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Ahead of the curve

  • SIMA
- Posted: April 19, 2016
By Cheryl Higely

Feature: Hantho Outdoor Services

Location: Rockford, MN
Founded: 1992
Employees: 10 full-time, 10-30 seasonal (not including subcontractors)
Clients: Retail, office, industrial, medical, airport, plus consulting clients

Video: Charles Glossop interview
Video: Charles Glosson on brine making

After another round of messy spring cleanups and a nagging realization that his company was using too much rock salt, Hantho Outdoor Services founder Charles Glossop, CSP, began brewing a plan to transform his Rockford, MN-based company’s ice management operations. Nearly 25 years later, Glossop continues to fine-tune the company’s salt reduction plan with regard to application rates, liquid/brine mixtures and equipment. 

With a background in farming, it’s not surprising that the foundation of the plan is rooted in liquids. “I always wanted to be at the forefront of finding a better way. I had always worked with chemicals and liquids, so it was an easy transition,” Glossop says. Moving away from a sand/salt mixture (common at the time), the company transitioned to rock salt and has since embraced liquids for their efficiency and the ability to reduce reliance on salt in a state where environmental concerns are always top of mind.

Hantho Outdoor Services’ first step into liquids involved a 55-gallon tank, sump pump, water and rock salt. Since then, the company has experimented with different sprayers, brines, chemical combinations and application rates to land on the best service solutions for its clients, which include commercial properties, airports and medical centers.

“Even today we are still experimenting, but we are at a point where we are 98% successful in our pre-treating and pre-wetting operations,” Glossop says, noting that a lot of trial and error went into achieving that success. “In the early days we had parking lots that became sheets of ice because of our lack of knowledge of pavement temperatures and the chemical science.”

Brine maker
Photo by Joseph Mcdonald

Glossop has been the driving force behind the company’s liquid revolution, noting that he has spearheaded about 90% of the research and experimentation. The program is to the point now, however, where the team can take over the current program and he can focus on the next phase, which will include post-application treatments in cold temperatures; sidewalk applications; pressure and nozzle configurations for different events; and better documentation on application rates.

“I am happy but not content where we are today. We can and must get better,” he says. 

Employee buy-in
A critical component to the success of Hantho Outdoor Services’ program has been the buy-in of the employees. That, in addition to the capital investments in equipment and materials, has been the difference.

“Even five years ago, our liquid program was still basic. Our team didn’t buy in and saw it as a hassle to make brine, fill tanks and go pre-treat two to three days before an event,” Glossop says. “Today our discussions are very different. We’re assessing timing, blends, forecasts and application rates. It’s now seen as a very important profit center for our company. We feel this is a service we can sell to other contractors who can’t or don’t want to invest in liquids but whose clients will demand salt reductions.”

Better client service
Glossop says the use of liquids allows his company to save money and use less product, but that doesn’t mean his service is cheap. But when he can show his clients the results of his investment, they are more likely to embrace the concept.

“We have found our clients are not looking for a cost reduction because we’re using less salt as long as the desired results are obtained,” he says. “We do field demonstrations for our clients so they can see the result of our investments. We, as well as our clients, understand we have to use less salt for the environment without compromising safety.”

Liquids also provide greater flexibility, which has become important as weather patterns have turned in the greater Minnesota area.

“Twenty years ago the whole metro area would get 5 inches of snow; now, you can get 6 inches of snow in one area and a trace 5 miles away. Being able to customize our liquid applications allows for a wider window for service, which gives us the opportunity to get ahead of the storms, use less salt and provide better service.”

Start small, but start
Glossop extols the benefits that liquids have brought to his company and encourages others who may be on the fence to explore the options. Liquid operations are scalable, depending on the level of investment a company is able to make. Even more important than the monetary investment, however, is the commitment of time to properly build liquids into a company’s ice management toolbox. Looking for a quick fix? Liquids isn’t the solution, he says.

“Over the past 25 years of using liquids, we have invested thousands of hours and are still learning,” Glossop says. “Today, everyone is looking for the quickest, fastest way to do something; but to truly succeed with liquids, you have to roll up your sleeves and make the concerted effort to truly understand it.” 

Brine storage
Photo by Joseph Mcdonald

Leaving a Legacy
With nearly 35 years in the industry under his belt, Hantho Outdoor Services founder Charles Glossop, CSP, has watched snow and ice management grow up. He is a founding member of SIMA and has served as past president and a board director.

Today, in addition to running his business, he works as a consultant for snow and ice management companies and facility managers. Don’t expect to see him slow down anytime soon, though. Glossop is busy with his next big project: leaving a legacy.

“The time for ego has passed. For those who have been in the industry a long time, it’s about leaving a legacy that is real and well-grounded. What we have learned over the years needs to be shared with the newcomers to the industry. They need to know how we got to where we are today,” he says. “We need to continue to raise the level of professionalism in the industry and continue to help those who want to be in the industry to become better businessmen and provide a better service.”

Glossop, who moved to the United States from England in 1976, started in the industry after dropping out of the University of Minnesota and managing a farm in west-central Minnesota. In the early ’80s, he moved to the Twin Cities for a sales job, assessed the snow and ice landscape, and decided he could do it better. He’s been at it ever since. Despite his long tenure, Glossop says he is genuinely more enthused about the industry today than ever. With better, more efficient equipment, and clients who are starting to look beyond the numbers and understand the nuances of snow and ice management, opportunities are ripe to continue to drive professionalism and advance the industry. The key is to be willing to share what you know.

“You have to do it for the betterment of the industry. It doesn’t help if you have contractors using antiquated processes or underbidding properties because they don’t know their numbers,” he says. “I think there is a general willingness for those in the industry to share their knowledge with those who want to learn more. But more can be done. I am encouraged to see property managers and real estate owners start to attend events, to learn what makes a good contractor. We have to continue to raise that level of awareness and to grow leaders in the industry.”

For Glossop, that means he, too, must continue to grow. He says he is constantly working on leadership skills through networking, reading and attending seminars.
“The snow business is my life. I won’t retire until I am unable to work at a high level. I want to spend more time in creating greater efficiencies for my staff and creating an environment for our clients to better understand our industry’s challenges.”

Snow & Ice in the millenial age
Client communication has advanced significantly since the days of pay phones and land lines. Today, a wealth of information and constant contact is available and expected. Charles Glossop, however, sees this data-driven focus as one that needs to be properly managed and should never replace face-to-face contact. Finding that balance in the Millennial Age is tricky, he says. 

“Back in the ’80s and ’90s, you went into a storm with a pager, a list of gas stations with payphones and a lot of quarters! The only way to connect with your client was for him to page you and then you (would) call him back on his office phone. Look at where we are today,” Glossop says. 

He admits he’s old-fashioned and that while adapting to the changing times and growing reliance on technology is a must, he cautions against being consumed by it.

“It’s a new mindset today. I think sometimes this industry suffers from information overkill and providing customers with every piece of data we can. But is it what they want? Obviously we need to collect the data for liability and operational efficiencies, but how much is too much?”

As younger property managers and snow and ice contractors enter the industry, they are more comfortable with technology - they’ve been immersed in it since a young age. But nothing - not even the best app on the planet - can replace walking a site, sharing information with your team or building a relationship with your client, Glossop says.

“Walking the properties, figuring out issues - that’s a ‘feel’ you can’t get with technology. I still walk every property we bid on. I know the exact square footage, where the problems are. I can share that with our team and make sure they’re able to not just sit in front of a computer screen and look at the data but also (know) how to put it all together to deliver the best service possible,” he says.

Charles uses a policeman analogy to emphasis the importance of in-the-field contact: “What makes a successful policeman? Walking the beat and talking to people on the street. Our industry is getting away from that. But you have to be able to look a customer in the eye, shake their hand and tell them why we’re doing something or why we screwed up and how we’re going to fix it. We need to get back to more face time to truly understand our clients’ needs.”
Time to leave the nest
Alex Glossop, 24, manages year-round operations for Hantho Outdoor Services as well as one of the company’s larger snow service routes. Charles Glossop says his son has been instrumental in moving the company forward in several areas, most importantly in the areas of equipment and branding:

He revamped the company’s website and reintroduced branding, including new logos for the company’s trucks.

hantho farms truck
Photo by Joseph Mcdonald

He instituted central sourcing of equipment. The company previously used several brands of equipment, which made procurement, inventory and training difficult. Streamlining to one primary heavy equipment brand made it easier to train employees on operations and safety; to manage inventory; and to streamline maintenance.

alex glossop
Photo by Joseph Mcdonald

Alex’s passion is in heavy equipment. Not only was he able to implement single sourcing but he is also a certified heavy equipment operator, which gives the company additional credibility in the areas of training and safety.

Alex has brought efficiencies, passion for the industry and expertise to Hantho Outdoor Services - qualities any employer would jump at the chance to acquire; yet, Charles is encouraging Alex to step out of his comfort zone and leave the company in search of broader horizons.

“He’s only ever worked for me. I want him to know what’s going on around him, so I’m encouraging him to step away from Hantho Outdoor Services for a few years,” Charles says. “In my consulting business, I see a stagnation in some organizations when fathers and their children work together. The children only get to see how the father has done it over the years. It’s like they’re running with blinders on. It’s detrimental to the growth of the company and can limit ideas from employees. Change is good!”

The plan is for Alex to step aside this summer, which will allow him the opportunity to grow but also opens the door for up-and-coming Hantho Outdoor Services employees to fill the void. But what if Alex finds the grass is greener and decides not to return? That, Charles says, is life.

“Alex is passionate, and he’s driven. He’s had a good experience here but needs to widen his horizons. Whether it’s my son or any of our employees, I would never step on anyone’s chance to do better somewhere else. You can’t worry about what you can’t change, so if he goes he will have my blessing.”
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