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Small snow removal business?

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself to the Community' started by Warren_Ottawa, Jul 14, 2008.

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  1. Warren_Ottawa

    Warren_Ottawa Junior Member
    Messages: 5


    So I am new to this community so first il tell you my situation. I am 19, currently in college for business and workin at an accounting firm. Im in great shape and like doing physical labour. I have a friend who is very successfull after starting up his lawn care business. I would like to do the same but with snow. I live in Ottawa and we get pretty big snowfalls.

    I don't have the money to buy a truck and plow but I do have alot of good athletic friends that would work with me if I tossed them some coin.

    So I got a few questions, first I do have enough money to buy a snow blower (would be willing to spend 600ish) but I think me and one friend would be able to shovel a drive way faster with shovels than a snow blower, what do you think? I live in the suburbs and peoples driveways I estimate are about 50 feet by 25feet. I think me and a friend could shovel a driveway in ~20min.

    I would begin by handing out flyers to neighbours and it would basically be a cover letter, explaining why they should hire me.

    Second question, should I get monthly contracts, like il shovel your driveway whenever it snows for 150$ a month? Or should I go with something like everytime it snows 3inches I will come and it will be 20$ a pop and tell them to pay me every 5th time or something?

    Third question, should I register my business, I mean whats the diffrence between a business that is register and one that isn't, in my case its so small time it would be a waste of money registering wouldn't it?

    I have more questions I just can't think of them right now, im going to go read some more.

    Thanks in advance,
  2. elite1msmith

    elite1msmith 2000 Club Member
    from chicago
    Messages: 2,762


    well were to begin

    I dont know how many drive ways that you have shoveled in the past, or really how much snow u get in a season in ur area

    1. Dont do monthly pricing, ur no big enough to deal with the head aces of it....sometimes its great, most of the time, u just end up with pissed off cleints (at least if ur doing houses), dont get me wrong, somtimes it works ok..

    2. flyers will work, gotta start somewere.... heres the important part, make ppl sign a contract, make them understand that u have a route, and u are placing them on that route...these ppl that will just call u when they need it done, are not good for ur business,...get a set route, that u do every time it snows, do all of those first then go back for the call ins

    3. Paying ur buddys is a good idea for help, but know that i like many have lost friends because of "business" stuff that u dont know. will happen - like they will get drunk and not show up, in the mean time all ur accounts sit covered in snow...or the "its my girl friends birthday" or chirstmas

    4. realize that if you truely are going to start a professional company, that u servcie ur customers like a pro... what i mean by this is quality work....and always there... like i said above....many christmas, and birthdays, New years, i have spent in the truck plowing and its only days later that i could see my family, it comes with the business

    5.shoveling .... NO GOOD.., yes you and ur bud, could maybe do 4 or 5 houses on a light snow, but a heavy one and it will take u a long time, and back breaking....reallize that Shovels have there place, but u will need at least 1 blower, to bail you out when it gets more than 4 inchs...

    I would look at used lawn tractors...Ebay style... for the most part seem no work very well , and for less than 1000, you might be able to get a used tractor with a snow plow.... transporting the tractor might be a problem , so if u stick with accounts that are with in (tractor drivenig distance) 1 mile of ur house, it might work great..at least to start

    We all have to start somewere,and i have done shoveling and blowing to a few houses, so dont let the fact that you cant get a plow truck discourage you...but be realistic and know u do need at least some equiptment... Dont have to buy it new either.....as long as u know how to fix it
  3. computeruser

    computeruser Junior Member
    Messages: 12

    Having been exactly where you are now...some thoughts.

    Through my teen and undergrad years, I made a small fortune doing residential snow removal. I worked 100% solo, which kept my margins workable. I'd shovel the easy properties starting at 3am, snowblow after 5:30, shower up and go to class, and then finish in the afternoon when I got home. Most of my clients were seniors; I put my name on a list at the local senior center and the calls just kept coming in! Others were referrals or neighbors. I targeted the demographic groups that the "pros" didn't want to handle, and was essentially without real competition. I was usually paid on the spot if the homeowner was there, sometimes by a check mailed to me a few days later, and only once had a guy who built up more than $60 owing to me.

    My equipment at the time was as follows:

    1. Jeep Wrangler hardtop, w/o rear seat.
    2. Toro CCR2000 and CCR Powerlite snowblowers (I could fit both in the Jeep at once).
    3. 24" Aluminum snow pusher.
    4. Rock salt - 300-400 could be stored in the Jeep at once.
    5. Ice chipper.
    6. High-volume shovel (coal, manure, etc.) for moving big piles of heavy stuff that the snowblowers didn't like that was left at the end of the driveway by the plows.

    The Jeep was able to break down and pulverize the stuff the snow plow left, and everything else was easily handled by the blowers and shovels.

    I made a point of keeping my accounts very close by. You don't make money driving all over town in a snowstorm! Many of my accounts were neighbors, sometimes three or four houses in a row. I could handle an average suburban lot in my town - 80x120 or so, with sidewalk across the narrow face of the property, a front walk/front porch, and the garage behind the house with a single car drive flaring out to 2-car once you got past the house, in about 20 minutes. At the time (mid 1990s) I was charging 15-20/house, so I could clear $50-60/hour at that time.

    Charging per-visit is the way to go, both for you and the customer. Figure out at what point your customers want you to show up - a dusting, 2", 4", etc. - and be there at that time. Also figure out what to do about municipal plow debris at the end of the drive. Some of my customers would call me when the plow came through, others left it up to me to figure out when the plow came. Again, another virtue of staying local is that it was no biggie to take a 5-minute drive over to check out a driveway, even if the plow hadn't come yet.

    Make your work look good - clean edges, no walking on the untrodden snow, full-width clearing of the driveway and sidewalks, judicious (artful, even) placement of blown snow, no snow stripes on the sides of cars, buildings, mailboxes, etc. Learn how to do each property in as little time as possible, where the snowblower never stops moving and is always moving snow; keep backtracking over cleared areas to an absolute minimum. What I've seen is that many "pros" who get stuck doing residential sidewalks and drives don't approach the work with the same eye to detail that the homeowner would. It doesn't take that much more time, and your margins should be good enough to be able to afford an extra 5 minutes here or there. Aim to be better than your competitors, not just equal to them.

    Keep the drives/walks as clear as possible, it makes your work easier in the future. Sometimes when we'd get a light dusting or some sleet, not enough to merit removal, and a full-price clearing, I'd come clear it anyway (on my dime) because it would take 5 minutes with a shovel (or I'd just toss some salt) now, but would save me 15 minutes and a lot of salt later trying to clear up a bumpy, packed-down driveway after the next real snowfall. Clients appreciated this, and some voluntarily paid me 1/2 rate anyway when I came out to do this.

    Also, be prepared for big snow events. Having a back-up plan - a big 2-stage machine that you own or can rent/borrow is a good idea. The single-stage machines simply can't handle major snowfalls, but are better for most snowfalls most of the time. Even an MTD 8hp/24" machine would work for as often as you'd need it, and you could haul it on one of those $150 48"x40" kit trailers.

    Plan to be prepared to pick up extra clients during major snow events because they're great commitment-free profit sources. On a couple occasions where we received 16"+ during a snow event, I had two or three solid days of work after handling my regular customers, doing one-time work clearing out the folks who were in over their heads. This kind of work was big dollars work, and I looked forward to it.

    If I had it to do over again, I would have put a small plow on the Jeep but leave the rest of the gameplan the same. The plow would have helped with major snow events, and allowed me to pick up some smaller (8-20 car) parking lots at the small business owned by family and friends. I would not have purchased a full-size truck, because then I'd be competing in a market where I couldn't really compete, as a full-time student doing this work "on the side," so to speak. But in my niche, I was profitable and my work was appreciated by my clients - a great combination!
  4. SnoFarmer

    SnoFarmer PlowSite Fanatic
    from N,E. MN
    Messages: 7,921

    Everyone thinks the snow business is all easy money.
    What can happen shoveling,snow blowing or plowing?

    You know what is easy money?
    Being an senior citizen and suing the uninsured, unlicensed and
    inexperienced for a slip fall .
    Old people who fall break bones.

    Start by registering your business (IE an LLC, LLP, CO, INC etc etc.)
    and getting the right INS for the services that you are offering.
    The old days are gone today they sue.
    An unregistered business is not a business it's a scam..........
    Pay your taxes.....

    In our town if you are not a legit businessman they will fine you and shut you down.

    Go legit or stay in bed.

    Fliers do not work,(do a search) you will get less than 2% return.
    Go knock on their door and introduce your self then leave them a quote and your card.
  5. iceyman

    iceyman 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,521

    with a snow blower and shovels you should make your first million in 2092:rolleyes:
    with the price of gas and price of labor out in a 15* snowstorm ....and depending if u have 2" or 20 " you cant plan on making a boatload of cash... imo .. and what happens if your snowblower breaks...then you have to shovel each driveway... and what happens to your customers who dont get done...just some things to think about...espec with the snow you guys get
  6. elite1msmith

    elite1msmith 2000 Club Member
    from chicago
    Messages: 2,762

    i think what most ppl here are saying to you, is that u need some equiptment, u need to approch it correctly, and do quality work...
  7. Warren_Ottawa

    Warren_Ottawa Junior Member
    Messages: 5

    Thanks, that info is awesome, you could make a book out of what you guys said.

    We do have HUGE snowstorms last winter it was 32" during one storm, cars in driveways and streets were literally buried.

    So I realized shoveling would be ridiculous on those days, I would do 2 or 3 houses and be dead tired. So I am going to invest in a snowblower, about 1000 bucks. Il go around during the first semi big snowfall to neighbours, introduce myself ask them if they would like to be on my route and every snowstorm I would clear there driveway for say 20, or maybe 20$ for the first 6inches then 5$ every 2 inches after that? I could even offer the first one free!

    From what I understand registering a business is not that much work and doesn't cost a whole lot. So I guess I will do that before I do anything.

    more advice?
  8. elite1msmith

    elite1msmith 2000 Club Member
    from chicago
    Messages: 2,762

    i dont know the rate ur ur area, but here,,,,even kids can charge at least $25...

    a blower is a good way to start, look into a tractor to
  9. Zodiac

    Zodiac Member
    Messages: 76

    I'm not sure how the business laws are in Canada.

    So this is all American, but SnowFarmer is right.

    It's the right and LEGAL thing to do to register your business and pay taxes. It won't make you feel warm and fuzzy. But then again, it won't put you in prison either.

    Income is income, and Uncle Sam doesn't really care where you get it from.

    I know a girl who's dad got busted for selling cocaine. Not because they could prove he was selling it, but because he didn't pay TAXES on it.

    Secondly, $1000 might actually get you a plow truck. Sure it'll be $1000 plow. And it might get expensive at times, but it makes your workload a little easier. You have to look around. I stumble on cheap trucks all the time, but again, I'm always looking.

    I also agree that fliers probably won't work. I get tons of these things every summer, winter, tax season, whatever. I haven't replied to one.

    I used to own an oil change, we tried fliers, I don't remember anyone replying.

    Introducing yourself is the way to go.

    But referrals are always the best.

    When I first started doing this (all of a year ago), I have an uncle that lives in a very nice part of town, no house under $500,000.

    I would go and plow his driveway for free when we had large storms. I didn't care about the one free driveway I plowed, but all the attention I'd attract from neighbors who didn't want to shovel, couldn't shovel, or had more money than time was well worth it.
  10. JD Dave

    JD Dave PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 11,032

    I thought most driveways in Ottawa were priced for the season.
  11. jayman3

    jayman3 Senior Member
    Messages: 372

    I plow in Ottawa and if I where you I would get yourself a business permit then the right ins,you never know what could happen it is always better to have it then not to.I would get a truck with that blower make it alot easier on those bigger storms.
  12. triboyeric

    triboyeric Junior Member
    from Ontario
    Messages: 5


    I as well am getting into this snowblowing business. I'm 14 and would like to purchase a good snowblower in order to helo me to clear out driveways. I only have one problem: What should I charge? The way I see it, I could offer a seasonal rate or a fixed rate every time I clear a driveway. I have no idea how much I should charge though. Any ideas??? Remember, 14 yrs with a gas snowblower in Ontario, CANADA.


  13. elite1msmith

    elite1msmith 2000 Club Member
    from chicago
    Messages: 2,762

    14 might be young , but we all have to start somewere... can i ask you , how are u gonna transport ur blower, job to job?
  14. triboyeric

    triboyeric Junior Member
    from Ontario
    Messages: 5

    yes i am, my dad used to do it as a kid and he said it worked just fine. I would have maybe 10 customers maximum. I think I might go with $20, and $25 if they want their steps done too. That would have to be done by shovel though. I still haven`t found a seasonal rate though.
  15. elite1msmith

    elite1msmith 2000 Club Member
    from chicago
    Messages: 2,762

    since u still are young , technicly u cant make a leagl binding contract..

    stay with the puer push (per shovel }) agreements -- and , up ur rate... at least $30

    i know you want to give them a good price, but if you had to pay a friend to help you then you would make no money - and thats how this etire industy stays way too low

    an HVAC guy , or plumber , or electrican charge upward of $65-70 per hour... they bring less than $10,00 in tools to do their job

    I have to own a $40,000 truck , plus insurance , plus fuel , and im up at 2 AM , -- we should ALL becharging over $150 per hour, if u ask me
  16. triboyeric

    triboyeric Junior Member
    from Ontario
    Messages: 5

    okay that makes sense. I'll try to find a second hand snowblower in my area soon for a good price. And should i have my clients call me when they want their driveway cleared or should I just go whenever it snows? I can't really see how calling would work well, early in the morning and stuff, but Ive heard about it. So if i go whenever it snows, Ill try to determine an amount of snow, like 6", before that I have to go and clear the driveway. The people in my city are almost all retired old people (more profit:) so I might have to go more often (even when it doesnt snow THAT much) but that would be decided at the clients discretion.

  17. i would say that your best bet for getting a blower cheep is to buy one used from a garage sale or do like i do with alot of power equipment and pick it up from the curb when someone throws it out and fix it. when someone throws it out its usually a simple fix and they just don't have the time or sum knowledge to fix it
  18. 350-CHEVY

    350-CHEVY Member
    Messages: 81

    the snowblower thing is where i started now i own a plow truck and have two guys working with me. i know here in winnipeg you don't actually need a registered business as long as you use your name for the buisness ( all my cheques and cards say Ian Nenis) instead of "do it quick snow clearing" i still pay taxes as a company but i do not need to register it cause my buisines is called my name. one thing i would do is get a tractor instead of snow blower you can get a tractor used and be able to use it to cut grass and what not on top of snow. hope this helps
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