Winter weather doesn’t have to freeze your business. When snowfall slows your seasonal operations, it can be a major opportunity for growth. With the right equipment, you can profit outside the busy summer months. Before temperatures drop, follow these steps to build your snow plan and capitalize on the cold weather.
1. Finalize your snow contracts.
Every commercial and residential property in cold weather areas needs snow removal. Not every one is right for your business. Commercial properties like business parks and shopping centers take hours to clear. Residential spots are quicker, but require a lot of travel between sites — downtime that can reduce profits.
Before you lock in your snow contracts for the season, weigh the value to your business. Look at more than the time it takes to clear the snow; assess your equipment, the size of your crew and the location of each property.
2. Supplement your fleet with rentals.
Every winter is different. Your equipment and attachment needs vary with the snowfall and with the contracts you take on. Work with your dealer to line up rental arrangements for the additional attachments and equipment you may need to supplement the machines you own.
3. Assemble and train a reliable team.
When the snow falls, customers expect it to be cleared within hours. Increase the number of employees on your team during winter and hold training sessions on the equipment and the snow removal plan. Comprehensive training saves downtime and ensures that when operators arrive on-site, they can do the job quickly, efficiently and safely.
4. Know your properties.
Everything looks different under a blanket of white. The snow hides landscape features and the edges of lots. Survey each site before the first snow to get the lay of the land. Place stakes around the lot to identify boundaries and landscaping. This helps operators avoid damage to your equipment and your customers’ property.
5. Find a trusted weather source.
A reliable weather forecast makes a world of difference. Many private services offer forecasting that can help you better formulate a plan for dispatching workers. Some allow you to contact meteorologists directly, who can advise you on specifics. The National Weather Service maintains an easily searchable online database of these services, sorted by specialty and location.
6. Inspect your machines.
Create an inspection checklist for supervisors and operators. Require that operators run through the checklist prior to a storm to ensure equipment is ready to go. Check the tires, fuel, oil and fluids. Turn on all machines to make sure they start and run properly.
7. Communicate expectations.
Snowstorms can come quickly and unexpectedly. Your crew must be ready for action at a moment’s notice. Everybody should know their jobs and their sites prior to snowfall. Project managers, foremen and crews need to know what communication to expect as well. A phone tree is still a good way to quickly communicate. More robust systems may involve automated texts, phone calls or email alerts. Choose the best method for your team and run tests to make sure there’s no break in the lines of communication.
8. Keep your crew comfortable and safe.
Snow days are marathons. One long day of snow removal can turn into a demanding three days. Long hours in bitter cold put operators at risk. The comfort of the cab and safety of the machine are critical. Speakers, windshield wipers and heaters go a long way in making sure employees can bear the conditions. The right fuel mix and proper machine maintenance ensure that operators are safe in extreme temperatures.
9. Meet your customer’s needs.
Your clients should not have to think twice about snow removal. Part of this success is in knowing your customer’s business, sites and expectations, and communicating it with your team. You need to know when your clients are open for business, the hours they are busiest and any special events and circumstances. Empower your crews to adjust their work schedules to best accommodate customers’ needs.