By the time the first quarter of 2017 is over, it’s safe to say that in the snow business, you’ll quickly be able to judge how your year will go, for better or for worse. For snow-only companies, this means you’ll know exactly how your season is going to end up by the middle of April. Those who have additional profit centers will know whether the winter season gave you a big leg up.
Some of this has to do with the weather, but more has to do with how you planned, sold and executed your work at the beginning of the season.
That said, I’d like to share a few key items to evaluate now to learn how your season will end up, and how you can readjust for next season while operations are still underway.
Your book of business
First, compare your revenue and sales success of this current year/season against the previous one. What do the critical measurements say? Consider the following:
- Have you grown the number of parking lots or amount of square footage?
- Have you added customers?
- Are your new customers in segments of the marketplace that you were seeking or did you add them only because you needed them?
It’s important to understand the effects of your sales efforts, and what they yielded, going forward. Gathering this knowledge while in the midst of operations, rather than waiting until the summer or fall and having to rely on memory, will give you a much better understanding of what went well and what did not.
Growth leads to growing pains
If you were fortunate enough to grow your snow business with additional customers, parking lots and more square feet under management, then you’re probably happy with the outcome of the season. If you aren’t, what makes you unhappy?
- Were you and your management team unprepared to handle your growth?
- Did you have trouble with staffing or finding additional subcontractors to maintain your capacity to demand ratios at a successful performance level?
- Were you properly prepared with enough material and suppliers to meet your increased demand?
- Was your existing fleet ready to roll, and did you add the strategic pieces you needed for greater capacity?
In most small businesses, taking on additional clients is easier said than done. Increased demand often leads to growing pains that we simply deal with the best we can while the season is underway. But if you take the time now to discover the biggest issues pertaining to your growth, it will be much easier to alleviate them next season - and perhaps will allow you to take on even more.
A deeper dive
Breaking your business down into geographic zones is another way to discover plusses and minuses about your business. For those who operate in more than one location but in a similar geographic region weather-wise, the easiest way to discover areas of improvement is to benchmark key metrics for each branch or region accordingly.
Looking at your business in one large piece often makes it difficult to detect where leverage can be gained or what the real issues are if you’re struggling. By separating locations, you can better understand your intent for each and every crew, route, branch or location, and how effectively they’re performing against your expectations.
Don’t wait until summer or fall
All of these items need to be considered to have a profitable and pleasurable season. I encourage you to break your business down categorically in all areas: complete a sales analysis, look at the mix of agreements you performed this year (T&M, per occurrence, seasonal), examine your materials vendors and how the season went with them, take a look at the equipment you own and rent, evaluate your team, etc.
Tracking any subject back to the origin and understanding how it evolved to where it is today will provide you with the insight you may need to identify areas for improvement.
So the next time your seven-day forecast looks clear, take the time to begin your analysis of the key metrics in your snow business. For those with a lot of season left, much of what you discover may be an opportunity for improvement before next year is upon us.
Jump start solutions
- Don’t wait until the end of the season to review operations
- Review each site, each team, etc. to identify successes and weaknesses
- Evaluate each client to make sure they fit your vision for success
Mike Rorie has been a participant in the snow and ice industry for nearly four decades. He is now the owner of GroundSystems, as well as the CEO of GIS Dynamics, parent company to Go iLawn and Go iPave. Contact him at Sales@gisdynamics.com.