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Next-gen leadership by design

  • SIMA
- Posted: July 20, 2018
By Erin Faupel

A frequent issue in the snow and ice management industry is the inability to hire and retain people who have the skill sets and the drive to develop careers in snow and ice. We take a look at four people who are proving they have what it takes to succeed in snow and ice.
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Production Manager Josh Howver, ASM, leads by example and encourages team feedback

As production manager with Cornerstone Partners Horticultural Services in St. Charles, IL, Josh Howver, ASM, is passionate about more than just pushing snow and making money. His passion is fostered in part by Cornerstone President Jim Turcan, CSP, who avidly supports continuing education.

“If we are passionate about something or if we want to learn something, he’s fully supportive of us,” says Howver, who is a previous winner of SIMA’s Alan Steiman Scholarship for first-time Symposium attendees. This motivation encourages all team members to have confidence to extend beyond individual roles.

Howver understands the key to a successful snow and ice management company is having inspired people in the field. This can be accomplished by getting their input and making sure they understand their value and worth. He says they are always looking to motivate guys who are shoveling or who are in a plow truck. Sometimes those individuals simply want to continue plowing. But Cornerstone wants to empower these employees to know their input is welcome, especially in finding better ways to service clients.

Although he might be a manager, Howver still relies on his plow operators and shovelers for input on how best to work as a team in the field.

“We want everyone’s buy-in and encourage people to come up with ideas that can better the company,” Howver says. “We do a good job pushing each other within our own team.”

Turcan says Howver is a great leader for Cornerstone. “Josh is committed to our company vision: Lead by example to transform the landscape and snow/ice management industries, implementing trust, best practices and the highest standards of professionalism.”

Howver says it can be challenging to lead others in a career that attempts to provide the safest conditions in the most treacherous conditions. Sometimes he says it feels like a selfless job, yet he can accomplish his job through thoughtful leadership and by including his employees during the review of every site in their growing portfolio.

“The hardest part is wanting to make everything perfect for your client and managing those expectations,” he says. “You’re at the mercy of nature knowing you have a job to do but it’s not always perfect. It’s not like mowing, when you can plan a weekly schedule. Snow is very unforgivable.”
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Operations Manager Zach Decker, ASM, sees education as key to building up snow employees

Zach Decker, ASM, has been with Skyline Construction in Dubuque, IA, for 13 years. With motivation to grow the snow business, he wants to be a part of the team as they continue to garner new contracts to boost their growing client base.

Starting as a shoveler, he worked his way up to operations manager. Decker was promoted last year when Skyline Owner Mark Arthofer, CSP, needed someone to spearhead the operational teams. “Everyone has looked up to me to keep the company on track,” he says. “Mark determined that they needed an operations manager and decided I was the man. I’ve shown the most interest in helping the company succeed and grow.”

Arthofer is encouraged by Decker’s interest in SIMA. They both see SIMA as a way to grow the company and see value in Decker’s Advanced Snow Manager designation. Decker says as operations manager he wants to continue to climb the Skyline career ladder through his involvement.

“Every year we go [to SIMA events] we find something new we can incorporate into our business just to be on the cutting edge of technology for our clients,” Decker says. “The owner is very supportive and encourages us to be involved in SIMA.”

To be successful, Decker knows he has to surround himself with a solid workforce and garner respect from his fellow employees. “I think it’s huge. I’m the operations manager, but I’m still out there pushing snow every single snowfall,” he says.

He is always forward-thinking and envisions that one day he will be able to move out of the field and into the office to manage a snow event making sure all the crews are supported and making progress.

As he looks forward to a growing role with Skyline Construction, Decker has his sights set on finding and helping to develop the company’s next leaders.

Educating the team is key to growing the company, he says, and believes in digging deeper within the organization to find key individuals to take the company to the next level.

“I believe it’s necessary to look deep, since there might be the kid on the shovel that you least expect to have an idea and can assist in creating a revised operations plan.”
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Maintenance and Enhancement Manager Amanda Catell, ASM, sees a path to opportunity

Although Amanda Catell, ASM, joined MPS Property Services in Markham, Ontario, two years ago, she first made an impression on owner Jim Monk, CSP, while working for another landscaping and snow removal company. MPS approached her to be a team leader and is now maintenance and enhancement manager.

Monk says Catell’s positive attitude, field leadership and team player mentality have led to her ability to motivate the employees she oversees and to earn their respect. Those qualities, he says, will serve her well as the company continues to grow.

“She’s playing a larger role in planning and organizing field staff and proving through her daily activities that she’s capable of increasing her leadership responsibilities. When opportunities arise, she’ll be hard to overlook,” Monk says.

Since joining MPS, Catell has seen first hand the company’s commitment to growing its employees and creating paths to careers in snow and ice. The company’s training, evaluation, and feedback allows team members to build on their strengths and to develop the new skills that will allow them to pursue a clear career path, she says.

“At MPS we are given every opportunity to prove ourselves, to succeed, and to grow within the company. By recognizing the effort and leadership potential of employees and focusing on retaining them, MPS provides a route for advancement with support along the way,” Catell says.

Monk says the company’s leaders have been open about how opportunities will materialize as it grows. “Providing great customer service in a field role will help fuel growth, and that growth will create opportunities beyond the field. Amanda understands these opportunities will be filled with high achievers and that we prefer to promote from within. She is able to draw on this understanding, and really dig deep in tough conditions.”
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GM Mike Duffey, ASM, embraces the knowledge that comes from growing up in the industry

Mike Duffey, ASM, is the general manager for maintenance and snow removal at ULS Maintenance & Landscaping in Calgary, Alberta. He recalled his first day, which began at 4:30 a.m. It was snowing, -20°C and he was given a shovel to clear sidewalks. His first thought was “What am I getting myself into?” Fast forward 21 years, and he’s come a long way since his first foray in the snow business.

He transitioned from the early snow-shoveling days to pushing lawn mowers, then serving as a crew foreman. In a few years he moved into a supervisor role, followed by operations manager and finally his current position. He now manages the day-to-day sales and operations of over 100 employees.

Duffey values the knowledge base from the field. He understands the nuances of what a pedestrian crew, plow operator or sander may face out in the field.

His snow mentor is ULS owner and founder Steve Wheatcroft. He has always encouraged Duffey and others in the company to work, learn, grow and inspire. Wheatcroft remembers when Duffey was an 18-year-old who wanted to work hard. “He was never shy about putting in long hours and always had a good rapport with people,” Wheatcroft says.

Duffey hopes to continue in his current role for years to come and looks forward to mentoring others while continuing with his education. He believes he will succeed by surrounding himself with people who are better than he is. He recently received his ASM designation and hopes to become a Certified Snow Professional later in the year. “ULS is like family,” he says. He notes that Wheatcroft is a big reason why he continues to come to work every day. Duffey appreciates the opportunities he’s been provided and looks forward to growing the company.
SIMA can help its members build an outstanding workforce! If you have field staff that you want to develop into your next generation of leaders, learn more about the Field Leadership Academy, Advanced Snow Manager certificate program and Certified Snow Professional certification program at The 2018 Workforce Development Initiative is sponsored by BOSS Snowplows.

Do you have a standout employee that helps take your company to the next level? Nominate them for this year’s All-Stars of Snow & Ice. Nominees will be showcased in the December issue of Snow Business. Nominate here.

Erin Faupel is general manager for national accounts with ULS Landscaping and a member of the Snow Business Editorial Advisory Committee. Contact her at
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