing) purchasing processes earlier in the year to allow for better preseason planning.
Imagine if every snow contract was signed before Sept. 1 each year. How much money could be saved by taking advantage of early purchase programs? How much more effective would employee hiring and training programs become? How much more efficient and accurate would plow mapping and routing be? How much less stressful would winter operations become? How much better would clients’ lives be if they took advantage of these benefits?
So why do so many property managers and building owners choose to wait until October to even start the request for proposal process? Between landscaping, capital projects, summer vacations and budget planning, most clients don’t feel they have time to prioritize something so far away. Yet, what they truly believe is that there are no repercussions for waiting until the time that it was historically done. Snow contractors must, therefore, educate them on the benefits and push the process.
The problem is obvious: both contractors and customers suffer by prolonging the inevitable. Clients and service providers may blame each other or even cite that the other group isn’t available earlier in the year. Something so mutually beneficial cannot be regarded as unchangeable.
Call to action
Clients who shop snow services early in the calendar year will testify that they have no issues garnering contractor interest. It should be completed in the spring, when the previous winter season is fresh in the mind of those who can help make improvements. Making early purchasing decisions allows contractors plenty of time to plan their operations and guarantee the most competitive pricing. This decision should be a priority for end users who demand the highest level and most budget-friendly service.
Contractors who sign contracts before the end of summer know the best resources are dedicated to that account. Quality preseason planning revolves around known facts first, not hesitant or partial commitments. With the always increasing lead time needed to order equipment and secure salt, it is more important than ever to know as early as possible what the contractual commitments of a business will be.
Both sides of the industry may be surprised at how willing the other side is to make an early decision. So continue to push the issue. Have an open dialogue about the challenges that face a business when preparing for winter operations, whether from the client’s or the contractor’s perspective. Invest the time early to make the best decisions instead of waiting to feel the pressure that comes each year with the first frost. Save money, increase service, and avoid worrying about the ability to perform. Together, the industry can change and everyone can reap the benefits.
- Start the renewal conversation with your existing customers in the spring, when a successful winter is fresh in their minds.
- Snow contractors must accept the responsibility of educating property managers as to the benefits of signing contracts early.
- Don’t jeopardize your preseason preparations by waiting on contracts that may not come in. Those who delay should expect higher service prices.
Neal Glatt, CSP, is an account executive with Case Snow Management in North Attleboro, MA.