By Cheryl Higley
Carl Bolm, CSP
A job opportunity that went bust for Carl Bolm in the 1980s set him on a course that would lead to the formation of BSR Services, which has become the largest privately owned and operated snow & ice management company in the greater St. Louis, MO, market. As the company prepares to celebrate its 30th anniversary in September, Bolm - the 2014 CEO of the Year - finds himself at home in a city he loves with a company that reflects a vision that starts and ends with delivering unparalleled service.
With a portfolio that includes discerning property/asset managers and many high-profile St. Louis companies, there is little room for error.
“Our customers expect excellent service with no excuses combined with amazing results,” Bolm explains. “While other snow-removal companies exist in our area, we believe BSR Services is its own biggest competitor. Our challenges do not focus on other providers, but more on what we need to accomplish (and excel at) with every single storm.” Systems lead the way
Consistent service excellence comes from the processes that Bolm has established for his team of six full-time executives and more than 500 subcontractors who handle every storm.
“We mainly focus on systems and procedures that consistently exceed our clients’ expectations. We are successful because we have kept lean and worked harder than our competition. We stay on the cutting edge of technology, so our customers trust our process and how we work within the system,” Bolm says.
From the beginning, Bolm has compiled volumes of documents and processes that he knew could help his company run more efficiently. With the help of a law firm, he was able to refine them and put a good foundation in place. He continues to refine those processes every day.
“We are constantly improving. Not only do we have a standard operating procedure [SOP] for every storm, but we have an annual SOP to ensure we are always ready,” he says. Strong team follows through
Processes, however, don’t mean a thing without good people to implement them. Bolm credits the BSR team with helping the company achieve a customer retention rate of more than 95%.
“Their tireless work in the brutal elements is grueling. They work hours upon hours, never complaining, and always keeping in mind that we are only as good as our last storm. Each storm relentlessly tests our strengths, and that means we have to do our best no matter what the situation is,” Bolm says.
With 30 years under his belt, it might seem natural for Bolm to step back and let his executives run the show. However, his name is synonymous with BSR, so Bolm remains engaged in the day-to-day operations.
“I have been actively involved in my company since day one. BSR Services represents my name and reputation, so I am involved from the start of every storm until the work is efficiently completed.”
That involvement is one of the key traits of a good CEO, says his attorney, William Corrigan: “He is very hands-on and would never ask someone on his team to do something he wouldn’t do. He has great vision and he has his snow & ice operations down to a science. He’s the maestro of the operation.”
The BSR Services team: (From left) Erik Pyke, Nick Mossotti, Nikki Dyonzak, Bob Holm,
Jaime Huggins, Tim O’Bryan, Carl Bolm and (Background from left) Jeff Kemp, Stacy Crow, and Mike Czeschin. Not pictured is Jackie Kemp. Constantly learning
Bolm had zero experience in the snow industry when he started BSR, but his incredible work ethic and a desire to learn helped him become an innovator and an expert in the field. He shares the importance of education with his team and encourages them to learn as much as they can. Bolm and all of his executives are Certified Snow Professionals, and several have earned SIMA’s new Advanced Snow Manager designation.
“When I first created my company, there were no resources of any kind. You simply learned by trial and error. Now I find myself eager to absorb all I can at SIMA’s conventions, and it isn’t just at the workshops and courses. My team and I talk to everyone, even if it’s during breaks or at the snack and chats, to learn from our peers. We take our entire office each and every year,” he says. “I believe the combination of information and knowledge is the secret to success. The more you know, the more you can offer each and every client.”
Bolm is proud to have built a team of vendors, contractors and executives who work together to treat every customer as if they are BSR’s only client. Every day is a blessing and one that Bolm cherishes.
“I still am like a kid at Christmas when it comes to BSR Services. Every year that I succeed in this industry - where I can help provide exceptional service to so many amazing clients - is a bonus. The best feeling is when I receive heartfelt kudos that highlight how we exceeded our clients’ expectations. That is a total high, and nothing else compares.”
2014 CEO of the Year Carl Bolm, CSP, says his greatest strength is the power of motivation, perseverance and passion to make results happen. He hones that strength through his unquenchable desire to learn. He is an avid reader and shares the three business books that have had the greatest impact on him:
“Flawless Execution: Use the Techniques and Systems of America’s Fighter Pilots to Perform at Your Peak and Win the Battles of the Business World” by James D. Murphy
At Mach 2, the instrument panel of an F-15 is screaming out information, the horizon is a blur, the wingman is occupied, the jet is hanging on the edge and yet fighter pilots routinely handle the stress. It’s not much different in today’s unforgiving business world. One slipup and your company is bankrupt before your employees know what hit them. The author, a former military pilot, teaches the Plan-Brief-Execute-Debrief-Win cycle that will rapidly impact your business’ future success.
“The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable” by Patrick Lencioni
Patrick Lencioni turns his keen intellect and storytelling power to the fascinating, complex world of teams. Kathryn Petersen, Decision Tech’s CEO, faces the ultimate leadership crisis: Uniting a team in such disarray that it threatens to bring down the entire company. Throughout the story, Lencioni reveals the five dysfunctions that go to the very heart of why teams - even the best ones - often struggle. He outlines a powerful model and actionable steps that can be used to overcome these common hurdles and build a cohesive, effective team.
“Business Ground Rules: Be Great in Business” by Tony Jeary and Peter Thomas
“Business Ground Rules” offers entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs the opportunity to take their businesses to the highest levels with 100 secrets to creating wealth and success in order to live a richer life.
- Source: Amazon.com
Entrepreneurial spirit leads Bolm to wine and mud
BSR Services is only one of Carl Bolm’s many business enterprises. BSR is a snow-only company, but rather than expand into other complementary service industries, Bolm has chosen to follow his entrepreneurial spirit to some rather unique business opportunities.
Visit the St. Louis area and you can relax and enjoy a bottle of wine at Cedar Lake Cellars or show off your stamina at The Battle-grounds, a permanent mud run obstacle course that will challenge the fittest of the fit.
“The winery is in a small town where I grew up,” Bolm says. “It’s like coming home.”
Built in 2001, the winery now hosts 100 weddings and events each year and was named one of the best Missouri wineries.
“Quite an accomplishment for a snow man,” he says.
The winery is open year-round but has ebbs and flows. When the winery season winds down, BSR Services is ramping up for winter. The seasonality of both companies gives Bolm depth in organizational manpower. The gardener, bartenders, property managers, etc., are handpicked to help with BSR in the winter.
And Bolm has found a way to honor his snow & ice heritage at the winery. “We have a signature wine slushy drink that combines finely crushed ice, 100% pure fruit puree and, of course, our Cedar Lake Cellars wine,” he explains.
Hidden away from the serenity of Cedar Lake Cellars is another of Bolm’s ventures. Adjacent to the winery is The Battlegrounds at Cedar Lake, a 170-acre, state-of-the-art, military-style obstacle course. Biannual mud runs, similar to the well-known Tough Mudder, benefit local charities.
BSR Services owner Carl Bolm, CSP, his wife, Gabriella, and Director of Operations Nick Mossotti celebrate after a successful Battlegrounds mud run.
From restaurants to real estate, wine to mud runs, Bolm’s vision and methodical approach to every venture contribute to their success, says his attorney and longtime friend William Corrigan.
“He told me he wanted to open the winery, and I was skeptical - and told him as much,” Corrigan says. “But he studied it and decided to go forward. He is incredibly thorough and disciplined in everything he does. He has an amazing work ethic and is very persistent. He is just a great business entrepreneur.”
Despite his multiple successes, Bolm doesn’t take anything for granted or even think about stopping to smell the roses.
“I pinch myself when I see where we are, but I am always looking in the rearview mirror,” he says. “I may pause for a moment, but I don’t stop for long. We have so much more to do.”
Charities near and far benefit from Bolm’s generosity
Carl Bolm, CSP, has grown from humble beginnings to become the owner of the largest locally owned and operated snow & ice management company in the St. Louis, MO, market. He has used his good fortune to help others. Whether he is donating money or services, serving on the boards of several nonprofit organizations, building homes in Mexico or going out on Christmas Eve with his wife, Gabriella, to serve food to the homeless living on the streets of St. Louis, Bolm’s charitable reach is extensive.
“Giving back is in my DNA. I have always been a giver, which probably goes back to the way I grew up. I believe it’s our duty, as both a human being and as a society, to help others in any way that we can,” he says.
William Corrigan, Bolm’s friend and attorney, volunteers alongside him at Old Newsboys, an organization that donates to several St. Louis children’s charities. Each year on the Thursday before Thanksgiving, volunteers hit the streets - rain or shine - to sell newspapers to raise money.
“Carl has a big heart and is very generous,” Corrigan says.
Jeff Cook, who is Bolm’s best friend, has also done charity work with him. Their families have traveled many times to the Baja area of Mexico to build homes for Youth With a Mission’s Homes of Hope program.
“Carl is a very charitable and giving guy. He is a thoughtful leader, and character and integrity are No. 1 in everything he does,” Cook says.
The CEO of the Year award is based on four core components. Following are Carl Bolm’s thoughts on how BSR Services strives to achieve them:
- Company Growth & Success: “It’s about providing the best service. I preach it all the time. I’ve never wanted to be the biggest, just the best. If you are the best, you will have growth. Being the best turns our clients into our best salespeople.”
- Professionalism & Customer Service: “We are expected to do more for less, and you really have to exceed clients’ expectations. We strive to provide the ‘Ritz-Carlton service experience’ in snow removal.”
- Advancement of the Snow & Ice Industry: “I would hope that BSR’s professionalism is perceived as that of a model company for the industry. The professionalism and the uniformity we bring to our company and to the industry [are] how we can leave our mark.”
- Ethical Business Practices: “The transparency and the amount of information
that we provide our clients is second to none.”
Seven candidates were nominated for this year’s Snow Business CEO of the Year award. Based on the selection criteria, three finalists were chosen and the winner selected in an anonymous vote by the Snow Business Editorial Advisory Committee, a member of SIMA’s Board of Directors and 2013 CEO of the Year Tim Gibbons. Thanks to Western Products, Fisher Engineering, Blizzard Snowplows and SnowEx for
their support and sponsorship of the CEO of the Year award.
Cheryl Higley is editorial director of Snow Business magazine.