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sanding lot

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by Mick, Nov 23, 2002.

  1. Mick

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

    Since it's kind of dead right now, I thought I'd get your opinions on this:

    Another major snowplowing contractor died over the Summer and his widow sold all his equipment. Now his former customers are trying to find other contractors. The area is outside my current area, but I'm considering expanding. My daughter works for one of the former customers, so she asked me if I wanted to bid on it. The customer specified that they do all their own plowing - they would want sanding only. They would want sanding following their employee plowing with a fifteen minute window to opening time. Then I would need to be available at any time throughout the day to be able to respond immediately when they call. This would be six days a week (Mon through Sat). The area consists of a driveway - 3/10 mile long and 24 feet wide. The lot is approx two acres with an office building in the middle which takes up approx 1/2 an acre, so the area to be sanded is 1 1/2 acre lot and the driveway of 38,000 sq ft. They are specifying sand/salt mix.

    They are offering $70 per sanding which is what they say they paid in the past.

    I declined to offer a bid. My daughter is coordinating the service. She thinks they're going to run into the same problems with the other three contractors she's going to contact.

    Two main problems I see: 1) $70 is not enough for sanding that size area and 2) nobody is going to be willing to commit to the narrow time frame and ongoing instant availability they're wanting.

    I told her the best thing for them would be to go right up the street, buy a tailgate sander and do their own along with the plowing.

    To give an idea, I figured plowing of a 6" snow fall to take 1 1/2 hour and sanding at 2 - 2 1/2 yards. They're wanting a full, heavy coverage.

    I also told her I would specify exclusion from liability. That was acceptable.

    Any ideas or opinions? There is no possibility of getting the plowing - I asked.
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2002
  2. SnoJob67

    SnoJob67 Senior Member
    Messages: 384


    I think you have the right idea. There is no money in the job and lots of headaches involved.

    Let's just say you get 20 sandings in per season on average. That would be a whoping $1400 gross. Assume you make a 50% profit, before tax. That would mean you would earn $700 for the season doing that. Divide that by 20 services and you have earned $35 per application. Although that is not bad for a few minutes of work if you were already loaded with sand and doing it as part of a route, that would not be worth the effort for one account unless Maine plowers are quite a bit more hungry than their counterparts in other markets (doubt that).

    Although our techniques are slightly different because we are in different markets, if I was to salt that lot I would not do it for less than $200 and that would be at bottom barrel pricing. Our material costs would be somewhat similar since I pay under $40 per ton of material, so I feel the information would translate well to your situation.

    I wouldn't just pass on it. I'd submit a bid just so they know what a professional SHOULD charge, despite the fact that they willl likely look for someone that is no smarter than to do it for $70. If their last guy did it for $70, where did he go??? Obviously he didn't want the account, or they were not happy with the service; no matter what smoke they might be trying to blow up your posterior. ;)

    Last edited: Nov 23, 2002
  3. Mick

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

    Not sure where he went, he's dead tho.;) .

    Yes, even though markets are different, the numbers work out about the same. If I could have the plowing, I was figuring $150 for each - plowing and sanding - for a total of $300. It's not on the way, it's 22 miles off my route. Just that it's in Augusta (the capitol) with potential. If I could have gotten it on those terms, my idea was to leave my one ton and 9' plow with 2 yard sander loaded on site and drive in each storm.

    There'll be other opportunties.payup
  4. SnoJob67

    SnoJob67 Senior Member
    Messages: 384

    Boy, how'd you like to work for me knowing my expectations, even of the dead. :) That is humorous that I missed that detail.

    My advice is if you want to expand into Augusta, go sell the customers. There are customers in every market who will change service providers if you convince them that you are a professional.

    Unless you want to kill yourself from the stress, I'd pass. Heck look at what happened to the last guy. :)

    On a more serious note, it sounds like anyone that WAS his customer would be someone to avoid since you already know that they were not paying a fair market rate for the work, although they seem like they are an easy target since they are looking for a replacement. Maybe a short ad in Expert Services or the like in the Augusta area newspaper or trader, etc would be a means for your expansion. It seems a little late in the year for expansion, especially because I know parts of Maine have already had their first snowfalls of the season and being as far north as Maine is, the rest of the markets will likely be soon to folllow.

  5. Rob

    Rob PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 306

    I think you did the right thing. I happen to disagree with putting in the bid so they know the cost of a real professional. Normally, I would agree with doing that, but in this case I think that it would only cause some grief for your daughter.
    As far as servicing the account, I do residential that are about 11 miles from my home. They are bunched up but it's still a good ½ hour in the snow by the time you leave, avoid the yahoo's in their SUV's and get to the accounts. So, having an "on demand" type service for this account would be difficult I think. It would take you almost ½ an hour I would guess to get there, and it would only be for this one account. One other thought, if you were to leave your rig there, I'd bet they end up asking you for the keys, so they can sand when they want. ( :nono: are they getting my keys !)
    That's my 2¢
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2002
  6. CPSS

    CPSS Senior Member
    Messages: 334

    I agree with the $200 figure. If more of us would charge what a job is really worth, instead of just trying to get the contract, customers would realize the actual value of the service. All it takes is a couple of lowballers to lower the perceived value of a service.