When your company decides to go into liquid ice control, you need a solid plan of action prior to the beginning of the cold-weather season and contract renewal period. Pre-planning will help to avoid missteps that could result in a performance disaster and negatively impact your reputation. Let’s take a quick look at some critical factors that will help you maintain your hard-earned service reputation.
Sales team knowledge
Your sales team needs to have a solid action plan about what expectations they are selling in the name of your company. Liquids are just one of many tools needed to successfully manage snow events. Do not go to your clients and sell them liquids solutions as cure-alls and magic wands, because they aren’t. Depending upon your geographic location and type of storm, the technical approach you select and the accompanying results can, and usually do, change daily, sometimes even hourly.
Client buy-in and understanding
Once you start using liquids, your clients will immediately notice that you have changed your style of application when the first row of lines from your sprayer appears on their property. Your sales team should share with clients that you are moving to a new approach to various types of storms. Explain that you will be changing your application strategies and materials with a combination of liquid and granular products. This communication will help manage their expectations and understand what you are doing. Effective client communication is critical to maintaining clients’ trust when you are changing application strategies.
When making changes to your established procedures, I recommend making changes to a few properties during the first year. This will enable you to test the effectiveness of your new strategies without exposing all of your clients to changes that may not work. Ideally, you will select a mixture of trial properties that run from full shade to full sun. Practice on these locations to test your strategies and make any necessary adjustments.
I recommend that you get a 300-gallon sprayer so that you can handle these few properties and really collect solid data about what works and what doesn’t work in your area. A simple 300-gallon sprayer can run in the $3,900 - $7,500 price range, depending upon how many features you want to include. Don’t buy the biggest, top-level sprayer on the market until your clients give you positive feedback about your strategy, you’ve made any necessary changes, and your team is seeing good results within the first few seasons.
All of your company training for this new service should be documented. This will ensure that all of your experience and data don’t walk out the door if employees move on to other work opportunities. Even the best companies lose key people who hold valuable experiential knowledge. Unlike grounds maintenance, where you have so many more opportunities to train and easily capture data, the snow and ice data collection window is usually much shorter with fewer incidents.
Try to keep the same team and managers onsite during your trial period, so everyone is on board with the results and changes needed to fine-tune your operation. I also recommend that you capture as much video and take as many pictures as possible. During the summer, your team can review the data, photos and videos you’ve collected and devise appropriate plans for training your team for next season.
Safety and handling
Some states require that your sprayer tanks be labeled and tagged for fire and rescue first responders in the event of an accident. Take the time to laminate and quick clip tags on both sides of your tanks. If you decide to use mixed ratios (for example, adding other materials besides salt brine to your tank mix), labeling your tanks will be even more important. Every truck should also carry a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) in the event of an accident or a police encounter.
Building a brine making and liquids application program is a year-round commitment, and sometimes the costs are not obvious and easily identified. If you want to learn more, I hope you’ll attend the pre-conference event during the 23rd Annual Snow & Ice Symposium.
Mike McCarron is the president and founder of Image Works Landscape Management, a commercial landscape maintenance and snow removal firm in the Northern Virginia markets, and a 22-year veteran to the industry. Email him at email@example.com.