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Conteplation on the business

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself to the Community' started by thebobcatkid86, Mar 9, 2008.

  1. thebobcatkid86

    thebobcatkid86 Junior Member
    Messages: 4

    As I prepare to dig into worst snowfall that we've had in years (19 in. in 36hrs and counting) I cant help but wonder if there’s any money to be made in significant quantity. However, I ask this with a certain amount of apprehension and I will explain why. I have just one day if plowing under my belt. I must say that it was up there on the list of the most miserable days of my life. Valentines day of last year we had one of the worst snows we have had in a long time (18 in. overnight.)
    A good friend of mine, always the entrepreneur had put his phone number on the list of plowers at this seniors mobile home community which is about a half mile down the road. So that morning he became inundated with phone calls. Knowing about my bobcat he called me and asked if I wanted to make some money. I was a little hesitant but I figured what the hell, why not. However, I decided that rather than load up to go a half mile, and the town was mostly shut down anyway, I would road my loader to the park. Dumb idea. Open ROPS, it was still blowing snow and freezing ass cold when I left and though the snow eventually stopped it never warmed up at all. He had his dads Dakota no plow just a single stage in the back and me in my bobcat. After the first three postage stamp driveways it became clear to me that is wasn’t going to be as efficient as originally planned. 12 hours, and 7 gallons of diesel later, tired soaked, frozen and miserable I ended up making $150.
    I realize now that much of my misery was a result of poor decisions based on inexperience and could have been avoided with more efficient equipment, like a really big ass snow blower instead of having to lift and push with the loader (slow cycle times in the winter).
    As well I must admit that I was rather disheartened the first winter I had my loader. I had great dreams of getting plow work with it all up and down my street (primarily to save me from having to load up and haul it somewhere when the weather is fowl.) Much to my dismay nearly everyone on my street has a snow blower of some size though usually one of those 28" $2000 units from The Home Desperate, and so they have no interest in my services at all let alone paying for them.
    You might ask though why don’t I simply put a plow on my truck? Answer: it’s a Dakota with a V6. I have a good relative whom I trust greatly on such topics who says that plowing at all with anything less than a one ton is not worth the wear especially on the tranny and suspension. Currently I do not have the capital for such equipment, nor really the ambition to involve myself with another vehicle at this point. If I could line up the contracts to, at least on paper, make a proper plow truck financially possible, then I might. However, I have noticed in my limited experience that really the only plow work to be had by someone like me is to go knocking on doors when we have one of these freak storms that turns out to be too much for anyone that doesn’t already have a blower or a plow service. I realize that I have almost no experience in the field but that is how I see it.
    As I read these forums it seems to me that my future in the plow biz would also revolve around my ability to be employed, self or otherwise in landscape construction or some other similarly seasonal business. At this point I am also interested in possibly getting a job as a heavy equipment operator which could be a damper on the possibility of breaking into the snow biz if I were to get in full time with a big company. Don’t worry though Im not going to let snow biz interfere with the possibility of getting a job as an operator.
    I will tell you though that last night as I was watching the snow come down and daydreamin about making money in the white stuff, I came up with where I would like to be in the snow biz someday. First of all my ultimate machine for residential/small commercial would be a Cat 904B with a 68" snow blower and a V-blade I could interchange. With a 12mph travel speed I could do all the accounts within 2-3 mi. of where Id keep it without even having to load up, anything beyond that just need a f350 dually and a car hauler trailer. Heated cab, CD player, bust out driveways in 2 passes and Im on to the next one. If I was gonna do sidewalks too it would be a Toro Dingo TX525 with a snow blower. Again this is just me dreaming for what its worth.
    For anyone who has managed to read my rambling all the way through and wishes to offer any comments or advice feel free to do so. I just wanted to introduce myself and tell a little of my story.
  2. Mick

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

    Last edited: Mar 9, 2008
  3. truckermatt

    truckermatt Junior Member
    Messages: 19

    welcome to the snow industry....... But just to let you know, your "relative" is misinformed...... 1/2, and 3/4 ton trucks make fine plow trucks.... even jeeps and smaller trucks
  4. Mick

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

    Welcome to Plow Site. I have to say that you learned a lot in a short amount of time - basically what NOT to do. Let me start by saying that you should have made (net) WAY over $1,000 for the storm you got and the time spent with the equipment you had.

    I'd really suggest getting with someone else here from your area and get some pointers. Then develop a rough Business Plan. It sounds like with the loader you've got and possibly adding a snowblower and/or a plow truck, there is a lot of potential. I'd say you don't really need a one ton - I've used 1/2, 3/4 and one ton trucks and for most residential work, a 3/4 ton works best.

    To give you an idea - I base my work on generating $200 an hour with a 3/4 ton truck and 8' plow. All I have are residential drives and a few private roads. Even a new person should be generating $100/hr in the first winter.
  5. Snowpower

    Snowpower Senior Member
    Messages: 636

    Stick with it and learn over the summer. You seem like you care and have an interest and will be successful one day. Not today.

    I'd recommend sub contracting your services and equipment next season with a legitimate established contractor.
  6. Mark13

    Mark13 PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,796

    I plow with a half ton chevy with a 7.6 with wings and it can push everything I've thrown at it. You just have to know what your equipment is built for and don't push it to far. You will learn to know your equipment well and know right away if it is the right peice of equipment for the job or if your in over your head.
  7. Sno4U

    Sno4U Senior Member
    Messages: 480

    Tell us how you only made $150 for 12 hours worth of work with a skidsteer? Did you have a major breakdown that ate profits or was this all your "friend" paid U???
    1. Get a new friend this is no friend to take advantage of U like that.
    2. Get a cab w/ heat and you'll be much more comfortable

    Tell us about the skidder. How big, what size bucket and horse power. Even a little skidsteer should have generated more $$$ than you did.

    I plow w/ a skid steer (cab,heat, wiper) and hate running my truck after I've been in the loader. Only thing that makes it nicer is its quieter and the truck has a radio/CD player!!:D:D
  8. Indy

    Indy Senior Member
    Messages: 704

    12 hours, and 7 gallons of diesel later, tired soaked, frozen and miserable I ended up making $150.

    You made right at $10. and hour supplying the equipment and labor (minus fuel cost) so I am pretty sure, o-say 100% of the guys on here would be honked off as well, with that DEAL a friend dealt you. But about 99.9% of them wouldn't have put on their Carharts to go out UNLESS it was family and then some still wouldn't it just doesn't make business sense.
    Fix that and say your pay (with experience) was about $800 to $1500, now does snow removal sound better?

    Some of the posts on this site offer $20. an hour for just shoveling...................(they supply the shovel)

    Take the summer and get ready for a full winter (include insurance) and you will likely be hook........like 99.% of the guys on here

    Welcome to plowsite!!!:salute:
  9. Mark13

    Mark13 PlowSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,796

  10. Snowpower

    Snowpower Senior Member
    Messages: 636

    He already knows that.
  11. thebobcatkid86

    thebobcatkid86 Junior Member
    Messages: 4

    Well I must say I am at the very least appreciative of all of your responses. At this point Im not sure I want to subject our family’s nice little Dakota to the rigors of a plow just yet.
    As for my ordeal, my friend and I simply went knocking door to door in this trailer park. It’s a trailer park, so postage stamp driveways, inhabited by the elderly and a nearly impenetrable amount of snow (18 in.) for most people living there. We figured we had the market cornered and it would be easy pickings, right? Wrong. We started out trying for $25 a for a quick but decent clean up job. That was fine til we realized that some driveways that we thought were going to take 10-15 min. ended up taking 30-40 often because of drifting and/or picky homeowners. My buddy was basically in charge of scheduling, he would get a call and we would go do the job and then the homeowner wants to dicker with us on pricing. After doing 40 minutes of digging and then detailing for $30 split two ways and then these old people want to dicker about it! These are from the same group of old people that I have been in line behind at the convenience store near the entrance to the park and watched them buy $100 worth of scratch tickets in one shot!
    On top of that, we had the top travel speed between jobs of 5.5 mph because I was roading the loader. As far as breakdowns my loader has no fuel gauge but its easy on fuel so I only ran it dry once:( Actually I say 12 hours but the last 2 were spent going to dig out the neighbor of another good friend of ours which is when I ran out of fuel. I didn’t have my diesel can with me so my buddy drove back to my house and got it while I sat by the roadside with the loader. In all I made about $160 and he made about $200. I don’t blame him since neither of us had any experience really. We were just flying by the seat of our pants.
    Now about my loader, it is a little skidsteer, a Bobcat 453. For anyone who doesn’t know what that is, it’s the 42" wide model designed for cleaning horse stalls and such. Many people ask me why anyone would buy such a machine? The answer: convenience and weight. I bought it because it was light enough to tow it with the truck we already had, a 2002 Dodge Dakota quad cab with every heavy duty option available. Book tow cap 4500lbs, loader 2500lbs, trailer 1700lbs so it all works out. Its got a 15.7 HP 3 cylinder Kubota diesel. Through job experience I’ve found the bucket to be about 0.3 cu/yd. It’s a really good little loader but the main problem is the cycle times. In the summer the arm and bucket cycle times just about acceptable. But in the winter even if I give the hydro adequate time to warm up its cycle times are pathetic. I like it, it has its place. I know Im going to need more and bigger equipment in the future but for now it'll do.
  12. Mick

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

    Three pieces of advise:

    1. Get a route set up for next winter.

    2. Get a trailer for that Bobcat. You'll find it's a handy little piece of equipment for moving snowpiles.

    3. (But by far not least) Set your price (and collect the "one-time" plows) BEFORE you ever drop the plow. This is something I learned my first winter.
  13. BulldogPS

    BulldogPS Member
    Messages: 35

    One thing I recommend is to try to put yourself where the money is. If the postage stamp driveways aren't paying out or if they don't have the money for your services, then focus your plan of attack somewhere else. Just because the accounts are close and convenient for you doesn't nesicerily mean you will make the money you need to survive. In the grand scheme of things, if you spend all your time and energy on $10-$20 driveways, you will not make the money you hope to make. One of the things to weigh out before beginning in this industry is whether or not you have the means to provide good, fast, reliable service and make money at it, or if you are just going to be chasing your tail while slowly depleting your funds in the hopes you can somehow compete. Sucess requires huge sacrifice, if you're not willing to hang a plow on that dodge for the sake of making money, or not able to get yourself the equipment you need to be successful, your time in this industry will be short lived. This line of work definately isn't "free money", just because you have a plow on your truck, doesn't mean your going to be the next big thing.
    Also, do you have liability insurance, or insurance as a sub contractor. If you plow without insurance and you damage something, the person can sue you personally resulting in the loss of personal assets, like your house. Just wondering since insurance seems to be the furthest thing from the minds of those just starting out.
  14. Sno4U

    Sno4U Senior Member
    Messages: 480

    Bobcat kid: Was the 19" of snow in 36 hours all in one push per driveway?
    Jeepers, Those old people are hard asses! They wanted to dicker??!!! I would have started putting the snow back @ that point LOL.
    Should have asked them" would you want to shovel this much snow for that kind of money??!!
  15. musclecarboy

    musclecarboy 2000 Club Member
    Messages: 2,303

    If you have a skid, try and hook-up with a few contractors in the area that need a loader to push back snow after a big storm. During the storm, you do the normal route. After, you do the commercial work. This gives you a few extra days of work that wouldn't be there if you stuck to residentials
  16. thebobcatkid86

    thebobcatkid86 Junior Member
    Messages: 4

    The snow I referred to in the first sentence of this thread was just me thinking about making money whilst getting ready to do my own driveway. To this day I’ve only ever plowed for other people once which was Valentines Day 2007 the day that I have described in great detail. I have not done any snow removal for profit since.
    I will admit that neither me nor my buddy know jack squat about snow removal. We just did it that one time, on a whim since we figured we had the tools and the laws of supply and demand were in our favor. Basically we were a couple of kids with shovels, the shovels just happened to be power tools. Btw, I do own a trailer however I wasn’t real enthusiastic that particular morning and decided that it wasn’t worth the effort. :Banghead
    Now a word about my insurance. At this point the word is none. I mean the truck’s insured, but as for personal liability, nada. I know I need to do something about that if I want to be in business. I just feel like I haven’t seen enough income from working on my own to justify the expense yet. If any of you feel you must chew me out over this go ahead. When this came up on one of my threads on lawnsite last year a couple of people basically took it upon themselves, strung me up and basically accused me and my business practices, such as they are, of being the scourge of their industry. So, I’ve heard it all before. I guess at this point Im just afraid to make the jump from a kid just doin what he loves to real entrepreneurship, and most of that fear is with regard to the overhead $$$. So say what you will. Im doin what I can.
    At this point I am essentially for lack of a better word... unemployed. I do get occasional work in landscape construction both with the loader and without, usually for friends of the family or friends of my dad. As well, I have an unofficial, flexible part-time employment with one of my dad’s friends who is an architectural salvage dealer. But that’s a whole other set of stories. I do not have an official business at this time. I live at home, the truck I drive is titled to my mom (go ahead, snicker, everyone else does) and I simply make money when there is work. First of all let me say that of all the outdoor industries that I enjoy being an earthmoving heavy equipment operator is #1. I have done many things in this capacity, from drainage to driveway tear-out, landscape construction, even tree trimming and I have gotten to know a good bit about and enjoy all of the above. I have started posting here as just figured that if I am going to get into such businesses that snow would be in the natural progression of things.
    Now in case any of you would like to know the reason that at 21 I am not in school nor do I have a full time job is I do have a very complicated life right now. I wont give you all the gory details but I will tell you this much, in our house there is my folks, my sis, me, and my 91 year old grandfather who has mid-stage alzheimers. My mom is too blind to drive now (childhood disease progression). Then in mid-January my dad had an aneurism that resulted in a hemorrhagic stroke and has been hospitalized ever since. He is alive, and making progress but its going to take a LONG time. So long story short, I am now the sole person with a drivers licence in our house. Which needless to say between going to the hospital to be with dad, going to the grocery store, taking grandpa to the doctor and church, etc. makes having a steady job of any kind pretty much impossible. Honestly I don’t mean to sound bitchy and I wont bore you with any more detail but that’s just the way it is for me right now.
    I know that with better equipment, in the right circumstances Im sure I would enjoy snow management immensely. I will let you know right now that I am a gearhead when it comes to working outdoors. After I finished digging our driveway out yesterday I went to see my dad. When I got home that evening I began looking at all sorts of snow equipment. Troy-Bilt makes a walk-behind snow blower that has a 45in cutting width. As far as versatility goes I like the loader/attachment carrier equipment best. As I mentioned before the Cat 904b, as well as the Bobcat A300 on the big end (for me) and the Toro Dingo on the small end. A blower, a broom, 3 kinds of blades, one motor one hydraulic system to maintain and worry about. Plus with all the other attachments around its not just a snow machine they’re year ‘round equipment that can do so much more for all the other businesses I want to be in.
    I don’t exactly know where Im going with all this except that Im a gearhead with dreams and Im doin what I can.
  17. Mick

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

    Well, I'd say you're in a good position to start a small business. Just start doing what you already know how to do and slowly expand on that. Don't start buying a bunch of equipment; use what you've got even if it is just "get by" for now. Look into renting stuff as you need it and don't forget to work the rental expense into your estimate. On the other hand, don't do like my ex son-in-law who rented a floor stripper and let it just sit on the job site for three days before starting to use it for part of one day. Then couldn't understand why the customer wouldn't pay for four days rental.

    As for snow, you might consider specializing the snowblowing or using the Bobcat until you can afford a good plow. You might put a 6' plow on that Dakota or a Homesteader/Suburbanite. Plan to upgrade to a 3/4 ton and 8' plow. You could always sell the Dakota and small plow.

    If you're "getting by" financially now, it really is a good time to get started. With your current part-time job with your Dad's friend, need to be flexible and being able to schedule work accordingly, it just seems right. It takes a while to get started and there may be some bumps along the way; but if you're going to do it - now's the time. Make up some cheap business cards on your computer, talk to everyone you know to let them spread the word and you're on your way.
  18. Sno4U

    Sno4U Senior Member
    Messages: 480

    Many times the hardest part of our biz is the rise & fall of income levels w/ the seasons. Also what kind of season we're having-lotta snow-no snow.
    So if your gonna consider snow as your winter income, plan for something else that can be done when its not snowing.
    Maybe sales of some sort?
    That would be my best advice for one considering this line of work.
    There are sometimes I know I'm not in it for the money but I come from a farming background (my Grandfather had a farm I worked on during summer as a kid) and enjoying being in the outdoors kinda comes naturally to me-it must be in the genes!!!
  19. thebobcatkid86

    thebobcatkid86 Junior Member
    Messages: 4

    I think that with my experience with heavy equipment, that I need to talk to other contractors around here and see about being a specialty sub doing stacking and possibly blowing. I am no stranger to working the cost of rental equipment into my budget. I’ve done it for nearly a third of all the jobs I’ve done in excavating/landscaping.

    I wanted to ask some of you more experienced guys if this sounded possible. I don’t know how being a sub for snow typically goes? I was thinking if I could align myself as a sub with a small landscaper or two, running either with or just behind their crews and just do stacking/touch-up on small commercial/large residential jobs? Or would it be better to put a compact plow on the truck and be able to do the shebang? With the bobcat in tow of course.

    I wonder if any of you guys know what could be the issue with the slow cycle times on my loader in the winter? Do I need to change to a different hydro viscosity in the winter? It seems like even after its runs long enough that the hydro should’ve warmed up its still slow/ jerky and sometimes it even stops and I have to let up on the pedal and press back down again. Thing is though in the summer its downright close to normal so I don’t know what’s the deal. I’d love to be able to use it in the winter professionally but the cycle times are just too slow to be efficient when its cold.:(

    I think I may have found the perfect piece of heavy equipment for residential/small commercial plowing and especially stacking, a compact telehandler. The Bobcat V417 and the JLG G5-18A which is also the Cat TH255. With a bucket it would be able to stack now up to 16-17'! Plus get this, they can run big skidsteer attachments. Just think, blowers, blades, brooms, pushers. They have turn signals and brake lights and they typically can do 16-17 mph which would be good for roading between close sites (like in a housing tract). Enclosed cab, heat, and a CD player are nice add-ons too. Like I said, Im a gearhead I cant help it. My mom always said since I was about 5-6 that I could be a heavy equipment salesman, can you tell? I wonder how much a long term rental is on a compact telehandler? If it could be economical to build that into a sub contract for the winter? As long as all the jobs for me were within 4-5 miles I wouldn’t even have to get a bigger truck and trailer.:rolleyes:

    At this point I am not all that afraid of the seasonality of the income. I live at home and I have very little personal overhead right now. I have experience in most of the construction trades especially residential wiring. At the age of 16 I assisted one of my dad’s friends in completely rewiring our house at the time, a 900 sq. ft. 1925 Sears kit bungalow. That was 6 weeks of intense education I wouldn’t have gotten had I been going to regular school. Also my fathers shop partner is a cabinet maker and interior renovation contractor. I have spent many a day apprenticed to him and have learned many of the finer points of the art of cabinet making. So I do have some things I know how to do if there’s no snow.

    As I’ve said I am a heavy equipment operator at heart. I’ve done basement waterproofing dig-out/backfill, driveway demo/grading, concrete flatwork prep, landscape construction, even some tree work. I really think I need to find a niche but I like it all so much. Right now I’ve got at least 2 small-medium tree jobs, both for friends of my dad’s coming up in the spring. This gets the gears turning that maybe I should get into the green waste/mulch/compost biz. I wanna do it all. I just don’t have the capital for all the gear to do it myself.

    Messages: 56

    sounds like your go far. No advice on the commercial biz. Im sure if you keep tring youl gain experience and with that everything will become self evident.