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Information For Fellow Newbies

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself to the Community' started by smiley39, Feb 9, 2009.

  1. smiley39

    smiley39 Junior Member
    Messages: 11

    I've spent a few days reading through this forum and thought I would assemble some of the things I think I have learned into one post. It may save some other rookies like me some time.

    • I currently Have a Husqvarna GTH220 with a 40" Bercomac snowblower that I use to clear my lane and a couple of my neighbors'. This is all that is covered under my homeowners insurance policy, and only because I don't charge them anything.
    • I love using the machine and have toyed with the idea of getting a plow and doing it professionally for years
    • Started researching the ins and outs of the business here when I was approached by a local business to do their small parking lot. I told him I would look into it, and since educating myself on this site have told him it will be next year at the earliest before I will be doing it professionally, and I will keep him informed. He seemed impressed that I didn't just say yes and says he is eager to work something out for next year.
    • Register with the site, so you can do searches, there is an insane amount of information on this site
    • Don't ask questions if you don't want honest opinions
    • If you really want to learn about the business, work for someone else for a year or two
    • If you are going to give it a shot, set yourself up as a business
    • Depending on where you live you may need a permit as well as a business license
    • Get insurance for your vehicle and your business
    • Have a backup plan for yourself and your equipment, clients don't care if you or your equipment is broken, they want the snow cleared
    • Get clients to sign contracts and make sure the work you are going to do is clearly described
    • Put a trigger amount in the contract, this is the amount of snowfall on the ground that "triggers" you coming to plow, 2.5" seems to be a common trigger point
    • If a client wants a higher trigger make sure they know you are not going to be able to do as clean a job, due to the snow likely being packed down before you get there, and it is going to cost them more per push, due to the increased wear and tear on your equipment
    • Similarly, if a client wants to only have it done when they call, you are not going to be able to do as clean a job, it will cost more, and they go to the bottom of the list in terms of priority
    • As a general rule, it sounds like people who want a higher trigger, or occasional on call service, are going to be a bit of a pain in the butt
    • There is a lot of debate over whether to charge one rate for the season or per push, but it doesn't change the fact that you should have a contract
    • Seasonal contracts only seem to be good if you have a really good sense of what to charge and your snowfall is pretty consistent year to year
    • Per Push contracts seem to be better suited to the rookie, as it is easier to have an idea what a single plowing is worth
    • I like the idea of moving, over time, towards having some clients on seasonal contracts and some on per push, say a 50/50 split. This way, it would seem, you are covered whether it is a low or high snowfall season
    • Get a 4x4
    • Get something in the class of an F250 or 2500HD if you want to do more than smaller driveways
    • People do use jeeps, rangers, S10s, and the like, but the ones who use them professionally seem to cater to specific markets, like smaller driveways, or are willing to plow more often to stay ahead of the storms
    • It is good idea to get a truck with the plow package, and essential with some makes to keep your warranty
    • A beefier transmission cooler also seems to be a good addition
    • If you want to run all sorts of stuff while using the plow, or do lots of plowing, a better battery and alternator also sounds like a good idea
    • The single biggest factor with a plow seems to be having a good dealer close by
    • All the major manufacturers have plow selection tools on their sites
    • Once you know what market you are going to go after, you can search the site for plow recommendations specific to your needs

    Like I said I am a total rookie and don't know any of this from experience, this is just info that seemed to come up time and time again in the posts from the Pros. I look forward to hearing what the Pros think, or have to add. I really appreciate all the information that has been offered up on this site. It has kept me from making some serious, and potentially costly mistakes. I'm not sure if I'll get into the business or not after all I have found out, it doesn't seem nearly as simple as I thought. I still love the idea of it though.:)
  2. Rc2505

    Rc2505 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,245

    Smiley, I am sure I can speak for the many here, and say it is nice to see that someone actually reads first, before asking a million questions that have been answered a million times.
    I have had alot of people that I have told about this site, tell me that they all thought snow plowing was a very simple thing that anyone could do. I have tried to explain all of this, and it's way more than just having a truck, plow, and a full tank of gas, lol. There are so many things that go into running a plow operation, that it will actually blow your mind, if you do it all above the board, and legal.
    Good luck and I hope you are able to get in the buisness.
  3. Grampa Plow

    Grampa Plow Senior Member
    from Midwest
    Messages: 274

    Yours has got to be one of the most impressive posts I've seen in a long time. By simply reading up and listening, you have developed a business plan that most banks would think was impressive. The smartest thing that you have said was get to know the business for a year or two BEFORE signing seasonal contracts. However, once you have that experience, season contracts work good IF you bid it for an average or above average year, that way you won't get stung. Many places like the idea of a single price per year, spread out over 6 or 7 months. Newbie or not, you'll do great!
  4. smiley39

    smiley39 Junior Member
    Messages: 11

    Thanks for the feedback, it is great to hear I am on the right track. I am leaning towards getting on with a local company next year. It is so hard not to just jump right in, but I think I'll be happier in the long run if I take it slow and learn the ropes, what is a couple of years now, if I plan on doing this for the next 20-30. Thanks again for the feedback.
  5. Mick

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

    Good post, Smiley39. :salute:. Could be a good "sticky". The only thing I'd suggest modifying (and that's a minor thing) is the "trigger" to 3" as common in most areas for driveways - commercial may be 1" or "zero tolerance".
  6. elite1msmith

    elite1msmith 2000 Club Member
    from chicago
    Messages: 2,762

    great post . you sound like a smart guy

    I would try afew things... get a job working for someone else first. Learn on there time, and dime, and in there equiptment. try to work yoru way up , and learn about the salting and doing regular maintenance.

    then at that point, get your own truck and sub it out.

    by year 3-4 then get your own accounts. This might all seem slow going 3-4 yrs? but if you really want to learn it the vest way , and cheapest way...this is it. You could jsut jump in your own truck and land your own jobs, I know alot of ppl that did it that way... but they all seem to be clueless about doing repairs, or figuring out productivity, and more than likely put a few good sized dents in their trucks while learning.

    I would probablly add in - on singing seasonal accounts , some time syou dont always make what you should on them, if you have a harder winter, but atlease you can sleep at night knowing your XXX amount of dollars flowing in every month. It eases alot of stress

    What i like to do , is not a 50/50 split. But rather , i figure out a number of dollars i want to profit per season... say its 100,000 then i sign up at least that amount in work , plus the estimated expense of it. so that might be 125,000 .... then i try to sign up enough per push accounts to ofset the cost and expense of the seasonal accounts, in this case 25,000. This way no matter if it snows or not, you make the same... if it blizzards , or is the leaset snowiest on record , you make the same

    best of luck to you
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2009
  7. KGRlandscapeing

    KGRlandscapeing 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,660

    I was impressed though i think the guy befor me got it worng or may have miss lead a few people. Just because You dont have years in a plow truck dosent mean you will wreck one. Its all about patience and basics. Youll do fine that i know.
  8. elite1msmith

    elite1msmith 2000 Club Member
    from chicago
    Messages: 2,762

    ok, please let me refraise.... the odds for most ppl are that they will casue damage with less experiance, its not saying everyone does, but most guys that have more experiance have less equiptment problems

    im wasnt just talking about denting up a truck , but shifting on the fly from drive to reverse, or making tight turns in 4x4...or wacking curbs with the blade, trying to get your timing correct. It doesnt have to cause visible damage , so much as long term effects
  9. KGRlandscapeing

    KGRlandscapeing 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,660

    When i saw ur first post it was the short version befor u added to it. I knew what you were getting at i was just trying to clear things up. Were not here to scare just to inform. yes i do understand that a New plower wont be as efficent as somebody whos done it for years. then again there are guys who have done it for years and suck. And its winter time mother nature dosent care if your green or seasond she packs the same punch
  10. flakesmeangreen

    flakesmeangreen Senior Member
    Messages: 217

    That's a great Cliffs Notes version of Plowsite. Now we just need to get people to read it!

    Best of luck to you!
  11. ducatirider944

    ducatirider944 Senior Member
    from Iowa
    Messages: 469

    Good beginning post, I like you already! I don't care what people say about those canooks, your a smart guy.
  12. chcav1218

    chcav1218 Senior Member
    Messages: 954

    smiley, i think you've got it all figured out, you're gonna be good lol
  13. Bajak

    Bajak Senior Member
    Messages: 999

    Excellent Thread. Smiley it took me 2 days to read every post of Neiges' and am still working on JDDaves. Man he posts a lot.tymusic

    Make it a sticky
  14. Oasis

    Oasis Senior Member
    Messages: 273

    Great post Smiley and welcome... always great to see more plowers here from Ontario.
  15. Krieger91

    Krieger91 Senior Member
    Messages: 353

    Great post, man. And welcome to the site. I know it's been said before, but you're gonna do alright working like you speak.

    To KGR and elite; I don't know how often it works like this, but I'll be learning in my own truck. The truck I have, the '81 K20, I bought as a work truck, it just happened to have a blade on it.

    And, I think elite was referring to routine maintenance and emergency problems, such as a spring or a hose breaking. I can see where a new guy wouldn't know much about how to fix things like that....
  16. smiley39

    smiley39 Junior Member
    Messages: 11

    Great Feedback, Thanks

    It is good to hear what you all have to say. Elite, I like the way you think, and thanks everyone for the great ideas. Here is what I am thinking.

    • Although I already have some mechanical skills, I'm going to take a small engine maintenance course to make myself more appealing to people running mowers, and blowers
    • In town most of the people doing snowplowing seem to do landscaping in the summer, so I will get on with someone this spring/summer who does both
    • Show myself to be a good worker and get myself running one of their plows next winter, or more likely, the winter after that :)) hopefully I can at least get behind the wheel next winter :))
    • Learn about the business running their plow for 2 or 3 years
    • If I luck into a really good employer, I might stop there
    • If I still have the itch to run my own business I'll let them know my plans and ask if I could sub for them if I got my own truck
    • Sub for other people until I am really comfortable with the business, then get contracts of my own

    Thanks for taking to time to help me fine tune this. It makes committing to a long term plan a lot easier, knowing that people with experience think it will work. It will be interesting to see if I still want to run my own business after learning how to do it. There seems to be an incredible amount of work that goes into doing this right.
  17. Kunker

    Kunker Member
    Messages: 96

    Damn, I wish my first posts had been as well thought out as this. You do us newbies proud, and your plans sound pretty darn good.
  18. JDiepstra

    JDiepstra PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,780

    Smiley39 = smartest newbie ever.

    SKYNYRD Senior Member
    Messages: 420

    smiley if you were down my way you would be in my truck right now. we got no snow but u would be there lol. i really admire you for taking the time to post what you did. my hat is off to you. keep us updated on what you're doing and best of luck to you in the future! :)
  20. Bajak

    Bajak Senior Member
    Messages: 999

    Rate this one

    5 stars *****