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Changing roles in the company.

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by born2farm, Jan 6, 2013.

  1. born2farm

    born2farm 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,310

    I have been kicking around this idea now since we got our first plowable event in late December. I wanted to see how other people have dealt with it as there company has grown and any tips they have.

    I am currently running 6-8 pieces of equipment per storm with on average 8-10 employees out working. We have just over 40 accounts, with 95% of them being medium sized commercial. This year, as in the past, I run a specified route just like all of my employees do. As I grow I feel like I need to get away from running a route and start being a better manager. I feel like I get nothing done trying to plow, talk to property managers, dispatch the guys etc etc. I remember reading in an interview from Alan Steiman that "it is better to work ON your business than IN your business". I am seeing now what he means. Don't get me wrong, I still love plowing, but I can hire someone to run a plow truck, but I doubt I can find someone to run the business the way I want it run.

    How many people have been faced with this change in roles and how did you handle it? I know locally that a few companies have Account Managers that sit in the office during the entire storm and manage operations. I don't feel like this is the right way to approach it. My idea is to purchase a little smaller vehicle (Ford f150) and go mobile with my office. With modern technology it is amazing what I could do utilizing my iPad, laptop etc. With the smaller vehicle, I would consume much less fuel doing site checks then I do now with my current truck and still have plenty of room inside the cab for a laptop and all my paperwork.

    Next question is do I outfit this vehicle with a plow and possibly a spreader? At times it would be nice as I do site checks to be able to tuck a corner in here or throw a little salt down there until the salt trucks arrive. I am worried though that if I have a plow on the front, that before I know it I will be plowing and not managing like I should be.

    Any input is appreciated. I am sure others have been faced with this decision just as I have. It is something I am going to try and implement for the remainder of this season, or for sure have set up going in to next season.
  2. ducaticorse

    ducaticorse PlowSite.com Addict
    from we
    Messages: 1,426

    I think you're spot on with what you wrote...
  3. blazer2plower

    blazer2plower Senior Member
    Messages: 544

    I am not their yet but the Guy I sub for is he has a 1500 with a blade. After all his worker's are out and me. He goes out and checks. On us if a truck does breakdown he will fill in. But for the most part. He does the office thing. I do know that his stress level. Has gone way down.
  4. Superior L & L

    Superior L & L PlowSite Veteran
    from MI
    Messages: 3,035

    I'm not sure where u are located but I would think at that size you could still run a route. I run 10-12 pieces and three walk crews and can run a route fine. It's a tight route close to the shop so I can run back if needed. Everyone within your operation should know what there doing and not need overseeing.
    If you do a lot of salting I've seen people move to a dedicated salt truck. You can spend the first couple if hours of a storm in the office then head out and start salting . This allows you to check a large amount of your sites but still be producing income
  5. ducaticorse

    ducaticorse PlowSite.com Addict
    from we
    Messages: 1,426

    I think it has more to do with quality control and a reduction in stress level overseeing the entire op. I know my plan is to be doing the exact same thing in another two years. Just because you still have the ability to run a route, doesn't mean its the best thing for your company. As the gentleman above mentioned, maybe you can still run a plow and a salter as you mentioned too, and act as a quality control/back up to your fleet, while still maintaining the integrity and quality of your entire op. As I stated before, I agree with what you originally wrote.
  6. hammerstein

    hammerstein Senior Member
    Messages: 318

    I personally like to do all the salting. I still do plow about 6 places myself then salt everything else. I get to follow behind every one after their plowing is done make sure the work is up to my standards and I have control over the amount of salt that is used. You can hire a lot of plow drivers for what you are probably paying yourself.
  7. WIPensFan

    WIPensFan PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,468

    I would say going the F150 with a plow and salter is not changing your situation at all. I think it's good that you would like to be mobile during events, but you walk a fine line between stepping back and managing and still being too involved. I can tell you that I did not hire good enough people to ever step back and not be completely involved. Also, I did not trust anybody else enough to step back and manage from the office. Many of these issues were my hangups about feeling guilty about letting everyone else do the hard work. That's not a good way to be, and I wish I would have done it differently, though it is hard to change who you are. You have a big decision to make. If you have good people that you trust and are capable, you should be able to assume a different role. Good luck.
  8. Brian Young

    Brian Young PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,382

    Ive been on the fence for a couple years now, our problem is finding and keeping good personal so I dont have to babysit all the time. We have done a good job over the last couple years, no real issues that needed immediate attention etc. I think as you grow there comes a point where you have no choice or things will get out of control like it did for us a few years ago. Back then we ran our equipment and 7 subs along with 4 or 5 sidewalk guys and quality control went right out the window because I was one of the plow trucks tied up for hours plowing and couldn't check on things usually until it was too late. We've down sized quite a bit since then and now its been fun again to plow, no one calling, very limited sidewalks to do so if someone doesnt show up its no big deal for me and one other to do. Next year I am going to try to gain about 30% more accounts in one area and run it all with a new skid steer. My dilemma now will be do I trust just anyone in a new skid steer or do I run it and trust someone in my truck plowing and salting. My better sense says find an operator for the skid steer so I can run the routes. I agree with you though, I think its better to be out there with the crews possibly helping out whenever possible especially during big storms. As far as getting a smaller truck, idk, if all your going to be doing is touching up things here and there Im sure a 1/2 ton would be fine but probably not a big difference in price and the fuel might not be that great even in a 1/2 ton. Honestly, I think its better to stay on the smaller side of things and by smaller I mean 10 trucks or less or whatever your number might be to consider being smaller. There's a huge company where I live that plows a TON of properties and has 20-30 pieces of his own equipment and runs probably 50 subs, he has several crew leaders and I see him plowing out there as well. Why not promote someone and give them a bit more responsibility and lighten your load a bit.
  9. MatthewG

    MatthewG PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,390

    ^^^ Just how I feel
  10. ducaticorse

    ducaticorse PlowSite.com Addict
    from we
    Messages: 1,426

    Funny. I hear "stay small" from a lot of guys I've bought surplus equipment from over the years. They all say it's so much better when they only had a smaller fleet and handled everything themselves.
  11. fairrpe86

    fairrpe86 Senior Member
    Messages: 175

    The company I plow for has about 40 of their own trucks along with maybe another 20 pieces of equipment, plus subs out during storms. They service over 200 accounts. The owner along with his three upper management guys run the show, more so the upper guys and the owner likes to plow and assists them. He has gotten to the point where he can truck his upper team to run the show and not even come out for a storm if he chooses. Most of the subs they use run their own crew/fleet and report back to one of the managers. The chain of command works quite well for this. The general managers truck has the sander removed so he is move available during early business hours and following the storm to be able to field calls and put out fires when need be. The mechanic is mobile in a plow/sanding truck so he can go to wherever a breakdown occurs or help out on sites if all is well and the other mechanic operates a piece of equipment close to the shop so he is available there if the need arises. Being able to step back from your operation and do the oversight is possible, it just requires the right team and systems to be in place so you can feel comfortable doing such things.
  12. Flawless440

    Flawless440 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,543

    Snow is only 2-3 months long, keep doin what your doin.. It will be over before you know it.. Going to be 65 degrees Friday, thats what you should worry about.. All that 6-8 to 12 to 15 pieces of equipment you say will be sitting
  13. Brian Young

    Brian Young PlowSite Veteran
    Messages: 3,382

    IMO its simple, the more you take on the more headaches so you need to see if its worth all the headaches. It was for me years ago when my kids were baby's but now that they are older family time is more important now and I'm slowly building my employee base to where I can train and trust they will do a good job and stick around. The big company I was talking about has more complaints every year, we've picked up a property of his because of that. I'm not saying settle for less but when we ran all those subs we were up to 70+ accounts and always had issues with a few and barely got done in time. During big storms, forget it! we were out for 2 days straight most of the time because most of these subs had day jobs so that added to our companies work load quite a bit. In short I definitely think there comes a point where you need to do more monitoring then actual plowing. I still run everything, that includes 3 routes 50+ accounts some big, some residential and do all the salting. We use to span the whole city but loosing an account on the other side of town might be a blessing in disguise.
  14. grandview

    grandview PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,609

    Instead of hiring another guy can you give a little more to each route? This way you can still sit in the office and watch whats going on but still be able to jump if needed.
  15. show-n-go

    show-n-go Senior Member
    Messages: 776

    My cousin owns a very large landscape company, he went through the same thing as you. back then he bought a cherokee sport and put a small plow and spreader on it just to do site checks and clean up when needed, after he took himself out of the field and into his office he really grew the company. now they have over 40 trucks.
  16. Herm Witte

    Herm Witte Senior Member
    Messages: 551

    We operate 18 various pieces of equipment. My role has become what you desire. I float around at night, work with (teach, train) our new operators, monitor for quality control, help with a repair if needed, and this allows me to be a last minute sub. When I was plowing each and every event there were times that my decision to pull the trigger was based on how I felt, which is really not a good thing. Your thinking is not bad at all and when decisions need to be made during an event your mind is free to concentrate on the issue at hand. Best wishes as you continue to grow your business.
  17. potskie

    potskie Senior Member
    from Ontario
    Messages: 768

    That was my role in the company I just left. I managed everything day to day. Only thing I didn't do was the sales and customer service. I cruised around in an F150 all storm every storm dispatching using a tablet / bell 10-4 phone. If you go this route put a light weight plow on the truck. My truck didn't have one and the owners were always very against it but I used to get very aggravated with the amount of labour , fuel and my time being wasted because we would have to send a tractor back to get that one parking spot they missed or some spill off they missed which then meant I had to go back to that site as well and double check rather then just grabbing it while I was already there and moving on. The salter isn't a good idea tho. You'll end up salting full runs too when you're behind.

    But you do have to have someone in the office selling / doing customer service full time to grow big. Now I know of a fairly successful company locally where the owner still plows every storm he just hired someone to do that office stuff. Problem I see him havin tho is the same one the company I just left did. As soon as the face the customers are used to seeing leaves they will leave too. They don't know who you are as the owner they just know who the guy working for you is.
  18. jhall22guitar

    jhall22guitar PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,044

    I was going to say why not get a ranger, but then i realized the gas mileage isnt even that much better than a F150, your plan seems good though.
  19. snowcrazy

    snowcrazy Senior Member
    from ohio
    Messages: 402

    What company are you referring to??? I am just east of cinci, just curious if Ive ever seen the trucks out and about..
  20. Elite_Maint

    Elite_Maint Senior Member
    Messages: 495

    I run 3 trucks + my own route.. I have my clipboard with all the clients etc and every truck has a route. I control everything from the cab..i dispatch the other trucks if something comes up or i go.. what i did to help me though is i gave myself a very small route so incase a truck breaks or someone is falling behind i can just go right at it and run the route myself.
    I am on my cell phone alot since I'm always communicating with the other 3 guys but stuff gets done my way + the clients always deal with me and I'm always around if they need me. This has worked for me so far and I'm happy to be on the road + still running the show.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2013