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certified ?

Discussion in 'Commercial Snow Removal' started by n y snow pros, Apr 23, 2001.

  1. n y snow pros

    n y snow pros Senior Member
    Messages: 246

    What do you think about having a program that would improve the snow plow contractors image? Think about,if you could show your customers that you truly are a profesional and are a step above the compitition would it be worth it.Could you use this certification as another sales tool and increase your business.Something like the landscape trade has.You landscapers on here would know more about this than me.I think they call it ALCA.I thought this was an aluminum company but thats ALCOA (little humor there).Anyway i believe ALCA has a program where you can be a certified landscaper or technician for Walk installations,hardscapes,plantings etc.My piont is why cant the snow plow industry have the same.What are your thoughts?
  2. 75

    75 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,382

    I think this is a good idea - another example of this is the Canadian Welding Bureau which oversees standards and welder qualifications here in Canada. It is not mandatory to be a CWB member to operate a legitimate welding business here, but for some jobs (examples: structural steel supply/erection, repair welding on hoisting or elevating devices) CWB certification IS required - I have done numerous jobs where I had to show proof of qualification and write down my welding ticket number on the work order. Among other things, the CWB administers welder tests, approves welding procedures and establishes standards for welding products.

    I feel that actually making the idea of certification for snow removal contractors reality may be difficult - mainly for the following reason:

    Administration: Someone (meaning an organization - SIMA are you listening?!) will have to be in charge of all this - which will involve $$$. CWB certification is a fairly involved process, and there are several different levels your company can be certified to, depending on size. Since snow removal contractors range from one person operations (that will be me next season!) to l-a-r-g-e companies, there will likely need to be different levels of snow removal certification.

    Another reason that certification may be complex is geographical differences - snow & ice control in my part of Canada is different from out in the prairie provinces, and different again from the US midwest. I think to be relevant, the certification process will need to be tailored for different areas/requirements.

    This in turn creates the need for more administration = cost. Ultimately, it will cost money to be certified - the question is how much?

    I'm not sure how insurance companies work/think, but if they could be brought "on side" I wonder if the benefit of lower insurance rates for certified snow removal contractors could be realized?

    Education of the customer will also be required - being a certified company will cost some $$$ and should command a higher premium as a result.

    As I said, I think it's a good idea, the process of putting it into practice could become pretty involved, but in the long term the benefits could be worthwhile.

    Just a couple of thoughts from me - I'm looking forward to hearing input from other members.
  3. GeoffD

    GeoffD PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 2,266

    Isn't that what SIMA does, seperate the joe blow from the pro.

    Up my way many people higher there snowplowing contractor based on one thing price. With the amount of snow we had this year, it taught a few a lesson. Many now know cheap price= crap service, more expensive price= better service.

  4. plowking35

    plowking35 2000 Club Member
    from SE CT
    Messages: 2,923

    Just one more item for Big Brother to watch me with.
    Less goverment please.
  5. 75

    75 PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,382

    Good point regarding "Less Government!" Dino - in the case of the CWB, it isn't government related. So it would be possible for a non-government body to oversee things. Of course, that brings up the problem I was referring to: more administration = more overhead = more cost!
  6. Rob

    Rob PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 306

    I think there are several good points brought out here. But, I'd have to ask myself what's to be gained by having this type of 'certification'. I think that in order for this certification to be meaningful, there would have to be some testing prcedure to see if the plower meets the qualifications, then some enforcement to be sure that they actual follow what they were 'tested' on. Another point would be if you have multiple plow trucks would all of the drivers have to be certified or would you like to see the certification on the company level. Unless you go down to the driver level, there can still potentially be yahoos driving the trucks for a certified company. Seems to me that it would be difficult to manage and impossible to enforce. Something else I'd ask myself prior to going for a certification like this is, do my customers really look for something like this / do they really care, or are they only concerned with the price (as Geoff mentioned).
    Right now, my gut feel is to agree with Dino and say less government / supervision.

    Just my .02
  7. diggerman

    diggerman Senior Member
    from Ames
    Messages: 700

    Which is why SIMA has its place and importance but not as a true judge of the performance or capability of a particular member.The yearly fee is only to serve as a acknowlagement of intrest and willingness to learn not as a "qualification" for someone who has cheated there customer out of an extra $130.00.I do not think that SIMA was ever intended to be a organization which qualified its members but rather a place where its members could become more quailfied.I do not think that a certification from an orginization which is only known to those who are certified will do much good,I would much rather provide refrences to anyone who feels that the quality of my service is in question.
  8. Alan

    Alan PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,393

    In the lawn maintenance field there are advantages to a certifiction process. There are disease and insect problems to be recognized, fertilization and seed criteria to be dealt with. In that situation there is a lot more to know than in snow and ice work. I'm certainly not trying to minimize the snow removal field, but I'm not really sure just what you would test for to get the certification. What would you establish as standards? Forgive me for being a wiseass here, but I can see a sample question being "How do you know if it's snowing?"
  9. plowking35

    plowking35 2000 Club Member
    from SE CT
    Messages: 2,923

    Policeing such a cert. process would be very time consuming and difficult. But since digger is against it, I am all for it. LOL just a joke.
  10. John Allin

    John Allin PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,327

    I thought you two had made up......
  11. plowjockey

    plowjockey PlowSite.com Sponsor
    Messages: 622

    IMO The SIMA organization is an association of plow operators and plowing oriented individuals who are together because they care enough about the professionalism of the work they do to try and better their business practices. It is not a controlling entity and while being "certified" would be a good selling point I feel it would definately lead to state control and liscensing of individuals in the business.

    Just my observations not necessarily the correct view.

  12. plowking35

    plowking35 2000 Club Member
    from SE CT
    Messages: 2,923

    The state of Conn has a home improvemwnt contractors registration, that when boiled down has no effect on the quality of work or whether the person is quilified to do the work. Its just a way for the state to get 180.00 from each person per yr. I think the cert process for plowing would end up similar, and or lead to a local or state registration process that would cost more money. I say leave it well enough alone. The market and customer should be able to weed out the non performers.
  13. John Allin

    John Allin PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,327

    I would think that such a certification program would have to be patterned after ALCA's CLP set up..... whereby it would be geared towards the owner of the business initially. While there would be some testing of actual snow plowing mechanics and techniques, it would be geared more towards ascertaining knowledge about business, accounting, law, contracts, etc...

    And, I would surmise that such a program would not (initially) be for "certifying" a company, but a way for a business owner/manager/management person to be able to say that they have an understanding of basic business principles AS WELL AS knowledge of the snow industry.

    This is the way the ALCA CLP exam is geared. ALCA has been able to make some great progress in raising the awareness of landscapers being professionals and not just 'grass cutters'. I would think that if any sort of snow industry certification exam were geared towards this goal (of raising awareness with the buying public of our professionalism and business acumen) would be a good thing.

    How many of our customers treat us like we cannot find real jobs because we are out all night working in horrendous conditions doing a (sometimes) impossible task? And when we are done, some of them complain about the "service" even though God wasn't on our side on this storm....

    I'm on the ALCA Certification Board of Governors and the CLP/CLT exam process is a bigtime loser from a dollars and cents standpoint - so it isn't a way for ALCA to "make more money". I know as I'm privy to the dollars. In fact, the ALCA Board has a concern about how much it's costing.

    As for "policing" it ?? If it were a program that just attested to the knowledge and educational background of the applicant/test person - there would be little need for ongoing policing other than some sort of recertification program.... unless there were to be some concrete proof that an individual broke a code of ethics (by the way SIMA will most likely adopt a Code of Ethics at the next Board meeing in Denver - something members have asked for repeatedly).

    SIMA is looking very closely at the ALCA setup with the eventaul intent of giving those in the industry a way to set themselves apart from the plow jockeys (no offense intended to Bruce) out there that we all ***** and moan about when they undercut our pricing, put ghosts on the hourly rate jobs, or tear up a property indescriminantly. Even though SIMA does this just through being a member of SIMA, there's nothing to say that any member knows anything about "business".

    The ALCA CLP is set up so that anyone that takes the exam MUST study quite alot about "business" as well as about landscaping. One cannot help but learn how to read a financial statement, how to set up a good HR program, learn alittle something about contract law, and how to know for sure if you're making a profit. I find that those that I talk with about the ALCA CLP exam and take time to poo-poo it usually don't know near enough about "business" to pass it.

    Now... I don't think that is the case here with some of the negative comments above, because I know Dino personally - and my perception is that he is "business savy". Possibly, given this post Dino may view JParker's post differently - although that is not for me to say. I don't know the others personally (except JP - whom I also know to be "business savy") so I really can't say.

    Much like the ALCA CLP designation, I would tend to think that the personal satisfaction that comes with proving to ones' self that they are business savy would be quite a reward in and of itself. I know that is how I felt upon passing the ALCA CLP exam. And the respect from my peers in ALCA for having gone through the process and having passed is quite satisfying too. Personally, I think such a program for plowing and ice control contractors (and property managers for that matter) would be a great boon to the industry as a whole given the fact that we are all (here) interested in raising the bar significantly with regards to how "WE" are treated by other people in the world.

    [Edited by John Allin on 04-25-2001 at 08:10 AM]
  14. 66Construction

    66Construction Senior Member
    Messages: 315

    It just seems like a lot of hastle, I file enough forms now as it is. It will take a huge effort and a lot of time and even more money for people to get past "the lowest price". The last thing I need is OSHA or someone similar watching me or my guys plowing waiting to fine me because I have a blown out reverse light. If it comes to that I'll give my plows away. My SIMA certificate is more then just about anyone else around here has, It's good enough for me. You don't need a certification, if you treat you clients right and make a name for youself you don't need anything else.
  15. GeoffD

    GeoffD PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 2,266

    John ya bring up some good points,

    However what if you aren't involved in Landscaping.

    Pavers, Exevators, and many other types of biz are involved in snow plowing.

  16. Deere John

    Deere John Senior Member
    Messages: 410

    I am also involved in certification - forest certification. The company I work for, a very large forest products company, is embarking on a third-party Forest Stewardship Council certification of our practices in light of their 10 forest management principles.

    The exercise is good in that we look critically at what we do on the ground and in our relations to planning and other forest uses, including first nations. The FSC logo attached to our products (at Home Depot, for example) will tell Joe Pubic that the 2x4 he is buying comes from a sustainably-managed forest.

    However, in the context of certifying my other passion, snow control, certification schemes are costly to audit (repeatedly)(annually) by a body that can claim 1) authority and 2) independence. Additionally, such a scheme faces a tremendous public recognition void - we would be preaching to the 0.5 percent of the population that would use our service. That 0.5 percent is hard enough to reach on our own, without having to pay for such "advertizing" that will largely fall on the wrong audience. The initial partners would bear many costs of a certification body or subsidize it to legitimize an auditing body.

    There are many groups and sources of funding for the FSC, because everyone wants to see forest, bears, fish, and spotted owls managed well. They have $$$ pouring in and are currently building a $50 million war chest to publicize the cause. This form of certification for our industry is not reality.

    While I support the efforts in the bushes, I prefer to see my own star rise on account of my own business savy in the snow. If you think government asks alot of questions, try spending two days with an environmental auditor looking for ways to revoke the certification, prior to sending you the bill.

    References and a positive, professional business image is the best way to go. Good thread going here.
  17. John Allin

    John Allin PlowSite.com Addict
    Messages: 1,327

    I thought we were talking about a program for snow contractors. Landscaping would have nothing to do with it.... lots of landscapers that have their CLP are not plowing snow in winter.

    I was just saying that ALCA has a program in place that is done very well and suits the needs of the landscape industry, and would be easy to mirror. ALCA has been quite helpful in assisting SIMA in setting up our organization structure and we have found ALCA to be a nice "role model" thus far.
  18. plowking35

    plowking35 2000 Club Member
    from SE CT
    Messages: 2,923

    Here is a thought, what if we have a sanctioning body that certifies snow removal operations, and then the body goes under, as many grass roots efforts do. Our customers would be at a loss to why we are no longer certified, and may get the wrong idea.
    However some sort of knowledge of proper use of chemicals probably will be adopted I would think in our industry. It will most likely occur at the state level in CT, along the lines of pest control/ herbicide governing bodies that are in place now.
    As for a money making issue, it was an example of the State of Ct home improvement regisration proceedure. I am sure with all the work that ALCA has put into their cert program, it is not nearly the money making scam that the CT reg is.
  19. GeoffD

    GeoffD PlowSite.com Veteran
    Messages: 2,266

    Sorry John

    I feel stupid :)

  20. plowjockey

    plowjockey PlowSite.com Sponsor
    Messages: 622

    I seem to be hearing good points on both sides of the coin here. On the pro side cert. = credibility (which you may or may not really have). On the con side cert. = regulations (but are we really talking about something for the state or just, say, a testing procedure of sorts to be able to prove your abilities and business acumen).
    This thread is a little controversial but is bringing about some really good thoughts.

    Darn got me thinking now and I was planning on taking it easy tonight.