Labor and liability - two big stop signs for most small businesses, right? Wrong, if you’re an educated risk-taker. Opportunity knocks when the majority of your competitors become unwilling to take on more risk. For the tactical business owner, this is your time to take action.
If snow removal was simple and easy, the market would be flush with providers, the competition would be high and prices would be incredibly aggressive. So instead of treating labor and liability as roadblocks, challenge yourself and your managers to pursue opportunities and say yes to taking on more. Then figure out how.
For the snow contractor, building a seasonal workforce is an absolute necessity as the business grows. The fact that snow removal is seasonal is part of the equation as well as the opportunity. If we could snap our fingers and have 100 guys show up on a snowy night, we’d all be selling the work and reaping the larger reward.
Since we can’t snap our fingers to produce a workforce, this gives us the chance to do what very few companies will do - work hard to solve the challenge. Viewing a seasonal workforce as a detriment and allowing it to hold back your growth plans will halt opportunity for your entire organization.
Once you have the mindset that you are going to grow continually, increasing your workforce is something your business learns to administer. So, go for it!
Brainstorm with your team
A brainstorming session with your management team and any outside resources that help provide strategy to your company is a good place to start discovering how you can solve the labor challenge for your business. The different groups and individuals who might be interested in supplementing your workforce for snow events may be more sizable in number than imagined.
Subcontracting is an option. Look outside of your own industry to find companies that also have a seasonal workforce and perhaps equipment, too.
Pavement management companies, hardscape companies and roofing companies are all prime candidates to contact. If they aren’t in the snow business, it’s highly likely they don’t have enough work to keep their labor pool busy during the off-season.
Subcontracting might give them the opportunity to keep their staff going during the winter months.
At GroundMasters, we had several companies we worked with every season. Once we established a working relationship, these companies came back year after year to subcontract for us. As long as we could continue to sell the work, we could continue to build up our workforce of reliable companies we subcontracted with.
Reaching out to your community is another good place to start. Hanging a flier at the grocery store and spreading the word at your church are easy, affordable options.
Marketing for seasonal snow fighters is just like marketing for new customers. One can equal the other. Marketing for employees in the same areas that you’re seeking opportunities to work can be promising.
Tap into outside resources
Liability is another issue for contractors. They are hesitant to have the tough discussions with buyers and customers on the topic. They’re also hesitant to pay for the increased coverage some contracts might demand.
Becoming educated in this area certainly isn’t the most exciting topic; however, it’s necessary if this aspect of growing your business requires it. You, the business owner, may not be the person to sit through these highly detailed meetings, but a senior administrator can usually extract the pertinent information to keep the process moving. Your legal and insurance resources are probably the best avenue to reach out to and help educate you and your key staff on the topics concerning your business.
SIMA is also a great place to find specific information and resources pertaining to liability. SIMA has members with businesses of all sizes that service every type of snow removal customer. They’ve been through the good, the bad and the ugly with contract negotiations and the outcomes of said negotiations. Do some digging to see if there is a member out there to connect with who may be able to help you overcome your liability concerns.
Learning to manage the liability of your customers is an essential aspect of the business and has an impact on growing yours. Remember that the building owner or tenant who needs your services is already responsible for keeping their tenants and visitors safe. If they’re negotiating with you on liability concerns, they are asking you to take this burden off their hands.
Whatever you decide to take on, make sure you are very well advised on liability. Be proactive and responsible for your service actions. It should be clear to the provider that it’s not an open book as to what you’ll accept regarding contract terms and conditions.
Mastering the opportunity
My experience and advice is that once you set out to overcome these two big stop signs to strengthen your business, growth can be obtained.
Denying yourself the chance to take on more before you’ve even won something because you’re concerned about labor and liability issues that you might encounter eliminates opportunity and growth for your entire organization.
So, get started today with brainstorming on how to recruit more seasonal snow fighters for your organization, and reach out to your insurance provider to get the liability conversation started.
State of the Industry 2017
- 59% - Respondents who plan to increase their presence in snow and ice. Doing so despite concerns of labor (52%) and liability (11%) requires thoughtful planning. Only 6% plan to decrease their presence in snow and ice, while 35% plan to stay the course.
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.