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Help me get up and running on my own

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself to the Community' started by datank450, Aug 9, 2014.

  1. datank450

    datank450 Senior Member
    Messages: 139

    HELLO ALL!!!
    I'm a newbie to snow removal but have been a contractor for about 15 years. This was my first season plowing, I was subbed out and had one of my own accounts last season, so I feel like I did alright. As far as this upcoming snow season I would like to get my own accounts. What I'm really trying to find out is what is the best way to estimate a job and how should I charge / how much should I charge on commercial lots. I'm also trying to figure out what are your protocols for triggers. Do you door to door solicit for new accounts?
    Any and all help will be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. dieselss

    dieselss PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,972

    After one year and one account your ready to go out on your own?
    Personally I would say stay subbing for a tad longer.
     
  3. Whiffyspark

    Whiffyspark 2000 Club Member
    from SOMD
    Messages: 2,402

    I subbed for 8 years before I considered it. That's not including the 20 years if our previous family business
     
  4. derekslawncare

    derekslawncare PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,003

    I started out on my own. I had a full time job as an auto mechanic and cut grass on the side for extra money. I got to where I hated working on cars and enjoyed mowing, so I decided to grow my business to the level that I could do it full time. Obviously, I needed a way to make money in the winter and snow and ice management services seemed to be the logical step.

    I started by approaching small businesses (and therefore small lots that could be handled by one man/one truck) in my immediate area and asked to talk to the manager. Start out small, keep a tight service area so you have a quick response and go from there. I have now been doing S&IM services for 8 years. The experience you got last year should be a good start. You should have an idea of what size property you can handle and how long it takes you, (hopefully you were paying attention to this stuff and making mental notes of it while you were doing it). Then, decide what you want to make money wise for the time you think it will take you to do the work. You will be dead-on on some, too low on some and higher on others, but it will all average out. Pay attention to the accounts you don't get and ask why, if it's due to price, go by during/after a storm and see the quality of work of the company they went with. If you think you could do better, see if you can get the account the following year by pointing out that although you may be higher, this is why.

    I am one man/one truck and I service 10 commercial accounts. About half have been with me since I started and I regularly get compliments from my customers on how good a job I do. One of my accounts is a small strip mall with a Mexican restaurant in it that the owner has personally come out and commented to me that he wished I plowed his other location, because the guy that does it does a horrible job (its out of my tight service area or I would be). 2 of my accounts are churches, and I regularly get calls from other churches saying so and so at Eagle Heights said I should call you. The key is strive for clear pavement, don't try to get too big too fast and take care of the customers you do have. If you do that right, the rest will happen naturally.

    GOOD LUCK
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2014
  5. datank450

    datank450 Senior Member
    Messages: 139

    See the thing with me is I have a few good guys that I don't want to loose, I would like to make the kind of money I make in warm months in the winter. When I sub I do 30-40 hour runs and I just doesn't make sense for me with my caliber business to only make a portion of what I really should be making.
    I have one truck now with a plow and hopper, I am working on trading 2wd dump truck in on a 4wd dump; I have a skidsteer that I may put a pushbox on if I can get the accounts lined up. I also own a 7acre lot that I'm ready to store any amount of salt or any material needed for my business.
    I'm not a one man show, I'm trying to expand my business.
    I'm just looking for going rates, how do you come up with your going rate, do you have a formula for the square footage or acre on the lot. How should I go about seasonal price people or should I make my contracts per push only?

    I've been a contractor for 15 years and don't think it should take 8 years of getting my feet wet before I dive in, that's not the logical answer I'm looking for, but Derek's lawn care has the most down to earth logical answer for me; THANKS... I'm trying to run a business, not run myself into the ground. I know what it like to sub, and when it comes down to making what you and you truck is worth, SUBBING IN THE WAY TO GO. If I **** my shut up while subbing, I won't have made enough money to fix my **** and be back on the road with a back up. One season is enough, I know what snow and ice management is about and I'm not gonna beat me or my equipment up for whenever the real money starts coming in again, so I gotta make the real money just to move.
     
  6. Fannin76

    Fannin76 Senior Member
    Messages: 731

    Well on salt you need between 750 to 800 pounds an acre.
     
  7. datank450

    datank450 Senior Member
    Messages: 139

    What do you charge to plow and salt an acre with no sidewalk shoveling?
     
  8. Fannin76

    Fannin76 Senior Member
    Messages: 731

    187.50 for salt and am reevaluating my per acre I'm figuring 125 an acre for up to 4 inch. So 312.5 but I'd probably just make it 300 for push and salt.but if its just salt then 187.5 or just a plow no salt 125
     
  9. derekslawncare

    derekslawncare PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,003

    My pricing structure is irrelevant to you as we are in two completely different markets and parts of the country. You asked how to get STARTED in snow removal and I gave you the route that I chose. It's probably not the route for everyone, but it is what worked for me. I would say, since you already have an established business and therefore, an established customer base, that that be where you start. If you don't have enough accounts that want your snow removal services, ask them if they could or would refer you to any of their friends that might have use for your services. I concentrate 100% on commercial for my snow services because there isn't any money to be made in residential work IN MY AREA. There are some guys on this site that have done EXTREMELY well doing 100% residential. As for my pricing, I use an app on my phone (and measure) to measure square footage of parking lots. I use that to determine the amount of salt I will use and double the price I paid for the salt used when I started, which back then I was buying bagged salt (50lb bags) at $5.25 a bag. If I needed 5 bags to do the lot, my cost was $26.00 so I charged $50-55 for the salting service. As for how to price my plowing, I just guestimate as to how long I think it will take to clean the walks, and then plow. I decide what I want to make per hour to make it worth LIVING in my truck for the next 3 days, and that is what I charge. You will find some people that only want you when they call or that only want salting when they say, and I say no thanks and keep looking. They are nothing but trouble. They want to call all of a sudden when they are snowed in and want out and then expect that you will be right there to get them plowed and meanwhile you are in the middle of plowing the people who are willing to spend the money to have you every storm. As for who decides when to salt, it is me. Again, if they don't want or trust your expertise, you don't want them. I learned the hard way the first year I plowed, that you absolutely HAVE TO pre-treat for sleet, freezing rain storms. The first storm we got my first year was about 2" of sleet then about 1-2 of snow on top of that. I went out in the middle of the night to start plowing and my plow skimmed right over the top. It was a frozen mess. I had to put salt down, then go to my next account and salt. Had to do my entire route, then back track back to the begging and plow off what loosened up from the salt and retreat. It was a mess, but I learned never to do that again. So it is in my contract that once the 2" trigger is reached, I respond as needed and perform whatever services I deem necessary. Hope this helps. Good luck.
     
  10. Whiffyspark

    Whiffyspark 2000 Club Member
    from SOMD
    Messages: 2,402

    There's a lot more to having your own lots then just taking the check in. Subbing for a large company is the way to learn. You're employees can work for them as well. I make/made 80 an hour subbing with a pick up. I don't have any stress, have to worry about salt/employees:idiots/customers etc. I still sub out my machines as well.

    Yeah I have my own accounts now. But it took time to learn everything you can about it. You're better off learning in someone else's dime.

    As far as bidding, I bid hourly. I know my production rates because I worked for someone else for many years.