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The Proof is in the Pudding!

Discussion in 'Business Fundamentals' started by glenspot, Nov 29, 2004.

  1. glenspot

    glenspot Senior Member
    Messages: 255

    As I've said before, this is my first year. I've asked TONS of questions on plowsite, and gotten TONS of good advice.

    Being NEW it qualifies me to post a story about my first real weekend of plowing. (We got between 12-20" of snow over a 3-day period)

    Day 1. (Thanksgiving day) Snowed only in the afternoon. I had to leave after thanksgiving dinner to plow my commercial lots. Snowed overnight.

    Day 2. Went outside plow wouldn't operate. Rechecked connections at solenoid, plow starting working again. (20-minute delay)

    After plowing all my driveways and lots, a had a headlight assembly break. ($100)

    Decided that my route takes me about 2 hours.

    Day 3. Morning snow was in the forecast. Woke up at 2am, 3am, 4am, 5am, 6am. Not enough additional snow to plow. At 7am, everyone needed plowing. Plowed everyone. Everything went great. Need to put the ballast back in the bed.

    After everything was done, I got a call from a church down the street. They had a severe need to be plowed out the next morning. Would I like to do it? Sure. See you at 6am.

    Day 4 (Sunday) 5am...started plowing the church. Hydraulic line broke. (Didn't have a back up). Called my backup-truck-guy. He said I could have his truck around noon. YIPES.

    At 8:30, called the local western dealer at home, we went to the garage, got a hydraulic hose. (Have to stop in today to pay for it...i'm guessing $25.)

    9:30 am, while screwing around putting the hose in, and filling with hydraulic fluid, my son removes the torx bolts on the side of the motor, rather than the fill/level check plugs. Can't reinstall the torx bolts. Try the motor anyway. :nono: Melted the solenoid.

    10:30 am. Went into the house for breakfast. Used many curse words.

    10:45 am. Calls from customers wondering where I am.

    11:30 am. Finally have access to backup truck. Start my route.

    Tear up several lawns with this unfamiliar plow.

    1:30 pm. Push one bank a little TOO far off the driveway...slide off the road. Towtruck bill $35

    3:30 pm. Finally finish with everyone.


    May need to replace motor $125 (approx) Need to replace solenoid ($15 - 25)

    2 tanks of gas ($100)

    I don't think I made a nickel this weekend. I don't have a very large # of accounts, and most of them are cheapy-residentials.

    If you are a newbie or wondering if you should start out in this LUCRATIVE plowing industry. Listen to the advice of the people on plowsite.
    Don't shurg your shoulders when they say "Do you have a backup truck". Don't think they are being difficult when they say "You won't make a profit your first year"

    When they say "don't lowball" LISTEN. If I was priced any cheaper this weekend, I would have lost my shirt. As it stands, I probably won't actually MAKE any money. With it being the first snow of the season, I don't know if all my clients are the stand-up kind of guys who will pay when the bill arrives, or If I'm going to have to do $300 - $400 worth of repairs right before christmas. With no checks coming in.

    Lord help me. LOL

  2. Tarkus

    Tarkus PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,113

    Glen I have read your post about motor and you may be able to salvage it if you dismantle it and get feild coild and cores back in positition because that is what those torks were holding
  3. glenspot

    glenspot Senior Member
    Messages: 255

    Thank you


    Thanks....I am going to try to take it apart when I get home...

    I appreciate your help.

  4. Mick

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

    Good post, Glen. Though I reckon you'll wind up like the rest of us nuts and not get out of the business now before it's too late. Nothing like the voice of experience. I laughed as I read through it, thinking "He just having a pretty typical day". The last two full paragraphs said it all.
  5. glenspot

    glenspot Senior Member
    Messages: 255

    nope, i'm in it!

    Mick, you're right. I'm not getting out. I'm in this business!

    While things were going well...I gotta tell you. I LOVE plowing. I just love the feel of my truck pushing snow. I love the look of truck tires on freshly plowed snow. I like the feeling that the people I am plowing for think of me as a "rescue service"..... I'm there to "get them out".

    I like grabbing a cup of hot coffee and going out to warm up my truck. I like it all.

    I simply love plowing.

    I'm in this....in for good.

  6. z71Worker

    z71Worker Member
    Messages: 89

    great story... felt like i was watching a VISA commercial, and was waiting for the "priceless"!!

    Good luck with the motor.. :drinkup:
  7. maurader

    maurader Member
    Messages: 37

    Gotta love stuff breaking at the worst times. Even better having to do repairs when it's freezing out. My worst break was replacing a rotor at 5:30 a.m. after the original got chewed down to the vanes. Long drive home at 5mph. Even worse than having a front wheel fall off in the middle of the road. Good luck getting everything fixed and hopefully you'll luck out the rest of the winter. At least you had some snow to plow.
  8. Vaughn Schultz

    Vaughn Schultz PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,565

    that reminded me of a great speech in a movie. like Field of dreams or something. if you ran for president you would rock at giving speeches. :salute:

    I was feeling kind of down about plowing profits, but you got me pumped :redbounce !
    Bring on the snow !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  9. glenspot

    glenspot Senior Member
    Messages: 255

    OK...back in business


    We're back in business.

    A visit to my local Western Dealer (the guy got up at 8:30 on a Sunday)

    New Solenoid ...$15

    New Hydraulic cable $8

    Took some advice from fellow plowsite members, opened up the motor...found the part to wiggle around...

    Hooked her up...and plowed my driveway.

    Still, though. An expensive weekend. Coulda been worse. I could have needed a new motor. The guy said they go for $115.

  10. Tarkus

    Tarkus PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,113

    Good deal, I always rebuild those motors when ever possible as it is cheaper to fix them than replace them :waving:
  11. cja1987

    cja1987 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,407

    Tarkus, although we don't agree on somethings, I must say that you know your stuff when it comes to trucks and plows. Its nice to have someone around who knows all the "mechanical" stuff.
  12. Tarkus

    Tarkus PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,113

    Why thank you kindly sir, I do have a few "tricks" up my sleeve. Never did it for a living (the mech stuff) only a hobby but I know my way around most mechanical devices and a toolbox. Been doing it since I was a kid many many years ago (used to drive my dad nutz taking things apart that were not broken to see how they worked). I have repaired everything from mowers, chainsaws and snowblowers to old farm tractors. More than once I have had to make parts, bushings or specail tools when they could not be found otherwise. :drinkup:
  13. glenspot

    glenspot Senior Member
    Messages: 255

    They saved me some money


    Your tricks sure saved me some money. I was ready to bring the motor into the dealer to either have them look at it, or get it replaced.

    I appreciate your help very much.

  14. Tarkus

    Tarkus PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,113

    Again you are quite welcome Glen. Half the fun of having knowledge sometimes is being able to share or use it.
  15. JPMAKO

    JPMAKO Senior Member
    Messages: 660


    Here is another trick - GET A SPARE MOTOR!
    You never know when you are gonna need it...
    In my toolbox in my truck (Spare Motor, Hydraulic lines, Fluid, Spare Spring, Fittings and a lot of tools)
    Here is a link to a website that sells emergency kits for plows.
    just do a search for snow plow kit and it should pop up somewhere.

    Good Luck this season
  16. fernalddude

    fernalddude PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,105

    The first year is always the worst. I think every guy has been there and done that.My first year was like that 25 years ago could not keep plow on road more then week at a time without major repair job but what it does is gives you all the probs you will look for in the years to come.All the nickle and dime things add up in the off season and must be fixed early in the preseason so that prob does not come back also driving skill has a lot to do with that if you break it once and know why you wont do it again if it cost plenty of money to fix . So keep up the good work and have fun it gets better... :waving:
  17. Tarkus

    Tarkus PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,113

    I pull and check my motors if they are questionable or have seen a lot of service in the fall and replace any parts in them questionable and keep spare brushes and thrust washers for them too because I would rather not replace the motor in the middle of season anyway so I do a good bit of PM before hand. So far I have had 100% uptime for last 8 years now. (before that I had on down time from a ice crystal in a spool valve at 10 below zero one time and never again. That was my only down time ever knock on wood) I should maybe pickup a few bad motor throw outs though and rebuild them as spares.
  18. Metro Lawn

    Metro Lawn PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,302

    Not to point fingers or anything, but I am kinda glad things like this happen. I get calls all the time when one of the local "one truck wonders" has a day like this. They aren't professional, don't have a spare truck, don't stock common "break" parts, ect. Then something happens like this and they can't service the customers. The customer is in a panic and has to find a true professional ie: me to complete the work the part timer could not perform. They then generally use us from that point on. I know that not everyone has the money to have extra plow trucks sitting (just in case), but we have 3. These trucks are spares and that is it. They serve no other purpose but to be there in case of a problem. They don't do anything else all year. I myself feel that the peace of mind is worth keeping them around and the expense to do so. At least I know I will not lose a major account because we could not do the work.
    Snow removal has a very short window in which to complete your services. Unlike lawn care, you don't have the next day to make up missed work. We are professionals and it shows. You don't service the big players unless you can perform, and for that we can still get a premium rate. We have no fear of lowballers, because most of them are the "one truck wonders" and won't even be considered for jobs of this scale.
    Don't get me wrong, I am not dogging anyone for trying. You just have to consider what could happen if you are not ready when you dive into this business. I bought my first truck in 1984. I plowed for another company my first year. I was able to save up enough money to get a better truck the following season. When I did buy it, I did not make the big mistake of selling my old truck. I kept it. Now I was ready to go out on my own. I had 2 trucks, 4 snow blowers, and enough cash to fix anything that could break.
    The lesson here is that anyone can put a plow on a truck and go into the plowing business. My point is that you have to strive for a higher lever to surpass the bottom feeders and earn the right to be called "professional"
  19. Big Nate's Plowing

    Big Nate's Plowing PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,266

    so everyone is supposed to stock a grand worth of spare parts?

    just because you have more then one truck dosent automatically make you a professional, most of the scabs I see have 2-3 rigs running around

    for being a one truck wonder I myself do good, as a matter of fact we just signed on 2 lowes stores in N.W. Ohio for next years plowing

    so basically you are calling anyone that dosent have more then one truck a bottom feeding scab?

  20. Metro Lawn

    Metro Lawn PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,302

    I see you had to pick out bits and pieces to pick on. What they call "taking things out of context". You seem to be taking offense to this because maybe it hits close to home. This wasn't meant to step on toes, but actually to enlighten some of you. No one says you have to do anything other than what your doing, but don't whine about it when something goes wrong. You think that having 2 large retail stores is something to be proud of? We won't even bid on them here because they are looking for price, not quality. The average Kmart store around here is being plowed for less than $250. We stick with hospitals, auto plants, office buildings, ect. I am not saying that we are better than anyone else. I do know that we retain our clients even when someone else bids cheaper. Geez, we even have a waiting list of companies wanting our service. In 20 years, we have never lost a customer because we did not show up. We have never had an insurance claim. We won't take on more work than can be done in a set amount of hours. There are so many factors at work here. The whole point of my post is that it may be a slap in the face to a few, but it also may be a wake up call that saves them too. There are no standards that state when you should be considered professional. In this business having only one truck with no immediate back up is truly unprofessional. You are only taking care of yourself, not the customer.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2004