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What not to do to be successful...

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself to the Community' started by schnitz, Apr 6, 2005.

  1. schnitz

    schnitz Member
    Messages: 98

    Now that I have your attention, how about a legit thread where we can post about what not to do when starting out? I know I've made several mistakes, and am taking a year or two off from plowing so I can "lick my wounds" so to speak. I don't know now where the thread is about making money plowing, but the brief history of my mistakes are there.

    So, what mistakes have you made that you hope that nobody else makes? Any serious goofs that almost got you to call it quits? Please aid the newbies (myself included) in making the blunders more bearable.

    Later, Chet.
     
  2. bcf

    bcf Senior Member
    Messages: 206

    be prepared

    I thin a big mistake I've made was having an older, beat up truck and not realizing that it will need repairs, and that they will most likely occur when it starts snowing. So if you have an older truck, or even a newer one, carry extra parts with you. Belts, all oils and antifreeze, extra wire, wiper blades, some fuels filter, solenoids, the list could go on. OR make sure you replace them before winter arrives.

    Other than that, don't overextend yourself. You may pull it off for a storm or two, but then you may lose a lot of your clientel.
     
  3. Peopleeater

    Peopleeater Senior Member
    Messages: 249

    I can tell..

    Well,

    I just got taxes done, and got a wonderful surprise! I started a trucking business two years ago. I took my lumps for being sole proprietorship instead of a corporation. (S corp). I paid lots of taxes that year. Was more organized than I was this year. I actually got a big refund, and it could have been bigger if I had known more. I am getting more back this year than I paid last year. Had no equipment depreciation this year! A week ago I was ready to dissolve the corporation. Too much hassle, stress, etc (had an anxiety attack from the stress, felt like heart attack at age 32). As of tonight, my company is going to buy my plowing pickup, the 4-wheeler that will be eventually used to plow sidewalks, and started the process for a loan for another trailer for dump truck work. I also learned alot more, and no doubt have more to learn, about taxes.

    I am not going to say that everyone should do this, but I had been told by numerous people to go corporate, and wasn't seeing benefit. I DO NOW!!! Just wish I had been a little more organized so I could have gotten more back. Next year should be much better now that I have started learning more about taxes.

    I just may stay doing what I am doing (a week ago I was ready to give up for a factory job), and possibly grow into a bigger trucking company without me driving?! Will take time, but now I see SOME light at the end of the tunnel.

    The one piece of advice I will offer. See an accountant RIGHT AWAY BEFORE starting business. It will take time to pay off, but it DOES pay off in the long run. It also does take STRONG COMMITMENT to it, and lots of stress, but is starting to pay off for me.

    Oh, and don't put off tax stuff til the last minute, that causes enough stress in and of itself. I might have that money in my pocket right now, when I need it most, instead of having to wait a bit more.

    Jeff

    PS. I also want BOTH of my businesses to grow. Maybe some day (long shot?) that I will eventually start seeing a better life. Yes, I am a little pumped right now! (A couple cold ones doesn't hurt either)!
     
  4. Peopleeater

    Peopleeater Senior Member
    Messages: 249

    Oh, I forgot schnitz, Don't necessarily give up, just make yourself work that much harder. I was going to "regroup" too. I can't say exactly for your situation, but sometimes it takes time. It has taken me 2 years, and am starting to just realize what I can do! II will warn you though, it isn't easy, but the more you learn, the more an astute businessman you become. I just can't wait til next year! I was actually at the point of not caring if I/we filed bankruptcy!!!! Now it is the furthest (ok, well it isn't that far) thing from my mind. Like I said, there is light on the other side, and you don't HAVE TO be lucky!

    Jeff

    If you have to regroup, then I wish you better luck next time, but don't stop trying!
     
  5. DAZ982500

    DAZ982500 Senior Member
    Messages: 142

    incorrect pricing

    I think the biggest mistake I made the is 1st year was incorrectly pricing the job.Most people who plow probably learn the technical aspect through there experiences, however the business side is probably some that can not be learned as well. And this is the part that will either keep you there for 5-10 years or you will be gone over the 1st couple of seasons.DAZ
     
  6. Mick

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

    I think the one big mistake I made when I started was not being able to say "No". "No" to people who didn't want to pay what I thought the job was worth and "No" to people who were not in the area where I wanted to service. Another mistake I made is actually associated with the first "No", but it was not setting the price before I performed the work. I got burned pretty bad on two jobs right in a row from guys who called for one-time plows. Once the job is done, they could set the price and there wasn't much I could do about it.

    I'd also say that you need to have some backup plan - both for breakdowns of your primary vehicle before/during a snowstorm and for money for repairs. Too many get into this business thinking it's easy, quick money. I generally tell people not to expect to make any money for the first two years. You'll be trying to build up a business and repairing the used truck you thought was "pretty good".
     
  7. Up North

    Up North Senior Member
    Messages: 921

    Good solid advice there Mick. I learned a couple of those lessons myself this past season. Pricing is a huge issue here as far as most guys around here being very cheap. At first I started out pricing myself within the market...after plowing a couple times I realized that wasn't going to work out well. My next few customers that I added were priced differently (higher), and yes I had to sell them on the fact they would receive a better service then what was out there currently. Everything turned out just fine for the season, and next year I will be pricing EVERYONE where I need to be, if they agree, great! If not, then I wish them well.

    Buck
     
  8. schnitz

    schnitz Member
    Messages: 98

    The biggest things that I already learned from this year is plan ahead, and keep checking every nut, bolt washer, and fluid level pre and post plowings. When I started doing lawn mowings, I always kept plugs and oils changed in the mowers (both were $130 Wally-Mart specials so maintenance to keep them running had to be good and done regular). Blades were sharpened every othe night-- I tried mowing mon-thurs weather permitting--and mowers were washed and waxed every week. Good clean equipment and a regular mowing schedule worked well. Unfortunately, it doesn't snow on a set schedule.... no planning ahead ( common sense in this business, I know).

    I fell flat on my face now. I more than likely will take the extra time that I didn't to be more selective in choosing my customers and them choosing me. One person heard I did good work and then BAM, 2 of her neighbors wanted me to plow them. Problem was, I didn't say no. All three were clear on the other side of town. A half hour away no matter which route I took. It would have been fine by me to give them to a networked plower friend in trade for one in my area. Oh well, you live, you learn. It's been an interesting first year. I plum wore out 3 shovels.

    Keep the postings coming, Chet.
     
  9. fernalddude

    fernalddude PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,105

    first years

    The first few years are the worse you have to learn all the stuff the hard way. But now with tools like the web you have many ways to make it work better. You can learn from us older (grrrrrrrrrr) guys and see some of the mistakes we made but on the flip side we love to tell the stories and how in the middle of the storm we were able to solve the problem without cell phones and mobile web or text messaging ( up hill for 20 miles in the storm with no shoes and back LOL>..) you have to know what your equipment can and cant do and realize each storm if not the same after 25 years of plowing i think i have had about 10 storms that were close to the same either in the early part or late season storms but during mid season the temp or wind can change everything in just a few hours.One minute its just wet snow and then its a froze block of ice so you have to be able to change quick and handle changing conditions and what the customers needs are. Plow ahead of the storm don't wait get out there and see whats going on on your lots the other guy is still asleep in his warm bed and your out making money and his phone is ringing when your back home. Sometimes you got to do some work for free but its when you want not when your customer's are all calling at once.
     
  10. classicman

    classicman Member
    Messages: 67

    Big Storm; tore blade off- 10 years ago

    I don't care how anal you are regarding maintenance. I don't care if you have the absolutely best equipment money can buy. The absolute KEY to being able to sleep at night during winter, if you are "riding solo"- that is- relying upon yourself to service your customers- HAVE A BACK-UP TRUCK AND PLOW. To that end, I run my route with my back-up truck, keeping the primary sitting at my home... in other words, I run the one that's most likely to break. If things are going good, I never touch the good one, preserving it for the snow/year... kinda like a gun, you never need it 'til ya need it bad.
     
  11. Mick

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

    I've recently been reminded by what happened to somebody else the other piece of advice I usually give -

    Start small, Grow slow (and steady).

    There have been too many businesses and businessmen's reputations ruined because they tried to grow too big, too fast. Learn as you go, add services one at a time and plan for future growth. Then stick to the basics of the plan.
     
  12. justme-

    justme- 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,138

    All above is very good advice. My 2cents is simple- Never be afraid to say no to a customer. I will park my truck and sleep before I accept a customer on my route for less than my estimate. I know (now- takes some experiance) what it costs me to plow, and if i'm not making that amount I loose money.

    Make absolutly sure you're ready for the first storm, psycologically, mechanically, financially, exct. in Sept. If you wait any longer you'll be loading sand from the local home center in 40lb bags into the back of your truck at 10Pm in a blizzard just after finishing installing the markers on your route.... been there done that, and learned my lesson.
     
  13. Ken1zk

    Ken1zk Senior Member
    Messages: 192

    Lots of good advice here :salute:
    I would add to be organized, keep close and careful track of your expenses and costs, way too many people do not and that in and of itself is the first step to failure in any business.
    Plan out and work your route in the most efficient manner, in the big storm time is either your asset or your enemy.
    Read and learn all you can. I'm just back into the business after about 10 years out and I can't tell you enough about the importance of learning.
    While this forum is a great tool, try to get "the in" with a few local guys to help you along the way with the in's and out's of pricing and such.
    Don't ever give up, look at what failed you and change it, look at was a success and see if you can increase and improve upon that success.

    Were all in this together.

    Ken
     
  14. schnitz

    schnitz Member
    Messages: 98

    I'm almost suprised at the number of people who almost expect you to plow for them for next to nothing, will tell you that you do a marvelous job, and then when you raise the rates $5 or $10 (to cover gas and wear and tear) for the next season , will tell you to get lost. Some people, I guess.

    From all the input here, it seems that orginization and well (or supremely maintained) equipment are huge keys to being succesful. Please keep the advice rolling in.

    Thanks, Chet.
     
  15. HD61CUIN

    HD61CUIN Senior Member
    Messages: 173

    I would have to agree with BCF, I made the mistake of using an 86 F250 with a western plow. I was fully prepared, but when the snow started flying, by the second day the truck was outta comission. Those little FORD gremlins started creeping in and caused many electrical problems. One winter with that truck changed my mind. Now after 4 years of working for someone in their vehicle, I am planning my Dodge 2500 purchase.
     
  16. TriCountySnow

    TriCountySnow Member
    Messages: 34

    tri-County snowplowing & ice control

    probably the biggest mistake i ever made was disbatching all my fleet and then not getting any snow, darn weather men, thats not even the worst part, after 6 hrs of spreading salt, anti-icing liquid and sand it rained instead of snowed. boy did i take a hit that day. almost got to the weather man threw the tv just could reach. ha ha
     
  17. delvalle6759

    delvalle6759 Junior Member
    Messages: 4

    Tri County Snow Man thats the funniest thing...

    Hi my name is Lee and Im new around here :waving:

    I have been reading and reading. Taking in alot of good advice, gentleman. I am an accountant with a CDL. I drove trucks for many years (CDL) paying my way through college. I bought a truck & plow I am sure you can figure out the rest.
    I just wanted you to know I really enjoyed your posting it was one of the funniest things I have read in along time. Thats all I will go crawl back into my computer now, thanks. :jester: