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Considering plowing again (want some advice first)

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by martyman, Sep 8, 2001.

  1. martyman

    martyman Senior Member
    Messages: 281

    Well, I might be back plowing again. I had a very tough winter last year and It took till now to think about plowing again. I want to ask some questions if possible. I want to do two car drive-ways only and not include steps and walk-ways, Is this possible? I thought about hiring some one to do the steps with me but it is very hard to find someone willing to go out everytime there is a storm..
    I made the mistake of doing three car garage homes with circle drive-ways that took forever in my Jeep. How many of you guys do residential and include salting? I was considering buying a small spreader that can attach to the back. Is this a good idea or am I wasting more time?

    Thanks Marty
  2. SnoJob67

    SnoJob67 Senior Member
    Messages: 384


    If you were in my situation, I would say you are wasting your time. However, markets vary so much because of the mixes of residential versus industrial/commercial in different communities.

    I prefer commercial work. I was told, don't bother with commercial...too hard to break into. Well, for me commercial has been great! I am not making a million bucks, but my income is increasing as my knowledge, marketing skills, etc. improve. Also, billing isn't nearly the nighmare it used to be!

    Your situation could be completely different. I look at it like this. If I want to make, say $600 gross per truck for plowing that particular route once (6 hour cycle), I'd rather do eight parking lots that total $600 than 30 residentials like you describe. From my experience, even with a little forethought and planning it is still not always easy to keep 8 customers happy during ice or snow events. They hate the weather that we battle and they hate having the added expense even more!

    In the end, you have to make the call. You may do very well doing residential, but you have to make sure you are not trying to force a square peg into a round hole. (No different than any other aspect of business, regardless of what you do for the rest of the year.) Good luck and don't let my words of caution discourage you! Heck, there are enough stragglers out there that have not committed that you could easily add a few commercial accounts to your list right up until November, sometimes. Commercial work requires more footwork than throwing an ad in the local Shopper (we do this in the green season for landscape work) and letting residents come to you, however.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2001
  3. 75

    75 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,382

    Martyman - limiting yourself
    is ultimately your decision, if you are strictly a "one-man" operation it is something you could consider. Were the bigger drives simply underquoted? Now that you know what's involved in doing them, you should have a better idea what to charge.

    A different idea to ponder: after considerable thought/research/questions, I decided that at this time, working as a subcontractor is a more realistic option. Two of the biggest factors in that decision were my lack of business experience and my regular job committment. That's just a thought - not saying you have to do that!

    As far as a small spreader, they are useful tools but before laying down $$$ for a piece of equipment, you will want to have the work lined up for it rather than chasing around trying to scrounge up work to pay for the spreader you've already bought - and are paying for. Payments don't wait!

    If commercial properties are something you plan to target, you may also need to invest in a bigger truck/plow - unless you are able to fill a "niche" market, for example small awkward lots that are a chore to manouver a big pickup around in.

    Whatever you decide to do, it isn't too late - yet - but winter's on the way so better get movin'!

    PS - I see your "location" is not filled in Martyman - please update your profile so we know where you is from! ;) (I seem to recall you're a fellow Canadian but my brain HAS been known to malfunction from time to time..........................
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2001
  4. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    3 car garages with circular driveways? I'll take a dozen, thank you. I think you either need to get bigger equipment, target your market or re-stucture your pricing. Something's wrong if you've got the work, but aren't making money. How about plowing smaller buildup (every 3" vs 10" or whatever). In my area, I do not shovel residential. I never leave the truck. No one expects it and if they did, I'd pass on taking the account. Commercial - a little to clear the door. Sander - like 75 said - do a survey to see if the potential is there. Other than that, how about letting us know where you are?
  5. martyman

    martyman Senior Member
    Messages: 281

    Thanks guys for the answers. I'm from Markham Ontario and I'm giving away my three car garages this year. I can't tell you what a pain in the arse they were with the huge steps and the silly complaints. I'm not interested in commercial properties because of vehicles in the way and getting non-stop calls asking where I am. I also really can't afford a large truck at the moment. I will ask people if they would pay more for salt. I'm not sure how to charge them but I'll ask anyway. thanks and maybe your right about the pricing aspect. I was charging from $180 to $200 for two car for the season $250 for the three car garages(too low?). I did forty properties last year and If I did it this year I wanted to do 60 with out including the steps if possible. Marty
  6. martyman

    martyman Senior Member
    Messages: 281

    while I was writing my last reply I was my virus protection caught a Trojan horse

    Be Careful
  7. 75

    75 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,382

    Regarding pricing: As I recall, last year I plowed 33 times (I'm a little north of you in Orillia) some of which were twice the same day so let's call it 30 plowable events for the season. Doing the math with season pricing:

    $180 divided by 30 = $6.
    $200 divided by 30 = $6.66
    $250 divided by 30 = $8.33

    Too low? I don't know about you, but I wouldn't even bother STARTING my truck for $8.33, never mind push snow with it. With the revised (a euphemism for "higher") electrical rates that went into effect here in my town last month, I'm not sure $6 will even cover the cost of having the block heater plugged in overnight. :mad:

    I know you may not have had 30 plowable events last year, I'm just trying to point out that yes, those numbers do seem pretty low.

    First off, figure out how much it costs you to operate.(Everything - insurance, vehicle operating/maintenance, fuel etc.) Presumably you would like to make some sort of profit for your effort - factor that in too. Then figure out how many times you think you will need to plow. (Average it out, use weather records from previous years) Using these figures, you should be able to come up with a $ figure that can make plowing worthwhile.

    Or, consider the other option of working as a sub for another plower.
  8. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    Martyman - I almost choked myself (I'm serious) when I realized from reading Rob's reply that you meant $180 for the SEASON. I thought you meant a trip (that might be a little high). You have got to be kidding! These people are going to protest when you tell them the new pricing, but they knew they were taking advantage of you. I suggest figuring how long it takes to do a site and how much you want to make per hour (Rob, how would $100/hr be? about $150 Canadian?) That is you price for that site. Just tell them the price, not the hourly amount. Obviously, now you're making more for a 3 car than a 2 car and it should be worth it. If you have 40-60 driveways, you might want to concentrate on them. You should then be able to afford better equipment - like a 3/4 ton truck.
  9. GeoffD

    GeoffD PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 2,266

    After one winter you are either going to love plowing or hate it.

  10. 75

    75 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,382

    Yes, you're pretty close Mick - the exchange rate does fluctuate but as a rule of thumb, I often use the $100 US = $150 Cdn example you gave.

    As a real-life example, my SIMA membership - $130 US - worked out to $200 Cdn. That gives a conversion factor of .65, apply that to the $100 US and it comes out to $153.85.

    Regardless, when it comes to exchange rate, up here we is on the losin' end of THAT one! :(
  11. pcs

    pcs Senior Member
    Messages: 129

    Last year I charged $325.00 for a two car drive. I know alot of people charging 180.00 here too. What I might do this time is charge 325.00 for the season with a maxium of 10 or 12 visits. That works out to 32.00 or 27.00 dollors per visit. Then I may have some that are just per visit and charge 30.00. If they don't like it they can find someone else. There's a lot of homes out there.
  12. 75

    75 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,382

    Yes, my understanding is $20 - $25 is fairly common for driveways around here - per visit.

    pcs - are you basing the 10 - 12 visits on what you did last year? Just curious, your idea of having a cap on the number of visits for that price seems sound, but I envision having to explain to a customer on your 13'th visit that now they have to "pay-as-they-go" as being more of a stress headache than it's worth.

    Of course, if you're fairly certain you won't exceed the 12 visits in a season that's fine.
  13. martyman

    martyman Senior Member
    Messages: 281

    I like that !!!Marty
  14. Mick

    Mick PlowSite.com Veteran
    from Maine
    Messages: 5,546

    $25-30/drive. Martyman mentioned circular driveways, which I would think to be quite a bit larger than than straight driveways from the street to the garage. Then, he's also scooping the sidewalk and steps. That should be an additional charge. At the rate he was going, he'd need another job to pay for his gas to plow snow. Basically, you need to decide whether, you like plowing or not. If you do, then change you pricing structure.