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1st season biz - How to get it done by 7am?

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by Kaptain_Kurt, Sep 21, 2004.

  1. Kaptain_Kurt

    Kaptain_Kurt Member
    from Iowa
    Messages: 53

    I am scheming furiously the past few months about starting my own lawn/landscape/snow biz. A few logistical issues have me wondering how I can get all the work done. I have my first pending contract with a homeowners association for snow removal. It's mine if I want it. We are considering a flat fee for the winter, regardless of snowfall. We'll arrive at the figure based on an average of their last 5 years payout on hourly snow removal (somewhere around $2k/season for 3 miles of roadway - based on avg. of 5 plowing hours per snowfall --plus an opportunity for the 87 houses on an individual basis). The question that is on the horizon is: It seems that everyone will want plowed out by the time they leave for work, or before the workers begin arriving...how do I hit all of them before 7am? It's all so speculative....how much snow....when will it start falling.....what do I do when there isn't enough to plow until 5 am, and I have 5-10 places to clear by 7am??? Do we write in an allowable response time? A mother nature clause? A 'best effort' approach? Not sure at all how to approach this. I am planning this as a one man show for now. Also, what do I do in the contract for when the big storm hits and my truck breaks?
    -Really want to do this and make it work!
  2. c_maint

    c_maint Member
    Messages: 46

    Don't bite off more than you can chew. A second plow might be a good idea. Starting out is always rough, we all went through it. I myself have 30 accounts and 2 lots. You have to map everything out to find which way will save you the most time. There will be times where you accounts call you up asking if you are comming or not. This is why I charge by the storm. I treat my accounts right. Last year we had a storm that left us with a foot and half. I was running 2 trucks and both crapped out. All of my buddies that plow had their hands full and I had no way of taking care of my accounts. I called everyone up and informed them of the situation. It took me 2 days to get my trucks going again. Most of my accounts got charged 4time the amount that I charged. I felt bad about that but not terrible because I didn't have a seasonal contract.
    By-the-way, everyone of my accounts were glad to have me back in the truck for the next storm.
  3. bterry

    bterry Senior Member
    Messages: 183

    c maint is right.

    I'm really questioning the 5 hours to plow 3 miles of road. That seems very high to me, even if it's a four lane divided highway. I suspect that the old contractor was getting paid by the hour, and was padding alittle. I doubt it will take you that long, unless you have the wrong truck. Either way, SECURE a back up truck!!!! I have three trucks this year, not including the backup (it's a friends truck he uses for his driveway only). Do a dry run and time it, drive the whole thing, without the plow down, so you don't look silly.

    Even so, 5 hours - what will you be doing the rest of the time? Most people know everyone can't be the first on your list. But nobody wants to be last either.

    I ask my clients when they leave so I can hit them in time if the opportunity is there. Otherwise they all get done asap. I've have over 50 contracts and in the past three years, I've only gotten a few complaints. Those complaints were that I didn't plow enough times on those long drawn out storms (they prefer to pay twice). Don't promise any completion times, no one really expects it.

    Here's what I would do:
    1. Find a backup truck (very important)
    2. Find a sub you can call if needed (Make sure he'll show)
    3. Take the job
    4. Get some driveways on that road (don't take too much)
    5. Do an excellent job for your clients.
    6. Communicate well with them

    Good luck
  4. Mick

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

    Well, I'd say $2,000 is too low for a seasonal for three miles in Iowa, but that's your call.

    I'd suggest you not promise anything. I have a road like that, just not as many houses and needs to be open by 7:00. The only thing I'll say is that I'll do my best to have the road open, not the driveways. With potentially 87 driveways, you don't even want to start saying you'll even try; they can park near the road (not on it in your way). You want to wait until the cars are gone, anyway, to do the driveways. You're main concern is the road; the driveways come second.

    In this situation, it's better to do the best you can for the most people, rather than do the most for a few.
  5. Boast Enterpris

    Boast Enterpris Senior Member
    Messages: 745

    I have to agree with Mick, $2000.00 sounds cheap to me as well. If you only plow the road 2 times in would be good but if you plow the road 6 times then it's not as good. This is why I like to bid my jobs on a per push basis, but this way nothing is guaranteed. As far as those 87 driveways go have you thought about an ATV with a plow? If you have a helper then they can work on the smaller drives while you knock out the big ones. Sounds like a good account to get but you want to keep them. Good Luck :waving: BOAST
  6. Mick

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

    I missed this the first time.

    Nothing you can put into the contract about it. What you do, is walk over to your backup truck and continue. Call the wrecker to come and get the one that broke down. At least be able to call a "friend" with a plow to come and bail you out. Give the friend a good share of the money and a bonus, thank him profusely and kiss his ... any other way you can think of. You may think I'm being funny, but I'm not. If I had anyone around here I could call like that, he'd be my new best friend. A snowplow guy with a broke down truck at 6:00 in the morning after a snowstorm is a pretty lonely, forelorn person. I've written before about the importance of a backup truck and the guy who misses out on thousands of dollars because his $40,000 brand new truck is in the shop . :mad:
  7. snoluvr

    snoluvr Senior Member
    from RI
    Messages: 266

    I've been waiting weeks to hear a thread like this. I have been wondering on the backup truck myself. As you all have seen my posts! I just secured another seasonal contract of a retirement home.That brings me to 4 retirement homes, one with a mile long drive, 12 group homes, and a 4 acre shopping mall. I think I will definately get the backup truck and run someone in it. As I drive around that lot I think how awful it would be to break down and be doing it with a snowblower!!!
  8. Kaptain_Kurt

    Kaptain_Kurt Member
    from Iowa
    Messages: 53

    Excellent advice folks. Keep it coming please. I don't know that I can do a second rig myself. The deal could be a good one or kill me, we will see.

    Basically, the development has an F-250 with a sander and plow in rough looking but very serviceable condition. They want out of the plowing duties themselves (I live there). The offer is that they will GIVE me the truck/plow/sander.....they get out of the liability and insurance. In return, I would contract with them to provide plowing for 3 years....and get paid for it. That's my ticket into this gig, otherwise I would not be buying the setup on my own. Oh, and if I break the contract within the 3 years....they get the truck back. The only risk I see is the liability that the truck becomes once it's mine and breaks. But hey, where am I ever gonna get another offer like this!??
    Kaptain Kurt
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2004
  9. Bolts Indus.

    Bolts Indus. PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,176

    Excellant advice Mick.

    You are not a professional doing commercial if you do not have a back up truck or plan . Take heed,it will catch up to you.
  10. Mick

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

    I'm thinking of myself in a situation like this and I think I'd jump on it - IF - the truck can be licensed to run on the road. I know Iowa doesn't have a vehicle inspection, so basically if the stuff is in half decent shape. You said "rough looking but serviceable" so I'm assuming the plow might be rusted but no holes. In that case I'd sand/paint it and sander as needed, maybe a chain in the sander, check out the sander motor, have emergency repair kit on hand for that plow (what that is depends on the brand of plow) and go with it. Run that truck as much as possible, planning to replace it when it starts nickel and diming you. Take that development and get some other stuff to make enough to get a decent truck. But, like you said, this is your way to start. You might even be able to pick up a back-up truck for a couple of hundred dollars; put a good battery in it - the main thing is that it will start in the cold - and put a plow frame on it to fit the plow you have ($$ depends on the brand - a Fisher Minute Mount is about $700).

    You might not make a WHOLE lot the first year - but you're already ahead. For the 2nd truck, repairs to this outfit, repair kit and 2nd plow mount, you've spent less than $1000 and this account alone is $2000 + whatever else you can pick up. You'll need Commercial Vehicle and General Liability insurance (total maybe $2500 to $3000). You still need these if you're only doing that one development. You should still break even (see my thread on "Business Plan") if you can do a some other stuff.

    Good Luck and have fun waking up at 3AM only to see a skift of snow, say "heck with it", go back to sleep and wake up at 6:30 to 5" :help: .
  11. The Boss

    The Boss 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,099

    I've got 23 accounts so far this year and it says in my contracts that pending weather conditions, I will get it done in a timely manner. I've also got 3 people helping me if need be too. :nod: :waving:
  12. Kaptain_Kurt

    Kaptain_Kurt Member
    from Iowa
    Messages: 53

    Good advice. I Tried to talk to my wife about a 1/2 hour ago about the opportunity. She is still hiding in the bathroom and won't come out. Maybe someone has advice on how I get her to come out? :dizzy:

    Seriously, I don't have anywhere to keep a backup truck. I don't have room for this one as it is, and part of this deal is that I could continue to park it in the developments garage as it has been while they own it. No charge. I understand the importance of it though, so maybe i will have to tailor the type of extra accounts I get (keep it to mostly driveways?), so I can always use my snow thrower if I must. I also have a 20hp lawn tractor I 'could' put a blade on and chains if I absolutely had to. Between those two backup plans and by paying attention to what types of other accounts I get....that may be the way I have to pull it off.

    anyone know of a good divorce advice forum? :gunsfiring:

    Kaptain_Kurt (Oh come on! I'm kidding I think!)
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2004
  13. Bolts Indus.

    Bolts Indus. PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,176

    As a matter of fact. What has always worked for me for 37 years is. When in those maritial arguments, I say to my wife, " We have locks on the doors to keep people out, not in. When the negative out weighs the positive then you un- lock the door and leave.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2004
  14. grotecguy

    grotecguy Senior Member
    Messages: 148

    Where in Iowa are you located?? I'm in Winterset, just sw of Des Moines. Maybe if your close enough, I could possibly help to back you up.

    Just an something to think about,
    Mark K
  15. The Boss

    The Boss 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,099

    I like that one Bolts.!! :drinkup:
  16. Kaptain_Kurt

    Kaptain_Kurt Member
    from Iowa
    Messages: 53

    Not far at all, DSM area. I'll keep you posted, cuz that sounds like the makings of a potential good backup arrangement, maybe for both? Do ya need me out there in W'set? I've got 2-4 weeks to decide what i'm gonna do, deal with employer if so, smooth things out at home, talk to insurance and tax man, etc. etc. Or decide to do nothing and stay in the rat race, a robot, a drone, a cog in someones spinning wheel (I had to type that to see if that thought was painful...and it was).
    So, I'll know soon enough I guess, I'll let you know Grotec.

    (Wife still in bathroom....slipped into the shower) :(

    And Thanks, Bolts!

    P.S. Is it really ok to be pushing 40 and drop out of corporate life to chase this vision? I think that's gonna be the family's issue. Bye bye 401k :drinkup:
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2004
  17. Boast Enterpris

    Boast Enterpris Senior Member
    Messages: 745

    Bolts you could not have stated it simpler about the door. Kaptain_Kurt sounds like a good set up, you should have included all that info in the beginning. I think you should go for it. :waving: BOAST
  18. Mowey9

    Mowey9 Member
    from Iowa
    Messages: 93

    hey kaptain you said you were form dsm right. I live in dsm and depending on what happens with what I've got going on I might be able to back you up. I'll try and stay in touch with you.

  19. Kaptain_Kurt

    Kaptain_Kurt Member
    from Iowa
    Messages: 53

    Sounds Good Mowey!!

  20. Hubjeep

    Hubjeep Senior Member
    Messages: 502

    That is a good question about the time. At first I would get up super-early and try to get everyone done by about 7:00 (or once plowed with the storm). Now I know who needs to get out and who doesn’t. I know a plow guy that plows all day; whenever he gets to the house, he gets to it, lol.

    I only have about 8 driveways, any more and I would feel the need for an extra truck. I hate that eerie “I wonder if something is going to break down” feeling while all the possible mechanical failures pass through my mind. Luckily In the past 4 years I have had “0” breakdowns.

    As mentioned above; for a road, some sort of backup truck or plan is necessary. For me I know a friend with a plow route.