Darren Ryan, president of RYBO Inc., has been in the snow management business since 1989. While the company has amassed a diverse portfolio of account types, Ryan says the majority are apartment complexes. He shared his approach to service and what it takes to be successful in this niche during a Q&A with Snow Business
: How did you decide apartment complexes were a good fit for your company?
: When we first got started, we were servicing multiple McDonald’s restaurants, a commercial retail space and a couple of apartment buildings. Even though we provided the restaurants a high level of service, there was only so much room for growth. They were willing to give us more locations but that meant expanding our service area during the early stage of our company. This is still hard to do today, never mind our first years in business. Conversely, the opportunities for growth in the apartment complex market were exponential. The apartment buildings we were servicing happened to be in a city saturated with apartments. Our service level was second to none, and as the recommendations kept flowing, so did the requests for proposals.
SB: As you continued to add sites, what challenges did you face?
: As we started getting more and more buildings, it was inevitable that we would have to grow our service area. Drive time, traffic and road conditions all become issues that were not so apparent when the locations we serviced were within five miles of each other. We had to consider how to get salt to the accounts; whether the drivers would also have to shovel sidewalks and how that would impact cycle time; etc. So many of those questions were difficult to address, so we did a test run. A small 3-inch storm allowed us to identify how many crew members needed to be dedicated to an area, how many salt trucks were needed, and whether we needed separate shovel teams.
SB: What is the key to successfully servicing apartment complexes?
Ryan: Don’t stretch yourself too thin. If you think you can handle shoveling at 10 locations, commit to six or seven. This may seem like a loss of money; however, you will look like a hero at those accounts you service because no matter the amount of snow your service level will never slow down because you’ll have extra resources. Just one storm with bad performance can have far reaching consequences that can be avoided by slightly underestimating your service capacity.
SB: When bidding for these sites, what are some key areas to consider?
Ryan: There is a low barrier to entry in this type of niche, so don’t overestimate your capacity. Most of our work in this space comes from word of mouth and referrals, so allocating labor and resources properly is key. One benefit of servicing these properties is that start/completion times aren’t as rigid as they would be for say a hospital or others with zero-tolerance policies. A lot of our clients prefer to wait until 2-3 or even 4 inches accumulate. Depending on your location, you also need to consider snow placement. At our sites, no loss of space is allowed, so that impacts storage. If that’s a consideration, it will impact the equipment you can use and whether you have to haul snow from the site.