By Alicia Hoisington
As we speak with professionals across North America, SIMA and Snow Business have always been inspired not only by their business acumen, but also the quality of their character. We believe that the true value of a snow & ice professional includes serving the communities in which he or she operates or volunteering for causes that are close to their heart. Read the stories and watch videos of this year's community service initiative participants below.
Giving back is a priority: at Precision Snow Removal, employees and clients take an active role in choosing charities
The Precision Snow Removal team helps hand out snowsuits to children in their
community. Owner Kent Peddie, CSP, says service opportunities not only help others
but also help build camaraderie among the team members.
How do you get more community members involved in giving back? Loop in your clients.
That’s exactly what Ottawa-based Precision Snow Removal does with its early-bird signing bonus, created in 2009 to help encourage clients to send in contracts on time.
“While other companies offer a discount system for prompt renewals, we were very hesitant to go that route,” says Precision President Kent Peddie, CSP. “We were afraid it might affect our brand’s pricing, and we also didn’t want to negotiate with customers after the deadline.”
After some brainstorming, the team created the bonus structure. The system is straightforward: Of every contract submitted prior to deadline, $10 is donated to a local charity or community project. The company tracks the number of contracts received daily and finalizes an exact tally after deadline.
The hope? Clients feel great contributing to local charities while Precision receives its contracts on time.
And it seems to be working. Last year, Precision received 207 contracts prior to deadline. The money went to three community projects or charities. The donation total since the program’s inception stands at $10,860.
Peddie says Precision lets its clients know how much money was collected during the bonus drive every autumn and what initiatives the cash helped to fund.
Even those clients who are late sending in contracts get in on the giving spirit and send in $10 for Precision to donate, according to Kimberley Iverson, manager of clients and staff at Precision.
“A few customers send us news articles with new community projects or sticky notes with their renewals, which have suggestions for the upcoming year’s picks. We are deﬁnitely never short of ideas,” Iverson says.
While encouraging clients to submit contracts in a timely manner is one benefit, Peddie and Iverson say the advantages don’t stop there.
“We want our customers to see us as more than just ‘the snow guys,’ and we believe the early bird helps to create another layer of the client-business relationship connection between them and Precision,” Iverson says. “We can write ‘Thank you, we appreciate your business’ on form letters, but actually getting out there and volunteering really makes a statement and shows we care.”
A culture of caring
Peddie says that team building can sometimes be difficult to accomplish in a snow removal company because many staff members only work when weather permits. Therefore, community service projects can help facilitate the process.
“Not only are we able to create a more positive company culture when our staff works together to clean community parks, put together Christmas gifts or help needy children get their swag before winter, but we also get to know each other a lot more; and this is especially helpful before it starts to snow,” Peddie says.
Iverson says service projects give employees a chance to connect to develop a more cohesive team. For instance, she says it can be insightful to observe the interaction of employees in a non-work environment — especially when it comes to new hires. Community service also speaks to people’s character, if they are willing to take personal time on a weekend or evening to volunteer, she adds.
One place where the team lends a helping hand is the Carleton Tavern. Established in 1935, the tavern invites those in the community who may not have anyone to spend Christmas with to come for dinner between noon and 5 p.m. More than 700 hot meals and gift bags are prepared for the visitors, and volunteers deliver meals and care packages for people unable to attend.
Precision has been part of this community effort for about three years. But the company took it one step further.
“While volunteering two years ago, I noticed that while children who attend get some small gifts, the adults are not often as lucky,” Peddie says. “Several of us at Precision sat down and brainstormed, and we came up with an idea for a little extra takeaway for the adults: a Christmas mug ﬁlled with candy canes, instant hot drink packages (cider, hot chocolate, specialty coffees) as well as other little treats.”
Last year on Christmas Eve, the Precision team created an assembly line to prepare 400 mugs.
“Luckily it didn’t snow!” Iverson jokes. “Now that the tradition has started we will use this as another opportunity to bond with our staff.” Service as a priority
Peddie and Iverson say that making community service a priority isn’t as difficult as people might think.
First, they make sure to plan events that work with the company’s schedule. Examples include a half day of park cleaning in the autumn or ﬁrst thing in the spring; helping to dole out snowsuits; and participating in evening activities. If the team has plans to work with an organization, it is made clear that if it snows, Precision will need to rebook.
“It has been a no-brainer for us as far as making the decision to stay involved with these projects,” Peddie says. “It helps create a stronger company culture; it lets our clients know that we are community-minded; our staff has an increased respect and pride for the company they’ve chosen to work for; and it helps us to get to know and connect with our new employees.” Watch a video interview with Precision Snow Removal
40 years and counting: W.L. French hasn’t stopped supporting its community for the past four decades and has no plans to stop now
Company founder Bill French Sr. instilled the importance of giving back to the community, and that tradition continues with the new generation of leadership and the company’s employees.
Community service for the W.L. French Excavating Corp. started more than 30 years ago when father and company founder Bill French Sr. would drive to Boston each Christmas with boxes of hats and gloves to donate to homeless shelters, as well as toys to give to the Toys for Tots center.
“These traditions were a part of our family, and our family and our business always have intersected. Those traditions have simply carried on,” says Lisa French Kelley, director of business development.
Indeed, the tradition of giving back to the community has evolved over the last four decades, with W.L. French employees serving the Billerica and Merrimack Valley communities in Massachusetts.
The service that started with the roots of the company has not been lost. Six years ago, W.L. French Vice President Jessica French Goyette began hosting a coat drive called “One Warm Coat.” The coats collected are donated to homeless veterans in and around the community. Additionally, Toys for Tots has remained vital to the company’s community service, as it continues to be a town-wide drop-off location and distributor of toys in the area.
French Kelley says it’s important that the company’s initiatives directly affect the community.
She tells the story of a young person known to the family, business and community who required blood transfusions. That prompted W.L. French to establish its first mobile Red Cross blood drive. The whole community circled around in assistance, including the Lowell Fire Department and many W.L. French employees.
This past May, W.L. French also hosted its first food drive for the local Merrimack Valley Food Bank. Each employee brought in non-perishable items, which were collected for 33 communities surrounding Billerica.
The service spirit doesn’t stop there. It also extends to students. The company has established a W.L. French scholarship fund with Billerica High School, which provides financial assistance for civil engineering college students.
Additionally, the company undertakes supporting local first responders by lending company equipment, land, etc., for unplanned special circumstances or for planned events. Fleet trucks also can be seen in local truck shows or holiday events pulling floats, for instance.
Hands on at home
French Kelley says W.L. French employees give more than money — they give of themselves in each drive.
“All of our employees are involved in and committed to these drives, and they are successful as a direct result of their enthusiasm and participation,” she says. “Those that can, donate their blood; most everyone brings in food from their home; most everyone brings in toys over the holidays and helps to pick up and distribute those toys.”
She says the company encourages its team to get involved, but it doesn’t take much convincing as many employees have enjoyed long tenures at the business and are “truly an extended part of our family business.”
W.L. French gets behind any other causes that are important to employees or extended family members, too. For example, W.L. French regularly donates to The Pan-Mass Challenge Ride for the Cure, the Babe Ruth Fundraiser for Childhood Cancer, and many others.
While W.L. French also lends support to national organizations, such as the Special Olympics, by donating money, the company bills itself as more of a hands-on group.
“Due to proximity we have more of a hands-on impact at home,” French Kelley says.
“Truly, we do not feel it is an obligation but a privilege. These core values come from our family and we are lucky enough that our W.L. French team members embrace and share these ideals with us,” she says.
Watch a video interview with W.L. French
A mission to serve: B&B Group’s commitment extends beyond its local community, as team members travel to Haiti to help orphans and at-risk children
B&B Group team members travel around the world to help others in need.
When it comes to community service, B&B Group is on a mission.
That spirit of service extends beyond the Indianapolis-based company’s back door into many regions, with team members having participated in mission trips to Africa, Panama, Mexico, among others, according to owner Andy Barker.
Included in that mix is a recent trip to Haiti, where the team made facility improvements to an orphanage. The trip was spearheaded in part thanks to a long-standing partnership with Back2Back Ministries, an organization that provides care to orphans and vulnerable children in Mexico, Nigeria, India and Haiti.
Barker says he and his team members believe in the need to serve “whether it’s in our own backyard or thousands of miles away.”
He says most of the company’s involvement in community service projects is the result of a direct relationship with a customer, vendor or employee. For instance, the Back2Back partnership started when Barker and Kevin Mangin - who leads B&B Group’s snow and ice management division and is a childhood friend and business partner in other ventures - were asked to travel to Monterrey, Mexico, to help orphanage directors adopt better business practices in operating and sustaining the homes. That invitation was extended due to their involvement in a Christian executive roundtable of owners and executives known as Truth@Work.
Projects don’t necessarily have to be affiliated with a faith-based organization, but Barker says “we do feel that generosity plays a vital role in living out our faith as Christians.”
“Back2Back is grounded in and operates with biblical principles, which aligns with our views as a company and individually throughout our team,” Barker says. “Back2Back’s work is needed in the world, and you can see its results wherever they are working alongside orphans and widows.”
That partnership with Back2Back and giving will continue throughout next year, as the team has another trip planned to Haiti in 2016.
“We feel strongly about giving back and being invested, not only financially, but with our time and talents, too. We are also developing our local mission strategy,” he says. “When you travel outside the country and serve on a mission project you actually come back home with a renewed gratitude for our country as well as a fresh perspective and awareness of the needs on a local, state and national level.”
The local approach
The company also prides itself on service in its own backyard, including donations of time, talent and/or resources to:
- A women’s shelter project;
- School facilities in underserved communities;
- Families in need at Christmas;
- Leukemia & Lymphoma Society;
- Centurions Watch, which builds strong military families;
- Shepherd Community Center to help break the cycle of poverty in Indianapolis;
- Anchors Away, which equips young adults to live out their Christian principles after they leave home.
The company’s employees are happy to pitch in on projects, with many touting impressive community service resumes. Employees have worked with churches; donated blood; cleaned up after natural disasters; participated in Habitat for Humanity; and volunteered with the fire department.
“As individuals on our team have become more passionate about those personal efforts, that has in turn led to it becoming a part of our culture overall,” he says.
Watch a video interview with B&B Group
If you or someone you know is a community champion, we’d love to hear your story. Email your contact information and information about the charities you support to Editor in Chief Cheryl Higley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to The BOSS for sponsoring this year’s Community Service Initiative spotlight.