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New guy with lots of questions

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself to the Community' started by polvoson, Jun 18, 2009.

  1. polvoson

    polvoson Junior Member
    Messages: 14

    Hey guys
    After the last season on the west coast of Canada I've decided it was my turn to make some money.
    I live in Vancouver and we had a really large snowfall by our standards. There was a huge shortage of plow service and guys with shovels were raking it in.

    If you were going to start doing mall and small mall parking lots what equipment would you use? Obviously a plow for one. But what about additional equipment do you need to pile the snow high with a front end loader or can you just get it to the sides? How high can a plow stack the piled snow?

    How much do guys charge for small commercial lots? How much is salt spreading? How much would you mark up salt? Or do you just charge for the service?

    How do you deal with not showing up to a client because there was too much plowing at a previous client on the route?

    Is commercial better than residential?

    I am hoping that you guys jump in here with lots of answers. I know I will make mistakes but I'm trying to minimize them by doing as much research as possible.

    1987 Unimog 1300L
  2. RichG53

    RichG53 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,135

    Question are what helps you to learn...Never be afraid to ASK !!!
  3. snocrete

    snocrete Banned
    Messages: 2,862

    Considering the questions that you are asking.....I would recommend subcontracting(by the hour) to a larger snow removal company for AT Least 1 season w/ maybe 1 or 2 small jobs of your own. This will give you an opportunity to learn the business first hand, and it will also give you a better idea on how to bid jobs according to what YOU know that you can get done in X amount of time, with whatever setup your running.

    Oh yeah, and definitely throw a big ol plow on the front of the Unimog...those things are awsome!!!!
  4. FordFisherman

    FordFisherman PlowSite.com Addict
    from 06611
    Messages: 1,593

    I agree. And make sure you get the proper insurance.payup
  5. 2COR517

    2COR517 PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,115

    I learned the business by subbing, and I would guess most here did as well. You can learn the business, make some money, and have some fun (hopefully). You won't make as much money, but you have much less risk. And if you don't find it fun, maybe it's not for you. Wish you the best of luck.
  6. polvoson

    polvoson Junior Member
    Messages: 14

    Hey guys
    I appreciate the words of caution.

    I thought about subbing, I still may. But the questions I have still need answers. I would really like to know what I am getting into financially before I commit. I am not adverse to risk. All things worth doing are risky. The season here is short and the money to be made is in being the GC not the sub.
    Last year was an anomaly and I am betting it will happen again but who knows. So I'd rather make my mistakes and learn then blow a season of money making, getting someone else rich. :~)
    The thing is I don't want to go out blow money on gear if I don't know where I am going to be at when the flakes fall.

    I am a building contractor and operate my own business. Most of my customers are residential and I don't have much commercial experience but believe that commercial plowing is more financially rewarding if properly set up.

    I am planning to go at it with at least two trucks if not three and would really like to get as much help from you guys as possible. So although I really appreciate the words of caution I'd also like some good business advice if you feel like sharing it...


  7. TCLA

    TCLA 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,696

    Here's some good advice for you......you need to learn how to walk before you know how to run.

    Better advice.......learn how to use the search function here to answer the most novice of your questions.

    Due to the required commitments and liabilities you will be exposed to, you will first need to learn how to be a great student before you can become a basic teacher (or what you call GC). The suggestions for you to sub first are sound. Your "bull in a china shop" approach will work against you.

    I, for one do not subscribe to the cliche' "there are no dumb questions". You posed one in your original post: "How do you deal with not showing up to a client because there was too much plowing at a previous client on the route?"

    From the customers perspective (and your responsibility to them) that is unacceptable.......period! You may have gotten away with excuses before during your course of home building, but it won't fly in this industry. Being a hack will keep you small, insignificant and land you in court with lawsuits to deal with. Jump on in Mr. Risk Taker......we will all welcome that kind of competitor. :D

    Team up with those who know what they are doing, who can help you achieve and learn proper snow and ice management.
  8. smoore45

    smoore45 Senior Member
    Messages: 526

    Great post by TCLA. Listen to what he is saying.

    As for pricing....I don't think anyone will give you a straight answer because it probably won't apply to your situation. Meaning, differenent regions of North America have different rates for plowing, salting and sanding. For example sub-conctractor pay for a standard pickup truck and plow is between $45 and $125/hr depending on location. Use the search function here and you should get most the answers you need.

    Alot of people think that this will be "easy money", but I'm telling you from experience that it is not. Do you think you would have a shortage of snow removal guys in your area if it was easy?
  9. snocrete

    snocrete Banned
    Messages: 2,862

    Dont get mad about this post...Its actually really good advice.....I started out subbing my first year with 2 or 3 of my own little accounts. Over time I've learned the business and built a very nice clientel. In fact, I even still subcontract to the company I first started with(subbing to), and also subcontract work to them as well. It has benefited both them and I...We do not compete with each other and we back each other up on our accounts.......................IMO, finding a good contractor to work "for/with" should be your mission right now.
  10. polvoson

    polvoson Junior Member
    Messages: 14

    Hey guys
    Thanks for all the advice.

    Finding someone here that knows what they are doing may be hard...but I'll try.

    I like the approach of subbing to a bigger contractor and having a few small accounts of my own.

    As for easy money, I don't think it will be. I never did. I know it will be hard work but it is financially rewarding. Especially here because the snow here is an emergency. The municipalities are not geared up for it. The citizens and businesses are not either. This makes for a very hectic snow season and also why it will be difficult to find a good contractor to sub to. There seems to be a number of guys running around with 20 year old pickups that pick up cash jobs but not too many good reputable larger operations.

    Thanks again

  11. tinffx

    tinffx Member
    Messages: 68

    Subbing is great. Until you have enough equipment and bodies to make sure when something goes wrong, you can fix it. I also like the idea of trying to pick up a couple small accounts. I picked up a nice 13 home subdivision because I am friends with the president of the HOA (and about half the block). I am a salesmen by trade & plow because I really enjoy it. You really need to figure out first hand what your potential customers want before you can plan to give it to them. If you go too big off the bat and you arent prepared for it you will loose A TON of money if you have even the slighest glitch. Otherwise, read this board for a few weeks and you will learn a lot of the business side of things.

    On a sales note, manage expectations. Only promise what you can deliver, maybe even less. That way it gives you the opportunity to go above and beyond what you promised. Never promise more than you can deliver. All you are going to end up with is pissed off customers. If you want a job that doesn't require expectations work for the government

    Good luck!
  12. Chrisxl64

    Chrisxl64 Senior Member
    from CT
    Messages: 574

    I'll toss in my 2 cents,, First and foremost, start doing things right, and you'll start on the right track. Starting the wrong way will only open you up for trouble and its harder to break bad habits. Start a business, or at a bare minimum get a good insurance policy, nothing and i mean nothing is more important that insurance.

    If you do start a business do it right, enlist the help of people who know what heck they're doing. When you buy a truck buy it right, gear it toward what your doing, when you service it,,,service it right, and not shortchange it. When you buy supplies buy spares, etc etc etc etc, this list could go on for days but maybe you get the picture do the little stuff right and so much more with fall into place. It also, carries to personality, when you treat a customer treat them right, be a professional, it makes all the difference, don't be the jerk off up the road with a plow, be a friend, not a phony.Explain and converse, make sure they understand and be helpful. There's no harm in liking what you do and whom you do it for. There is a big difference in the number of people who do this stuff, and the number that do it right.
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2009
  13. sdubfid

    sdubfid Junior Member
    Messages: 3

    If I were you I would sub to start at least. I had a few unexpected problems and if I was not a sub there would be many customers that I would have been late for, but being a sub there is usually somoene to take your place. Things you don't anticipate WILL go wrong. I'm from vancouver as well. I was getting $100/hour as a sub on an atv. I was covered by their insurance as well. Didn't have to deal with any customers. I'm pretty sure if you found the right person to sub for with a truck you could get 150-200.
  14. Dumpster Guy

    Dumpster Guy Member
    Messages: 74

    Also in Vancouver


    I am also in the Vancouver area. This is going to be an interesting year since we saw such a crazy winter this last go. There are allot of people that are going to be new in the game this year. The supplier i deal with has said that he has sold a record # of units this summer. Not every winter is like the last one....I take that back ... i hope every winter is like that... I would dive in but play it safe knowing there is going to be 20 times the competition this year. I did it and obviously would an will do it again this year. I agree that it would be a good year to sub and see what happens if it's a bad year there will be allot of equipment for sale the next from all those who think every year will be like the last. There are alot of us with our equipment paid for from the last season.
    What seems to separate the field is those with actual snow & ice removal insurance from those who just have liability insurance. It's a big ticket not knowing what the year will look like.
    If you PM me i will try yo help with pricing as I went through this no to long ago. There are some really great people here but just remember many of these guys are from the East and the snow and Ice is very different there.

    Thanks again to all the guys who helped me last year. I would not have survived last winter without your advice.....

    Paul good luck and let me know if I can help..


  15. bobbyjoonn

    bobbyjoonn Junior Member
    Messages: 9

    I'm Currently looking for sub contractors who are interested in making money this year
    i can provide you with snow plowing for all greater vancouver.
    email me your info make it ATTENTION BOBBY

    AMPM Parking Lot Maintenance

    is a self-performing company providing superior snow removal and ice management services for the greater Vancouver. As a progressive leader in the snow and ice management industry, our company is dedicated to offreing a full service approach that exceeds the expectation of the customers we serve.

    AM PM Parking Lot Maintenance specializes in Winter maintenance programs tailored towards retail shopping centers, bank and retail stores, industrial properties, large parking areas, institutional facilities and residential properties. The way this is accomplished is through our team of full-time snow professionals that manage your account 24 hrs. a day, 7 days a week.

    Our Services:

    Snow Plowing ( Side Walks & Parking Lots )

    Salting ( Side Walks and Parking Lots )

    Shovelling ( Side Walks only )

    Contact info

    Office: 604-999-7575

    Direct: 778-889-2478

    Email to: info@ampmmaintenance.ca

  16. hydro_37

    hydro_37 PlowSite Veteran
    from iowa
    Messages: 3,790

    Look at the TOP of the page.....see the SEARCH button???
    All your questions have been asked and answered many many times.
    Not bashing on you but if people would search and read it will save alot of time and headcahes.
  17. DakotaDarron

    DakotaDarron Member
    Messages: 40

    Driving head on into a snow bank at 55 mph... how the hell can that NOT be fun???!!!!????:dizzy:
  18. DakotaDarron

    DakotaDarron Member
    Messages: 40

    on a serious note... Last year was my first season. like the other guys have siad I picked up a few single wide driveways of my own. and the one big gig that i picked up was the fire house that I belong to. With fewer customers I like to do a better job and pick up some Rep. smaller, better jobs teach you alot and lead to better bigger jobs. the most important thing that I learned last year is that, even if you drive your rig at 100 mph and do twice as many jobs as I do... im not going to be the one spending all my money to fix my rig after screwing it up... and after the other guy wrecks his rig .. HE SUBS YOU OUT ANY WAYS !!!!!! hahahahahah sucker
  19. catnip

    catnip Junior Member
    Messages: 4

    I have a skid steer and am planning to do some snow clearing this winter season as well. There are a number of snow clearing contractors on craigslist looking for o/o's for this year.

    I have a few names I could give you to try if interested.